Travel is an amazing lifelong adventure, and one I definitely want to continue to partake in!  I have always had wanderlust.  I've always loved geography, always wondered about that gravel road I never went down, that river I could never swim in, that mountain I couldn't climb.  My mind craves those experiences and new sights and adventures. I love travel, and despite a lot of financial hardships, I've been blessed to be able to see as much of the world as I have, and I hope this continues. This lens is about some of my travels.

Alaska was one of my all time top destinations, and only a year after graduating from Coe College in Cedar Rapids I was on my way to three years in Fairbanks Alaska, and a lifetime worth of memories stuffed into three great years!  So with Alaska down, what are the top five places left that I really want to visit?

Top 6 Places I Still Want to Visit

Well my new top six are now as follows, with others always being added but this is my list of countries or locations I've long been obsessed with:

1) Mongolia: I'm a history buff, and Genghis Khan and his homeland call me. I've always loved odd countries, and as a child at the very tail end of the cold war, having a country right in the middle of China and Russia that everyone ignored was fascinating to me.

2) Togo: I always thought the name sounded cool. Really, since 2nd grade, that's been my whole reason. My friend, Chris, was there with Peace Corps when the coup took place.

3) Scotland: My family has always held to its Scottish roots. If you know me, you know how incredible a fit this country is for me, from hiking to nature to bag pipes to pubs. All about it.  Hopefully making this one happen in two years from now.

4) Siberia: Well now that I've been to Alaska, here's the next bragging travel adventure...

5) Morocco: Worked for some guys who lived in Morocco, writing travel articles for them. Turns out this is an incredibly fascinating land.

6) The Philippines: I have a buddy from these islands, and the stories he tells and the pictures he's shown me have me sold. I am definitely ready for some Philippines Travel.

So along with the 11 states I haven't been to, this is next. Better get saving to go!  One of the things I love about travel is how good it is to have a little humor.  The little things in travel that make great stories.

The Big Alaska Question

"Shane, how do you go to the bathroom when it's forty degrees below zero?"

Answer: "Very quickly and very carefully."

Not being a complete smart alleck, there's a lot of truth to that. I lived outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, in a cabin with no running water and an outhouse. Since in winter it's dark nearly 24/7, the outhouse needs a light, and so you use an extension cord to attatch to a heat lamp, killing two birds with one stone...or at least stunning them.

Even so, you don't take any more time than you have to, but what's strange is the ice crystals. For whatever reason, there are massive strings of ice crystals that form on the roof of the outhouse and work their way down. Very beautiful in a strange sort of way...and a great story for the bar rooms!

After Alaska an unlikely job offer came out of nowhere to take me from the largest state to the 2nd largest.  I referred to this transition time as "God knows how to throw curve balls."  Well, I spent three of the last four years in Alaska. I love the state, love the people, and had some pretty tearful good-byes when I left. Many of my friends there were either born and raised, or had lived there since grade school. They have a foundation.

I went for grad school. Got my MFA degree, don't think much of having it, but I wouldn't trade my friends or experiences for the world. Someday I'll go back.  Everyone kept asking me what I was going to do. I didn't know. No teaching experience, okay but not great publications. No connections. Fortunately I'd been freelancing, and my favorite clients decided they needed a writer.  So a day before I received this e-mail, a friend asked what states I was likely to end up in. My answer: Alabama, Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennslyvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, or New Mexico.

In other words: who the heck knows?  But Austin treated me great for a year and a half, and it's probably long past time I get back there, as well.

But not a fan of Indiana
I'm not saying there's nothing redeeming about Indiana--I've been in Indianapolis for one weekend and otherwise have passed through three or four times, but my experiences have not been pleasant or warm.  During a major road trip, we camped out. The ranger was really nice, but the rest....

Maybe it was just the town. I know I had a huge beard and long hair, but I was just back from Alaska and it's not like I was wearing tie-dye or anything. We ate at a restaurant called VIPs, which was excellent food, but half the people in there just stared at us for thirty minutes.

If we made eye contact, they kept staring. If we ignored them, they kept staring. One time I asked "Something wrong?" in as nice and polite a voice as I could. The old guy huffed and spit on the floor near my shoe. Are you kidding me?

I'd still love to visit Notre Dame, but at this point despite the nice photos with a very cheap camera, Indiana has the unfortunate front running position as my least favorite state.  No one else at this point comes close.