May 27, 2016
Exploring the Future of Travel @ TravelTechCon
Introducing Travel Tech Con, an independent conference organized by a group of travel startup founders who share a common passion of moving the travel industry forward. Now in its first year, the event this month spanned over two days, the first of which had 15 startups present at the Plug & Play Center in Sunnyvale California. Day two focused on players in the world of travel tech addressing what needs to change in the next ten years to bring an industry with an antiquated infrastructure up to what consumers expect in 2016 and beyond.
Photo credit: EMaze.
From Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Open Travel Standards, Automotive Innovations and more, we heard from Adobe’s Head of Global Industry Strategy & Marketing for Travel & Hospitality Mohammad Gaber, Emergent VR’s Peter Wilkins on the future of VR and Travel, OSLET’s Gadi Bashvitz on using personalization to drive conversions, Chute’s Ranvir Gujral on AI, GEIOS’ Michael Frischkorn talked about using IoT to help travelers create more memories, and Roomstorm’s Maksim Izmaylov talked standards, a necessary for efficient global communication.
There was also an interesting panel on emerging automotive tech which was addressed by Roadgazer’s Maria Mokhnatkina, Bosch’s Tom Lindma, Skurt’s Tin Hang Liu and Princeton Optronics’ Alexey Kovsh. The second day was held at Yelp so not surprising to hear from Yelp’s Rachel Zhao who talked about making it global while keeping it local. SFOX’s Akbar Thobhani, Factom’s Tiana Laurence and Norm Rose talked about the opportunities Blockchain can bring.
Think of it as a distributed network that offers value….value that can’t be duplicated. When you’re dealing with strangers, blockchain can offer tremendous benefits. Since travel is so distributed and so global, blockchain is a way to help make travel booking more direct and more efficient, cutting out the umpteen number of middle men that are in the way of a vendor and the consumer today.
This will allow direct booking will increase and improve. Since blockchain is all about being decentralized, it may be harder at first to establish loyalty although new models will certainly evolve to re-engage and build loyalty with customers. The future is here but it's just not distributed…yet. The idea for vendors is that they should be able to continue using their existing systems but supplement them with blockchain to more directly reach their customers.
Blockchain is contextually the next infrastructure platform that could eliminate the middle man in travel as well as help to reduce fraud. Other trends include the growth of services like AirBNB and couchsurfing and as more services like it emerge, identity and transparency will increasingly become more important. And of course, we talked about the interests of millennial travels since their patterns of behavior is so different than the generations behind them.
Millennials increasingly want experiences not physical objects. People are traveling earlier than ever and they want to see the world. There’s less fear than ever before, largely because millennials are more familiar with the world because of social media and technology.
While so many tour companies and destinations still focus on print articles and advertising, they don’t realize that most millennials find their ideas about where to travel and what to do through social media and online networks. They trust what their friends recommend on these social networks over something they might read in a magazine they don’t have a personal connection with. Because they use technology all the time and it’s an integral part of their world, they also expect technology to be part of their travel experiences.
May 10, 2016
uHoo, Most Advanced Indoor Air Quality Sensor Now Available for Pre-orders
When I was approached by a company that is trying to transform how we all think about the air we breathe, I was intrigued. After I learned that it wasn't an outdoor environmental play, but indoor air, I was even more intrigued. After all, how bad could indoor air be? It turns out, pretty bad.
After I did some of my own digging, I wanted to be involved. There are some alarming stats of why you should care and why what they're doing matters.
Meet uHoo, the most advanced indoor air quality on the market, which is now open for pre-orders over on IndieGoGo starting today.
More than any other product in the market, uHoo provides real-time alerts on unhealthy air, going deeper and broader than other products. What sets uHoo apart is its eight dedicated sensors, detecting Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone, Air Pressure, Volatile Organic Compounds, which are found in paint and home cleaning products, Temperature, Dust and Humidity and all sensors are dedicated, which is not the case with most other solutions.
With concerns on indoor air quality at an all-time high and the fact that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors (some studies say more), uHoo aims to transform people’s health by providing an affordable solution for asthma and allergy sufferers, for people with toddlers at home and for anyone who genuinely cares about their health.
Couple that with unhealthy indoor air being linked to cancer and heart disease, 6 in 10 homes being hazardous to their owner’s health and half (yup, that's 50%) of America’s schools having problems linked to indoor air quality, a product that detects the particles and chemicals we breathe in real-time can be transformative to our day-to-day lives.
What Don’t We Know?
Given the tragic news reports on poor air quality in schools and drinking water in Michigan, it’s more important than ever to be proactive and know whether you’re in a healthy environment before it’s too late. With uHoo, you can know first-hand what the quality of air is like in any room or building where you live or work. uHoo is only 3.3 inches in diameter, 6.2 inches high and weighs less than a pound, so it can easily sit unnoticed at home, in gyms, churches, spas, community centers, basements, your office or kid’s bedroom. The list is endless as to where uHoo can be used.
According to the American Lung Association, “it’s hard to know when air in your home needs cleaning; the indoor air you breathe can be hazardous to your health without any telltale signs.” In other words, we can’t manage what we don’t know or can’t measure. Their site includes other useful information worth checking out as well, like identifying what makes indoor air unhealthy and how pollution can hurt your body. They also have a useful list of what all of them are so you know exactly what could be in the air you breathe at home or work.
Revolutionary For Businesses Too
You can have multiple devices on one account, so you can monitor different locations around the clock. This is not just a great feature for businesses that are looking to ensure the quality of the air is healthy for employee’s optimal well-being and productivity, but can significantly reduce operating and health-related costs by knowing how to regulate the air more effectively.
Here's How It Works
Simply plug uHoo in to a power outlet and connect it to the WiFi network – uHoo does the rest. The quality of air is detected instantly and shows up on your smartphone via a free app (support for both iOS and Android).
All of this data is securely and safely stored in the cloud for easy access from anywhere in the world and can be shared with loved ones and/or health practitioners. The ability to share data and devices means that you can stay on top of other family member’s indoor air quality, such as an aging parent or grandparent, or your child when you are away. What else is cool is that it shows the history of your rooms over time. You'll also get notifications so you can track what's going on in real time.
Or, you can simply get a glimpse of your day, knowing which rooms performed well and which ones didn't. uHoo even recommends things you can do to improve your air depending on what the reading is. Imagine being able to track your kid's school remotely -- if the air is unhealthy, you can know about it right away. Same goes for your own home, office or wherever you spend a significant chunk of your time.
There's also a very cool Health Diary, which allows you to track how you're feeling and when. It will record symptoms or issues in the room you happen to be in, all of which correlates back to the data uHoo is picking up.
You can also see results in chart form, which will lay out the results by VOCs, ozone, temperature, humidity, CO2 and so on.
uHoo comes in two versions: Classic and Premium, the main difference being the number of dedicated sensors that the device will detect. The device comes with a power adapter, and a micro-USB cable.
Details on how to pre-order a uHoo from only $99 for a limited time can be found on https://www.indiegogo.com/at/uhooair. I love this - questions on any of it, let me know. Since I'm working the company, I already have a uHoo and absolutely love knowing when I'm breathing healthy air or not. This is particularly useful for travelers as well who stay in hotel rooms on a regular basis -- you might be surprised by the results, even from high end hotels.
They'll be shipping in Q4 of this year and availability is worldwide.
May 08, 2016
In Honor of Mother's Around the World & My Own
The truth is, I used to reflect about Mother's Day every year and even write about it occasionally. My mother who was actually my grandmother -- Irene was her lovely name -- was one of the most inspirational woman I've ever known and I've encountered a lot of amazing female souls over my lifetime. It wasn't until later in life that I learned that Irene was the English name for Renee and the French name came from my mother's side who apparently came from several generations of French heritage, although we rarely talked about that.
I always assumed I was much more English than anything else until Ancestry.com told me otherwise and I realized just how dominantly French my background really was. In fact, my nearly 30% Italian genetic make-up was even more prominent than the English side of the family -- their DNA seemed to have passed over me somehow. When I think of her, I think of roses. I think of tulips too, since we planted them together and without fail, they sprouted from our upstate New York garden every spring.
What set her apart was her ability to be raw and truthful, raising issues people were uncomfortable hearing, but doing so in the most genuine and diplomatic of ways -- her English mother Ida taught her well perhaps although given what I knew about my great grandmother, my guess is that it was simply unique to Irene. I've never been able to live up to the level of dignity and elegance that she showed everyone around her simply by walking into a room.
I learned so much about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and what it was like to be a woman growing up in the 1920's and 3o's simply by being a good listener in my mother's kitchen, one which was never modernized. Its retro white cupboards remain until this day even under new ownership.
I wrote about the connection between My Mother's Kitchen and blogging on my personal blog 12 years ago (yes, I've been blogging for a long time) and that wasn't even an early entry. Her sassiness and loveliness will always be remembered and while it is no doubt tragic that she never witnessed my wedding day nor has she seen me as an adult woman facing so many of the same challenges she did over forty years later, her voice and the decisions she made never leave me.
She was one to take the high road, which I've had to do on more than one occasion, especially in business when those who you encounter are not as ethical and honorable as you had hoped.
I wasn't planning to write about Mother's Day this year -- honoring her memory is a wonderful thing to do, but often so painful that it derails me from a forward march, which is more and more necessary every day as I see myself age as she had and for many of the same reasons. Given how much I've traveled and where I've lived (ten countries), a part of my life she also never witnessed, I have been fortunate to discover other incredible women who while may have never replaced her, were integral to shaping how I see the world....through sad and nurturing and yet still innocent and deliciously loving female eyes. While most of these women are no longer with us, kudos and hats off to Josephine Blodgett, Betty Cummings, Donna Blodgett Ambrosino, Bertha Blodgett Herkel, Audrey Farnum, Bernie Daggett, Shirley Lockwood, Dona Badman, Callie Marcellus, Adelaide Sachs, Maryjane Fredericks, Nila Edwards and Charlotte Lawton. Seeing each and every one of them in my mind's eye brings a smile and a comforting imaginary hand I can somehow hold onto during tougher times. As for the others, one of these days, I will write about all of them, but for today in honor of mothers around the world, the Clinton Foundation came up with a great list of six moms they want to honor this year, who share an unyielding desire to support their families and give their children better lives. As they so beautifully portrayed, "regardless of their starting point, it’s the upward mobility these moms are working to enable that’s important. This Mother’s Day, and every day, we’re honored to help empower moms to build better lives for themselves and for generations beyond." I chose three of the women they honor today who are part of the Clinton Foundation's initiatives - for the others, please read the original piece on Mom's That Inspire Us. CHRISTINA MWALE, SMALLHOLDER FARMER, MALAWI Christina Mwale, a smallholder farmer with the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), lives with her son on a small farm in Malawi. With each harvest, Christina hoped that she would finally grow enough crops to support her family and earn an income. But more often than not, the harvests would yield less than before. With the help of CDI, Christina was able to learn new farming techniques that have helped her improve the quality and quantity of her crops, and increase her earnings. Her new income has enabled her to move her family into a new house. And she is also using her money to purchase land so she can generate a higher profit from her harvests in future seasons. Christina has become a leader in her community. She finds being able to support her son and share her knowledge with other smallholder farmers in the community to be the most rewarding parts of her work. SHARON BOYD-STRUTHERS, ART TEACHER AT ROCKEFELLER ELEMENTARY, ARKANSAS Sharon Boyd-Struthers, a mother and grandmother, is an art teacher at Rockefeller Elementary in the Little Rock School District. She epitomizes the wonderful relationship that the Clinton Center staff has with educators across the community. Sharon is a regular attendee of the Clinton Center’s annual professional development workshop held in partnership with the Arkansas Arts Educators Association, which supports teachers in continuing their education. During the Clinton Center’s temporary exhibit, Chihuly, Sharon lead a summer-long program, where she taught children the art and creativity of glass fusion. Upon completion of the Chihuly exhibit, the Clinton Center was able to support Sharon and her students with the addition of a second kiln for her classroom. She understands the important role a teacher plays in a child's life, and whether it's with her students, her children, or her grandchildren, Sharon goes out of her way to provide young people with enriching opportunities. (PHOTO CREDIT: ST. BERNARD PROJECT) EVELYN STEVENS, NEW YORK Evelyn Stevens lived with her son Khepera in a home in Far Rockaway when Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm badly damaged the first floor of their home, forcing Khepera to move out. The loss of her home and Khepera moving out was devastating to Evelyn. Evelyn quickly began to take the necessary steps to repair and rebuild her home. She received assistance from FEMA and Flood Insurance and then used that money to hire a contractor to start the reconstruction. Unfortunately, the contractor ended up being fraudulent and never started the work. Determined to rebuild a home for her and her son, Evelyn applied for aid from various nonprofit organizations. The St. Bernard Project, a CGI commitment maker and Clinton Foundation partner, answered her request to assist with the rebuilding of her home.
March 30, 2016
DENT 2016: From the Morality of Sex Robots & AI to Free Diving & Mental Health
Putting a dent in the future -- isn't that a compelling idea? And, what's even more compelling is that it means such different things to different people and why the eclectic DENT Conference in Sun Valley Idaho, is so unique.
From technologists, entrepreneurs and scientists, to artists, astronauts and Olympic Gold medalists, people gather around to hear radical new ideas, learn from the best of the best and share their best practices, all under the roof of the Sun Valley Inn, a stone's throw from Baldy Mountain and incredible skiing, even in the Spring. The brain child of Seattle-based Steve Broback and Jason Preston, DENT is now in its fourth year and my third year of attending, DENT's format is a mix of educational, interactive and thought provoking, with un-conference break-out sessions, fireside chats and general talks.
Since the backbone of the conference stems from the technology community, it seemed fitting that American futurist and author Amy Webb would speak. As the Founder of the Future Today Institute and an Adjunct Professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, she dabbles in a lot of projects. She asks us wryly: "What happens when we get what we say we want?" On the topic of Emerging Tech Trends and the hot button in Silicon Valley right now: Big Data, she addressed where and how that data will change how we think about the world and how we interact with it. What if an algorithm could predict our news? What if a news story could be written by an algorithm, using curated and scraped data that could get published? If you follow financial and sports news today, you may be surprised to learn that many of these stories are already being written by algorithms. Yet, it's not something we really think about and curation is already there in some industries. What if algorithms designed our real world experiences OR even more radical: what if algorithms could program our people?
Photo credit: www.goldenhourblog.com
I've been seeing this for the last few years -- curation is becoming more and more automated and we are moving towards hyper personalized news. Rather than reading a single news story, data that reaches our desktop or mobile device is becoming more personalized for you....all programmed by an algorithm.
The nugget of news will be personalized based on our own old data and online behavior which means that there’s an infinite number of possible stories that could be distributed. What if in the not too distant future, there will be editors but no journalists. Imagine that you will have your own personalized news feed that is pre-filtered based on your likes and preferences.
Yes, it's happening, but it begs the question: is that what we really want? Because there are so many possible places to get our news, the real value will be super customized and personalized. Sure, it will be content vetted, but isn't there an element of joy when we discover new things outside our comfort zones? If the vetted, curated big data funnel merely delivers me content on travel, photography and food because those are topics of interest I search about the most, will I ever learn about something new I might want to try, like martial arts or sky diving?
And, if I'm a democrat that searches more for Bernie Sanders talks than Ted Cruz, will the articles on Bernie be more favorable than the ones on Ted Cruz, and how does that algorithm decide what bias to let me see -- and more importantly, not see. What gets marshaled to the top and what gets moved to the third page of my search? Machines are learning from human behavior every day, including political views, our income brackets and the ugly biases of racism and homophobia. Truth be told, we are leaving bread crumbs everywhere, every single day. Perhaps in the future, we will PAY to be anonymous and that will be worth more than anything else. I couldn't agree more.
Amy reminds us that the future isn't something that happens to us passively -- – it is something that we are creating proactively and collectively. PATH's CEO Steve Davis addressed Malaria. What does Malaria have to do with technology and innovating the future you ask? A lot when you reflect on the fact that it's 2016 and with all of our advancement, Malaria still remains the number 3 killer in the world.
A child dies every two minutes, and 453,000 people die each year. How is that possible you wonder? It's not just that Malaria is a disease of poverty, but Malaria contributes to poverty.
If you're not familiar with PATH, they work on vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, service and system innovation and they partner with organizations to drive down these diseases that affect so many and so unfairly. With so many creative and bright minds in the room, Davis asked people to think about how to effectively design new issue and systems over the next 10-15 years around products, around operational management and logistics and around financing, all of which could accelerate the progress they make in Africa and beyond.
Currently, Malaria is not being solved by the private sector but he suggests that the real solution is a complex level of collaborations between private sector and governments and that cost and affordability is critical to solving this. Says Davis, "In regular technology innovation, we think about the cost later.
With Malaria, we need to think about the ultimate cost first and then design around that to get to that price, otherwise it won't work." They work in endemic conditions, where there’s not proper education systems and the environment is harsh which means that their work comes with enormous constraints. It should be no surprise that the health systems they work in, especially in Asia and Africa, are incredibly complicated from years of aid and development agency and colonialism mixed with new agencies pouring money into the system.
They are tracking index cases through droids and an app and using this model alone, they are attempting to check and treat every household to better figure out where people may have gotten infected. With a bunch of new data models, knowing where the reservoir is and where the mosquitoes are, is critical to their long term success.
They've been working with Tableau to see where transmission is coming from and to give the data back to the health workers in the front line. To make malaria history, they need to deploy resources faster than the disease can spread, so it's an aggressive but important mission. There's a huge sea change in global demographics. The faster we can get people in these countries to move into lower and middle working class, the faster we can eradicate diseases that are impacting so many.
DENT is a dazzling and mind-expanding experience where people join forces for various collaborative efforts to move the needle and dent the future.
This my friends is how community forms and how the magic and power of one mind + one mind = ten minds gets started. It happened in Silicon Valley and it happens around the world, including once a year in beautiful Sun Valley, where people with a genuine desire in helping good ideas grow and spread, all come together with overlapping interests and empathetic hearts. Those interested in additional photos, below is a collection of networking and after hour shots....
Greg Kisor, Renee Blodgett, Michael Grabham -- photo courtesy of Russell Sparkman
Kris Krug with Jason Nunnelley
Above, Matthew F. Reyes of GoPro and Scott Jordan of ScotteVest
Above, Jason Preston interviews Buick's Dan Kinney who leads User Experience for their Global Connected Customer Experience Group. See journalist Myriam Joire's video interview with Dan at DENT.
Speaking of Buick, how's this for stunning? T'was nice getting picked up from the airport in a gorgeous Regal, especially with backdrops like these.
Larry Brown plays magical tunes...
Marsha Collier, Phil Colley, Buick, Renee Blodgett
Simon Winthrop performs
Steve Broback, Co-Producer of DENT and Phil Colley of Buick's OnStar team
Renee Blodgett, Greg Kisor, Maryam Scoble
Food and wine is also an integral part of the event, so a great choice for foodies who also love tech and innovation...below are some shots taken at the delicious Vintage Restaurant, where Buick held a thought provoking dinner. See my write-up on two foodie gems in the heart of Ketchum.
There's also delicious dining at the Warfield Distillery & Brewery in the center of town...
And, a delicious spread at the home of Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest
Did I mention that Sun Valley also has superb skiing, even in mid-March?
March 30, 2016 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Innovation, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Science, Travel, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0)
March 07, 2016
Watermark Conference for Women Hits Bay Area on April 21
I love conferences and events solely dedicated to women, especially those where mentorship is part of the value-add, whether that be from listening to inspiring powerful women's talks throughout the course of the day or networking with women going through similar issues you might be facing at home or at work. I'm new to learning about the Watermark Conference for women in the Silicon Valley Bay Area and plan to attend this year. At last year event, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who's now in the race for the White House, delivered a keynote address to thousands of attendees.
Keynotes this year include Glamour's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, TV personality, comedian and author Mindy Kaling, Sama and Laxmi founder Leila Janah, Soccer Superstar Abby Wambach and Entrepreneur John Jacobs. The conference has networking, professional development, inspirational panels and keynotes. More details can be found on their site, including speakers, sessions and bios on the keynotes: https://www.watermarkconferenceforwomen.org. This year's event will be held in San Jose on April 21, 2016.
Watermark offers Community & Connection, Info & Inspiration, Motivation & Momentum....so you can Discover What You Want & Achieve It!
The event brings together acclaimed women who share their wisdom and expertise on a wide range of personal and professional development topics, to help you find clarity on your goals and what you need to accomplish them.
Topics include managing your money, reinventing your career, dealing with change, how to market yourself and network effectively, how to help your community, finding funding for your business, managing your health, attitude and more.
The event is targeting non-profits, community leaders, entrepreneurs, self-employed women, job seekers, students, or frankly anyone looking for some motivation and inspiration.
They will also have an Exhibit Hall which will feature organizations showcasing a wide variety of products and services as well. What else is cool is that the conference advocates for the advancement of women in the workplace by offering regular leadership development programs and networking opportunities and promoting gender diversity and equality initiatives.
Watermark also supports girls’ leadership programs, as well, to help build a well-qualified workforce for the future. The Watermark Conference for Women is generously underwritten by presenting sponsor Juniper Networks and supported by the following sponsors: Cisco, EMC, Amazon, Gilead, Akamai, Johnson & Johnson, Mercer, riverbed, and Oracle. Media partners include: KFOG-FM, KGO 810 and NASH FM. You can follow them on Twitter @wtrmrk as well to join in an ongoing discussion.
January 25, 2016
Find X With Thought Leaders & Visionaries at TEDxBerkeley on Feb 6
From innovative surgery and extraterrestrial intelligence to reporting from war zones and Grammy-Award winning music, this year’s theme for TEDxBerkeley 2016 -- Finding X, which will be held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA on February 6, will look to solutions to our world's imperfections. Sixteen riveting speakers will address how we identify these problems and make sense of them in the larger systems where they belong.
Whether it be voyaging into uncharted technological or scientific territory, reconciling our diverse perspectives of the human condition, or unearthing the parts of ourselves that give our lives direction and meaning, we all hope to make an impact on this world by Finding X.
Now in its 7th year, this prestigious TEDx event will bring together thought leaders, visionaries, innovators and 54 performers who will enlighten and inspire more than 2,000 attendees across core disciplines impacting the world, from medicine and education to technology and diversity.
TEDxBerkeley strives to curate an outstanding group of inventive and provocative speakers who can shift global conversations in a way that makes the world a better place, central and core to TED's mission. The goal is to get us all to re-think conventional ideas and the status quo so that we can all make a positive difference in our own communities. Tickets for TEDxBerkeley 2016 are on sale through Friday, February 5 or until they sell out.
Attendees or those viewing via Live Stream at http://www.tedxberkeley.org starting at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, can also participate in the conversation on social media by using #TEDxBerkeley on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social networks.
This year’s line-up includes:
- Christopher Ategeka: Award-Winning Social Entrepreneur & Nano-Technology Inventor that identifies early detection and monitoring of chronic diseases.
- Celli@Berkeley: a cellist quartet made up of undergraduate and graduate students united by the passion to express the uniquely rich possibilities of the cello.
- Kathy Calvin: As President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy works to connect people, ideas, and resources to the United Nations to help solve global problems.
- Jacob Corn: Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative & on faculty at UC Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department, Jacob focuses on neurobiology, infectious disease, and oncology.
- Stephanie Freid: An International Conflicts Journalist, TV correspondent for CCTV (China) and Turkish TV International networks, Stephanie reports from some of the world’s toughest conflict and war zones.
- Rose Gelfand, Molly Gardner & Isa Ansari: this trio from Oakland School for the Arts Literary Arts Department, are performance artists who specialize in the spoken word and poetry on stage.
- Rob Hotchkiss: Grammy Award-winning Musician for the Best Rock Song for five-time nominated “Drops of Jupiter”, and was the musical force behind hits such as Meet Virginia, Free, I Am and Get To Me.
- Naveen Jain: An Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, Naveen is the founder of Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, inome, Talent Wise, Intelius, and InfoSpace.
- Jeromy Johnson: An EMF Expert, Jeromy is dedicated to mitigating the negative impacts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure, helping to implement solutions that reduce and eliminate EMF pollution around the globe.
- Reverend Deborah L. Johnson: Minister, Author & Diversity Expert, Deborah teaches practical applications of Universal Spiritual Principles and is founder of The Motivational Institute, which specializes in diversity.
- Aran Khanna: As Computer Scientist & Security Researcher on personal privacy, he builds tools that empower users to discover the consequences of the digital footprint they’re leaving.
- John Koenig: Creator & Author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which fills gaps in language with new terms for emotions, some of which (‘sonder’) have entered the language outright.
- Ellen Leanse: As Apple’s first User Evangelist, she brought Apple online in 1985 and has since helped more than 40 companies and policy makers increase their innovation and impact.
- Susan Lim: As Surgeon and Entrepreneur, Susan broke through the gender glass ceiling in transplantation surgery by becoming the first in Asia, and the second woman in the world to have performed a successful liver transplant.
- OSA Chamber Choir: the largest audition-only high school Vocal ensemble at the Oakland School for the Arts, this ensemble has performed for Governor Jerry Brown’s inauguration, Obama’s campaign tour and many other notable events.
- Sonia Rao: A BMI Spotlight artist, Sonia is a singer and songwriter whose latest album Meet Them At the Door is a collection of heart-felt pop songs that showcase her piano skills and soulful voice.
- Amandine Roche: A Human Rights Expert, Amandine’s focus is on civic education, democratization, gender and youth empowerment.
- Sriram Shamasunder: Sriram aims to deliver comprehensive healthcare in resource poor areas of the world through his work at UCSF and as co-founder of the HEAL initiative.
- Andrew Siemon: Andrew is an Astrophysicist, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research & lead scientist for the “Breakthrough Listen Initiative”, a $100 million effort that is conducting one of the most sensitive searches for advanced extraterrestrial life in history.
- Joshua Toch: After being bullied because of Cerebral Palsy, Joshua founded Mind Before Mouth, which equips students to better deal with social aspects of life and get through times of hardship.
- UC Berkeley Azaad: UCB Azaad is a competitive Hindi Film Dance team which motivates audiences to connect with Bollywood culture.
This year’s partners include Repertoire Productions, Vÿykn Water, Zola, Peet’s Coffee, Fast Imaging, 18 Rabbits, Larabar, Victor Hugo Winery and EthiCal.
I am proud to be a co-curator again this year, joining Chris Lew as TEDxBerkeley’s 2016 curator and co-curator R. Jennifer Barr together with an incredible team behind us, including Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos, Max Wolffe, Melody Jung, Aaron Chelliah, Mehdi Kazi, Sean Kelly, Krupa Modi, Aashna Patel, Andrew Veenstra, Alvin Wan and Joe West.
January 25, 2016 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Education, On Technology, San Francisco, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0)
January 17, 2016
New York Times Travel Show Round-Up, Much More Fun Than CES!
I missed last year's New York Times Travel Show since we were about to embark on a 5 week long journey cross country -- our hashtag for the tour was #WBTWxAmerica for those interested in seeing photos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We left New York the week before the event, and only a day before the city got hit with a snowstorm.
This year, we were proud media partners of the event since it remains one of my favorite travel shows in the industry. I love the fact that the show is a great mix of trade and consumer content and brings together some of my favorite destinations in the world all under one roof.
Despite the fact that is an American East Coast event, countries as far away as Taiwan and Japan showed up, there were wellness offerings from gems like Tahiti, St. Lucia and Bali, plenty of South American representation, and it took me nearly a day to make my way through the Africa aisle alone. From learning cool facts about specific destinations and exploring the latest from African safari tour companies, which we'll be expanding in 2016, I could have easily spent a full day in discovery mode.
Below, Arthur Frommer, from the infamous Frommer's Guides, opened the official consumer day of the event, which included a formal ribbon cutting at the entrance on Saturday morning, January 9. Some of my personal highlights are outlined below - as always, questions or comments, leave them in the comment section or feel free to tweet or email me @weblogtheworld.
I was thrilled to see my pals from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on-site; we went on a press trip with them a few years back and loved it -- see my coverage of Estonia and Lithuania. They also served scrumptious cheese from the region which I dared not say no to -- food is such an integral part of travel for me, that I can't separate the two. Speaking of food, Dubrovnik is having a Good Food Festival from October 20-23, 2016, where you'll get dinner with a famous chef, taste traditional and not so traditional dishes, take part in gastro tours, entertainment and live musical performances and have an opportunity to attend workshops and presentations. More details at www.tzdubrovnik.hr.
Croatia was promoting Wellness Travel among other things, which was exciting for us since we are not only expanding our Wellness coverage significantly in 2016, but it's a personal passion of mine and has been for years. Be sure to read my Wellness Travel Round-up of the show, which is going live next week.
I also got enticed by some of Adriatic's tours, which does land tours to Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania and Macedonia and charter cruises of the area. They specialize in excursions to Croatia and the Balkins, including island hopping, which had me at "hello." Niche Touring offers fully guided travel for small groups, which makes for a much more intimate setting, something we applaud.
They too focus on Croatia, but to off-the-beaten-path hidden places often not found on a typical tourist itinerary. Their tours emphasize the history, local food, and culture of each region, shared by the Croatian people you meet along the way. We're keen on reviewing one of their tours as I was impressed by their big heart and personalized approach to tours of the area, which include both water and land experiences.
I didn't have time to visit the Hungary or Czech Republic booths, although I have been in recent years and they remain on my fabulous destination list, so if you haven't been, be sure to read our coverage (Hungary and Prague specifically). Our content on Russia isn't deep but it's worth a meander as the content is full of rich photographs and history. And, my last trip to Berlin Germany this past year included more time in East Berlin than West, so be sure to read through our coverage over the past year.
I've lived in Europe, traveled through the continent extensively and have had long stints in Amsterdam, Corfu, Innsbruck and London, where I studied for many years. In fact, I've been to every country except for Norway which is very much calling to me -- seeing new images of northern fjords makes it hard to resist. If you're eager to see what I'm referring to, there's no better place to start than Instagram - do a search for #Norway and you'll be blown away.
This past year, I went to Germany and Austria, so be sure to browse through my articles of Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg, including a fabulous one on Salzburg's 50th Anniversary of the Sound of Music and the previous fall, I went to Normandy and Brittany, where I took so many enticing photos, you'll be booking your flight to France tomorrow. High on my "return list" over the next two years are Greece, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Who knows -- maybe one will even be a winter trip. It was great running into Michael Gigl from the Austrian Tourism Board aka @AustriaTravel at the show.
I didn't spend time with destinations at the show because of my strong familiarity of the countries, however I did talk to a few tour companies and river cruise companies who are offering some interesting itineraries in Europe today. I'm far from a cruise expert although hope to experience a few of the higher end cruise lines so we can do a unique comparison based on "physical/experiential", "fine touches" and "wellness" in 2016 and 2017.
On my hot list right now are RIVER CRUISES. Watch for more from us in that area as we begin to explore what some of the leaders in river cruising are doing in Europe and Asia. For example, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises operate a fleet of 21 river cruising cruise ships along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Egypt, and China.
All inclusive Scenic offers unlimited drinks and butler service for guests and Viking River Cruises apparently has six new Viking Longships making debuts in 2016 across Europe. Avalon operates 15 ships in Europe and eight more in the Galapagos, Mekong Delta, China and Egypt and AmaWaterways has an impressive list of options through European rivers as well. Itineraries across river cruise companies range from major cities like Amsterdam, Budapest, and Vienna to delightful, small towns and villages like Austria's Durnstein and Germany's Breisach.
Africa, in particular, South Africa has always had an emotional hold on me, largely because I spent an exchange student year abroad in South Africa during my most formative years, lived there again just as Apartheid was lifted and led a blogging tour there roughly a decade later.
I also taught English in Kenya, saw some of the most surreal desert scenery on the edge of Somalia, slept on beaches in Lamu, Pemba and Zanzibar and saw gorillas up close in Uganda and Zaire before the western world had an opportunity to. I have gone on life changing safaris in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa where I watched elephant trunks swaying in unison over a river for hours and was transformed by a tree standing alone in silence along the Namibian Border.
I was swept away by the hospitality and insights of the people of Zimbabwe and it's majestic Victoria Falls, ate so many avocados and bananas on Dizzy and Wally's farm in Zambia that I could barely walk, and I was brought to tears by the generosity and warmth of the Malawi people where we camped on a beach for more than a month. In the nineties, I marveled at ancient tombs in Egypt and fell in love with the markets of Morocco -- the list goes on. It's clear that I have a bias but with good reason. Africa is a magical continent and it boasts far more than safaris and Stellenbosch boasts some of the best wine you'll ever taste.
The girls from Zambia were a hoot and I could have talked to them for hours and after seeing stunning photos of Botswana, my heart cried out to be there with nothing more than me, a tripod and my Canon 7D. I've been wanting to go to Madagascar for years as well as to some of Mozambique's more remote islands where they boast luxury experiences worth having. And, if I got an invitation to Mauritius, I'd be packing my bags tonight. Morocco and Egypt had plenty to take in (Egypt handed out fun t-shirts) and I learned about luxury properties in Casablanca I didn't know existed.
African tour companies were in full force, from offering a variety of options, whether it be glamping in the bush, safaris, photo tours, luxury resorts and spas to cruises departing from Cape Town. Uber Luxe Safaris were offering unique itineraries, from chimpanzee trekking, a canopy walk in the Nyungwe Forest National Park, Birding, Water Fall Trails, tea tours and hanging with monkeys. Uber Luxe Safaris is based in Rwanda and specializes in authentic luxury experiences in East Africa.
The Zulu Nyala Private Game Reserve looked compelling. Nestled between the wilderness reserves of Mkuze, Hluhluwe, St. Lucia and South Africa's Sodwana Bay, the reserve boasts elephant, rhino, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, antelope and more. The privately owned reserve is home to over 40 different species of animal and bird life and on-site, they have 50 ethnic-styled suites and panoramic views from common areas in the Lodge.
They also have a tennis court, craft and curio center, a games room, which is great if you're traveling with kids in tow, a pool, a bar and reading lounges. I chatted with the guys from Eyes on Africa for awhile who offer tours to Namibia's Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei red sand dunes, South Africa's Kruger National Park, Livingstone and Vic Falls, River rafting and helicopter flights in Zimbabwe and Zambia, canoe rides along the Lower Zambezi River, Mount Kenya, Amboseli National Park, Zamzibar, Selous, Africa's largest wildlife reserve, the Serengeti for the Great Migration, Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Crater, island hopping in the Seychelles and swimming with whale sharks in Mozambique among other experiences.
I was also enticed by Bush Butlers, who I might add were the only ones who served Biltong at their booth - two thumbs up! They offer tailor-made safaris and tours to a number of intoxicating locations, from Tanzania, Kenya and Bostwana to Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
They cater to your needs, which include family style safaris, luxury safaris, or beaten track adventure style trips. Some of the highlights include seeing hippos in Gabon, viewing gorillas in Uganda, ballooning in Namibia, taking in Madagascar's Baobabs, seeing the world's largest land migration in Tanzania's Serengeti, scuba diving with whale sharks and manta rays, and catching tiger fish on the mighty Zambezi River. I can assure you that going through the Namibian Desert in a 4x4 Explorer will transform the way you look at the world.
While I still haven't been to Antarctica, we have a bunch of coverage on We Blog the World from other writers, so be sure to read through them and take in the photos.
The images are breathtaking and before seeing them, it wasn't a big priority on the list, but today, it's in the top 10. Hurtigruten is one company I discovered at the show that encompasses all things Antarctica. They're known as a leader in polar exploration and offer new Discovery Style Voyages, which is great for people with a true spirit for exploration and learning, but without the rigors of a full expedition.
MS Midnatsol is the ship, which holds a maximum of 500 travelers, and they start and end in Punta Arenas at the tip of Chile where I visited a few years ago. I'd encourage you to take the time to explore Chilean Patagonia including Torres del Paine if you venture that far south. The ship explores some of Chile's deep fjords before making it's way to the more wild and beautiful Antarctica. Remember how I said that Norway was calling to me earlier on? Note to self: Hurtigruten also sails to Norway, visiting 34 small ports, most of which big ships simply can't enter.
Truth be told, I didn't spend as much time in the Asia section as I had hoped, but did visit Japan, Taiwan who always has a big booth at the show, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. There were some great dance and music performances on-site all weekend and many countries were giving out bites, with all the spices from home. Oh so delish!
Malaysia had a colorful area with cultural backdrops where you could dress up in a traditional costume and have your photo taken - my favorite was this little girl who was eager to pose in front of the camera. Adorable!
While China can be overwhelming given the country's size, I find that it's worth spending time with locals who specialize in tourism since they have detailed maps, which you often can't find online and can elaborate on some of the gems outside traditional hot spots like Shanghai and the Great Wall.
I spent time with the rep from the region of Henan, which is central and to the north of the country, which touts a number of unique excursions and adventures. We may explore this region in more depth and consider a trip in the future.
Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Airlines was holding a fun promotion at the show, which involved social media; simply engage your audience with a photo and hashtag #SriLankanUSA2016 for an opportunity to win a trip. Here, I learned a lot more about Sri Lanka than I expected and it's risen to the Must Visit List, so stand by as we do a little more research and plan for a future trip.
Central America and the Caribbean
Panama has been getting more visibility lately as has El Salvador so I spent time gathering information on eco-friendly lodges, resorts and wellness getaway ideas for both countries.
The Dominican Republic was handing out a salted cod concoction!
Cooking demonstrations were part of the agenda on both days for a variety of destinations including Latin America. On Saturday, they had a Taste of the World Kid's Kitchen where Robert "Chef Bobo" Surlves and Spoons Across America engaged children in hands-on tasting and cooking classes. There were number of other cooking presentations as well, from Taiwan and South Africa to upstate New York and Lebanon.
Anguilla presented me the biggest surprise from the Caribbean Region. A place I knew so little about before the New York Times Travel Show, I left with a burning desire to visit -- after doing a little digging, it seems like an ideal location for a romantic getaway or a wellness retreat.
We love Canada and there's a ton of coverage on We Blog the World so be sure to read through the articles, which cover a variety of regions from the west to the east coast and everything in between.
We also have coverage of some of the southern Arctic region as well. As for the U.S., remember that we drove across country earlier this year, so in 2015 alone, we hit around 20 states between our trip and other side trips on both coasts separate from our journey. It's hard to say what my favorite memory was, but rest assured, there was no state that didn't hold a precious gem of some kind, whether it be blues music, food, culture, dancing, fashion, theater, thermal baths or nature.
There is a ton of coverage on our trip, which includes New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, California. If you've never done the drive, I strongly encourage it and feel free to hit us up for tips. Below, a shot of a break we took at dusk on the way from Oklahoma to Texas.
This year, hot on the list is New Hampshire, Vermont, more Upstate New York (we're biased remember) and Long Island (I've yet to really explore), Pennsylvania and North Carolina. A trip to New Orleans would also be a nice plus if there's time between our international travel.
As lame as it sounds, I only visited one booth in South America - Argentina, a country I've been wanting to visit for years.....of course, they were pouring fabulous wine wine from Mendoza on Sunday and serving cheese, crackers and salami to accompany. I love the Argentina Tourism PR and marketing team as well as the guys from Aerolineas Argentinas. One of these days, you'll find a wealth of rich photography taken on my Canon 7D from an extended stay in Argentina, so stand by.
Above, I refer to Ines Segarra as the Head of Fun for Argentina, although her official role is the Director of Tourism based out of New York. That doesn't mean I'm not paying attention to other countries on the continent.
Also high on my wish list is Peru and Colombia, although we have plenty of coverage on We Blog the World on both from other writers. At the show, I talked to a few tour operators about some of the excursions they offer to the region. I loved my time in Chile and Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, so be sure to read our coverage of both countries, where there are plenty of engaging stories and photography from other writers as well.
At some juncture, I want to see and experience Bolivia's Salt Flats or Salar de Uyuni in Spanish. It is located in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosí in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes and they were formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is apparently covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness and is beyond surreal. While this photo is sure to blow you away, you'll find plenty of other breathtaking images on the web and on Instagram.
Photo credit: Huffington Post Below, saying YES to GLOBAL WELLNESS in the Wellness Pavilion, a new section of the show this year. (see my write-up for the specifics). Also in the Wellness Pavilion, I attended a light experience with the folks from Color Spa -- more details in the wellness travel post.
There was an entire section dedicated to fun things for kids to experience across cultures and tons of music and traditional culture.
Trade Day is simply what it says it is....the day those of us who are in the travel trade come together to learn from each other and network. It is typically held the day before the official show opens, and tourism boards, government officials, cruise lines, safari companies, hotels and resorts, chefs, authors, journalists and others in the travel biz, partake in conversations centered around marketing, sales, operations, logistics and best practices.
To give you a snapshot, I attended panels on Travel Media in the Digital Age with Facebook's Mike Rooney, PhocusWright's Lorraine Sileo, and TripIt's Lauren Moreno, a session on Wellness Travel with Anne Dimon of Travel to Wellness, Brian Povinelli of the Westin and Bonnie Levengood of MSC Cruises, and a Culinary Tourism discussion with TravelSommelier's Darren Humphreys, Parla Food's Tim Ries, Friends of the High Line Stephanie Schneiderman, and Tia Stephanie of Tours Cultural Journeys to Mexico and Colombia.
The cruise lines showed up in force and we heard from Cruise Planner's Michelle Fee, Celebrity Cruises Michelle Homoky, Wendy Whitener of Carnival, Ken Muskat of MSC, Lisa Falango of Royal Caribbean, Anthony Viviano from Princess & Cunard Line, and river cruising specialists, Cindy Christen from CroisiEurope, Cindy Sullivan from Globus, Susan Shultz from American Cruise Lines, John Restuccia from Uniworld, Chris Greco from Rauck and Kirsten Karst from AmaWaterways. Other sessions included a focus on Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America, Hawaii, Florida and National Parks.
Speaking of Florida, they had a great chef at their booth who was preparing delicious popcorn, shrimp and papaya - YUM!
I'll end with a visual of where this piece began -- below is a shot of Arthur Frommer doing the ribbon cutting on Saturday morning. Bravo and kudos to the New York Times Travel Show team. If you haven't been before, it's a must attend, so be sure to watch for announcements on next January's date and the details.
January 16, 2016
Will VoLTE Eliminate VoIP in 2016?
Will VoLTE do away with VoIP in 2016? With major carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the United States now offering VoLTE services, will this voice technology become the new standard by 2016?
At the moment, many of us choose to use VoIP services, which seem on the surface to be quite similar to VoLTE. Both transmit voice calls using packetized data. However, there are some key differences to be aware of which leads some to believe that VoLTE is the superior technology. Here’s a look at these differences, and whether or not VoLTE will be able to overtake VoIP by the end of next year.
The Differences between VoLTE and VoIP Although VoLTE and VoIP may share common acronyms, they do work a bit differently. This also translates into differences in performance. If you’ve ever used an app like Google Voice, Skype, or WhatsApp, you already know how VoIP generally works. It allows you to make voice calls over an IP network, transmitting the voice data in packets. VoIP can be used over any sort of network, whether you’re connecting with 3G, 4G or local wireless.
VoLTE can only be used over a high-speed LTE network. It still breaks your call down into smaller data packets, but it offers a faster speed and does away with the need for a third-party app in order to function. In terms of performance, VoLTE can be clearer and more reliable, simply because it relies on that 4G connection. At their best, VoIP calls can be great.
Bear in mind that they do depend on the connection you’re using – as anyone who’s had a Skype session suddenly interrupted knows! Because VoLTE doesn’t use third-party apps, it also is less of a battery drain on your smartphone than a VoIP service like Skype. Predictions for 2016 At the moment, VoIP is still far more available than VoLTE because it can be used over any IP connection, whereas LTE still needs to be rolled out in many areas. Will this facet of the technology be reversed in 2016?
Some like to think so, while others see VoLTE as a real wild card. One big factor that could lead to it eventually overturning VoIP is the fact that VoLTE is more efficient for network operators like Nokia Networks and Verizon Wireless. This gives them added incentive to work on pushing it as a mainstream form of technology. '
In large markets like India, where dropped calls and poor reception are a major issue, there is a huge push at the moment to work on widespread 4G networks and VoLTE services. The Bottom Line As 4G becomes more ubiquitous worldwide throughout the next year, it’s likely that worldwide carriers will follow in the footsteps of operators who already provide VoLTE as a standard service. Whether or not 2016 will be the year that it breaks into the mainstream and overtakes VoIP remains to be seen, however.
There is still the challenge of creating a uniform experience for telco customers, so the service needs to be interchangeable between carriers for it become more widespread. Most of us are already quite comfortable using our VoIP services, but if VoLTE is built into new devices and contracts we may make the switch over time. This will most likely take place over the next few years rather than something that happens all at once in 2016, but at some point VoLTE will be the new standard in voice calling.
Contributed by Rachel MacDonald, Nokia Networks
November 26, 2015
Turn Back To The Land That Shaped You This Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving! On the morning of another Turkey Day, I reflect on the things I am grateful for, and there are plenty despite it being a rocky year.
I salute this day to the people in my life who stood by me during the rocky and the joyous and to a place which shaped who I am today – the Adirondacks.
In a world where we look at miniature screens more than we talk to or perhaps even touch people or a tree, I think we all too often forget about the importance of nature – the land that originally fed Americans when they first landed in New England so many moons ago…..my and your ancestors. It was about Communion. Harvest. Sharing. Being Thankful. Joyous for making it to a New Land, a land which was so ripe for harvesting and planting, they did.
When I was a child, our nourishment still came from this land. In our home, we didn’t eat chemically modified food. I was lucky to be raised by my grandparents who held values from the turn of the last century, led by a misfit grandfather who showed me how to tend a garden and even more importantly why knowing how had so much value. Some of the things we grew in that garden we ate on the holidays. My grandmother canned everything, from jams and jellies to blueberries to make pies and tomatoes, which we used for sauce in the winter.
I challenge you to two things on this Thanksgiving day as we gear up for a month long holiday season of commercialism and even more technology being thrown our way as an important “must have” in our lives.
First, return to the land that raised you….the hood you call home and really look at the earth where you played, first learned how to ride a bike and perhaps where you first swam in a natural body of water such as a lake, pond or ocean. Be with it. Understand it. Feel it. Be grateful for it in a way you may never have. Teach your kids how to be with it and feel it.
Secondly, think about everything you put in your body and…your children’s bodies. If it’s modified and not natural, don’t do it. Really think twice about supporting a horribly “gone-wrong” food system in this country that can only change if everyone stands tall and says NO MORE to fructose corn syrup, GMOs and processed boxes of crap.
Eat healthy and wisely today and every day moving forward. Be thankful for the earth that raised you and the fact that you can make choices every day about how you treat people and what you eat.
If we don’t give time and energy to our land (and to how food is planted on our land), there may be a time where that choice is no longer ours!
November 09, 2015
Happy 50 Years to The Sound of Music
If you're over the age of 30, chances are you've not only heard of The Sound of Music, but likely grown up watching it with your family. While the birthplace of all it was in and around Salzburg Austria, oddly enough Austrians and Germans didn't grow up watching it nor did it create such a groundswell effect locally like it did in other countries.
In October, I was invited to Austria celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, which was originally released in 1965, a pivotal year for so many cultural and historical events.
Truth be told, I figured the movie (and musical) was more of a phenomena in the U.S. given its picture perfect Hollywood movie style with Julie Andrews at the helm, however on the ground in Salzburg, I learned that it was a huge hit in places you'd least expect it to be, like Australia and China.
We watched The Sound of Music every year as a family for as long as I remember and no doubt, as a child, I watched it more than once some years.
As a little girl, who can't relate to the "You are Sixteen" scene? Here, Liesl and Rolf sing this "coming of age" song in the romantic Gazebo setting as she looks to him for guidance at the start of womanhood.
While some women may roll their eyes at a scene that depicts a teenage girl being so wooed by a boy that she is putting all hopes in the notion of him "taking care of her," suggesting that she can't figure it out on her own, there's an inherent and natural softness and innocence that is so beautifully portrayed in the scene and so many of us can resonate with it regardless of where we hail.
Perhaps reliving the scene as I did in Salzburg this year, holds the same romantic and tender memory as it did over 40 years ago because of the fact that traditional role models defined by sex are falling away. All we're left with when the definitions of who does what is gone is the purity of another human being you fall in love with, sitting across from you each day.
And, getting support from the other isn't an act of weakness, but an act of strength especially when polar opposite energies (masculine/feminine) play their part in the story we call life, even if its not quite the fairy tale life Hollywood is so known for projecting.
Below, I return to childhood in the original gazebo, which we visited at night -- one of the many original filming sites of The Sound of Music movie.
The lovely calling of romance and the innocence of childhood is so compelling in this scene, particularly given the context and that it happens on the heals of Hitler and political turbulence during a volatile time for Austria.
"A bell is no bell 'til you ring it, A song is no song 'til you sing it, And love in your heart Wasn’t put there to stay - Love isn’t love 'Til you give it away."
You'll no doubt recognize the shot above as another memorable scene from the movie -- Schloss Leopoldskron and the façade facing the lake which represented the von Trapp residence.
It was in this majestic and historical building where they held the official press conference celebrating 50 years.
Speakers included four actors who played the von Trapp children -- Debbie Turner as Marta, Duane Chase who played Kurt, Heather Menzies played Louisa, Nicholas Hammond who played Friedrich, Johannes von Trapp, the youngest son of the von Trapp family in real life who lives in Vermont today, Governor Wilfried Haslauer, Mayor Heinz Schaden and the head of Salzburg Tourism Bert Brugger.
They held court upstairs in the Schloss Leopoldskron Palace's library, which dates back to 1736 and its ever so encompassing architectural details only added to the historical impact the movie has had on the world. Inside, while broadcast media set up cameras to film the event, I couldn't help but to be drawn in by Kleber's stucco work on the ceilings which has been described as “the best example of rococo stucco the land can offer”.
Below is a short video of Johannes von Trapp addressing attendees at the official press conference.
Johannes von Trapp, now 76, was incredibly charming as he sat at the helm in an Austrian uniform, recounting his memories and sharing tales of his own life, noting what was similar to the movie and what differed. For example, his family didn't really climb over the hills and trek across the border, but took a train and nor did Maria and the Colonel marry at St. Stephen's Cathedral in nearby Mondsee, which was where the famous church scene was shot towards the end of the film.
Afterwards, we hung out with the actors in front of the lake, the very same one with the gold statues we all remember so well from the von Trapp estate scenes.
Below, I'm gloriously positioned in between Johannes von Trapp and Nicholas Hammond, who continues to act and lives in the states. I did ask Nicholas to dance at the gala later a few times, but he politely turned me down, offering a stateside rain check, something that would no doubt be fun to take him up on someday.
With Heather Menzies at the Kulisse Salzburg (Festive Halls) cocktail reception gala, which preceded the grand finale event they held on Saturday October 17, 2015 in the Felsenreitschule.
With Nicholas Hammond at the Kulisse Salzburg terrace bar, which boasted incredible views of historical Salzburg beyond and below.
If all of this isn't nostalgic enough, group shots in front of the glorious Salzburg poster at the evening VIP reception was sure to give any attendee a melancholy moment or two.
Below, together with the other American journalists who flew in to cover the event. In total, there were 50 of us from 12 different countries.
While not a household name in the states, Uwe Kroger (below) is a known performer in Salzburg and plays Captain von Trapp in the most recent musical performance.
On-Stage Performance Brings Me Back in Time
This intoxicating gala brought me back in time, reliving all of those memorable Sound of Music moments I had as a child. Producer Carl Philip von Maldeghem and directors Andreas Gergen and Peter Ewaldt were behind the event, as was the Mozarteum Orchestra. The Mozarteum Orchestra provided the music, while soloists and the choir of the Landestheater stood alongside the original actors from the 1965 film.
Listen to Edelweiss from the main stage...
Climb Every Mountain
And now for my favorite, Do-Re-Mi (the lighting is terrible in the video, but the sound is captured well considering the size of the hall)
Together with Uwe Kroger, German-Serban singer Milica Jovanovic played Maria von Trapp which she has been doing since the 2012/2013 season.
At the end of the performance, original actors joined the stage, including Johannes von Trapp and his family (below). And, together, we sang. If I were to say participating and watching this extravaganza was moving, it would be a grave understatement. Bravo!
The Hills Are Alive: The Salzburgerland Road to Memory Lane
The tour of Sound of Music sites is definitely worth doing and Salzburg Panorama Tours are the most notable ones doing it.
Film locations include Mirabell Palace and Gardens, where Maria and the children dance and sing Do-Re-Mi, the Observation Terrace on the Monchsbert, where they sing a verse of Do-Re-Mi, Residenz Square where Maria sings "I have confidence in me," Summer Riding School (Festival Hall), where Captain von Trapp sings Edelweiss before fleeing to America and St. Peter's Cemetery where the family hides behind the tombstones.
Then there was Leopoldskron Palace which was used as the von Trapp villa as noted above, Frohnburg Palace, which is used as the garden gate, courtyard and facade of their villa, Untersberg, which is the opening and fleeing scene, Hellbrunn, which houses the original gazebo, Anif Palace, which can be seen in the opening scene, Hohenwerfen Castle, which is the backdrop for Do-Re-Mi, Mondsee and Mondsee Church (pictured below), where Maria runs to the convent and marries the captain, and Fuschl -- St. Gilgen -- St. Wolfgang, which are aerial shots you see at the beginning of the move.
Below, granddaughter of Maria and Captain Von Trapp, Elisabeth Von Trapp, joined our bus as we were ready to depart for the official Sound of Music tour to sing for us. Born and raised in Vermont, she has been singing since childhood and her voice has apparently enthralled audiences from European cathedrals to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
Below, you can catch a glimpse of it live -- be prepared to have your heart melt...
We hit all the sites, including those out of town, such as the charming town of Mondsee, a 30 or so minute drive from Salzburg. Below is St. Stephen's Cathedral where the wedding scene of Captain and Maria took place in the movie as noted above.
New Sound of Music Trail in Werfen
We were fortunate enough to visit the new Sound of Music Trail in Werfen, a day before it officially opened on October 18, 2015. Here, you see the stunning shooting location where the picnic scene with Julie Andrews was filmed, teaching the children to sing.
This area on the outskirts of Werfen is known as the Gschwandtanger. The Sound of Music Trail is 1.4 kilometers long, with 12 information stations along the way, many of which are interactive.
What's astonishing about these locations are not just the outstanding views (we were lucky to have a clear day when we reached the top), but the fact that it has been viewed via this famous movie by over one billion people from around the world.
Here, you also have an opportunity to discover the beauty of Salzburgerland's mountains and alpine pastures. There were children on-site also, which made for incredible photos against such a picturesque backdrop. Quite simply put, it was magical!
AHHH yes Salzburg, glorious Salzburg, thanks for the nostalgic moments and for allowing the rare opportunity to celebrate with the actors and producers who created a musical explosion that changed so many people's lives.