India had always been a place I wanted to visit, partly because I’m just so attracted to places that are so wildly different than my home country of Canada. India is one of those places and in fact, very few countries contrast with my homeland so heavily. With a population of fewer than 40 million people and a landmass that’s the second largest in the world, Canada is about as wild and free as one can get. India, on the other hand, has a population of more than one billion people and is 3-4x smaller. This, combined with mass poverty, means extremely high pollution, congestion, and a not-so-clean environment. On the other hand, their deeply long history and culture is so riveting to experience and is so incredibly colourful and entertaining.
Our experience there was similar to what many other experience in India. We loved parts, hated parts, and were challenged in various ways. Most travellers will say you’re guaranteed to get sick on your first visit to India, and while we didn’t get very sick in the country itself, we did bring home a parasite, which took a month to get rid of. We saw some incredibly beautiful historical sites, met some wonderful people, went on many adventures, and ran into a fair number of scams. Let’s start with Delhi, one of India’s most populated cities. [Read more…] about Demons, Angels, and the Adventure of Backpacking Through India – Part 1
Back in 2012, my wife and I spent an entire year in Southeast Asia and China. I completed my last semester of university in Malaysia through a partnership with my university in Canada, and we decided to take the additional 6+ months to visit Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, China, and Myanmar. We loved every single country in different ways but Myanmar really stood out. In fact, we had only 21 days to play around with and it was between Vietnam and Myanmar. It was a tough decision but because we had heard that Myanmar was on the verge of change, we decided to go there before that happened. I’m so glad we did because that experience stands out so much and became one of our best travel experiences ever.
Myanmar was so “off the grid”. One thing that’s easier now is preparing for your trip with Myanmar visa. When we went, we had to do it in Bangkok at the embassy. There was also no ATM’s in the country when we visited and visitors had to bring in all the money they think they would need, which had to be mint-conditioned US currency, no later than 2006 at the time. I remember walking up to a money exchange place in Bangkok, and after telling him where we were going, he had to open a “Special drawer”, which contained the money I would need in Myanmar. That was the beginning of a truly unique trip that can never be replicated, simply because the country has changed so much since then. [Read more…] about Myanmar – Unique, Captivating, and Changing Fast (An Interview with Dustin Main)
Afghan music playing in the background, I sit here writing as a gopher sneaks by. In front of me, Afghan and Mexican ladies dance to both Afghan and latino music. A war is brewing but it hasn’t arrived yet. In fact, It’s probably the only time that innocent villagers hope the war comes. We actually hope that the guns will start shooting and the tanks will roll in at any minute.
We hope for this because this is just a training scenario; a $30,000,000 training scenario for the Canadian military in which I am a simple actor…an “extra” so to speak. There are no cameras, however, and none of us are allowed phones or any electronic devices in the field. It’s relatively top secret and will determine the suitability of whether the soldiers will go overseas or not. I first heard about the exercise back in 2011 when my wife was searching for Spanish-related jobs. Since these training scenarios are to train the military for overseas operations, the villagers cannot speak English. This is why they try to recruit people with a second language. That’s also why I am just an “extra”, adding “population” to the various villages set up across a vast amount of land near Wainwright, Alberta. I only speak English and therefore, I cannot speak to the soldiers.
[Read more…] about How To Become An Interesting Person
Back in November of 2017, my wife and I went to Cuba, a place I had long wanted to visit. Its uniqueness, history with revolution and communism, and relatively closed-relationship with much of the world had always piqued my interest. I love visiting places that are so different than my home country. We went for just over two weeks, which proved to be a little too long in the end. Maybe its because my wife is from Mexico, or because we’ve travelled a lot through Latin America, or maybe just due to the overall cost of traveling around Cuba, but we were somewhat disappointed.
We still had a good time. We loved exploring Havana. We loved dancing in Trinidad. We loved meeting locals and hearing their stories, albeit through my wife as I don’t know enough Spanish. But it just wasn’t a place we fell in love with. Foreigners are charged excessively compared to locals. We felt like $-signs sometimes. The food is very bland and for anything more than bland, the prices are on par with Canada, the USA, and Europe. We enjoyed our time there but had no intentions of returning.
But then we did return, thanks to a street dog we named Cheerio. Cuba is full of street dogs – friendly little animals that have been given up by their so-called owners. Forced to fend for themselves, they tend to cherish foreigners who aren’t used to seeing street dogs and therefore show more love and affection than locals do.
Seeing street dogs breaks my heart. After all, it’s doubtful that they’ll live very long. With dangers such as cars, starvation, disease, and “government control”, life on the streets is often short-lived for a canine. I wish I could help them all but just like global hunger and pollution, there’s not too much I can do on a large scale. So, in terms of street dogs and cats, we usually try to give them a treat or some water, give them a little love, and then bid them farewell.
That is until we met Cheerio in Cienfuegos, Cuba. As we walked through Parque Jose Marti, this little dog ran up to us, so excited, wagging her whole bum in the process. It was the first time a street dog approached us so cheerfully, looking for some affection.
[Read more…] about Operation Cheerio | Rescuing a Cuban Street Dog
For those of you who followed the massive 150-day multimedia road trip across Canada I put together in 2017, you’ll know that I had a drone. A drone was never something I intended to buy but after seeing one being advertised, and knowing I had this big road trip ahead of me, I went ahead and bought it. The only downfall of buying the drone was learning about all the restrictions that Transport Canada recently placed on them. Basically, I needed approval from each and every region we were visiting, local approvals, and really expensive drone insurance…$900 for the year to be exact. To put that into perspective, the drone itself was just over $1,000.
By the time the drone had arrived, I had just around two weeks left at home before departing for Newfoundland to begin the trip. I knew I wouldn’t be able to become a pro in such a short amount of time but I did manage to get outside for a few practice shots before using it to capture footage for the Road to 150. All in all, it was a GREAT investment as it really added production value to the videos and allowed us to score some BEAUTIFUL aerial shots of some of Canada’s most stunning landscapes. I also became a pretty good drone pilot along the way and even rescued the drone from a couple of close calls, one of which was in Newfoundland.
By the time the adventure was over, I had about 100 flights under my belt and felt pretty confident about operating the drone. Overall, I’m a very responsible person anyways and so I always followed all the rules and was pretty conservative with it. After all, I wasn’t about to buy a new one if I had crashed it and I really wanted to complete the trip with as many drone shots as we could get.
With this newfound confidence, I decided to bring it to Mexico for Christmas. My wife is from Mexico City and so we had decided to spent about four weeks down there for the holidays. Although Mexico City in and of itself is a spectacular place to visit, we also decided to go to Acapulco, Guanajuato, and a beautiful jungle paradise called Huasteca. Well, the region is called La Huasteca. The primary reason I wanted the drone in Mexico was to capture the beauty of Huasteca. This place is sooooo beautiful. It’s a relatively unvisited slice of Mexico, in the jungles, surrounded by snaking turquoise rivers and hundreds of waterfalls. There’s also sinkholes (as featured in the series Planet Earth) and surrealistic castles. It reminds of the movie Avatar. I really wanted to make a video on the whole area.
However, since Huasteca was our last place on the schedule, I first brought the drone to Acapulco to get some gorgeous beach shots and to Guanajuato to fly it over one of the most beautiful colonial cities in the world. Then, my time finally came for Huasteca. One of my favorite things to do there is to jump off a series of waterfalls. So, we all walked out into the middle of a waterfall and I began flying the drone backward to show us standing in the water and to give the viewer some perspective. Not expecting to fly the drone close to the canyon walls, I kept an eye mostly on the phone to make sure I was capturing the footage I wanted. Maybe because I was already nervous about falling in the water, I forgot to ask my friends to keep an eye on the drone, which is something you should always do. After flying out quite far, I decided to pan across. This is where I made my mistake. With all of us looking at the phone, I wasn’t aware of how close I was getting to the canyon walls. Then, all of a sudden, my friend Ricky looked up to see the drone and yelled out “Bro, you’re gonna crash”. Then, that’s it. My screen went fuzzy and I lost connection. I was in shock. Just like that, my drone was gone. The only one who noticed it, last minute, before it’s fateful crash, was Ricky, and he pointed up to a spot on the cliff, maybe 200 feet above where we were. It was truly gone.
Then, a moment of hope. Ricky could still see the drone. I couldn’t see it at all but he said he could see this little white spec clinging on to a tree. The drone was way out of reach and there was no way to climb up there. Still, we all kept the hope and left the waterfalls to go back to the main road and get a better look at where it was. Once we all had an eye on it, we noticed something unbelievable. Just thirty days before we arrived, a company built a zip-line in the area and I had crashed the drone just 2-3 feet away from one of the platforms! I mean, what are the chances! We drove to find the zip-line guys and Ricky went with them on the zip-line to get it. 30 minutes later, they came back with the drone in hand! It was broken, of course, and totally un-useable in its current state, but I had it back, along with all the footage!
Seriously, what are the chances of such a mishap? I crashed the drone on the side of a cliff, maybe 200 feet above a fast-moving river and a series of waterfalls. It was clinging to one little branch where a stroke of wind could have easily knocked it off. Thirty days before my arrival, a company built a zip-line course in that exact area and I just so happened to crash it above one of their platforms. They were working that day so we got them to go and get it. It was broken but totally fixable.
It’s just a crazy story to me, and when I got back to Mexico City, I found a DJI repair shop and had them fix it for $100 CAD. Now it’s as good as new.
The only downfall is that the only footage I got of Huasteca is what you see in the video before I crashed.
Guess I’ll have to go back.
What’s the lesson?
If you’re operating a drone, be very mindful of the surrounding area. You should always have a second person keeping an eye on the drone so that if you’re looking at the image on the phone, they can tell you if any dangers are present. And, if you do crash, don’t be immediately discouraged. You may have simply crashed it on a cliff next to a zip-line. You never know!
Did you like this story? Did you like the video” Say hi in the comments and let me know 🙂