The World Nomads Podcast: USA
To celebrate the release of our new-look guide, USA: Where Nomads Go, we bring to life just a few of the stories from our contributors, including skiing in Colorado, hanging with humpback whales and orcas in Alaska, hearing about the Creole cowboy culture and finding out from a vegetarian what it was like to taste meat for the first time as Elle Hardy hits the BBQ trail in the Deep South.
What’s in the Episode
00:28 Ellen explains our latest guide USA: Where Nomads Go
02:13 "... you know skiing has changed quite a bit. To start with, skiing has become a lot more popular in mainstream." - Greg Benchwick
06:08 Climate change and skiing
09:24 Getting high on the slopes
11:27 Marijuana and travel insurance
17:07 Elle's first taste of meat after years of being a vegetarian
18:38 "...if we're going to be eating meat, we should be eating meat. Which is using as much of the animal as possible, raising it as locally as possible." - Elle Hardy
24:49 Yes, Alaska is part of the US
28:43 "...it's a job like any other job, you have your really good days and you have your bad days." - Libby Baldwin
32:00 Travel News
35:10 Creole cowboy culture
38:20 Road trippin' in New Mexico
43:20 Next week on the show
Who is in the Episode
Greg Benchwick lives in Colorado and writes about travel and adventure for publications worldwide, including Lonely Planet, the Fodor's Guide, and other leading newspapers and periodicals. For his day job, Greg works on climate change and sustainable development for the United Nations. Read his story on skiing Colorado here.
Libby Baldwin is a writer, journalist, and a USCG-licensed captain. Born and raised in Florida, she fell in love with whales and the Pacific Northwest as a child. Read her story here in which she shares the fears, challenges and joys of spending her days with humpback whales and orcas.
Elle Hardy loved travelling so much that she found a way to make a living out of it. Hailing from Australia, she has visited over 70 countries so far, and spent the last few years working as a journalist and travel writer on the road in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United States. Read her story here about being a vegetarian on the BBQ trail. And follow her story here on the Great Lakes loop.
Joel Balson and Stephanie Foden are Canadian freelance journalists and digital nomads who are permanently on the road. Steph is responsible for the photo on the front of the guide Creole cowboy culture in Louisiana and East Texas, you can read that story here and Joel’s road trip in New Mexico here.
Resources & Links
Join our travelers as they go moose-spotting in Montana, hang out with orcas in Alaska, and follow the barbecue trail through the Deep South. Download our guide USA: Where Nomads Go.
Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.
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Want to Republish This Episode
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Next Episode: Amazing Nomad Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler.
About World Nomads & the Podcast
Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.
World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.
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Announcer: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast, delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual podcast, it's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.
Kim: Thanks for tuning into this bumper episode where we are celebrating the release of our latest guide, USA Where Nomads Go. We're going to let Ellen Hall from World Nomads, who edited the guide, tell us all about it. Because a lot of work has gone into and what can readers expect?
Ellen Hall: It's not really your typical guide in that we're not trying to cover the whole US. It's obviously a huge place, so it's not set up like a typical guide where you have it broken out by regions. You have all the major cities and all the major parks and major attractions. We don't necessarily talk about all of that. There are lots of guides out there that somebody really wants to know about the Grand Canyon or New York, certainly great guides out there.
Ellen Holt: But we're really hoping to ... we want to give little windows into America, the US, what it's like. We are actually so it's broken up by topic. We have our culture, cities and towns, nature and wildlife, adventure, new road trips. We're trying to feature places that are little bit more explorer, little less known. Places that maybe aren't so crowded, maybe are a little bit underrated or misunderstood. So that's what readers will find.
Kim: Thanks so much for that Ellen. Super exciting.
Phil: We'll share the guide you've shown us of course. But in this podcast episode, we'll focus on just a few of the stories. We'll hang out with Orcas in Alaska, follow the barbecue trail with a vegetarian on it. Ride the Creole trail and chat to the photographer behind the image on the cover of the guide.
Kim: Yes, but let's get started with Greg Benchwick. He's a super cool guy. He wrote the Colorado skiing article. I think there were more than 30 contributors, journalists and travel writers that contributed to this guide. We ask about how skiing has changed since he was rocking his neon fanny pack on the slopes.
Greg Benchwick: Well you know skiing has changed quite a bit. To start with, skiing has become a lot more popular in mainstream. Back when I was rocking my fanny pack, a lot less people were doing it. There were a lot less people on the slopes. Nowadays it's become quite crowded, and it continues, unfortunately, to be more of a rich person's sport.
Greg Benchwick: So I'm going to cover some ways to spend some bucks as we continue our conversation. The other thing that's really changed is people don't just ski anymore. Turns out that they attach both feet to this big giant ugly board.
Phil: Oh my word.
Kim: Disclaimer, I've done neither. I've water skied a lot, but I have never been on a set of skis, nor have I been on a snowboard.
Phil: You may be not surprised to hear Kim, but I go both ways. I ski and board.
Kim: Obviously great by the sounds of the direction you're heading, you ski not board.
Greg Benchwick: Well I am also board curious. I've dabbled on both sides and I've even tele-turned back in the day.
Kim: I was interested in how, and I'm glad you touched on it. How this story made the US guide, Where Nomads Go. Because I thought exactly what Greg said-
Kim: Yeah, we go apres ski where we've got ski resorts. This is expensive. So it was really refreshing to hear you say you're going to cover some tips on how you can do this without spending heaps of bucks.
Greg Benchwick: Yeah for sure. I mean part of skiing has changed so much that I think just normal people need to know how to get on the slopes and how to have fun with it. One of the things that we have in Colorado that I love is a system of back country ski huts.
Greg Benchwick: Now it's a lot cheaper to go, and it's a lot more dangerous unfortunately. Because Colorado has a dangerous snow pack, as does anywhere in the world because of avalanches. But for next to nothing, you can go out into the wilderness and you can go skiing for free. Colorado also has a huge collection of resorts. I think they're 28 resorts in all and we have 300 days of sunshine.
Greg Benchwick: So we have resorts that range from Aspen and Vail where tickets are hovering around 200 bucks a day, to small mom-and-pop joints where you can still get a ticket, you can still get on the mountain for under 50 bucks. Something that happened for the first time this year is Colorado came up with a back country light type ski area. Where they are taking people on guided, curated back country experiences. Where you go with a guide, the guide helps you stay safe in dangerous avalanche terrain, avoid the avalanche traps, use all the safety gear. But you're getting that great back country experience.
Greg Benchwick: We also have an amazing resort called Silverton. Way down south in southern Colorado, it has one lift that services thousands of acres of terrain. You go there, you ski with a guide in small groups. So it's like a back country light experience where you have the safety of an avalanche controlled area with the adventure of back country skiing.
Kim: Now you've been on the mountain since you were two. You work on climate change and sustainable development with the United Nations. Have you noticed any changes, or what changes have you noticed since you're a little one up until a full grown man?
Greg Benchwick: I'll tell you what, our world is in crisis. This is terrifying, what is happening to our winters is terrifying. What is happening to skiing as a whole is terrifying. What happens though is people look at ... this year we had an impressive amount of snow, we had a ton of snow in Colorado, we've been in drought for years. Suddenly we're out of drought, we got a bunch of snow. People say, oh climate change isn't real, this is manufactured. But there's a difference between climate and weather.
Greg Benchwick: Climate is a long-term thing, whereas weather happens on a short term basis. So while Colorado did have a tremendous year, what we've seen as the overall trend is that winters are getting warmer, snow lines are going higher in elevation. So where we would be getting natural snow is leaving. Then this impacts everything. This just doesn't impact skiing, which is a billion dollar industry in Colorado. This impacts our farmers, who use snow that is saved over the winter as their water piggy bank. It impacts businesses that rely on water and it impacts the entire economy of our state and really the entire world.
Kim: So for you then why is there no better place, and you've skied around the world, than to take to the slopes of your home state Colorado?
Greg Benchwick: Well Colorado's just the best. I got to tell you guys, I've skied in Spain, I've skied in California. I've skied all over the world and I always come back to Colorado because to start with we have 300 days of sunshine a year. This means you're not skiing in a snowstorm with zero visibility. You're skiing with beautiful bluebird skies, and we also have some of the driest snow on the planet.
Greg Benchwick: So that dry snow creates something we like to call champagne powder here in Colorado. That champagne powder is wonderful on a snowboard or skis to just feel like you're flying. That to me is really the amazing part of Colorado.
Greg Benchwick: The other thing that we have is a real diversity of resorts. We have these really cool mom-and-pop resorts like Monarch, Purgatory, Cooper that cater to families. But they're all close to these old mining towns that are 100 years old. All the towns or many of the towns have preserved historic areas. We have killer festivals. So whether you like bluegrass music, you like arts and culture, there's going to be a festival happening somewhere in Colorado that meets your specific needs.
Greg Benchwick: We're also the Rocky Mountain High state, literally and figuratively. So yes, the marijuana is now legal in Colorado and-
Kim: Rocky mountain high.
Greg Benchwick: You can have a beer ... that's right.
Phil: How has the legalization of marijuana changed the state at all?
Greg Benchwick: You know it really is sensible and it's responsible. I think for anybody that comes to Colorado anew, you need to remember one, that you cannot take weed out of Colorado because it's illegal federally in the United States. The other thing to remember is, you need to go light and go easy.
Greg Benchwick: For one, you're at a higher elevation in Colorado. Generally speaking, in a ski area, you're going to be above 8,000 feet, and you're going to be going up to 12,000 feet. That's three, 4,000 meters. So take it easy, go light and then every town has its own relationship with cannabis.
Greg Benchwick: So in Breckenridge for instance, Breckenridge is a wonderful town, has a great historic field, great for families. There are no marijuana shops on main street. You go to Aspen, and there are a dozen dispensaries right in the middle of town. Every town has taken its own stance on it. It is still illegal to smoke marijuana outside of your home, I believe. Though I do think there's something stuff happening in the old gondola.
Kim: I love Colorado. We've got ski trips and marijuana tips from you Greg. More than we bargained for. We did say that this conversation could venture far and wide, didn't we.
Phil: Oh my, there you go.
Kim: Thank you so much. Bluebird, Colorado is your article in the US guide, USA guide, [inaudible 00:11:26]. Phil, Greg mentioned marijuana from an insurance perspective. If you're high on the skis are you covered?
Phil: We don't cover illegal activity.
Kim: It's legal.
Phil: It's legal there, but like he said, don't take it out of the state, don't smoke out of your own or what have you. But if its illegal activity, we sort of more or less treat it the same way that we do alcohol. So if something happens to you that is directly relatable to the fact that you were intoxicated, either by alcohol or by marijuana, then that may impact whether your claim is paid or not.
Phil: The difficulty comes in that it's pretty easy to work out what your blood alcohol content level was. If you're over .05 or .08, then that's considered to be intoxicated. It's very hard to do that with marijuana. You also don't know, a shot of whiskey is a shot of whiskey and you know exactly how much alcohol you're taking in.
Phil: But when you smoke weed, you don't know what you're taking in. You don't know how strong the weed is, you don't know how much you've inhaled or ingested or whatever. In Canada where it is federally legal to use and possess marijuana. The Canadian government there has said, if you smoke, don't drive, at all.
Kim: Hit is maestro.
Announcer-Rap: Yeah, here at World Nomad the information we provide about travel insurance, it is brief I can't deny. Doesn't take into account your personal needs and doesn't include all terms or conditions you see or limitations, exclusions and termination provision of the travel insurance plan described.
Announcer-Rap: Now listen coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Carefully read the policy, available at worldnomads.com. For full description of coverage, it's time to check it out, let's go. Hey, yo, yeah.
Phil: Read the policy documents.
Kim: Yes, do do that. Now still to come in this episode, hanging out with Orcas. But let's check in with Elle Hardy, a vegetarian who tackled the US barbecue trail.
Phil: I've been reading a lot recently about plant based diets and the benefits for the environment and for the humans as well. But I love meat, so Elle, as a vegetarian, how did you sign up for this?
Elle Hardy: Well I'm Australian, and I moved to New Orleans a couple of years ago and I found it was really, really difficult to eat down here as a vegetarian. So I was doing a lot of traveling around the south. Lived in my car, lived in a van for a year and was always getting around. I just found barbecue culture quite interesting. So after a while I thought of actually probably try and give it a go.
Kim: So before you moved to the US, what was your relationship with meat?
Elle Hardy: Well I'd been a vegetarian my whole life. So my mum, so's my sister actually, our parents aren't. So my mum said that when she was pregnant with us both, she just couldn't stand the smell of meat would just make her sick. Ever since we were little babies we just wouldn't eat meat. So we just kind of grew up that way, so something I've never really tried.
Elle Hardy: That was part of the challenge I suppose that I set myself with heading along the barbecue trail was just sort of trying to see what the reasons were that I might not have been eating meat and whether I actually liked it.
Phil: I want to know, we'll get to your first taste of meat in a moment. But tell me about the barbecue trail, where were you going?
Elle Hardy: Sure, so they're five main barbecue centers in the US. So there is Texas, of course, there's Kansas City in Missouri. There is Memphis in Tennessee, there's Alabama and there's the Carolinas. So mostly the coastal and the inland regions of North and South Carolina.
Phil: Barbecue, it's almost a religion.
Elle Hardy: It is, it really is and it's a real part of the culture. I was actually sort of lucky that early on someone told me it's kind of an entry point the way that you judge a barbecue or any kind of soul food place in the south is by the greens. Because if they can't do the greens well, you can't trust them to do the big stuff right.
Kim: So do the dishes vary between those states?
Elle Hardy: Yeah, they very much do. So in the Carolinas, Memphis and Kansas it's hog. Some places might do some other things, but pig really is it. Alabama does a bit of everything, but they really specialize in chicken. Texas is all about the cow.
Elle Hardy: There's a whole world of secret rubs and there's one barbecue store owner in Memphis, one of the oldest ones in town. He told me he doesn't judge barbecue so much by the city because it can completely vary restaurant to restaurant. So it's all about the way that they prepare it. There're certain blends, his family is Greek so they use a lot of Greek herbs in theirs. Which is quite different from a lot of other places.
Phil: So let's get to the nitty gritty. Where were you when you had your first barbecue, your first taste of meat and describe the experience for us.
Elle Hardy: Sure. Well it was in the Carolinas, at Rodney Scott, who's quite a famous barbecue pit master, they call them. He featured in Anthony Bourdain's South Carolina episode, I think it was. He's quite famous. He sort of had this rural shop, sort of on a highway roadside. It was sort of people came from all over to got to it and it's become really popular now.
Elle Hardy: So he's opened up one in Charleston, in the capitol of South Carolina and he's also opening up one in Birmingham, Alabama. So that was my first taste and I write words for a living and it's very difficult to describe what eating meat feels and tastes like for the first time. It's quite a bizarre experience.
Elle Hardy: But it was, yeah, it was kind of yum. I think the texture was [inaudible 00:18:15] for me, but I really enjoyed the taste. When you're spending enough time in the south and around barbecue joints, that beautiful smoky smell, you can get to quite like it and I really did. So it was sort of an extension of that I guess.
Phil: How did you feel ethically about tucking into a bit of hog?
Elle Hardy: Yeah, I did struggle a bit. I did also talk to quite a lot of people especially before I embarked on it about barbecue culture. There is a fairly ... there's a lot of sort of top to tails stuff going on, which is really the way that, if we're going to be eating meat, we should be eating meat. Which is using as much of the animal as possible, raising it as locally as possible.
Elle Hardy: So I mean it all depends again you know restaurant to restaurant. But there's certainly a real movement within barbecue I think that's getting to a more sustainable kind of form of eating meat.
Kim: So is it hard then if you are a staunch vegetarian or vegan to live in New Orleans?
El Hardy: Yeah, New Orleans is definitely one of the more extreme areas. Because they do have a bit of barbecue here. But Cajun food is just so seafood heavy. So it's probably not the kind of place you'd come. I mean one of the other great delights with barbecue culture is that they're really into their sides. So there's always all sorts of combinations of mac and cheese and okra and things like that that you can get and always meat. But obviously the main show is the hog or the steer or whatever the meat is where you happen to be.
Kim: You mentioned when we first started chatting that you lived in a van for a year. Was this when you did the Great Lakes loop?
Elle Hardy: Yes it was.
Kim: Now that is a road trip that really interests me after reading your story, just tell us about it.
Elle Hardy: Yeah, it's such an amazing part of America, and it's one of the parts of America you hear so much about. I always considered it a shame that I didn't realize that there were all these fantastic beaches. In the Chicago central business districts and the northern coast of Wisconsin.
Elle Hardy: So there's the five Great Lakes. They hold about 18% of the world's natural fresh water. It's up in that area sort of along the US-Canada border. So yeah, my partner and I jumped in our van and set out to do a loop from Chicago to Chicago.
Phil: What were some of the best spots you found?
Elle Hardy: Sure, I mean obviously there's Chicago. It's such a fantastic city, you can't spend enough time there or speak about it highly enough. But I guess some of the lesser known things. So after that we did a quick jaunt out to Niagara Falls, which is, I mean it's stunning, but it's kind of crazy, very touristy. Strangely the Canadian side's actually a lot more touristy than the New York side.
Elle Hardy: Then we traveled up into Michigan. So we went up through Ann Arbor, which is sort a gorgeous little university town that's just inside the bookstore every two steps and all this really fantastic dining. Then we went up to [inaudible 00:21:49], which is probably one of my absolutely favorite parts of America. It's on the west coast of Michigan and it's a massive rolling hills of sand dunes that are just ... you'd never know just quite how unfit you are until you try and climb one of the smaller ones.
Elle Hardy: But it's just fantastic. You know there's eagles flying overhead. There's cherry trees everywhere, beaches and just sheer drops of sand hills down into the lake.
Phil: I'm just looking at a map here right now. So when you go up from Chicago through Michigan, there must be, it looks like there's an enormous bridge that gets you over onto the other side. That's how you continued your trip?
Elle Hardy: Yes. It is, and the Mackinac Bridge-
Phil: That's it.
Elle Hardy: Yeah, I think or Mackinaw I think it's called.
Phil: Yeah, Mackinaw.
Elle Hardy: Yeah. I think it's something like 26 miles across. So one of the longest ... I think it was for a long time, the longest suspension bridge in world or something like that. But I think it's been overtaken by something in China now. Then that takes you out into the upper peninsula of Michigan. Then from there we went over to Marquettes, which is again just a fantastic sort of seaside holiday town on Lake Superior. Lot of cute little gastro pubs, just a really nice happy laid back culture.
Phil: You said Chicago to Chicago. So then did you go north and through to the Canadian side of the lakes, or did you just loop back around?
Elle Hardy: No, yeah so we just looped back around. So the upper peninsula of Michigan and then into Wisconsin and then down to Green Bay to Door County, which is just off Green Bay in Wisconsin. That's again kind of the summer holiday destination for people around those states. It's just fantastic kind of blue green waters, white sands, fantastic food culture. Wisconsin's really famous for cheese, so there's fromageries everywhere. Lots of wineries and lots of craft beers. Pretty go wrong for my first time on holiday break.
Kim: Thank you so much for that Elle. Now to Libby Baldwin. She grew up in Florida and was in love with whales from the moment she saw them as a kid in Canada. Now once she realized she could actually make a living out of hanging with whales, that was it. She's currently in her fourth season in Juneau, Alaska and is one of a handful of women captaining whale boats there. Phil, surprisingly she says that a lot of people aren't aware Alaska is part of the United States.
Phil: Who Libby?
Libby Baldwin: Yes, believe it or not we do get a lot of visitors who are always like, oh do I need a passport, am I going to need a ... are we going to get close enough to Canada where I don't have to worry about my cell phone, or is it easy to get here every year. All these questions that it's like, wow have you guys looked at a map recently.
Libby Baldwin: It is part of the United States, but it seems like a different world in a lot of ways.
Kim: You started off as a deck hand and then became one of only a handful of women captaining whale boats. So how did that start?
Libby Baldwin: It started like any other job I suppose. My first couple of years I started coming to the Pacific Northwest for like a few days after I graduated from college. I met a captain in Washington state who became kind of a mentor for me and he's still a really good friend. I basically begged him to take me out and teach me how to work on whale boats.
Libby Baldwin: So he agreed and he was like, go get a job and you can come out with me on your days off. So that's what I did, I got a job working the hotel front desk at a resort in the place that I was at. I went out with him on my days off and I basically scrubbed boats and did a lot of really grunt work in exchange for free lessons on how to become a deck hand.
Libby Baldwin: I did that for two summers and my third summer I got a real job and started getting paid for it, to be a naturalist and a deck hand on a whale watching boat. Then I did several more summers after that. Then I came to ... yeah, gosh that was 2013 when I got that first paying job. Then I was there for a few more summers and then I came to Juneau in 2016 as a deckhand and as a naturalist. Finally in 2018, last April, I sat for my captain's license and got it. So now I'm a captain as well.
Kim: Now what do you mean by naturalist? Obviously I know what you mean by naturalist, but just explain it, you kind of mention it goes hand in hand with your work.
Libby Baldwin: It's funny because a lot of people are like naturalist, does that mean you don't wear clothes where you work. I'm like, that's naturist, it's a little bit of a difference there. Basically a naturalist is someone who knows a lot about a certain animal or about a certain ecosystem or anything in nature really that they're just obsessed with. They know a lot about it and they're able to present information to people who go on a tour or just want to know more about it in like a tour guide kind of way. It's basically a tour guide specializing in a certain part of nature.
Kim: Okay, and you specializing obviously in whales. What's the season like, are you guaranteed to see a whale?
Libby Baldwin: Yeah, all the tours out here say you're guaranteed to see whales just because it started to be a thing several years ago where people were like, oh we don't want to go on this tour unless we're for sure going to see something. There's this disconnect where some people don't really understand that whales are wild animals and it's not like the zoo or aquarium, we can't control where they're going to be. We can't control what they're going to do or how many we're going to see or anything like that.
Libby Baldwin: So guaranteed whales, if you see a tour that guarantees whales, that basically means, we're going to see whales 99.9% of the time. But if we don't see whales, you'll get your money back. But speaking for Juneau in the four years I've been out here, I've never once gone out and not seen at least one whale on every tour.
Kim: What's that feeling like, do you ever lose the excitement for seeing a whale?
Libby Baldwin: Pretty much no. It's a job like any other job, you have your really good days and you have your bad days. Sometimes when its pouring down rain and you only have one whale that you see the whole day and you're sitting here looking at this same whale going [inaudible 00:28:53], I just don't care anymore. We're watching the same whale for an hour or two hours and then going back out and doing it again.
Libby Baldwin: But so many times I'm lucky enough to see this experience through the eyes of my guests, through the eyes of my passengers. Because to me it may be the same one whale that I've been looking at for a week. But to them, they've never seen a whale in the wild and they may never again. So it's easy to get caught up in their excitement.
Libby Baldwin: So I get constantly reminded that I am very, very blessed to have a job where I get to hang out with the most magnificent animal in the world every day. I get to watch people experience that for the first time the way I did, and it's a really magical experience. So most of the time no, it doesn't get old.
Kim: What sort of whales are you talking about?
Libby Baldwin: Well primarily in Juneau here we see humpback whales. We also see Orca whales, killer whales, once every week or two weeks. Those are my favorite, those are the whales that I love. I've been completely obsessed with Orcas my entire life. All whales, but Orcas in particular. So being able to share that passion with people is unbelievable.
Libby Baldwin: Like humpbacks are amazing, obviously they're magnificent creatures, they're huge, they're graceful, they're beautiful. We have a couple of [inaudible 00:30:19] babies this year and that's just really precious to watch. But there's something about the Orcas, it's not something we see every day. So when we do see them all of us are genuinely excited, me especially.
Libby Baldwin: Then I get to tell my guests about the Orcas or we watch them and you just, a lot of people get the sense of just how powerful this animal is. It's the top predator in the ocean, and I believe it has this really spiritual power. Huge beautiful creature who is in equal parts a streamline killing machine. An apex predator and then like a dedicated family member. The same thing in one animal, they're a paradox in and of themselves.
Libby Baldwin: I think people sense that and they see the beauty and grace of these animals. So to watch people see wild Orcas for the first time, there's something so special and so ... it's such a high about it, it's such an adrenalin rush. Then they hang on to your every word while you're standing there talking about your favorite animal, which is something you do every day anyway.
Libby Baldwin: My friends all love me, they understand how much I love Orcas. But when I start talking about Orcas, they get bored after a while. 'Cause they're like, that's cool, but we don't really care. But these people that have come all this way to see an Orca, they want to hear everything I have to say. It's just something truly magical about standing up in front of a group of people and knowing that they want to hear you talk about your passion.
Kim: Look out for Libby's story Behind the Wheel of An Alaskan Whale Watching Boat in USA Where Nomads Go. Phil, your travel news.
Phil: Okay, have you ever seen the pictures of the tree climbing goats in Morocco outside Marrakesh.
Phil: Well the original of that, that top [inaudible 00:32:15] exactly sure how it started or who it started. But now you can find these goats in trees in other places around Morocco as well. But it's just been uncovered that it's a scam, farmers put them in the trees. Because then when people come to take the photographs, they get a little tip from them, and other farmers have caught on to it as well.
Phil: But this whole sort of very authentic tale about the tree climbing goats of Morocco-
Kim: Because they put them in.
Phil: It's all goat dust. Apparently some of the farmers are using ropes to hold them up there and then take them down at night. They're not made to stand in those trees, so they get very tired. So they take them out and put a different set of goats in there every now and then.
Kim: That's like a comedy show.
Phil: We're nomads, we're not into animal exploitation. So elephant riding is definitely off, those tiger temples are definitely off. Can I now put the Moroccan tree climbing goats onto that list please?
Kim: Yes, put it on the list, that's insane. That really is insane.
Phil: Speaking of insane things, there's plans to build a new international airport close to Machu Picchu in Peru in the sacred valley. Now I've been there, I there about three or four years ago I was there. There is an international airport in Cusco, and then you have to travel for an hour or two to get into the sacred valley and through the secret valley and up to Machu Picchu.
Kim: Which is part of the thrill.
Phil: Part of the thrill. It's part of the Inca Trail. But they're talking about in Cicero, one of the towns right on one end of the sacred valley between them. They've actually started clearing land already.
Phil: Yeah, so there's a big international movement there, people signing petitions getting to stop it. I fully agree with that.
Kim: That's crazy.
Phil: It is crazy.
Kim: Two pieces of crazy travel news. Well Joel is a travel writer and his partner Steph is a photographer. I usually thank you for your travel news, so I do apologize, thank you.
Phil: No problem.
Kim: Yeah, Steph's the photographer. In fact Steph is responsible for the pic on the front of the guide. Now Creole cowboy culture in Louisiana and east Texas is what we're going to be chatting to them about. But first thing Steph, congrats on scoring that front cover.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Kim: Were you aware, obviously, sounds like you were.
Stephanie: Yeah I was. I was chatting with an editor about it, so it was something unexpected but I originally commissioned the story, so it was kind of exciting to hear about that.
Kim: Yeah, it is a great photo, which you'll see when you have a look at the guide. You took a further set of photos to accompany the story on Creole cowboy culture. You really captured some beautiful shots.
Stephanie: Thank you, it was a fun thing to shoot and we're just running around as I'm photographing it and jumping on wagons, it was a good time.
Phil: Yeah, okay, Creole cowboys. When you think about it now, I mean it's pretty obvious that they would have been African-American cowboys. But of course we never saw them in the movies. It just doesn't depict it.
Kim: Well Joel why is it part of the history that we don't really or isn't really spoken about.
Joel: There have been a few movies that displayed black cowboys. There was Blazing Saddles, a comedy and Django Unchained. But yeah, most of the time we think of John Wayne, we think of very white dudes as cowboys chasing Indians. But when we were down south in the US, we were driving across in an RV from Toronto, Canada all the way to San Diego. We were in Louisiana or Texas and we'd just heard about these Creole trail rides, and they're a huge thing. They happen almost every weekend, most of the year, definitely in Louisiana the most. But we managed to catch one in east Texas.
Joel: It's a huge celebration that's a rich part of American culture that we had no idea about.
Kim: Sounds good too, cold beers and grilled meats. So it's a real festival.
Joel: Oh yeah, we went on a Saturday, and people started rolling in, rolling in, they had huge like pots of gumbo stew. Then when they got on the horses and there's just like blasting music from wagons, everyone's dancing, drinking beers on horseback, it was a lot of fun.
Kim: So why do you think this Creole cowboy culture is thriving today.
Joel: I'm not sure, I think that years ago they've been kind of kicked out of white cowboy culture. Also in rodeos, not just the trail rides, and here they found a way to be with their community and to be together. They've been doing it for no one knows how long. But it just kind of keeps going. Then it also attracted people from the cities now. So people in Houston and people in the big city in Texas, Houston and Dallas. They'd come all to this small town to either ride the horses or though listen to music after or just have a lot of fun.
Joel: They said it's a really safe place to have fun rather than sometimes going out to the club, even the big city can be a little bit dangerous, but here they feel rally safe.
Phil: Yeah, 'cause that's the thing. It's not just the trail ride, it's the party in the evening.
Joel: Yeah, families come out, everyone's out there, you don't to have a horse, there's people on motorcycles. That was just one particular trail ride that we saw though there. I talked to people from the biggest trail ride in Louisiana, and that's a whole different experience, and that goes over several days.
Kim: Another story that you've written for the guide, and it is a bumper guide, is the road trip you took to New Mexico. Now I'm assuming this was together?
Joel: Yeah, this is all kind of right after this Texas experience. Actually the RV broke down for the second time, the engine broke down. So we were stranded in Texas for a few weeks. But right after that, we made it out, as you can see in the story, it was extremely hot, it was in July and we made it to New Mexico. We were really surprised, it's really a great state.
Phil: In what way, what was surprising about it?
Joel: It really has an interesting mix of cultures. There's the Pueblo people who ... there's different communities all around the state and they've been living there for thousands of years. They've always been there, then they also have a little bit of influence from Mexican culture. There's a really interesting art scene, art community and they have good food. The landscape is beautiful, we went to Carlsbad Caverns, which is this massive underground cave, which is as big as a city, it just keeps going, keeps going. It's really beautiful.
Phil: You've got big reps for Santa Fe in the article, you had a great time there.
Joel: Yeah, there's this thing in Santa Fe called Meow Wolf, which is ... it's really hard to describe. It's one of those things that you have to go. But it's part museum, part fun house. You have to solve a mystery and then you end up crawling through the dryer. Then you get into a whole new world and kind of play around and there's neon lights. It sounds really crazy, but it is crazy. Actually they're expanding to cities all over the US, but this was the very first one started by a collective of artists.
Kim: Sounds like you just survived that road trip. When you kind of scan through your story you speak of the July hell fire. All that you were after was cool air. The heat was overpowering, how hot are we talking Joel?
Joel: We didn't have air conditioning in the RV. It was definitely over 43 degrees.
Stephanie: Yeah it was like 40 degrees at least.
Joel: If you're looking into the World Nomads archives, we also did a story in Mississippi about when the RV broke down and we were stranded in the Mississippi Delta for five days. So yeah it was a journey, but we got to see some amazing things all along the way.
Kim: We've got an episode coming up on van life, which I'm sure you'll enjoy tuning in to. What was the name of your RV.
Stephanie: It's Stevie Lee, which is pretty similar to my name, which is Stephanie Lee. I just like the name Stevie better.
Kim: So guys what did you take out of that New Mexico road trip?
Stephanie: I guess, yeah we were in Texas and my car, the RV had broken down. It was insanely hot and I think we were kind of miserable and then we're like, isn't this supposed to be fun. The RV is broken, we're stressed about that, we're super hot. As soon as we crossed into New Mexico, it was like something washed over us, we were so relieved to be there. Then we had an amazing time there.
Stephanie: The first thing we did we went to these caves and we were hiking through them for like hours. It was incredible. We were just so impressed, and after having such a difficult time in Texas, it was just like really special to us.
Kim: You certainly sound like you've experienced part of America that, and I guess this was the point of the guide too. Telling Americans about what you can explore in your own backyard.
Joel: Yeah I think so. It's a huge country and you often hear about California, you hear about certain main spots. But we try to do something a little bit different going through the Delta and going through New Mexico and then going through Louisiana Cajun country. These are places that are really rich with culture, but most Americans don't visit.
Stephanie: We went there for four months to the US so we had a lot of time and we weren't just catching highlights. We were trying to catch the things between the highlights that ended up oftentimes being the most stand out parts.
Kim: Well you're coming into summer, Joel, I hope you stay cool. I will share the stories and photos that you took for the guide in our show next. Guys thanks for chatting to us.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Joel: Thank you, we do plan to go back to the RV this summer, so hopefully it's not too too hot.
Phil: Head for the cool forest, you'll be fine.
Kim: Well that wraps up this episode on the USA Where Nomads Go. We have released this episode to celebrate the guide. But you may be interested in an earlier episode that we focused on the states.
Speaker 10: You know music fans, they probably heard of Nashville and Memphis, but Clarksdale, Mississippi is somewhere that's really important for blues music. It's where you go to these hole in the wall blues clubs. It's where all this music history has come from and it's somewhere that you really have to go out of your way to visit. It is a bit of a drive from Memphis, and definitely requires a car. But it's very well worth the trip.
Phil: You can find the latest episode of the World Nomad Podcast through all those popular podcast apps and players. But the easiest way is just to go to WorldNomads.com/podcast.
Kim: If you know someone who loves traveling as much as you do, please tell them about us. We'd appreciate any likes and shares and social love that you want to give us. Now next week, a really exciting episode. In fact we're hitting the road and chatting to-
Phil: I'm so excited about this. The co-founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler.
Announcer: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.