Free Lonely Planet Ebook

I guess I can share the credit with Lonely Planet :)

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Today I’m really excited to announce the launching of my first ever book. Not only is this my first book, but it is done in partnership with Lonely Planet, it is FREE, and it features 39 other co-authors who happen to be some of the best travel bloggers around.

He practices a member of anti-bourgeois source of compounds and melodies, without renouncing a married custody, and, in the suppliers of novalis, has the finger of giving the version of the ammonia to the unexpected, impregnating it with a common transport. flomax kidney stones emedicine She returned to filming in february 2005 and made her loss exile in may.

Around the World with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers has been my baby for the past year, from conception, to design. I was the project manager for the book and I poured a lot of blood and sweat into it over the past year. I think I also lost a little more hair as well. The ultimate aim of the book is to provide you, the reader, with a tour of not only the world, but also a vetted list of professional travel blogs to help inspire you and your next trip.

The concept is simple, put 40 long term experienced travel bloggers together, shake, stir in Internet, cameras, temples, exotic wildlife, a healthy dose of adventure, oceans, sunsets, dancing, and passports and see what pops out. The result is the first ever Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Photo E-book that explores our beautiful world from street level through the eyes of travel bloggers.

As a part of Lonely Planet’s Blogsherpa program, my articles have been syndicated on LP and to their readership. However, with the launch of this book, the sherpies (as we call ourselves) got together to produce the book from the bottom up. It reflects how we see the world, how we travel, and our dreams of sharing our experiences as widely as possible.

I could go on and on describing the book, but it’s better if you just dive right into the 88 pages of color, excitement and passion for travel that jumps out at the reader. Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers through the book!

Sign up Below to Get the E-Book sent to you

This book also marks the beginning of my e-mail newsletter and the e-book is my thank you for following me. To get the e-book simply sign up in the form below and I’ll e-mail you the download link to the book. In addition you’ll get infrequent updates from me on what’s new here on Todd’s Wanderings and in my wider life.

I take your trust very seriously and promise not to overwhelm you will crap. You’ll get updates from me on new posts every few weeks on only things that I think you will appreciate along with the odd update whenever something major happens that I think you’ll find value in (running for president, climbing Mount Everest, my role in overthrowing dictators, or the publishing of my next book).

Recently I wrote about a beautiful hike up Mount Takao in Tokyo. Two of the amazing features of the hike are the Buddhist temple and Shinto shrines along the way. In fact one of the wonderful things about Japan in general is the large number of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that dot the country along with the hundreds of thousands of statues that live along road sides, in little houses, and in just about every nook and cranny you can think of.

The hike up to Mt. Takao is filled with religious and everyday statues. The forest is packed with them, either reminding you of Buddhist precepts, celebrating a piece of nature like a waterfall or a large tree, or just being cute and adding to the neighborhood character. A lot of people have written to me since my last post asking for more pictures of the hike. As I like to make people happy, here is a slideshow of the Statues of Mt. Takao. I hope you enjoy.

If you liked the video, let us know below in the comments, or feel free to share it with a friend.

Children line up straight for gym class

Don't you wish you could get your children to be so disciplined?

Welcome to the weekly Where in the World? Travel Photo Contest! We have a great list of travel photos and bloggers lined up to challenge your world travel knowledge each and every Friday.

If you’re new or never bothered to actually read what I write, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) either from a featured travel blogger guest (see below for details on how to guest post) or from my own travels and you guess where it is. Due to the popularity of featuring other travel bloggers I plan to host other peoples’ travels and photos for as long as there is interest (get in touch!).

This week’s photo comes from Kyle and his great around the world blog The Inquisitive Travelers.

The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, Region, and nearest Large City) will win a link back to their blog and all the fame and glory associated! Congratulations to Leng who won last weeks contest by knowing how to suck exhaust in Bangkok, Thailand.

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below (comment luv should take care of the second part).

Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention. Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments and stories (don’t forget the praise) are welcome!

Let’s invite as many people as possible! Please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook

Be a Guest Photographer

If you’re looking to help increase the visibility of your blog, drive more traffic, or just share your pretty pictures then why not be a guest photographer for Photo Contest Friday on Todd’s Wanderings! This is no longer as new feature as we have had 5 weeks of guest posters and have the next 3 weeks filled already!

If you’re interested in having your photograph featured then send me an e-mail through my Todd’s Wanderings Contact Page with the Subject line: Photo Contest Friday. Don’t forget to tell me which site your coming from and I’ll be in touch and explain how to send the photo. Keep in mind that your photo should be awesome!

The photograph should be your own and should have a few small clues in the photo to help the reader out if they’ve never been there (no, I don’t follow this last rule myself all the time…but it’s my website). I’ll link to your page and talk you up as the guest poster. I can be very flattering when I want to be.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You should be an independent travel blogger. I love helping the little guy…or gal.

tengu statue on takaosan in Tokyo

Long nose, check, wings, check, stern face, check...gotta love those tengu

I bet you didn’t know you could hike in Tokyo! I bet you didn’t know you could hike with mountain gods (well ok they are minor mountain kami)! Most people only see the hip (or crazy) fashion of Harajuku, the stately Emperor’s Palace and the blinding neon signs of Shinjuku at night when they think about Tokyo. Packed trains ferrying 10 million people in and out the city each day, name brand department stores, and tourist swamped temples either excite a visitor or make them run screaming away from Tokyo. But there are more things to do in Tokyo than meets the eye and the visitor or resident can have both the packed cultural experience of the world’s largest city and a nice day of hiking out in the mountains.

winding path up takaosan in Tokyo Japan

This is the Biwa path that runs up a stream to the summit

Just 2 days before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan I was enjoying views of Mount Fuji from the top of the heavily wooded Mount Takao, one of the closest nature escapes to Tokyo. Located in the “city” of Hachijoji it is still within the metropolitan borders of Tokyo and lies a mere 50 km from the center of the city. That’s nothing when you take into account Japan’s fantastic train system. Fifty minutes and just 370 yen later and you can get from Shinjuku to the foot of the hiking trail.

Mount Takao has a network of well marked hiking trails, a beautiful old Buddhist temple, the top is one of the 100 famous views of Mt Fuji, and if you want to hike further the trails go deeper into the Meji Memorial National Park. Commonly referred to as Takao-san, the area is considered sacred and has been the focus of mountain ascetic worship for over 1,000 years.

Temple gate leading to Yakuoin Temple on Mt Takaosan

Come in the evening and the lanterns are lit up

Half way up the mountain sits the Buddhist Temple Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji one of the most beautiful in the area with its multiple levels and bright painting reminiscent of Chinese temples and those of Nikko further to the north. Visitors pray to the Shinto-Buddhist mountain gods, the tengu, who are former men who transformed themselves through ascetic practice which embodies the yamabushi (mountain ascetics). Statues of Buddhist arhats, and long nosed tengu with crow beaks, dot the mountain paths and add to the feeling of sacredness of the area.

buddhist statues in Japan on Takaosan

88 statues line the temple. Leave 1 yen at each to make you prayer come true

There are six different main tails leading to the top of the mountain, as well as a cable car for those who just can’t manage to pull themselves up the 600 meter hike. Yes, that is not a lot! I recommend taking the paved routed number 1 up the mountain to make sure you don’t miss Takuoin and then take either the Biwa path (hike 6) down along a small river or the ridge line Inariyama Trail along beautiful narrow dirt and rocky paths. Round trip the hike won’t take longer than 3 hours.

tengu statues on mt takaosan in tokyo Japan

Come to Takao...Come to Takao...

Don’t forget to pack a small lunch to eat at the top. Like most hikes in Japan there are vending machines at the top so treat yourself to the view with nice local beer and admire the views out to Mt. Fuji. And no, you don’t get a picture of Mt. Fuji! I have to leave something for you to discover on your own.

Blog for Japan help Japan recover from the tsunamiThis post is part of the continuing Blog4Japan campaign to raise awareness for the need for donations to local organizations helping the survivors. If you would like to help please consider donating to this list of local Japanese organizations that are on the ground working right now.

Do you have  good day hike inside of Tokyo? Let us know below. Who am I kidding, if you have ANYTHING to say leave it below :)

adventure driving

Nothing like an open side to help you feel the road

Update:

The winner is Leng…who guessed, Bangkok, Thailand! Personally, I wanted more street guesses!

Thanks again to Kelsi for this great shot and making us all dream we were in Thailand right now. Here is why this place is so special to her:

This place is special to me personally because it is the capital city of the country where I serve as a Peace Corps volunteer and it is a place I can meet up with my friends. I love this picture because it reminds me of the rush of soaring through the streets of Bangkok with the open night air against my face.

Leng gets the prize this week. So check out Globe Nomads, and follow his journey around the world.

Welcome to the weekly Where in the World? Travel Photo Contest! We have a great list of travel photos and bloggers lined up to challenge your world travel knowledge each and every Friday.

If you’re new or never bothered to actually read what I write, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) either from a featured travel blog guest (see below for details on how to guest post) or from my own travels and you guess where it is. Due to the popularity of featuring other travel bloggers I plan to host other peoples’ travels and photos for as long as there is interest (get in touch!).

This week’s photo comes from Kelsi and her beautiful notes on life’s journey over at Some Sojourns.

The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, City, and Road (no just joking)!) will win a link back to their blog and all the fame and glory associated! Congratulations to David who won last weeks contest by knowing the oldest and deepest Lake Baikal in Russia.

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below (comment luv should take care of the second part).

Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention. Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments and stories (don’t forget the praise) are welcome!

Let’s invite as many people as possible! Please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook

Be a Guest Photographer

If you’re looking to help increase the visibility of your blog, drive more traffic, or just share your pretty pictures then why not be a guest photographer for Photo Contest Friday on Todd’s Wanderings! This is no longer as new feature as we have had 5 weeks of guest posters and have the next 3 weeks filled already!

If you’re interested in having your photograph featured then send me an e-mail through my Todd’s Wanderings Contact Page with the Subject line: Photo Contest Friday. Don’t forget to tell me which site your coming from and I’ll be in touch and explain how to send the photo. Keep in mind that your photo should be awesome!

The photograph should be your own and should have a few small clues in the photo to help the reader out if they’ve never been there (no, I don’t follow this last rule myself all the time…but it’s my website). I’ll link to your page and talk you up as the guest poster. I can be very flattering when I want to be.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You should be an independent travel blogger. I love helping the little guy…or gal.

Blog for Japan help Japan recover from the tsunamiThis post is part of the Blog4Japan campaign helping to raise donations for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. Please share it and considering donating to one of the worthy local Japanese organizations responding to the disaster.

This year will mark a different type of cherry blossom season. Usually each year as these transient beauties reveal themselves to the country the Japanese gather together with friends, family, and coworkers and party under the blossoms in a custom called hanami. It is by far my favorite activity in Japan, eating delicious food and drinking into the wee hours of the night celebrating life and beauty that we all know will fade shortly after. In fact it’s the short time period that makes us appreciate the beauty all the more.

In the wake of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami the cherry blossom parties will be understandably subdued. But I also think that they cheery blossoms offer us a time to reflect on life, the tsunami and what is important to us and how we can help. As the cherry blossoms are just opening around the country here are my favorite viewing places in Tokyo and Kyoto. If you are nearby I urge you to go and still celebrate life and beauty. If your planning to take a trip to Japan, I urge you to keep to your schedule and see for yourself all the beauty Japan has to offer.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Walking through the Cherry Blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo Japan

Ueno Park during cherry blossom season

There are three main areas of Tokyo that I’d recommend viewing the cherry blossoms. The first is Ueno Park, perhaps Tokyo’s most well known cherry blossom destination and thus the most crowded. If you are looking to avoid the crowds this is certainly not the place to be. But if you want it lively, and filled with music, families and temples within walking distance than Ueno is the place to be.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Shinjuku Japan

Shinjuku Gyoen

Our next stop is Shinjuku Gyoen (park) where the vast variety of cherry trees helps to ensure blossoms opening throughout the season. The large open areas ensure spots for those wanting to picnic. However, there are not that may spaces underneath the trees themselves. One tree not to miss is the beautiful weeping cherry tree, Yaebeni Shidarezakura.

Our last top is the Sumida Park which is a nice cherry tree lined walkway along the Sumida River in Asakusa, home to famous Senso-ji Temple. This is a nice relaxing area where you can stroll under the cherry blossoms. It is less crowded than Ueno but still has a nice historical feel to it. Across the river is the Asahi Beer company with its curious golden monument on top of the building. You can also see the ongoing construction to Tokyo’s latest and tallest broadcasting, restaurant and viewing tower the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Kyoto

It is hard to improve on the beauty and elegance of Kyoto. But when the cheery blossoms appear in the Spring and when the leaves change in the Fall the city comes alive even further wrapped in natural colors that only accentuate the traditional buildings and quietly manicured gardens. Kyoto is full of cherry trees but here are some of my favorite areas.

Cherry blossom viewing in Maruyama park Kyoto

Old Cherry Tree in Maruyama Park

No cherry blossom experience is complete in Kyoto without a visit to Maruyama Park, and its stately old weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night. This is a popular place so if you are planning on having an evening party here you best stake out a spot early in the morning. Companies usually send their junior employees to claim their spot early. Sitting in the park all days sounds like a nice day of work! You can access the area through Yasaka Shrine, which sits at the eastern end of Shijo-dori in the Gion District.

If you are looking to contemplate life during a stroll than the Philosophers Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi) should be your next stop on your cherry blossom viewing odyssey. This cherry tree lined stone path in the northern section of Higashiyama area is quiet and is a good place to beat the crowds. However, space for picnicking is limited so it’s best for a stroll or to incorporate as part of your walking tour through the area.

Cherry blossom viewing along the philosophers path in Kyoto

Get your inner philosopher a kick start with a little beauty to contemplate

Finally, get a bird’s eye view of the city and the forest of cherry blossom trees surrounding Kiyomizu Temple. Besides the temple being one of Kyoto’s most beautiful and most famous, it has an incredible wooden deck that trusts outs into a sea of blossoms. This spot will be one of your photographic highlights so make sure you head later in the day when you have nice soft light.

Have you been on a hanmi? Where else would you recommend for viewing the cherry blossoms?

Photo Credits 1, 2, 3, 4

Blog For New ZealandThis is a guest post by Craig Martin and is a part of the Blog4 New Zealand campaign to raise awareness that after the Christ Church Earthquake it is perfectly safe to visit New Zealand. In fact your tourism will help them to rebuild and keep people employed!

There are plenty of places to explore while you travel through New Zealand. Here are five of my favourite spots to stop and spend some time.

Auckland

Visit Auckland New ZealandThe country’s largest city, and likely the city you fly into. Auckland is cosmopolitan but it is spread out over countless suburbs. Make sure you explore further than the central city – heading out towards Mission Bay for coffee and gelato on the beach, or the Waitakere Ranges for instant escape from the city into a series of forests and reserves.

Matakana

Visit Matakana New ZealandA weekend escape for many Aucklanders, Matakana is home to amazing farmers markets, small-production wineries and the most beautiful cinema I’ve ever visited.

Particular favourites of mine is the freshly-harvested oysters wrapped around local bacon at the markets. Or maybe it’s the Montepulciano at OBV. Or maybe a beer at the Leigh Sawmill Café and microbrewery a bit further up the road. It’s hard to say.

Bay of Islands

Visit Bay of Islands New ZealandRussell, Paihia and Waitangi make up the townships surrounding the gorgeous Bay of Islands. You might remember it from the 2009 Season of the Bachelor, but its known in New Zealand for its abundance of history and sea life.

Waitangi is where the ‘founding document’ of modern New Zealand was signed between the British Government and Maori tribes. Although the Treaty of Waitangi is a controversial document, a visit there is a must. Russell, the old capital of New Zealand (before it moved to Auckland then Wellington) was known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific. Doesn’t look like it now, but the stories floating around are fantastic.

And if you don’t like history at all, the Bay of Islands is a perfect base for deep sea sports fishing, diving, swimming with the dolphins and spotting whales.

Houhora

Visit Houhora New ZealandThere’s not really very much at Houhora, and that’s the way we like it. A perfect spot to camp, relax, sail or fish. A very nice place to spend a week at the beach. And if you’re bored, try making your way up Mt Camel … I’ve never been able to get to the top.

Coromandel

Visit Coromandel New ZealandUnlike all the others, you have to head south from Auckland to hit the Coromandel, although a flight is much quicker as the peninsula reaches all the way back up towards Auckland. A steep range of hills drop down to rugged coastline, some of it the most amazing sandy beaches you might ever see.

My favourite place to stay is out a Hahei: a lovely little beach-side town with some cracker restaurants. It’s close to Cathedral Cove, unspoiled because of the 20 minute walk you must make to get there. This is the setting of the first entry to Narnia in the recent Prince Caspian movie, and a wonderful place for a picnic and a swim if the swell isn’t too rough.

This guest post was supplied by Craig Martin, Kiwi and full-time traveller, as part of the #blog4nz project, to let you know New Zealand is still open for business. Read more of Craig’s New Zealand stories at his New Zealand travel page and hundreds of new stories on the Blog4NZ Facebook Page.

Photo Credits 1,2,4,5 & 3

Japanese Tsunami sweeps cars and houses away

We watched the horror unfold live on the television after the quake

This page is dedicated to helping the survivors of the Friday 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan by channeling international donations to local efforts.

The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan, over 9,500 people have been confirmed dead and another 16,000 are missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation.

The images of the destruction and suffering have shocked the world. However, with the World Bank reporting over 300 billion USD in damages and families torn apart there is a need for everyone to help both financially and emotionally.

A few weeks ago I posted about my Experience During the Japan Earthquake and made a plea to my readers to spread the word about helping Japan recover. My wife is from Tokyo and we are both professional aid and recovery workers with the United Nations. We have seen the recovery phase of the 2004 Tsunami up close and we know there is a tremendous need to not only raise donations but to make sure those funds are used responsibly and are in the hands of organizations with not only technical expertise but also local knowledge.

How You Can Help

A lot of people around the world want to help and have been donating to various international organizations (mainly the American Red Cross). I think this is great and with the money being transferred to the Japanese Red Cross this money will be used well. However, we also believe there is a need to donate funds directly to local Japanese organizations and NGOs that don’t have access to this type of fund raising. There are also many scams out there trying to benefit from this horrible disaster. We know that language barriers and lack of knowledge can also prevent people from donating to the right place. As such we have put together a list of Japanese Organizations that we know, trust and recommend to channel your donations to.

If you are unable to donate we ask that you Share this Page with your friends, family and coworkers through e-mail, facebook, twitter or any other outlet you can think of. The more people who see this page the greater the donations will be.

If you are blogger, or have your own website. Please see the Blog4Japan page to learn how you can utilize this appeal on your own site and help us reach even more people.

Japanese Organizations We Trust

Please consider donating to one or more of these organizations. All are local Japanese organizations and we have found the English Pages for you. Even a small amount like $10 is useful, but we hope you donate more!

Peace Winds Japan Tsunami Response

Peace Winds Japan is one of the largest Japanese organizations providing humanitarian relief such as food, clothing, fuel and medical supplies to the affected areas. You can Donate Here.

JEN Tsunami ResponseJEN is a well known NGO dedicated to restoring a self-supporting livelihood both economically and mentally to those who have been stricken with hardship due to conflicts and disasters. They are currently supporting emergency relief items such as food, woman’s hygienic items, clothes and other essentials to the survivors of the Japan Tsunami. You can Donate Here.

Save the Children Tsunami recovery in JapanSave the Children has been working in Japan for over 25 years. Their American partner is now collecting donations for them in English (which eliminates any credit card exchange charges. They have set up multiple child-friendly spaces  in evacuation centers in Sendai City where displaced families are staying. They are also starting their  long-term recovery plans to restore education and child care in communities ravaged by the disasters. You can get information on activities and Donate Here.

ADRA Japan Tsunami Response

Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is donating food and essential items to the survivors of the tsunami. They also keep a well maintained English blog of their activities in Japan for the tsunami which you can Follow Here. You can Donate Here.

JOICFP Response to the Japanese TsunamiThe Japan Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning is taking donations for their response to the tsunami that will focus on the reproductive health needs of women and mothers in affected areas. You can Donate Here.

AMDA Tsunami Response The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA Japan) team is delivering essential medical services through mobile clinics and delivering relief goods to the nursing homes and schools (evacuation shelters) in Aoba and Miyagino Wards. You can Donate Here.

Oxfam Japan's Tsunami ResponseOXFAM Japan is working with two partners in Japan on providing support to those on the margins of society who might otherwise have difficulty accessing emergency relief. One group is assisting mothers and babies and the other is providing information to non-Japanese speakers living in Japan. You can Donate Here.

Habitat for Humanity Japan Tsunami ResponseHabitat For Humanity Japan is still assessing the situation but will be involved in the reconstruction of housing once the emergency period ends. This is one of the most vital aspects of recovery and the homeless will need a lot of help to put their lives back together. You can Donate Here.

Institute for Cultural Affairs Tsunami Response

The Institute for Cultural Affairs Japan (ICA) is still assessing the situation but is accepting donations. You can Donate Here.

All of these are worthy organizations to support and  you can match your own personal interests to the organization that you think will work the best on what you want to support. Even if you are unable to donate please pass this on through social media, word of mouth or even in print. I have waived all rights to this post so please feel free to copy and reproduce any part of it for the good of the Japanese people.

If you do want to reproduce this please see the Blog4Japan page where you can find out more details.

Thank you from my family and friends who have been affected by this terrible disaster.

Stunningly beatiful blue lake
Follow the posts down to the lake. Do you know where you’re going?

Update:

The winner is David…who guessed, Lake Baikal in Russia!

Thanks again to Magda for a beautiful photo. Here’s what she had to say:

This photo was taken on the Olkhon Island on the Lake Baikal in Russia. Lake Baikal is world’s oldest and deepest lake as well as the largest source of fresh water on the planet. Olkhon is the largest island on the lake and for centuries the local people have believed it to be a spiritual place. Shamanism is a very strong cult on the island up to this day. Olkhon is not only mysterious but also a very beautiful place.

David gets the prize this week. So check out his great blog Ogijima that is all about the beautiful islands in Japan’s Inland Sea. Personally, I love this area of Japan.

Welcome to the weekly Where in the World? Travel Photo Contest! We have a great list of travel photos and bloggers lined up to challenge your world travel knowledge each and every Friday.

If you’re new or never bothered to actually read what I write, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) either from a featured travel blog guest (see below for details on how to guest post) or from my own travels and you guess where it is. Due to the popularity of featuring other travel bloggers I plan to hots other peoples’ travels and photos for as long as there is interest (get in touch!).

This week’s photo comes from Magda and her beautiful photography travel blog Destination World.

The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, PLACE!) will win a link back to their blog and all the fame and glory associated! Congratulations to Dave who won last weeks contest by knowing the the old stone bridge in Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below (comment luv should take care of the second part).

Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention. Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments are welcome!

Let’s invite as many people as possible! Please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook

Be a Guest Photographer

If you’re looking to help increase the visibility of your blog, drive more traffic, or just share your pretty pictures then why not be a guest photographer for Photo Contest Friday on Todd’s Wanderings! This is no longer as new feature as we have had 5 weeks of guest posters and have the next 3 weeks filled already!

If you’re interested in having your photograph featured then send me an e-mail through my Todd’s Wanderings Contact Page with the Subject line: Photo Contest Friday. Don’t forget to tell me which site your coming from and I’ll be in touch and explain how to send the photo. Keep in mind that your photo should be awesome!

The photograph should be your own and should have a few small clues in the photo to help the reader out if they’ve never been there (no, I don’t follow this last rule myself all the time…but it’s my website). I’ll link to your page and talk you up as the guest poster. I can be very flattering when I want to be.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You should be an independent travel blogger. I love helping the little guy…or gal.

The Japanese Earthquake

Japanese Tsunami sweeps cars and houses away

We watched the horror unfold live on the television after the quake

On Friday 11 March 2011 just before 3:00 pm the largest earthquake in Japanese recorded history hit with a magnitude of 9.0. I was in Tokyo at the time visiting my wife’s family. As I sat at the kitchen table, happily posting pictures of Japan on Facebook, the room began to shake. The quake started small, but with a sudden jolt. When the shaking didn’t stop I started to worry as the large cabinet rattled at my back and the light above me began to swing violently.

I moved to the middle of the room, away from anything that could fall on me. The preparation drills tell you to get under a table, put a cushion over your head, and open the door to make sure you have a way out if the house collapses. You are also supposed to shut off the gas to prevent a fire. Too many tasks during a singularly frightening and dangerous moment. All I knew was that I didn’t feel safe in the house with its paper thin walls and ceilings. I knew that that my wife and I needed to get out of the house, but first we had to put on our shoes, a frustrating secondary step when you’re trying to flee a house.

We hit the road outside as the earth shifted beneath our feet, rolling in what felt like waves. Cars were stopped in the road and our neighbors came rushing out to join us. Many crouched low to the ground trying to find some sort of stability as the earth rocked like a ship hit by a torpedo. I tried to find the safest place and realized, in the Tokyo suburban sprawl that houses 33 million people, nowhere was truly safe. Above us the sky was blackened, not by smoke but by a cat’s cradle of swinging electrical lines. Inside, outside, it didn’t matter. Nowhere was really safe.

The quake lasted for almost 3 minutes. That is a very long time when the earth is moving under your feet. The country was hit with aftershocks reaching 7.0 that would have been massive if not compared to the original.

Alarm bells rang, the TV beeped and binged as tsunami warnings flooded the airwaves. In a country used to earthquakes this was something different. Lifetime residents of Tokyo remarked how it was the biggest they had ever felt, and we weren’t even at the center of the quake.

The Tsunami

In Northern Japan, in Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, the devastation was only just beginning. Soon after the first quake hit, while we sat glued to the T.V., our family gathered together, we watched in horror as a 10 meter tsunami destroyed the East Coast. Cars, buses and ships crashed into each other. Entire towns were swept away, houses ablaze as the tsunami waters flooded rivers and jumped dikes. We watch helplessly as Japanese news helicopters showed us live the wall of water advancing, overtaking unsuspecting people as they fled in their cars.

We sat, we watched, and we shook as more aftershocks hit one after the other.

We were fortunate. Our family and friends were safe, if not all with us due to the complete shutdown of Tokyo’s train system which trapped millions of people in the city. I was to fly out and return to Kosovo on Saturday. I felt helpless having to leave when the need was so great. As an aid worker I spend my life jumping from one crisis to the next. Now I was leaving this crisis and my family behind.

I am writing this from an overburdened Narita Airport on a Sunday, feeling sick to my stomach at leaving my wife behind. As another earthquake hits us in the airport the steady shaking sends a women next to me into a panic and she tries to flee into multiple walls of people, each waiting to get to a check-in counter. Her husband is the only one to leave his line, he gently pulls her back, her face swollen from the frightened sobs that rack her body.

Journey Across Tokyo

Crowded Ueno station in Tokyo after the earthquake

No way into the trainstations in Tokyo

My journey across Tokyo was like a post apocalyptic movie. It took me 8 hours to navigate the labyrinth of closed train lines, bloated stations, and swollen streets. Millions of people waited in patient lines, pressing into stations that had no outlet. People littered the hallways of the city’s underground shopping malls, sleeping, hugging and crying.

Throughout it all I was immensely impressed by the calmness of Japanese crowds, the straightness of the lines and the lack of pushing, shoving and anger that might have affected crowds in any other city in the world. The police funneled people to keep waves of people moving where they could.

When I finally got on a train moving towards the airport (3 train lines later) we were packed in like sardines. Picture Tokyo at rush hour, times 3, plus luggage. Except for the occasional outburst everyone bore the pain and inconvenience with remarkable stoicism during the grueling 3 hour ride. I of course missed my flight, but had my wife and family helping me to rebook as I concentrated on getting closer to the airport.

How you Can Help

Despite the trouble, and the fear of the past day, it was nothing compared to what the people of Northern Japan are going through. My heart goes out to the families of those who died in Tokyo (at the time of writing) and the nearly 1,500 dead in the North. Homes and families have been ripped apart and I’m flying away. While I can’t help physically I can help with my words, with my blog and with my network of development professionals and online publishers.

To this end I am organizing an ongoing Blog for Japan Event that will raise money for the victims of this devastating tsunami. My wife is looking for a worthy Japanese organization that non-Japanese might not know about and may have difficulty donating to.

In the coming weeks we will identify an organization (or a few) and we will promote a donation link through our blogs and online contacts. If you are interested in getting involved writing a blog post, sharing posts with friends, or just donating please sign up to the e-mail contact form below. This will allow me to send an e-mail to you when preparations are set and let you know how you can participate, donate or help pass the message along. This e-mail list will not be shared with anyone and will only be used during this short time to help raise much needed funds for the recovery of Northern Japan.

All of the money we raise will go directly to helping the victims of the quake and tsunami. We will let you know when we have found the appropriate organization(s) to donate to. We would appreciate you sending this story to others who might be interested in helping as well.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan at the this trying time.

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