I grew up in North Carolina, lived in South Carolina, spent a season in Costa Rica and South Africa, traveled all around Europe, and have called Seattle, San Francisco, and now Los Angeles, home, yet there’s one place that I get more questions and requests about: Big Sur. And it’s for good reason, due in part because of the place it holds among the best drives in the world, but also because I talk about it so much. I believe every traveler wants to see the world, but I also believe that there are one or two destinations that every traveler gravitates toward more than others. One of those places for me is Central California, and more specifically, Big Sur.

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How many countries have you been to? That’s the question I’m most frequently asked. When I lived in the south I was repeatedly asked who my family was (or when I was getting married or having kids). When I moved out to the west coast I was asked what I did for a living. And now when I tell people what I do, I’ve been increasingly asked how many countries I’ve been to. All of these questions, however, seem to be a question of status. I live amidst a generation that is the first to have the accessibility it does to travel. A person with the desire and means could travel to every single country if they wanted to. And people have, like author Chris Guillebeau, who recently visited every single country (193) in the world, using frequent flyer miles and RTW tickets to travel to more than 25 countries per year before reaching his goal. And what a milestone. It wasn’t long ago that it was simply impossible to visit every country in the world. Now that’s possible.

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I starkly remember the first time I ever saw (and heard) a hot air balloon. I was playing basketball in my backyard when I heard a “whooshing” overhead. I looked up as a hot air balloon appeared from over the woods behind our house and continued overhead. Minutes later it landed in one of our neighbors’ backyard.

Ever since I’ve had a preoccupation with air travel, not the least of which has been hot air ballooning. However, as much air travel as I’ve done, via helicopter, airplane, and airship, I had yet to travel by hot air balloon. It was in part, because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. And what I always envisioned was not just a hot air balloon ride, but a hot air balloon ride in Africa…over the African bush…while making out (shooting for the stars here). However, when you get invited to go hot air ballooning over South Africa, you do it.

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