An Explorer At Heart, That’s Me: A New Venture & A New Voyage

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Ralph Grizzle in Kullaberg

I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling — primarily by bicycle and on ships cruising seas like the one pictured in front of me, called Kattegatt, in beautiful Kullaberg, a rugged peninsula in the south of Sweden. I am an explorer at heart. © 2013 Chris Stanley

I began my journalistic career at the age of 32, following the conclusion of my “sabbatical decade.” From 1980 through 1990, I bicycled across America, pedaled through Europe and island-hopped the South Pacific. After backpacking through Bali, bussing through Java, hopping a boat to Singapore and crossing Malaysia to Thailand, I flew into Burma (your children will know it as Myanmar), tramped to Dhaka and endured a 32-hour train ride from calamitous Calcutta to bustling Bombay. From there, I hopped a plane for Greece and traveled to Europe before returning home, where I settled, quite naturally, into a career of travel writing.

Hemispheres, Ralph Grizzle

For nearly a dozen years, I wrote for the award-winning in-flight magazine Hemispheres. I even won one of the magazine’s awards for my cruise writing. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

I am an explorer at heart and someone who lives my life “Up In The Air,” on the sea and in destinations that ships visit. My daughter, at that sweet age of 18, sprouts tears when she watches my videos, such as a trailer we recently produced for Seabourn. Why? She is proud that I came from nothing to become something, not that either is true (we are never nothing and always something, no matter who we are), but that’s the way she sees it.

britton in buffaloes

Following in dad’s shoes? My daughter tears up when she thinks about my life then and now. I tear up a bit when I see her shoes. These are definitely not her dad’s shoes. But she is following in her father’s footsteps, studying communications at university, and launching her own fashion blog, where she explains the shoes.

To some degree, though, she is right. I have climbed out of what seemed to be a hole.

I was born into a lower middle-class family. Make that lower, lower middle class. Let’s put it this way: My father was one of six children, and he remembers his mother spooning out buttermilk to each of them. There wasn’t enough money to buy cartons of milk, so to make sure that all of her children were taken care of, my dear grandmother doled out small portions for each child.

My father made a better life for his family, but his life wasn’t easy growing up. As a child and teenager, my dad worked all day in fields. As an adult, he worked for Southern Railway and then started his own business as a logger. Like him, I worked nearly all of my childhood and teenage years. I would show up each day after school to work in the woods, and I spent my summers working with him — from about age nine to about age 20. It was not a life for any kid, and even today, I know that some children, particularly those in developing countries, have it worse. I’m not complaining.

Still, I couldn’t wait to escape, and so I cycled out of town and never looked back. I kept on going (for several years) and at age 29 landed in journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Upon graduating at age 32, I worked for a travel agent magazine, then a cruise magazine, then launched my own publication and website. I bought in 1997 with a vision to make it what it is today and what it is becoming.

My career in travel writing gave me the tool to make up for my lost childhood. When I write about flying first class, cruising on luxury ships and staying in luxury hotels, those who know my history tend to be my biggest fans. My cousin Hugh, for example, posted a nice comment on Facebook when I shared a photo of my seat in Lufthansa’s First Class section. I paid for that seat, not much (less than I would have paid for economy, in fact) because of a clever strategy I had discovered, but it was my money that put my butt in that seat.

Thank you for the comment Hugh.

Hugh Williams, a rose?

My cousin’s sentiment touched me, even if he did question the rose.

Where Avid Cruiser Is Headed

I thought this background, although it is highly personal, would be beneficial in telling you about where Avid Cruiser is headed. This week, I sent out an email to more than 6,000 subscribers of the Avid Cruiser and River Cruise Advisor newsletters. I asked what we were doing right and what could we improve.

The responses were helpful, alerting me to things we could give more attention to on the site, and gratifying. I want to share some of the more gratifying remarks, because those remarks make me proud that I can serve readers and provide a value for them.

  • It is the best newsletter of all the travel newsletters I choose to receive.
  • Wherever you are … or wherever you are sailing, keep doing what you are doing. You are a true professional and do a wonderful job for the industry. I enjoy your work.
  • What you did for Antarctica was exciting and informative. Your daily diary has made me put that cruise on my bucket list. Keep the newsletters coming!
  • Most informational and interesting travel newsletter of its kind. Don’t change a thing — just keep traveling and writing.

Thank you for your kind words and for your encouragement. Now that I have your blessings, I am happy to tell you that Avid Cruiser will continue to chart the course it has been charting for many years now — that is to provide experiential reporting from cruise ships and cruise destinations, and to always strive to provide you with resources that help you make informed cruise travel decisions.

The foundation for all that I do is a belief that travel can create more harmony in our lives and in our world. My goal is to help you and others get out there and experience the many people and places of this great planet. Writing about cruise travel is a helluva lot more fun than logging. Anything is more fun than logging. I can say that from experience — one of the few among us who can.

Another Resource For You: A New Audio Podcast Channel

Complementing Avid Cruiser’s mission, this week, I launched a new audio podcast channel. I produced audio podcasts 10 years ago, but no one was listening much back then. Our iPhones and mobile devices weren’t tethered to us, like an umbilical cord that we are unwilling to cut.

My first “new” podcast features an interview with Silversea Expeditions’ Conrad Combrink. Conrad has the world’s greatest job, developing life-enriching voyages for Silversea’s small expedition fleet.

I’m experimenting with SoundCloud for my audio podcasts. You can follow along at my Avid Cruiser SoundCloud channel. However, most of my audio podcasts will be embedded in posts here on Avid Cruiser, so relax, you won’t miss anything if you are a regular reader.

I also produce video podcasts. You can subscribe to the Avid Cruiser Video Podcasts for free on iTunes. I’ve produced more than 400 episodes, but you won’t find that many on iTunes. Not just yet. The company that hosted my podcasts for several years stopped its hosting services in 2014, so I am beginning anew, rolling out a few podcasts, which thankfully I had backed up, each week. If you prefer, you can also check out my videos on Avid Cruiser’s Youtube Channel.

A New Voyage: Russia’s Far East

Silversea Russia Far East

In the experiential part of my job, it just so happens that I’ll be traveling with Conrad Combrink on Silversea Expeditions Voyage 9412 in August. The voyage takes us to Russia’s Far East, from Nome, Alaska. What do I have to look forward to? Well, quite a great trip apparently. In fact, Conrad told me he chose to do this itinerary because he finds the region so enriching.

“I’m in the very privileged position to choose the itineraries that I lead, and when I looked at my schedule for 2014, that was one of the trips that immediately jumped out,” Conrad told me. “We’re going in search of the reindeers … so you’re in for a real treat.”

I can’t wait. Check out the full program on Silversea’s website, East Asia and Russian Far East Expedition Cruises.

Writer Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave wrote a nice profile about my life in motion, which I have posted on a much-neglected site that I also purchased in 1997, The Avid Traveler. Moving Is Living: A Life Spent Avidly Traveling

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  • Carrie Finley-Bajak

    Keep on truckin (biking) and cruising.