An Interview With Teras Cassidy, Who Takes Travelers On Awesomely Geeky Tours

December 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture

geek nation tours

I’ve met Teras twice, both times at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention I tend to attend annually. Teras is the founder of Geek Nation Tours, taking fans of all genres from board gaming conventions to Game Of Thrones filming locations plus a number of secret spots designed for the geekiest of hearts. I love the concept and Teras was kind enough to answer a few questions about Geek Nation Tours. Ka’plah!

Where did you come up with the idea for Geek Nation Tours?

Geek Nation Tours is really a child of the recession – when it hit the travel industry ground to a halt. My travel agencies we doing poorly and I was stuck in the office with a lot of time on my hands. I was reading a favorite author at the time – a wargamer by the name of Donald Featherstone – and I came across one of his books called The Battlefield Walker’s Handbook. It was a description of the battlefields he had visited over his life. I was also very immersed in geek culture – reading comics, watching films and playing games when I realized that I could put all my travel experience (some 25 years or more) into creating very specific geek filled vacations. We started off with two – a wargaming tour of the UK and a trip to the San Diego Comic Con.  Both we very successful and GNT was born.

The Battlefield Walker's HandbookThe Battlefield Walker’s Handbook

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Where around the world do your tours go and what’s the international makeup of a given group?

GNT has been to the UK, USA, Japan and several other countries.  We are expanding our Geek coverage and will move to the Mediterranean, across Asia, many other parts of Europe and even Africa.

geek nation tours japan

What are some of the geekiest stops along your tours?

Well Star Trek fans often get the wrap at being the most geeky. They are not – they are just the most accepting. With that said stopping at Trek sites in costume always raises an eyebrow (appropriate in a way) but really people are even more interested about what is going on. I remember showing up at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant with half the tour in costume and a passerby asked if it had any Star Trek connection. I stopped him and said that is Starfleet Academy. He turned around and went white. “OMG” is all he said.

Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

You’ve mentioned you’re going to double the number of tours in 2015; what are the most popular ones fueling your success?

We will have tonnes coming! Doctor Who, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, UK literary tour, Vid Con and even a Zombie tour. Our board gaming ones are very popular as are our battlefield ones.

gaming tour geek nation

Lastly, what’s one fictional location you wish you could give a tour of?

I have always been interested in warrior culture so it would have to be Kronos (Q’onoS by some) – the Klingon home world.

geek nation tours

Thank you Teras! You can check out Geek Nation Tours to see all Teras has coming up as well as follow Geek Nation Tours on Facebook and Twitter @GeekNationTours. Vulcans, elves, and other intergalactic races from most dimensions welcome.

A Photo Essay Of One Of The World’s Most Neglected Tourist Destinations: Socotra Island

In the middle of the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia’s pirate waters, is the Yemeni archipelago Socotra. Of its 4 islands, the main Socotra island is one of the most remote, visually stunning, culturally intriguing, and least visited places on Earth.

You might be wondering is it safe to visit Yemen – and while that’s a bigger question – the answer for Socotra is a flat yes. Socotra isn’t the easiest place to get to but a few irregular flights don’t correlate with an expensive trip. Being Yemeni territory and the nominal connection to the mainland has hurt a Socotran tourism industry that’s never properly gotten off the ground. Only 4,000 tourists visited in 2011 which means many of the world’s travelers are missing one of the best reasons to visit Yemen.

If there were a mascot for Socotra, it would be the dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari). Throughout Socotra’s interior, dragon blood trees grow all over sharp cliffs and rolling hills. Their “blood”, red resin from the tree, is used locally to cure a number of medical problems – remedies famous even to the ancient Greeks.

The pink flower of a bottle tree (Dendrosicyos) – one of three hundred species of plant that can only be found here.

A grown bottle tree, about 2.5 meters tall (~8.2 feet). They begin flowering when they’re quite short so I didn’t have to climb this one to get a nice flower closeup.

Meals in Socotra are a simple matter eaten with hands, preferably under shade, and often in the company of good conversation. Though unlike a good raki night, there’s no alcohol around. Socotris are strict Muslims.

Although Socotra is a part of Yemen, Socotris have a distinct culture set apart from the blend of African, Indian, and Arab influences surrounding it.

Not technically required, visiting Socotra without a guide you’ll likely end up missing local hiking trails, plants that only grow in one square half-kilometer in the universe, as well as hidden pools to cool off during the hot days. Annual temperatures average in the high 20s Celsius (mid-80s Fahrenheit) with humidity 70% or higher.

For a guide, I can highly recommend Saaber Aamer, pictured above (email: saaber.socotra@gmail.com tel: 00967-771-969-576).

The remnants of ancient lava flows roughly 5 million years old in Socotra, which is located between the Arabian and African tectonic plates.

As you can imagine, fish is a staple food on Socotra.

There aren’t a lot of people in Socotra and only one settlement you could call a city, is the capitol (called Hadibo) near the airport. Everywhere else there are tiny town, where there’s not a lot going on. Most Socotris live in the countryside.

The way to make a living is by fishing or through tourism.

Workers at Socotra’s only harbor.

There couldn’t be a more nondescript plant on Socotra but the healing powers of its sap are known to locals; put on cuts it has a mild pain relieving effect.

These aloe perryi plants might be one of the reasons Alexander the Great wanted to conquer Socotra 2,400 years ago.

Although Hurghada, Egypt is one of the best places I’ve snorkeled in the world, Socotra is a close second. The fish don’t expect to see humans which gives you the opportunity to see a lot of curious sea life up close.

An endangered Egyptian vulture takes a break from the heat. There are only an estimated 21,000 mature adults left in the world and the population of Egyptian vultures has fallen by half over the last decade.

A large lake I’m told you can climb down into for a better look. I’m still not convinced it’s feasible.

Sand with pockmarks from a light rain shower along a beach where the water comes up only to your ankles 5oo meters inland.

The most remarkable part of Socotra is how much it makes you feel like you’re on the edge of Earth, far from problems and Internet connections in a little explored piece of the world.

Eventually the tourists will come, inevitably changing what Socotris themselves want to preserve about what makes Socotra so special. Socotra is definitely one unexpected travel destination you should visit before it becomes a hit – but if you still aren’t convinced – you can take a look at more of my pictures from Socotra and around Yemen here.

See It Like A Local: Announcing The Wander Around Istanbul Tour April 2015

November 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture, Food, Lodging, Site News

blue mosque istanbul

There is no other city like it in the world and while Istanbul certainly has a well beaten tourist path, Wandering Earl and I would like to show you everything in between. Back in 2013 we invited you to our I Love Istanbul Tour and I’m more than excited to bring back the next version for 7 days and 6 nights beginning April 14th, 2015.

istanbul street foodIstanbul Tour Details

I’ll be hosting the tour with my friend Derek Baron (Wandering Earl) who’s been running successful tours around the world for the past three years. Accommodation, daily meals, transportation, entrance passes are all included in the Wander Around Istanbul Tour which costs $1,000 for the trip April 14-20th, 2015.

“When I first signed up for the “I Love Istanbul” tour I thought – What have I committed to? What if Earl is a total weirdo? But I had no reason to worry. It felt more like I was traveling with friends who wanted to show me everything great about the city. If I had traveled to Istanbul on my own I would have hit all the main tourist destinations, but the benefit of following Earl (and fellow tour leader Anil) is that they know how to find the real treasures.” -Amanda O.

You can find more details and signup at the link here or ask me any questions in the comments below.

Wander Across India

In case you want to cure your wanderlust a bit earlier than next spring, Earl also has his Wander Across India Tour coming up on February 10th, 2015, a two and a half week tour of the world’s largest democracy.

haridwar india

I was with Earl to help out on his first India tour in 2012, which is a great deal at $1,850, considering meals, accommodation, transportation, and activities are included over 16 nights.

We’re Waiting For You!

We try to keep both the Istanbul and India tour groups small and in both cases they’ve already got a few spots filled; so don’t want too long to let us know you want to join. Those of you who are interested in either (or both, hey wanderluster!) can find out more and sign up the links below:

So you’re ready for whichever adventure you choose, check out this photo from shows the landmarks to look out for when flying into Istanbul and prepare for your first 48 hours in India.

Ask Photojournalist Romain Carre What It’s Like To Report From Conflict Zones

November 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture, Discussion, Security

romain carreI first met Romain Carre when I was traveling in eastern Ukraine, back in April right before civil war broke out in Donetsk. It’s a lot easier for a travel blogger like myself to stay conspicuous with this small camera in my hands but for professionals like Romain, photographing times of turmoil is much more dangerous. In Romain’s own words,

Born in Paris in 1983 I was first was into computers from the age of 10 and changed direction at 20. After different orientations (such as art school, medical school and faculty of history) I decided to orient myself on the field of photojournalism. During five years I’ve covered different fields such as Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Libya, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and others, mainly focusing on conflict fields. You can see some of my photography from these places on my site, RomainCarre.com.

Leave your questions for Romain in the comments below, he’ll be by later today to answer anything you want to know!

Romain’s work has been published in Al Jazeera, ParisMatch, VSD, Time, Elle, Le Figaro, Le Monde, le Parisien, Vesti Reporter, and FranceTv – he’s also worked for WostokPress and Sipa Agency. He’s currently in Kiev, Ukraine and will be here live chatting for two hours, from 12pm-2pm US EST to answer any and all questions you have about photographing conflict zones – all in the comments below!