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International Adventure Guide 2013: Baja, Mexico

I once knew a man who said you've never looked freedom in the eye until you've raced through the Mexican desert at 100 mph while naked on the roof of a car.

While perhaps a little extreme, this raw sense of freedom and adventure has attracted adventure travelers to Baja since before the area even had a paved road. A trip to Baja means fishing for Dorado in a wooden panga beneath a sky that is vacant of clouds. It's winding your way on sandy back roads with three surfboards, two cases of Tecate, and one hope for the perfect wave. It's staring in wonder at whale sharks as they casually drift through bays that are cohabitated by manta rays and dolphins.

Baja is enchanting. Baja is raw. And it is unmistakably free.

One thing Baja is not, however, is dangerous, and it's this misconception that continues to keep Baja off of the mainstream adventure travel map.

Instead, we would rather highlight the fact that Baja continues to be one of the best adventure destinations on the North American continent. From surfing to scuba and fishing to sandboarding, the entire peninsula is a desert playground you could spend a lifetime exploring.

Plus, with the media-induced security scares of the past couple of years, prices in Baja continue to be far cheaper than at many adventure destinations you could find in the western hemisphere.

While entire books could be written (and have been written) on the adventure possibilities of "La Baja," here is a snippet of heart-thumping adventures to help turn your attention south.

Hawaii Mulls Move To Other Side Of International Date Line

Ever since Samoa jumped to the future by moving to the western side of the International Date Line in 2011, tourism authorities in Hawaii have been closely monitoring the situation in Samoa to see what effect it's had on the nation's tourism.

In a tactic, which was described by renowned Gadling blogger Sean McLachlan as "a shrewd business move," Samoa reasoned that by moving to the western side of the International Date Line (aka, "tomorrow"), it would attract more tourists from Australia and New Zealand who no longer had to deal with the inconvenience of adjusting their clocks nearly 23 hours backwards.

Now, nearly two years after the move by the Samoans, Hawaii tourism officials have cited the 3400% increase in tourism to Samoa as strong reasoning for making the jump to "the other side."

"At first we were critical of the move by the Samoans" admitted Hawaiian tourism official Seth Forsyth. "But in the last 18 months the Samoans have exhibited such an astronomical influx of Australian and Kiwi tourists that there's no denying they moved to the right neighborhood."

Forsyth admits, however, that a move by Hawaii to the west side of the date line wouldn't be aimed at Australian tourists, because, as he so eloquently puts it, "if you've ever tangled with an angry Samoan then you know what I'm talking about. We wouldn't want to steal their visitors."

Instead, Hawaii tourism officials are looking to draw visitors from other nations that sit just across the imaginary fence. Amongst those markets, which seem to exhibit the most potential are travelers from New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.

With word of the move already percolating through the Hawaiian business community, Hawaiian-themed knick-knacks that will cater to the new visitors are already in the works.

According to Jason Cantor, a forward-thinking souvenir trader from Lahaina, Maui, in order to get a jump on the shifting souvenir trade his company is in serious pre-production of "Aloha" vodka flasks and plumeria-scented penis sheaths. According to Cantor, he expects these items to be "the new tiki doll."

While the move by Hawaii seems to be a foregone conclusion, geographic restructuring is similarly being considered by tourism boards across the western hemisphere.

"I've actually been in talks with officials from Nevada, Panama and even Rhode Island" admits Forsyth. "There are a few logistical issues to work out, of course, but in the end I really think it's in everyone's best interests."

[Photo Credit: Heather Ellison]

Camera Lost While Scuba Diving In Hawaii Washes Ashore In Taiwan 5 Years Later

When Lindsay Scallan of Newnan, Georgia lost her camera during a 2007 scuba dive in Maui, she swallowed the hard pill of realizing that her vacation photos would be gone forever.

As it turns out, in a story recently published by Hawaii News Now, the Canon camera (which was in an underwater case) was found 6,200 miles away on the shores of Taiwan by a China Airlines employee who was taking a walk down the beach.

Despite the fact that the camera was covered in barnacles, the memory card was still intact and contained all of the photos that Scallan had snapped on her Hawaiian vacation nearly five and a half years prior.

Hoping to reunite the camera with its unknown owner, a story was published on the Hawaii News now site on March 22, which included photos from the memory card of a woman who was presumed to be the owner.

Thanks to the power of social media sites and online sharing, by March 24, Scallan had received news of her camera's re-appearance.

Not only does Scallan get her photos back, but China Airlines has offered to fly Scallan to Taiwan to be reunited with her camera in person. The only trouble, however, is that Scallan has just started a new job and doesn't know if she can get time off to fly halfway around the world to pick up her long-lost photos.

[Photo Credit: Hawaii News Now]

How To Win A Beer-Cation In Maui

If you're anything like my friends, going on vacation involves drinking lots of beer.

In this particular instance, however, this current offer has more to do with the art of craft brewing as opposed to simply shouldering up to your favorite tiki bar.

If a contest involving Maui, sailing and craft brewing sounds like something you could get into, the craft-brewing site The Weekly Pint is running a promotion through April 7 where entrants put their name into a sweepstakes to attend the Maui Brewer's Festival on May 18.

Airfare is taken care of. Lodging is taken care of. Beer is taken care of. And for good measure, why not spend the day on a sailing catamaran?

We know that spring is taking a little while to get into gear here, so if you're in need of some warm tropical thoughts you can navigate over to the contest page and try your hand at paradise.

Good luck, and if you win, have a coconut porter for me!

Vagabond Tales: How Travel Can Literally Make You Younger

The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León spent parts of his travels on an unfruitful search for the fountain of youth.

Sailing from Puerto Rico to Florida in 1513 on a voyage, which would become the first documented European exploration of the American mainland, rumors of de León's search for the mythical fountain wouldn't arise until documents published after his death (which, as it turns out, wasn't due to old age, but from being wounded in the thigh by a poisoned arrow during an exploration of Southwestern Florida).

Unfortunately for de León, not only was he was searching in the wrong ocean for the secret of anti-aging, he was also searching in the wrong century. Had de León been sailing around the western Pacific in, say, 1910, he would have discovered a completely arbitrary line, which has the ability to make a traveler an entire day younger.

Sure, you might only be younger on the calendar as opposed to in actuality, but thanks to the existence of the International Date Line, trans-Pacific travelers technically possess the ability to go back in time.

#OnTheRoad On Instagram: Gadling Takes Instagram To Maui

Gadling's Instagram feed is going to get a lot more Hawaiian this week, as I'm moving the Gadling lens from the snowy confines of the Alhambra in southern Spain to the sunny shores of Maui, Hawaii.

Though one could argue that Maui is a scenic place to photograph during all months of the year, March is a particularly scenic time on the Valley Isle since this also happens to be the peak of whale season.

Stay tuned over the next seven days as we take you behind waterfalls, stroll down sandy beaches, head to the water in search of humpbacks and while away days beneath the shade of a palm.

So where ever you may be, if the weather outside is looking more winter than summer, grab some coconut oil, put on your favorite Oren Masserman tune, and tap into the Instagram feed @GadlingTravel for some virtual Hawaiian warmth.

Want to get in on the action? Mention @GadlingTravel in your own photo AND use the hashtag #gadling, and your photo will be considered for our Gadling Photo Of The Day.

[Photo Credit: @SailTrilogy on Instagram]

The Best Maui Whale Watching Video You Will Ever See

It probably won't come as a surprise to hear that Maui is a popular vacation destination this time of year. With the recent bout of cold that's been gripping the nation, the idea of a warm, tropical island sounds pretty nice to anyone shoveling snow.

It isn't just the warmth that makes Maui such a popular winter hotspot, however; it's also the whales.

Every winter thousands of North Pacific humpback whales make the long swim south from their feeding grounds in waters off of Alaska to the protected waters of Maui County. The whales, which migrate to Maui, form the densest population of humpbacks found anywhere in the world, and during the peak of the Maui whale watching season it isn't possible to look out at the water for more than two minutes without seeing a splash or a spout. Whale watching charters operate from dawn to dusk shuttling snap-happy visitors out to get a closer look, and for many, the experience is a pinnacle of their vacation.

In the case of these two Maui scuba divers, however, instead of going out to watch the whales themselves, the whales decided to stop in and pay them a visit as they hung out on the ocean floor at a depth of 180 feet. Just to add some spice to the already heart stopping moment, a few sharks decide to visit the divers just for good measure.

If this sounds just a little bit insane, these are the same people who are behind the "Black Coral" documentary we reported on back in May, and encounters such as this are almost to be expected from this bunch.

So although tens of thousands of Maui visitors will embark on whale watching charters this winter, we can guarantee that none of them are going to get a sighting quite like this.

Vagabond Tales: How Traveling Helps You Realize You Look Weird

When I was 4 years old I had my picture taken by a large group of Japanese tourists.

While this in and of itself is slightly strange, the curious part of the story is where it happened. I was seated with my family – mom, dad, and infant baby sister – while casually enjoying a lunch of hot dogs on the lawn of the Washington Monument.

Having exhausted whatever amount of historical appreciation you can muster out of a scraggly-haired child, we had taken to more leisurely pursuits such as having a picnic on the grassy lawn. Ketchup packets were opened, a blanket was laid out, and mustard-stained fingertips clutched bright red Coke cans as we washed down the average hot dogs.

Nothing special about this situation at all. Just a family enjoying a casual lunch on a summer day in the nation's capital.

For some, however, that scene evidently wasn't so normal. To a gaggle of camera-toting Japanese tourists engaged in a tour of Washington D.C., we were apparently something more. Perhaps it was Yoshi who had the thought first, and he subsequently told Shigeki who told Yuuki that there was one more sight they still hadn't photographed.

Lenses were pointed, flashbulbs popped, and a chorus of "oohs," "aahs," and "hai!" percolated through the curious mob. Eventually, the perplexed look on my father's face prompted one of them to reveal their fascination.

With a nervous smile and an awkward half-bow, one of the tourists let us in on their sudden fixation:

"You are, American family, yes?"

Apparently, right there beneath the spire of the Washington Monument, our troupe of four civilians had been mistaken for an official exhibit of a hot dog-eating, Coke-drinking, blanket-sitting, American family. To us, this was a normal thing to do. To the Japanese tourists, however, this was worthy of six-dozen photos.

Vagabond Tales: Welcome To Portland, Strip Club Capital USA

As I squeeze the last bits of orange garnish into my pint of Blue Moon, a man to my left is having his nostrils plugged by a gyrating set of female genitals.

Releasing him from the flesh cave, the attractive blonde stripper – to the immense enjoyment of the sophomoric and semi-erect set of friends he's brought with him – suddenly doubles around and stiffly slaps a hand across his clean shaven face. This is my fourth strip club of the night, and even I didn't see that coming. It's all part of her shtick, however, and from the look of things the two are no more than 10 minutes from a trip to a private room.

No, this isn't some testosterone fueled frat party, it's just another night out in Portland, Oregon, strip club capital USA.

Despite the fact that this northwestern city is lauded for its microbrews, coffee and eco-friendly public transport, believe it or not, Portland is also home to more strip clubs per capita than any other city in America. Not Las Vegas. Not Detroit. Portland.

So just like the brilliant minds that put together Strip City, the documentary featured above, I, too, came to Portland on a mission to try and find out what it is that keeps the city so excessively nude.

Airline Gives Away Surprise Christmas Presents In Baggage Claim

Airport baggage claims are very strange places. Industrial, drab, and rarely decorated, they are metal cauldrons of human emotion.

One the one hand, you have happy families reuniting with each other where shrieks, hugs, and the occasional "I'm going to briefly straddle you in public and disguise it as a hug" move are common practice. Then, on the other hand, you have weary travelers running on three hours of sleep who find themselves dealing with airline agents who are filing claims for luggage that has simply up and vanished. In few places do so much joy and so much despair exist beneath the same roof.

In the middle of the baggage claim, however, are the rest of us who haven't yet received a hug, yet also haven't received our bags. With one eye scanning the crowd for our welcoming party, and the other nervously watching the luggage belt, it's as if hundreds of people are emotionally stuck in neutral.

Which is why we found it so entertaining that Brussels Airlines in a recent holiday stunt decided to take a few passengers out of neutral and instead put them into drive. Placing a present amidst the baggage and openly disguising it as a free gift, all that was required for someone to claim the prize was simply to reach down and examine the present.

This, however, is not a natural thing to do. With airport security loudspeakers constantly warning us of unaccompanied luggage, this is in some ways akin to a windowless van with a sign that says "free candy". Nevertheless, a few lucky passengers decided to test their better judgement and pick up the package.

The result? Two free tickets to anywhere within Europe. A Merry Christmas indeed!

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