The Atacama desert is one of the most stunning places on earth. In two days we saw pastel ombre mineral mountains, glittering rock face, dancing flamingos, salt-flats with neon blue water, active volcanoes, llamas with neon pink fertility adornments, velvety chocolate covered hills, golden fields of desert grass, roaming peacocks, donkeys and more. Here I am, in a crevasse in the Valle de Arcoiris. Thank you to our guide, Hegel for helping out, and big shout out to nature for making such epic places.
Photo magic by Kenneth Kao. How do you do it?
The first time I went to Hawaii, I was 4. When my parents told me we were going, I started crying. I wailed, 'I'm not going! I don't want to die’. I locked myself in my bedroom in protest.
I. Was. Not. Going.
We'd been watching nature TV (whatever the 1987 version was), and I saw a feature on Hawaii's volcanoes. As I understood it, Hawaii was covered in fiery death mountains, and anyone who went there was sure to burn alive.
My young attempts at autonomy were (luckily) foiled, and I was gifted with the most vivid memories of my childhood.
I remember feeling tropical air kiss my skin for the first time as I breached the airplane's exit. At the end of the mobile stairway, there was a line of locals there. They placed an orchid and plumeria lei around my neck. I'd never smelled flowers so sweet. Within the first 60 seconds, I was transformed.
Mom bought me a hula skirt with a red floral bikini top. I wore it over my tighty whities every minute of our visit. Droves of strangers complimented me. People loved the uninhibited costume and panty-rocking, I suppose.
I snorkeled for the first time in Hanauma Bay, saw Polynesian fire dance at a Luau, and wove palm fronds. I learned new words: 'mahalo', 'mahi-mahi', 'kahuna'. I learned about why Pele would not approve of me taking home a rock. It was delightfully different than Charlottesville, Virginia, where we lived at the time.
We even flew right over a spewing, glowing volcano in a helicopter. The extreme heat cooked my feet, but it didn't bother me at all when I was there.
The memories lack-chronology but there are full of color and sensation.
Coming back 31 years later has been very impactful.
POLE NINJA PHOTOGRAPHY put together an incredible multimedia recap of our adventures in Romania.
My most recent tour included a few spots I’ve dreamed of for a long time. One of the most memorable was the Dead Sea. It truly exceeded my expectations. I'd heard things like, “It doesn’t look like much," so I was expecting a big muddy lake/sea that you float really well in.
But WHOA. The colors of the place were divine. The air was perfect. Not only did I float, I felt like a baby seal --I ’ve never been so slimy, in a good way. For days after, my skin felt like I was 4 years old.
Plus, there was no one else there. We first went in Israel and said, “We have to go back.” So we did, in Jordan. And this time, I was prepared for a shoot.
I haven’t told many people this….but, I’m on my last pole tour right now. Since 2011, I’ve spent between 5-10 months a year traveling the world teaching and judging, and it’s coming to an end.
I’ve taught now in 42 countries (and visited plenty more). This still blows my mind. Because videos of me dancing have been seen around the world, I was asked to go to these places. I am absolutely humbled. People all over the world welcomed and took care of me. For the rest of my life, I will retain that following the thought “I should get a pole” was one of the best little decisions I ever made.
I’ve been to the Catacombs of Paris museum twice. When it comes to cities, my favorite type of tourism is dark tourism. I like to see where the dreadful went down. And visiting a place that housed 7 million diseased bodies is pretty surreal. On the tour you learn that in fact these tunnels run all throughout Paris. Where there are buildings, there are underground reinforcements to prevent collapses. They don’t tell you about the illegal underground parties, war bunkers, breweries, movie rooms and communities. But they exist…
If I could gather everyone I know, and share one place with them, it would be the City Museum, St Louis, MO. I would take you there because it's a model for how art, play, learning, and challenge can convene in a single place. This place shows how the comforts and conveniences of our structures and systems have ruined our fitness and creativity. There are interactive exhibits of 50s nostalgia, a big ol' bug collection, a massive cave network, a tree climbing/crawling network, huge multi-story slides, urban archeology zones, epic contemporary sculptures, rooms that are self-playing instruments, human hamster tunnels and so much more. There is a circus school INSIDE where the kids get the chance to perform several times a day. At City Museum, the artists have run wild with what seems like little concern for 'safety' (I'm not talking about legitimate dangers, but the type of fear that conditions parents, leaders, and law enforcement to tell us not to climb, explore, and challenge convention). In no other museum have I laughed, sweated, cried, and used every possible primal pattern just to get around.
I want airports with open spaces and monkey bars, floor seating options in all restaurants and places like the city museum all over the world.
A few days ago we drove from Austria to Slovenia. We passed a beautiful lake and decided to take a photo. I didn't have the right outfit so I settled for a piece of red silk. I carefully walked into icy the water and waited to get the shot set-up. This is when I learned that silk floats and is water repellant (at least this silk is...). The result looks like I'm sitting on glass.
The best museum in the world hosts countless physical challenges. From climbing to crawling, and sliding to balance challenges, the City Museum, St Louis, MO is one of my favorite places in the entire world. Really. It is an interactive art exhibit/fantasy world with 50's memorabilia and insect collections. It's housed in a giant repurposed old building that forces you to explore numerous primal movement patterns just to get around. IT IS THE BEST.
For only a few days a year the trees in mountainous Colorado turn yellow. For a few minutes, I too turned yellow.