Do you have what it takes to Step Into the Void?

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Employees at “Step into the Void” 

On the top terrace of the Aiguille du Midi mountain peak, high up in the French Alps,  overlooking Chamonix, stands a five-sided glass structure named “Step into the Void.”  Inspired by the Grand Canyon’s glass-skywalk, the Chamonix glass room takes things to an entirely new level – the Void!.  Rather than looking over a railing, here guests stand 3,396 feet in a completely glass box,  hanging over the valley below.

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During Construction of “Step into the Void.”
Photography Compagnie du Mont-Blanc Chamonix

“Step into the Void” is made of three glass walls, a glass floor and glass ceiling panels,  offering spectators the opportunity to manage, their vertigo and experience “space,”  all while admiring the outrageous views from a rather dramatic perspective.

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Chamonix ‘Step into the Void’ – architect’s design. Credit Compagnie du Mont-Blanc Chamonix

Safety is clearly of utmost importance.  Each of the glass panels is custom built,  12mm thick, and consist of three layers of glass that have been bound together. According to creators, the structure can withstand winds of more than 220km/ h and a maximum temperature of 60° so a few humans hanging in the room aren’t too much stress on the structure.

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Credit Compagnie du Mont-Blanc Chamonix

Designed by Pierre-Yves Chays,  “Step into the Void”  is reached by The Aiguille du Midi cable car. The summit of Aiguille du Midi is the closest point you get to Mont-Blanc without climbing it.   The  Aiguille du Midi is the starting point for the ascent of Mont-Blanc to the Three-Mont-Blanc Route and many other sports such as off piste skiing in the winter season, or hiking, and paragliding in the summer and autumn seasons.

Brave enough to “Step into the Void”?  Visit Compagnie du Mont Blanc and make your plans to visit Chamonix, France.

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Beautiful Big Sur “OFF THE GRID” Vacation Rental is not for sissies!

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Photography thanks to Richard Wagnoe of Big Sur

Richard Wagnoe operates a salvage lumber mill for reclaimed redwoods in the hills of Big Sur, California. When mill workers aren’t staying in the trailers, that dot the land, Richard rents them to adventurers.

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Photograph thanks to Richard Wagnoe of Big Sur

Travelers to his 54 acres are immediately immersed in nature and surrounded by the elements –  the beautiful landscape,  water, gorgeous views, cool nights, and the fog that rolls in at different times of the day.  “This is a place for people looking to get  lost in nature,” says Richard.  “It’s pretty rugged – not quite as luxurious as a hotel however not quite like ruffing it camping. ”

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These off-the-grid accommodations are for those souls seeking an eco-adventure that begins when you meet Richard – at the gate to his property, from where you will travel up a rugged driveway terrain to your secluded destination.

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Your car will be left at the property gate – “so pack light” he says, because while the walk to your car from where you are staying is just 5 minutes,  going back to your abode, will be a lot tougher, as the climb is steep.

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=Plan on arriving in the afternoon, before sunset, as there are no lights on the roads.   This is a requirement as the road is impassable at night.  There are no exceptions.  Arrive late and no one will be at the gate to meet you.

5 “Big Sur Cabins For Rent is NOT for sissies. Off the Grid – is just that,” says Richard. “The restored trailers are warm, dry and lovingly restored. You’ll experience luxury views,  sleep on high thread count sheets,  get to choose whether to shower indoors or outdoors,  and enjoy the beautiful bath house with its luxurious amenities.”

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Richard has lived in the wilds of Big Sur & off-grid since 1991.  He is a shepherd to this land.  By trade a master, Richard is a stone mason, builder, carpenter and skilled horticulturalist.    Visit and you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.   The terraces, he has built to the fresh fruits and vegetables that he has planted on the land.

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Photograph thanks to Richard Wagnoe of Big Sur

 And when you depart,  as all must,  perhaps you’ll leave feeling the way Richard does about this spot:

“…the place [he has] come to love and create are gracious spacious and comfortable. A hot shower – or bath – overlooking an incredible view a place to cook an amazing meal, a warm, dry, quiet and peaceful place to sleep.”

Richard has placed the trailers with Privacy, Ocean Views and Natural Beauty in mind and is “offering you the chance to experience the magic of the land.”

For more information please visit: Richard’s website.

Vacation off the grid in an “Earthship.”

“For 35 years Architect Michael Reynolds has been experimenting with radically sustainable living in New Mexico’s desert…. he believes that progress evolves through making mistakes…but not everyone sees it his way.”

~ Garbage Warrior

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When it comes to the planet, renegade architect Michael Reynolds,  believes that humanity is like “herd of buffalo and stampeding  toward a 1,000 foot drop-off,  and … we are just running off the edge….and he’s not going down that way.”   To Reynolds this is not an option.

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“We know that in the future we are rendering this planet….uninhabitable” says Reynolds.  So he’s dedicated his life to devising methods of living that allows us the ability to take care of ourselves.

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Photos thanks to Earthship Biotecture

Known as Earthships,  Reynolds’ homes take “every aspect of life and put it into your own hands.”  His buildings are made of natural and recycled materials  – including earth-filled tires, beer cans and water bottles.

Each is designed to work as autonomous building, and off-the-grid to minimize reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels.    Based out of Taos, New Mexico, Reynolds’ “Earthship Biotecture”  has created a self-sufficient, off-the-grid community where design and function seem to converge in eco-harmony.

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Photos thanks to Earthship Biotecture

Today,  after much battle with the law, Reynolds’ Earthships are “taking flight” and inspiring people around the world to do the same.  Reynolds’ is sharing what he has learned through sessions, offered at his Earthship Academy, where he instructs people on “an owner builder approach to creating self-sufficient Earthships and Earthship communities.”

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Photos thanks to Earthship Biotecture

Reynolds is also spreading the word by offering anyone looking for an eye-opening vacation, the opportunity to stay in one of the most versatile and economical building designs in the world.

When you stay in an Earthships no luxury is given up.   Each is a fully furnished homes with modern amenities that provide an experience of living in a sustainable home with Wifi Internet, TV, growing food, and the ultimate in green buildings.

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Photos thanks to Earthship Biotecture

This is one vacation where you will discover what it’s like to live in a carbon zero, sustainable, green building and an experience that is certain to change the way you view the need for a new approach to housing.

Pleas visit Earthship Biotecture to learn more about Earthships,  Michael Reynolds and his team at:

 website |   facebook | rentals

As you can guess, this hasn’t been a smooth journey for Reynolds.   The renegade with big ideas to save humanity during this journey has defied state standards resulting in much conflict with authorities.  For more on the story to get to where he is, watch the following  video, Garbage Warrior, and see how Reynolds and his crew have attempted to work with authorities in anyway that they can to ensure that they lend their pioneering skills to ensure that we don’t go off that cliff.

The “Onion House” – a Kona home inspired by a dream to live in a work of art.

Artist Beth McCormick at play.   Photograph from OnionHouseHawii.com

Artist Beth McCormick at play. Photograph from OnionHouseHawii.com

“The Onion House was a combination of two people who had a passion — my aunt’s passion for Hawaiiana tradition and Ken Kellogg’s passion for creating structures that placed living spaces in harmony with nature.”

                                                                                         — Beth McCormick

The year was 1959 and Elizabeth Von Beck,  known as Auntie Dofeen – had a dream of living in a work of art.   So when Auntie Dofeen met Ken Kellog she “met someone who was like a kindred spirit” and the two of them created what became known as the “Onion House.”

Hand built by Kellog, today the “Onion House” is a landmark in the organic architecture movement, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a philosophy of architecture that promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world through design approaches that are so highly sympathetic and well integrated with the environment, that buildings, interiors, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

According to Beth McCormick,  Auntie Dofeen’s niece,  the home at the time of construction caused quite a controversy amongst the local residents of Kona, who couldn’t appreciate the strange design.  So when a woman was overhead saying, “The damned thing looks like an onion!,” it was given the most appropriate name – made even more so by the fact that the house was, in part,  financed by the sale of dehydrated onions, as Auntie Dofeen so happened to be the niece of the founder of McCormick spice company.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

“The house was as outrageous as it is now,” says Beth McCormick.  Kendrick Kellog wanted to create a “true Hawaiin house” where the residents could “live with nature.”   Kellog was inspired by the nature all around – as is seen from the palm trees, that were transformed into concrete arches over the fireplace to the lack of formal walls, made possible because of it’s location.  “The house … is designed for the weather of Hawaii on the Kona Coast, … [where] air temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees, all year long” says Kellog.  It, “takes advantage of the natural breezes that come from the ocean in the day and from the lava-laden mountains at night.  It was built for the joy of living in the tropics.”

True to the philosophy of organic architecture, while you’re inside the Onion House there is a sense that you aren’t inside at all – something that the artists working with Kellog wanted to and were able to achieve, by brilliantly capturing the beauty of the outside and pulling it inside using intricate and beautiful artwork.

It is the scalloped shaped domes, however,  that rise over the pool, and gardens, that define the house – and give it the “Onion” look.   And true to Aunt Dofeen’s desires,  living in the house is like being inside a work of art,  with the light during the day streaming through the  translucent arching roof panels and resulting in spectrums of colours splashing throughout the house.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

While inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was with the “Onion House” that Kellog rightly became known as an innovator of organic architecture – his work being described as “the Sydney Opera House meets Stonehenge.”

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Sadly, during the 1970s the house and gardens fell into a state of disrepair, as Auntie Dofeen and her friends, lived their care free lifestyle.   It was in 1984 that Beth stepped in, having been involved with the house from a young age, saved it from foreclouse and completely restored the home to its present day magnificence.   Her Auntie Dofeen passed in 1987,  leaving Beth and the Kona with a home that encapsulates her free-flowing,  soulful, nature.

It’s no surprise to Kellog that Beth is an artist.  He says that children that have grown up in many of his living spaces have gone on to become artists.   The Onion house has most certainly nurtured the growth of Beth’s unique art form of elaborate designs of luscious color that are executed in the shimmering palette of bird feathers.

Visit “The Art of Beth McCormick” and you’ll discover stunningly gorgeous feathered shields and sculpted porcelain masks that appear to come from an obscure and colorful civilization that has yet to exist.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Should you feel compelled and have the  desire to experience a vacation where you won’t want to leave you vacation home, and when you do, your soul will likely be forever transformed then contact onionhousehawaii.com for rental details.


Elegant African Manor Where Guests Include Stars & the Rothschild Giraffe

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If you have ever wanted to experience Africa then Giraffe Manor, near Nairobi, Kenya, belongs on your “bucket list.”

An elegant and graceful home, turned boutique accommodations, Giraffe Manor cares four its four-legged guests as much as human travelers that stay at this magnificent place.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor,  one of Nairobi’s most iconic historical buildings, was constructed in 1932 by Sir David Duncan and is reminiscent of the early days when Europeans ventured into East Africa.  In 1974 the Manor was purchased by Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock.   Shortly after the purchase Leslie-Melvilles learned that the only remaining Rothschild giraffes in Kenya were in danger due to a compulsory purchase by the Kenyan government of an 18,000-acre privately owned ranch at Soy, near Eldoret, which was their sole habitat.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

The Manor was already home to three wild bull giraffes, nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry,  Leslie-Melvilles decided to re-home one of the giraffes, an 8-foot-tall,  450-pound baby whom they named Daisy, and about whom Betty subsequently wrote the book “Raising Daisy Rothschild”, that was later turned into the move The Last Giraffe.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

Daisy was soon joined by another baby giraffe, Marlon, named after Marlon Brando, and since then the Manor, in conjunction with locations such as Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire, England, has run a breeding program to reintroduce the Rothschild giraffe into the wild to expand the gene pool.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

Fortunately for travelers wanting to experience the “real” Africa, it was in 1983 that Rick Anderson, Betty’s sonand his wife Bryony, moved into the Manor, and opened Giraffe Manor, a place where guests could feed the giraffes from their breakfast table, through the front door, and out of their bedroom window. The Manor has six bedrooms, one of which is furnished with the belongings of Karen Blixen, author of novel and 1985 movie “Out of Africa.”  All profits from the hotel go to furthering the charitable objectives of African Fund for Endangered Wildlife.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

The Manor has been home to other famed guests, aside from the Rothschild Giraffes, including  Mick Jagger, Walter Cronkite  Johnny Carson, Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain, as well as being the host to Richard Branson, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s London–Nairobi service in 2007. 

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

The buildings here resonate of the past,  yet while here you will be much in the now, when the herd of  Rothschild giraffe come by the mornings and evenings,  to mingle with guests before venturing back into the 140 acre sanctuary.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor offers guests many ways to interact with these magnificent animals – from comfortably relaxing in the the Manor’s sitting room while gazing out its large windows at the herd, to siting outside in the lawns, where you’ll have the opportunity to hand feed these friendly four-legged guests.

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Photograph thanks to Giraffe Manor

Ready for that once-in-a-lifetime adventure?   Connect with Giraffe Manor on the web at:

Website : Facebook

Go Ski & Be Happy

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Photograph by  joedesperado ©2012-2013

“Planning a skiing vacation? The sheer pleasure and excitement that humans experience on skis, a snowboard or other downhill mountain paraphernalia,  undoubtedly enhances one’s happiness, producing more serotonin than perhaps any pill can.    This is based on personal experience, hitting the slopes with buddies.  Funny, how science often proves, what we know to be true, as really true.

It’s official.  Plan your ski vacation now and, barring any unforeseen circumstance, you’ll increase your happiness levels, according to an article published  in Springer’s Journal called “Applied Research in Quality of Life” by Hyun-Woo Lee and colleagues from Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea.

According to the release dropped this week   “… even one-off skiing trips can give you a valuable boost in pleasure and well-being.”  So there’s no reason to delay your ski-vacation,  even it’s the only one you are planning this wintery season.

How wonderful is life when science and skiing cross paths and participants get an all-inclusive, paid snowboarding vacation,  in resorts in the French Alps,  Switzerland’s St. Moritz,  Zermatt or Davos,  Colorado’s  Aspen,  Vail, or   Copper Mountains, or perhaps Mt Baker, Washington …… ok… that’s not in the study, though,  can’t we dream of the places that “science meets pleasure. ”   Where we get to go on vacation to prove something that we already know.   The bottom line is clear.  If you want your family to love you and feel that real holiday spirit, then plan your ski vacation now.

A slightly more interesting perspective, or prospective ski study, would be to figure out the difference between what your mood level is from the time you get to the ski-lift,  reach the top of the mountain,  select the black diamond, or not,  and make your way down the slope to the bottom.

Perhaps all you need is your Jawbone or some other monitoring device to do this.   There seems to be no need for MRI’s or fancy scientific equipment.  Perhaps just a simple questionnaire or voice activated recording,  with geo-location capabilities, of course,  that triggers you with a complex question, such as “how are you feeling right this moment.”  Say or press  “1” for ecstasy  “2”  excited  “3”  fearful  “4”  happy  …..  You get the idea.

Any info. on how to apply for a scientific grant to do this study?  I’m in the mood to ski.   What about you?   Think about it.   Each run is always different.   Perhaps we can study ski resorts around the world,  run by run,  resort by resort,  and then do an overall comparison of where people experience the most happiness on each mountain. More specifically we can propose to identify exactly where on each slope we felt the happiest.   Was it in Copper, while in one of the bowls, or in Vail as we finished one of the long, wide runs of Riva Ridge, Born Free, Simba,Lodgepole, or Bear Tree? You got the picture.

One thing is certain,  as long as you make it down the run,  you always arrive at the base a lot happier than you were when your first got into the line to go up the mountain.   It’s after the run that eyes are sparkling,  smiles are bigger,  and there is an overall sense of feeling really good.   And isn’t that what vacations are about anyway?

So how many runs would it take to turn that frown into a smile?   Perhaps just visualizing the run could do it as you avoid any possible frost bite,  standing in line,  strained muscles,  and freak accidents.

Nah, that’s not living.    To live,  as an adult, and be truly happy and fulfilled requires us to turn to a more child like state. “Adult playfulness can influence people’s happiness, while activities and socially convening around a sporting activity such as skiing have positive psychological outcomes and contribute to overall well-being,” said Hyun-Woo Lee.   Just writing this article and thinking about skiing has put me in a better mood.

Now what if we studied the impact of who you went skiing with on your happiness level.  I mean, would it make a difference whether you took the run with a lover,  your spouse,  your entire family, or a group of friends.

Happy Trails! Oh, and Holidays from VacationDiggs!

Transformational Journeys | Part 1 : The Great Apes

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Source:  Volcanoes Safaris

Face it, most vacations are fun and exciting, though how many of your travels have truly transformed your life?
We’ve been discovering new destinations for decades now and want to share with you,  the first,  of what is a trip that will transform your life.

The Great Apes are a source of our fascination.   They are considered to be some of the most intelligent and socially organized animals.   Yet sadly Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are approximately 720  left throughout the world. They have little remaining natural habitat.   What is left is located in the stunningly beautiful, volcanic, mountainous regions of Rwanda and Uganda, Africa.

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Gorilla safaris are niche African safaris.  There are a few companies that specialize in them.   Only 8 people can visit a given gorilla family per day.  In Uganda, ten families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP.  Rwanda can also take 80 persons per day.  Ultimately that means 160 persons per day tacking the gorillas here.   Whatever company you select there’s little question that your time with the gorillas, will be one experience that you will carry with you for the remainder of your life.

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Volcanoes Safaris is one of the preeminent companies specializing in mountain gorilla tracking based around our eco-luxury lodges in Uganda and Rwanda.  The following amazing images are taken by Volcanoes Safaris and provide a glimpse into one the first in a series of transformational adventures.   Seeking a transformation, then visit Volcanoes Safaris, and reserve your adventure.

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“David Attenborough spoke about the need for support of conservation programs in his ‘Africa’ show, including the mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda. Support local efforts and visit these still endangered relatives of ours with Volcanoes Safaris all year round.”

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To find out more, visit  volcanoessafaris.com : Facebook :  Twitter : Pinterest : YouTube

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