Kelly Gerstbacher


Kelly Gerstbacher

I'm a native to San Francisco who loves, loves, loves to travel. My job as a program coordinator for a nonprofit education research agency fills the pocketbook and my Master's degrees in Dream Studies and Consciousness fill the soul. My goal is to create a job that lets me explore the world of dreams while exploring the Earth.

Oceans and Seas » Pacific May 2nd 2012

A lot of people have asked me what it is like to travel around the world on a ship so I have pulled together some random thoughts on the matter. There are approximately 650 students, from gap year students through graduating seniors; 100 or so faculty and staff from well known institutions like Princeton, Cornell, Stanford and the like to small, to obscure schools that no one outside of the local community has ever heard of; around 50 children ages 2 through 17 who are traveling with their faculty or staff parents; and 150 members of the crew, most of whom we never see. Our vessel is 590 feet long, which means that no matter how hard you try, you can’t get very far away from anyone. We have only a handful of communal spaces – ... read more
my office
the view at dinner
another dinner shot

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap April 19th 2012

Angkor Wat, thought to be the largest Hindu temple in the world, was built in the early 12thcentury by the king of Cambodia. It took 100,000 people 30 years to build it. It took 7 years just to bring the sandstone from the mountains to the site. When the king subsequently moved the capital to Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat was forgotten and over time was completely engulfed in jungle. In 1861 it was “discovered” by the French and the jungle was pushed back to reveal the magnificent temple. (It is rumored that the Cambodians knew of the temple all along, with settlements that flourished in the jungle surrounding the temple for several hundred years, they just choose not to talk about it with outsiders). Angkor Thom, younger than Angkor Wat by about a century, is a ... read more
Apsaras (exotic dancers holding lotus flowers) cover the temple
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Bayon Temple

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City April 8th 2012

Having lived thirty-five years so far, all of them in one city or another, I am fairly confident about my street crossing skills. And although I haven’t been all over the world, I have seen a bit of it and have had to cross the street in just about all of the places I have been in my life. And yet, each and every time I went to cross the street in Ho Chi Minh City I had to give myself a little pep talk and take a deep breath before stepping off the curb. One crosses many streets while a tourist in a new city, and regardless of the number of times I did it successfully, right before I took that first step I grappled with a fear of not making it to the other ... read more

Asia » Singapore March 30th 2012

More often than not when popular culture looks to the future it is a grim tale of a civilization heading downhill quickly. People today are inundated with stories of lack of vital resources like food, water and living space. There is a generally felt race to figure out how to ward off the many disasters that await our species. There isn’t much attention put on the many ways communities are being innovative and maximizing resources. After 7 countries where we were adamantly warned not to drink or brush our teeth with the water or eat food from street vendors, and be wary of just about anything and everything we come into contact with, we approach Singapore. As if in a dream, we are encouraged to take the subway, are told it is safe to walk alone ... read more
Subway Sign
Subway Stops
Cool Building

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi March 19th 2012

Varanasi, the religious capital of Hinduism, is possibly the oldest living city in the world. We arrive just in time to witness the Ganga Aarti or “Offering Prayer to the Ganges,” a ritual performed every night on the banks of the Ganges River. The Bazaar that lines both sides of the street leading to the Dasaswamedh Ghat where the prayer takes place each night is hopping with activity. Often referred to simply as the evening prayer or dinner prayer, many people come out to participate in the prayer service and thus the merchants are all still open in the hopes of making their last sales of the day to the people attending. Our large bus can’t navigate the narrow streets of the bazaar safely so we are dropped off a ways away and we take rickshaws ... read more
Sunrise on the Ganges
Sunrise prayers
Flowers for the morning offerings

The racial tension in South Africa is palpable. I guess it is understandable given that Apartheid ended only 18 years ago, however I wasn’t prepared for the blatant racism I experienced. Expecting them to get over their racism and come together as a united community in the short time after such a horrific past seems not only unlikely but also unfair – they are, after all, only human. And yet, I found myself feeling frustrated and angry at the way people spoke to each other and the way they responded to me based on the color of my skin. Other whites seemed to assume I was also racist and spoke to me thus, most blacks and coloreds seemed to assume I was racist because I was white and for the most part shied away from conversations ... read more
Table Mountain During the Day
Cape Town from the Top of Table Mountain

Africa » Ghana » Greater Accra » Accra February 29th 2012

The road from Tema to Accra is only 18 km, however, the traffic is so bad that it takes between 1.5-2 hours to get to the capital. The road is being widened; the Chinese have given money for infrastructure building in Ghana. But the project moves slowly, as much a product of corruption as it is limited resources. Tro-tros, pick up and drop off travelers along the way, a cheaper means of travel, and one we should have considered for this adventure had we known we would all be sitting in gridlock for as long as we are. A taxi didn't turn out to be the time saver we had expected. Sitting in our taxi, we move so slowly that our driver periodically turns the engine off to save gas. He pulls over and pees at ... read more
Putting the FUN back in funeral
Soccer alongside a trash heap

Africa » Ghana » Central » Cape Coast February 23rd 2012

Words can’t describe day three in Ghana. Others that had made this pilgrimage in the first two days in country came back looking shell-shocked so we all knew what was coming. Unlike the rest of our car rides, this one is virtually silent. We arrive at the first of two stops: Cape Coast Castle. A large, white washed complex accented with black shutters on the windows and black cannons standing guard for a threat long forgotten. There is an eerie silence to this place despite the bustling fishing community outside its doors. Our guide takes us first to the Male Dungeon, a complex of 5 rooms in near darkness. He leads us into the first chamber, closes the door behind us and turns out the modern light that has been added for the convenience and comfort ... read more

Africa » Ghana » Ashanti » Kumasi February 19th 2012

The Central Market in Kumasi is the largest market in all of Western Africa. With approximately 12,000 vendors within a 20-block radius one can find just about anything. There are recycling sections where new uses are found for scrap metals. Small, hot shacks where half a dozen men are making shoes or sewing children’s uniforms. Further down the narrow maze of alleyways that make up the market, there are sections of beads, music, house wares, clothes, food… it goes on and on, anything you want you can find in this market. And one’s choices for any given thing are extensive. You can take your pick from dozens of vendors all selling similar if not the same items. As I navigate the narrow, dusty walkways between the stalls, stopping to take a closer look at this or ... read more
bird's eye view of the market
a local shoe maker

South America » Brazil » Amazonas » Manaus February 10th 2012

Four days after leaving the Caribbean, the water starts to turn a tanish brown, a sign that we have arrived in the Amazon. The waters begin to calm a bit, though no land is in sight in any direction. With over 500 tributaries and over 50 miles wide in places, the Amazon is the largest river in the world. One must not mistake the color of the water for pollution, the logical assumption one would make when seeing a river of such a color. The Solimões River, one of the rivers that make up the Amazon, gets its color from its mineral content. It will take us 3 days to reach the city of Manaus. As we navigate this mighty river we can occasionally see land, a lush green color dense with rainforest. Entire tree trunks ... read more
The Muddied Waters of the Amazon
A Liquor Store Goddess
Teatro Amazonas (the opera house)

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