Day 536 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Deflating the Balloon.


As we are about to land.

Just before our landing on the trailer.


After the landing on the trailer, they started to deflate the balloon.

They opened up the top, so the hot air would escape quickly, and Captain Mike’s dog, Maggie, decided to help by running around, carrying her leash, and just being happy to see her master.

It was really cute and a wonderful way to come “back to Earth” after this heavenly ride through the skies of Cappadoccia, Turkey.




Day 535 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Landing on a Trailer.


Another group watched as we flew over them.

Another group watched as we flew over them.


After Jill agreed to be my fiancee, the balloon ride was about over.

Captain Mike brought us down to the ground and then he said, “I’m gonna land it on the trailer.  It makes it easier for my crew.”

From what it sounds like, these guys work long hours, and Captain Mike is a really decent guy who tries to make their jobs a bit easier.

The balloon lifted up off the ground, and into the air, about 10 feet above the ground, and the crew used the ropes to maneuver it onto the trailer.

It was  a pretty cool way of ending our flight and seeing just how masterful Captain Mike was as a pilot.

He’s been flying for over 20 years and really has a calm and peaceful attitude, even if his nickname is “Mad Mike” because he likes getting so close to the Fairy Chimneys and trees (we actually brushed the top of one with the bottom of our gondola.  It was exciting!).

I have to say that it was probably one of the best moments of my life and I don’t think there is any other way that I would have asked Jill to marry me.

I also don’t think she would have preferred to be asked in any other way.

It will be a memory that will last our whole lives together and is a testament to how we want to live and travel for as long as we can.




Day 534 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, JILL SAID YES!!!!!!!!


Two become one.

Two become one.


As you know, Jill and I bought a ring for her yesterday.

She thought it was just a ring that would look nice and not mean anything more than something that would help us to remember our trip to Cappadoccia.

Little did she know that I had other plans for it.

I’m about as unromantic as they come.

Luckily, Jill is even less romantic than I am.

I was married once before and Jill has never been married.

I don’t think she had any expectations that she and I would marry, and instead, we’d just travel the world and live our lives together in an unmarried state.

As we were about 2/3 of the way done with our hot air balloon ride, I knew I needed to move quickly.

The noise from the fire heating the balloon made it difficult to have a long enough time, in silence, so that she could hear me ask her so I had to think quick.

I moved over to Captain Mike and said, “Is there a minute or two where it is silent so I can ask my girlfriend to marry me?”

He looked at me, nodded, and said, “I’ll let you know.”

About 10 minutes later, he said, “We are going to go a bit longer, I want to take you over this field.”

Then he looked at me, winked, and I knew what he was doing.

As we hovered over the field, I asked our new friend, Brent, to take my iPhone and video us.

He said, “What am I supposed to video?”

I responded, “Don’t worry.  Just focus on us for a bit.”

He started taping and I said,

“So, I met you 8 days before I came to China and you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with so…will you marry me?”

Obviously, she said yes.

By the way, the sounds you hear in the background are not Jill’s.  They are from Abby.  It cracks us up because it is so heartfelt and honest.  You can also hear Brent saying, “Oh my god!” as he films us.

Captain Mike tops it off by saying, “You said ‘yes?’  okay, now we can land and we don’t have to throw you out.  Congratulations!”

Brent told us, afterward, that “I was shaking I was so nervous.  I didn’t want to screw it up.”

I think Brent did an amazing job and I love that he caught us, Abby’s cute noises, Captain Mike, and the balloons in the background.  And all in 47 seconds.  They added so much to this perfect day.




Day 533 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Random Shots.


Jill and I had so many amazing shots of our flight on Butterfly Balloons that we decided just to publish a few of them without much commentary.

They speak for themselves.


Balloons over the valley.

Balloons over the valley.

Wide angle shot of the balloons.

Wide angle shot of the balloons.


One of my favorite shots.

One of my favorite shots.

A close up of a Fairy Chinmey and a small "home" inside it.

A close up of a Fairy Chinmey and a small “home” inside it.

Uchisar above the valley.

Uchisar above the valley.

Balloons and the valley.

Balloons and the valley.

Beautiful designs in the sand.

Beautiful designs in the sand.

Balloons and a major rock formation.

Balloons and a major rock formation.

Another rock formation and balloons.

Another rock formation and balloons.

More balloons in the valley.

More balloons in the valley.

As our journey gets closer to an end.

As our journey gets closer to an end.

Balloons in front of the sun.

Balloons in front of the sun.


Day 532 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Into The Valley.


Close up of two very happy people!

Close up of two very happy people!


Jill, the crew, and I dropped into another valley.

Captain Mike wanted to show us a bunch of homes that were built into the valley walls.

We were blown away, once again, by the sheer ability of humans to survive in any type of environment.

People lived in these homes for hundreds of years, to escape persecution either from the Christians or from the Muslims, depending on their beliefs and the beliefs of their attackers.

It is sad to say that this is the main reason that these people lived in these amazing homes, but it seems to be.

I wish that religion, or beliefs of any type, would be more open to other ways of thinking and being able to see different perspectives so that we can get along more easily and see the good in each other.

I am saddened to imagine the fear, hatred, and mistrust that was held, for hundreds of years, because of people believing in a different belief or ideal.

It still happens today, and it still saddens me.

I can only do a small part of changing this way of thinking and that is another reason I travel: I want people to see that I’m not like anyone else and I want to see that they are individuals also.

We are each unique, in our own way, and yet tied to humanity.

When we touch that humanity, we allow our circle of community to grow larger and break stereotypes that hold us back from connecting to each other and seeing how we can influence each other and make the world a better place to live.

At least, in my humble little way, that is what I’m trying to do each day.



Day 530 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Fairy Chimneys.


Fairy Chimneys.

Fairy Chimneys.


After watching the sunrise, the balloon went straight up, as high as they could take us.

It was fantastic to look out from our gondola and just see the land below us.

After descending, Captain Mike took us into one of the one of valleys that was full of Fairy Chimneys.

Again, we were overcome with the amazing beauty of nature.

The Fairy Chimneys were massive and there was a silence in the morning, that was only really broken by the fire from the hot air balloon being heated and a few of us talking, in hushed tones, about the wonders we were experiencing.

I wonder, now, what kind of thrill, if any, Captain Mike, has as he guides the balloon through the valleys and across the plains?  I have a feeling, from watching him as he looked out, he still loves it deeply.  He also has a great sense of humor and was able to show his joy by his comments and by pointing out things we might have missed because we were trying to see so much at once.

I can’t imagine how amazing it must be, day after day, to be able to take people up in balloons, see this amazing landscape, and share that with people that see it for the first time.

It has me now interested in learning how to fly a balloon, or a plane, for the first time in my life.

My mom, by the way, just started shaking her head, “No” and telling her husband, “Phillip,  why does my son do this to me?”



Day 529 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Sunrise.


Peace and beauty.

Peace and beauty.


Jill, our whole crew, and I were anxiously waiting to see the sunrise.

We were not disappointed.

It seems to take a very long time to break through and each second was precious.

As the light shifted, we kept being amazed, and stunned, by the colors that would appear in the sky.

You could actually see the sun’s rays changing and cutting through the haze as it broke over the horizon.

There as a beautiful silence, and awe, that everyone in the balloon seemed to experience together and it was great being able to appreciate this sight with them.

There is something about traveling, and this seems to happen more when we are traveling, where you are in a group, and you all experience an amazing event together, that makes it more powerful.

Even if no one speaks or talks about it, it seems to have a hold over everyone and the honor of being there, with other people, to experience this kind of magical event, even if it happens every day, is “once in a life time” for that certain group, and for me.

It is just another reason I love to travel and see the world.

I want to see what I can see, and experience as much as I can, before I leave this mortal coil.

I’m 45 and who knows how long I’ll have now.

I have often asked my clients, “If you were to walk out the door, get hit by a bus and die, what do you want on your gravestone?”

This may sound shocking, and that is my intention, because I want them to realize they have a chance, at this moment, to change their life.

Each client has their own answer.


I want to have seen all 7 continents, to have seen the 7 wonders of the world, and to have shared them all with Jill.



Day 528 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Lift Off!


Up, up, and away!

Up, up, and away!

Jill and I, and our closest 15 other friends, climbed into the gondola and got ready for our lift off.

The gondola is basically a massive, woven material, box that we stand inside of and watch the world below us as we fly through the air.

It is set up like an oblong grid with 2 sections on each side for 4 passengers each and then one section in the middle for only the pilot.  It blocked off so people can’t move from one side to the other since that would unbalance the load and make it very dangerous for everyone involved.

Our cabin mates were Abby and Brent.   They were also from the USA, but not via China, and Abby was about to start her graduate schooling at University of Texas, Austin in psychology so it was a perfect match!  Both were incredibly nice and friendly and we enjoyed spending our time with them.

We talked to Mike, our captain, a little bit as he was getting ready and then pretty much stopped speaking when we took off because we were so enraptured by the scenes that were pretty much didn’t speak a lot on the flight.

As you can see from the video, almost everyone else was quiet and stunned by the beauty of what we were experiencing.

At this point, we were only over the flats so we had no idea what really lay ahead of us.  We had watched a few videos on what other people had experienced but it is nothing like the real thing.

That includes my video and what you will see by my pictures.  This truly needs to be seen, and experienced, live and in person.




Day 527 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Wake up.


From our plateau, we could see the other balloons taking off and lighting up.

From our plateau, we could see the other balloons taking off and lighting up.


Jill and I woke up 3:30 AM.

Let me repeat that: 3:30 AM wake up time.

Or, as my step-dad would say, “0 dark thirty.”

We got dressed, met the van at our door, and stopped to pick up a few other passengers, and arrived at Butterfly Balloons after about 10 minutes.

They checked us in, showed us to a sitting room that had a breakfast buffet set up, and we sat down.

We met a couple on their honeymoon, from NYC, who were both traveling the world and enjoying themselves.

Shin and John were going to many different countries and were a great couple to talk to while we were waking up.  They both had quit their jobs and just decided to live their dreams for a while.

Sadly, they weren’t in our group so we said goodbye to them as we loaded into the van to go to our balloon.

We drove to the site and hopped out.

It was a gorgeous morning with only a bit of haze on the horizon.

As the balloons were being inflated, we met a couple that would be flying with us, Abby and Brent, and just enjoyed waking up to see such a magnificent view and realized how lucky we were to be alive.