I started reading this book on my parents' couch and ended it while sipping a freddo latte and eavesdropping on a spirited conversation in Greek, having traversed the very globe whose projections I was studying. Upon flipping to the Acknowledgements page, I returned to the start, hoping that the book magically transformed into part 2 of itself. But alas, I am only left with a deeper admiration for cartography, a better understanding of the accessories of my life, and an awareness of the things that evoke my cherished memories and imagination.Read More
The more wonderful people and places I encounter, the more difficult choosing causes becomes for me, and I can understand that you might as well find difficulty in extending much of yourself to this cause with so many other things begging for your support. That's why I hope it feels entirely doable to you to simply follow them on Facebook and begin your engagement there. A message, a photo, or a "like" could be just the encouragement they needed for the next step.Read More
In 2008, I learned about Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind from the father at my nannying job. Not one to chase fruitless endeavors, I knew he was recommending a quality read, especially since the recommendation came after the gushing of my worldview. Well, four and a half years and innumerable reminders later, I have finally checked this book off my "To Read" list. The following are the sections I highlighted and mused about in the margins, many of which I found to be unique sentences, others quite relevant to the constant questions I ponder at work.Read More
I became seduced by the world–and the freedom that television had given me–to travel it as I wished. I was also drunk on a new and exciting power to manipulate images and sound in order to tell stories, to make audiences feel about places I'd been the way I wanted them to feel.Read More
In a Sunburned Country and had me audibly exclaiming from his brutal descriptions of small-town life. In this book, Bill attempts to charge through the over 2,100 miles of mountainous footpath called the Appalachian Trail. This is probably as close as I'll come to tackling the trail myself, and through what vehicle would this vicarious journey be better than through the eyes of an underprepared 40+ year-old journalist and his even more underprepared, undermotivated, overweight, formerly alcoholic comrade.Read More
My reading comprehension is atrocious, my tracking snail-like. The only thing I remember from high school reading is Holden Caulfield's half-gray hair and his famous line with middle fingers extended toward his despised boarding school. I love to read, and I always have; I'm just not very good at it. And just as I would rather visit a new country than repeat an old one, I try not to re-read books I've tackled in the past. Though plots and anecdotes don't stick in my memory, my impression of the book always does. That's why I remember how much I loved Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel, so much so that I want it to be a part of Creative Arts class next term (did you know I've been teaching?). It's unique focus on literature and art history woven into personal travel anecdotes is seemingly undone by anyone else in this field. Alain verifies this in his book description:
Few things are as exciting as the idea of travelling somewhere else. But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams. The tragi-comic disappointments are well-known: the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins. And yet the reasons behind such disappointments are rarely explored.
We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so. The Art of Travel is a philosophical look at the ubiquitous but peculiar activity of travelling ‘for pleasure’, with thoughts on airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances, photographs, exotic carpets and the contents of hotel mini-bars. The book mixes personal thought with insights drawn from some of the great figures of the past. Unlike existing guidebooks on travel, it dares to ask what the point of travel might be - and modestly suggests how we could learn to be less silently and guiltily miserable on our journeys.
I welcomed its digestible 249 pages on this trip to Thailand, and now that I've finished my latest Bill Bryson adventure, I am diving back into The Art of Travel for both personal fulfillment and professional inspiration. I think this book may be the most accurate study of my constant state of mind. As I re-read this text, I will post favorite excerpts from each chapter, in hopes that this teaser turns more of you toward Alain and his brilliant musings. We don't need more people writing about logistics and tips; we need to start asking, "To what effect?"
If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest - in all its ardour and paradoxes - than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside of the constraints of work and of the struggle for survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems - that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical. We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or 'human flourishing'. p9
I evolve and mature faster through travel than I ever could while geographically isolated in Hoosier land. I attribute this to the extremes I routinely face on the road that level my demeanor: witnessing exorcisms, jumping out of planes, slow and inhumane cow and pig deaths, frantic scams involving highways, police, and 20 rickshaw drivers, walking through the slums of India, Haiti, and South Africa, and so on.
I often think about this writing genre and travel industry with confusion. How did we get to the point where top ten lists and logistics get us hot and bothered? I understand the value of SEO, but if a flash-packer is focused on targeting their audience with ad words while the world spins and gyrates around them, why do we not get slapped with that irony? Are we not on the hot pursuit of happiness, with documentation only dribbling out as the byproduct of micro-enlightenment? Doesn't it seem inevitable that industry-wide introspection will redirect us all to focus on the philosophical issues of travel? That is, after all, what consists of the vast majority of my conversations with travelers.
'I must have been suffering from some mental aberration to have rejected the visions of my obedient imagination and to have believed like any old ninny that it was necessary, interesting and useful to travel abroad.' p11
Alain quotes a fictional character, Duc des Esseintes from J.K. Huysmans's novel A Rebours, and uses this decadent literature to comment on the similarities in our current mental editing. Those details of experience left on the cutting room floor are those that indicate universal and location-independent realities: unattractive factories, litter, banal businesses, stray dogs, boring fields, people heading to office jobs. Duc didn't like seeing the moments that romantic painters omitted - didn't like seeing the truth that the Dutch countryside wasn't littered with milkmaids, windmills, and nothing else.
Today, we either use descriptive language to depict idyllic settings or complain that a location didn't meet our inflated expectations. Do we consider ourselves tour guides as travel bloggers with the power to recreate an experience for the sedentary? Do we think we share the abilities of the romantic painters? Or are we hoping to whet the palettes of potential travelers and facilitate their easy access to those points of philosophical inquiry? Are we just saying whatever will bring in a few ad dollars to sustain our own access to life-rocking experience?
If we are inclined to forget how much there is in the world besides that which we anticipate, then works of art are perhaps a little to blame, for in them we find at work the same process of simplification or selection as in the imagination. p13
When I read this quote, I immediately thought of my students at THINK Global School. I push for the arts to offer a language with which they can sort out their impressions, but they experience so much that it's difficult for them to focus on a main idea - or even one detail. They are overwhelmed with the prospect of editing and often leave out the most interesting facet. How does a teenager take a step back from an intense world travel education to find the most pivotal lesson in all of it?
These students have a unique opportunity to see the world, and because of this, they carry great responsibility as ambassadors. They are expected to share their experiences and constantly evolving world views. I wonder how deeply they think about the stories they tell, the illustrations of these experiences they create, and what sense of conflict or responsibility, if any, they feel regarding the simplification of these. The easy answer is probably not a lot, but with the proper leading questions, I think this would be an interesting discussion with a group unmatched in the whole world.
The anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress; they cut away the periods of boredom and direct our attention to critical moments, and thus, without either lying or embellishing, they lend to life a vividness and a coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present. p14
I have yet to encounter an observation more reflective of my career than this one. I spend the majority of my work time editing: cropping images, directing focus with lighting, cutting videos to impart one major lesson, and highlighting the most vivid and unique aspects of something to overshadow any pedestrian details akin to regular travels or lives. Especially with today's fleeting attention spans, I have to compress these moments into even smaller boxes. I take life and pick out the bits of meat and flavor, leaving the pixelated carcass to the hard drive birds.
The nature of this task forces constant inquiries like, "Why am I omitting this? Do I have a responsibility to portray this angle, and does it lend to a complete vision or story?" Yes, I produce marketing material, but I don't see it as such, most of the time.
Stories from the road have always been my way to reveal the familiar from unfamiliar locations. What gets me motivated today is making something that could provide exponential value in a way that expands minds. Though my actual audience could be miniscule, I take it as a responsibility to provide a realistic window and evoke a feeling or energy for the purpose of whittling down a bubble. How successful am I at accurately and powerfully portraying a moment? I need some focus group action to figure that out.
I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island. p19
If given the sentence starter, "I spend most of my time thinking about..." I follow it with, "...how I think too much." I could be in a beautiful location, far from my familiar cornfields and water towers, but I have a somewhat useful - though mostly unfortunate - ability to detach and let whatever category of emotions wreck and ravage my mood. And though I can fake it quite well - "Wow, can you believe how beautiful this is? I can't believe I'm here." - it takes a peak of extreme emotions to rattle me into the present, to allow my current thoughts and feelings to suffer complete abandonment, to let me see and appreciate a place detached from my human self.
After months of frustration and one last fight in Nakavika, Fiji, I collapsed on the steps of the school house around dusk. Garrett and I sat together silently, quite aware that this moment signaled the end of our efforts, and I felt all feeling drain from my mind and body. In that vulnerable breath post-sobbing, all words uttered and hyperventilation overcame, I noticed the golden setting sun was illuminating a monstrous moon in between the midnight-blue gap in green crags. Mist and wispy clouds thick with warm color connected the two extremes of our vision. It was the most beautiful moment we had ever witnessed, and it took a pinnacle of human emotion to reach that appreciation, to abandon the mental barriers that make us focus on the 'us' in every situation.
It seems we may be best able to inhabit a place when we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there. p23
If so, then I have a big job to do.
If I carry one book with me abroad, it is this one. Each chapter requires in-depth study and results in a brain steadily gaining awareness and understanding for travel and human nature. I'm eager to read your feedback below and help you through the rest of this book in the subsequent posts to come.
There are affiliate links in this post. I purchased this book.
Empire of Illusion came into my hands over a long dinner in Astoria. The carcass of a quality tapas spread and octopus massacre lay in between myself, a New York City civil servant, and an emergency room doctor. The combination of my background and recent experience prompt many big city people to ask questions about potential conflicts of thought, action, norms, etc. They are usually on point.Read More
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. -Robert Louis Stevenson
In the last two years, I read two books I found interesting (though not astounding) by two men with fetishes for movement. I found their stories ones I would only enjoy vicariously, but I definitely related to their desires to be on the road. Reading both of these at times I was myself on the move, maybe this is why they resonated.
Today, I wanted to highlight some of of their passages. Please welcome Che Guevara and Jack Kerouac.
Che Guevara on Movement
[The following are excerpts from Che's Motorcycle Diaries.]
It is there, in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon has always been tomorrow, that one comprehends the profound tragedy circumscribing the life of the proletariat the world over.
Before Ernesto (a.k.a. Che) was conducting guerilla warfare across Latin America, he was motoring across it as a spry 23 year-old with a passion to move. This passion, as I recall reading this on my Big Journey, was the catalyst for his narratives as well as their downfall. While some of his adventures were exciting and exotic, some of his daily jottings were as thrilling as, "We drove all day Tuesday and found a little place connected to a restaurant to crash for the night. The next day we got up and fixed La Poderosa and rode all day until we found another place to sleep." Riveting.
There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world.
The real appeal for me was the idea of jetting across an expansive and diverse continent like South America. He crossed the Andes, met up with the Amazon River, and drank his mate in between long excursions on the open road.
What we had in common - our restlessness, our impassioned spirits, and a love for the open road.
Ernesto blazed these numerous trails with his friend Alberto Granado, but unsurprisingly, he met many people along the way with which to relate his impulses. While on my own excursions, I've often pondered the connective thread between all wandering souls, and though I think it's got to be more detailed and profound than his above description, I think Che is onto something.
What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.
Are we that move the ones most lost or most in tune with the nomadic nature of man?
Jack Kerouac on Movement
[The following are excerpts from Jack's On The Road.]
We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time, move. (Part 2, Ch. 6)
This is word-jazz, a book that makes the classics list and calls for a straight-through reading session. This novel was more favorable to me when I read more pages in one sitting, because it has a flow, almost like reading Virginia Woolf for its realtime, stream of consciousness rhythm. Just as Jack rode stripes across the continent, he blazed through his own narrative, moving faster than his headlights.
Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see? (Part 2, Ch. 6)
I admire Kerouac’s drive to find an honest and original form of expression, just like Van Gogh. For me, that’s what makes this book a classic.
What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. (Part 2, Ch. 8 )
Reading this novel while on the World Traveler Intern, his descriptions like the one above made so much sense. I couldn't process the speed and activity of each day, but I kept leaning forward awaiting the next day. It was about a whirlwind, not the simple digestion of one experience.
They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there--and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see. (Part 3, Ch. 5)
Our battered suitcases were were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. (Part 3, Ch. 5)
Jack was impassioned by the constant change. I think my brain starts to trip around when I think of a stretch of road as symbolic of far more than the pavement ahead.
What's your road, man?--holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. (Part 4, Ch. 1)
Though Jack's antics and tendencies went against the accepted norm in America at the time, his passion to do so was very American of him, buzzing around the country "nutty with independence."
Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic. (Part 4, Ch. 5)
Any lasting thoughts from you on movement and the road? Are you a fan of movement for movement's sake, or are you the anti-Kerouac/Guevara? Does this method of living and traveling make little sense to you? Let's get conceptual here.
this book, come three or four chapters deep, wasn't yet rave-ish. David didn't write a travel narrative taking place in the hypermetropolis of Mexico City/Federal District (D.F.); he did something better than that. Working off twenty years of experience as an expat in Mexico's capital - as a journalist and, therefore, a well-informed observer of society - David describes this somewhat daunting land of 20+ million residents as THE example of the future of the urban future. We in America have no idea what's in store for our homes, that is unless we look deep into the essence and creation of the world's second largest metropolitan area.Read More
I'm at my Grandpa's 90th birthday today. It's a good day. Now let's learn about what's new in the travel and blog worlds.
Learning to Love the Digital Haters
I don't think I'm evolved enough to truly love those that go after my passionate pursuits, but Tim Ferriss makes some solid points on reactions, time efficiency, and dealing with criticism - both logical and rant-asical. Check out the following speech below (it's long but I watched it all and enjoyed it) or browse his ideas below:
The following list is paraphrased from Mashable's Tim Ferriss: 7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters
1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do. “It’s critical in social media, as in life, to have a clear objective and not to lose sight of that,” Ferriss says. He argues that if your objective is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people or to change the world in some small way (be it through a product or service), you only need to pick your first 1,000 fans — and carefully. “As long as you’re accomplishing your objectives, that 1,000 will lead to a cascading effect,” Ferriss explains. “The 10 million that don’t get it don’t matter.”
2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it. “Online I see people committing ’social media suicide’ all the time by one of two ways. Firstly by responding to all criticism, meaning you’re never going to find time to complete important milestones of your own, and by responding to things that don’t warrant a response.”
3. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.” - Colin Powell “That guarantees you’ll get more behavior you don’t want and less you do.”
4. “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” - Scott Boras The bigger your impact and the larger the ambition and scale of your project, the more negativity you’ll encounter.
5. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” - Epictetus "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
6. “Living well is the best revenge.” - George Herbert “The best way to counter-attack a hater is to make it blatantly obvious that their attack has had no impact on you."
7. Keep calm and carry on. “Focus on impact, not approval. If you believe you can change the world, which I hope you do, do what you believe is right and expect resistance and expect attackers.”
The Frustration Epiphanies
Evan has a good point. We travel with the expectation that the huge events we schedule reveal the most, move us to the climax of our emotions.
When we travel, we literally become different people. Stripped of our habits, routines and safe places, we are forced to meet the world as we are. The more we travel, the more accustomed we become to participating and thriving in the world because travel, by design, brings an openness of heart and a clarity of self. Some travelers have a spiritual fantasy of this new life, and it can include the clichéd vision that, despite all our cultural differences, we’re really “all one”...Unfortunately, when you’re traveling, this naïve view results in a lot of stolen wallets. But, more importantly, that’s not how the traveler’s transformation of consciousness really goes down.
In actuality, I feel the times I experience the iconic and stereotypically "awe-inspiring" are the times I'm less inspired. Riding 18 hours in an Indian sleeper car with the stomach flu, walking across Lusaka in the summer sun because I'm out of money for a taxi (or a hostel), mourning a separation with friends on the beach in Malawi - these moments are the ones when the most is revealed about myself and my displaced existence.
At what point in your travels do you experience the little epiphanies? When do you learn the most about yourself and the purpose of your movement? Do those moments of self-discovery usually occur simultaneously with itinerary highlights or when the frustrations take the limelight? Comment below and tell me what you think!
Traveling is Seeing
Joel scribed a great piece at Vagabonding this week, which felt more like inspired prose than a simple post on an impression of travel.
We travel also to see things that are not easy to see. The Egyptian man in Alexandria, for example, who walks past your cafe table selling kleenexes, his skeletal frame so disfigured that he walks with his torso almost parallel to the ground. His eyes meet yours and you exchange a smile, suddenly conscious of the dollar’s worth of lemon juice in your hand and the relatively great health along your own spine...
And sometimes we may even travel to catch our own reflection in a cracked and dirty mirror, not entirely sure for a moment what it is — or rather who it is — that we’re looking at. And perhaps later in the day, when we see our reflection not in glass but in the eyes and faces of our neighbors, we will have a moment of clarity about what and who we are.
This week, I've been especially aware of my own reasons for traveling, and Joel made me realize yet another on my list. I love being humbled by the constant stimulation while traveling. The exchange, the "you're on" sense from a live TV broadcast, the challenge to the self from the self and the world - it's all in the attempt to solidify your own essence and self-knowledge. I'm a fan of travel because it helps me see myself in a way that could only be alternately achieved by rapid time lapse into my future.
For your reading pleasure: The 11 Foreigners You Meet in China
An interesting viewpoint on Arizona's new immigration law: Que Lástima...
Makes you hungry and a little disgusted at the same time: Seven Essential Breakfasts for the World Traveler
Update on Nomadderwhere
This weekend I headed up to the Northern Indiana lakes for some friend time before my first ProjectExplorer adventure! Of all the things that I enjoy about the Midwest, it is this lake culture I miss the most when abroad and away from the comforts and rituals of home.
This week at Nomadderwhere (big week for Fiji narratives):
Self-Teaching New Skills: A triple video post helping you get inspired for your own video editing pursuits. Join the conversation!
The Flow of a Fijian Funeral: Watch this well-orchestrated event take place with a flow that matches the natural setting where it takes place.
The Danger of Not Processing the Bad: The first of three big occurrences that told us our project wasn't possible the way we imagined it.
The First and Last School Visit: Thanks to the timing of our trip, we only got a little school exposure, but it was fantastic...and we could have done so much, sadly.
The Hell-raising Fundraiser: A revealing post that describes the two finals straws that broke our Nakavika backs, a.k.a. the climax of the story.
Hardcore Brain Expansion: I'm happy to say I finished my read on Mexico City (which I recommend - review coming soon) in time for the big trip and am now working on The Lost Girls, the first and recently released narrative put out by the girls in charge of LostGirlsWorld.com. Hope I finish it before Saturday, because this bad boy is one thick travel read.
T minus 6 Days: On May 29th, I'll be on my way to New York City to meet my new boss for the first time. For a couple days, photo shoots and training sessions will be on the agenda, alongside meet-ups with my great friend, Garrett, before he heads to Malawi on his Peace Corps assignment! If you're in the NYC area next weekend and want to meet up, DM me on twitter or use my contact form!
Video/Online Property Update: You'll notice in the near future that I'm testing out a little Vimeo action. I've exclusively used Youtube for all my travel videos thus far, and even though I enjoy using that platform, I'd like to join the Vimeo community to see what works best for my work. Which video platform do you prefer, and why?
1 Minute or Less Moments: This week on my Nomadderwhere Facebook Fan Page, I've published raw video clips of some intimate funeral footage (because I think these are meaningful moments to give some perspective) and one of the children early on a school morning.
Today's post came out a bit late, but that is due to the high quality of work I found this week. I also have lots to share...
How's The List Coming?
Do you have a bucket or life list running? Are most of your goals doable, or are they unattainable? Don't you wish you had that gratifying feeling of accomplishment more often than once a year or so as you near your bucket-kicking age? Allow Jenn to make it easier for you.
101in365 is all about "avoiding mediocrity, one to-do list at a time." And though I know this contradicts a post I've listed below (see Other Discoveries), I love making and completing these mini-goals to reap that sense of accomplishment. Jenn's been expanding on this web concept for a while now, and has recently pumped it up to admirable heights, offering even more awesome!
What a Maroon--ed Novel...
Speaking of my 101in365 list, one of the goals is to read a classic book this year. And from the way I'm feeling these days, I'm thinking that classic novel will either be the Lord of the Flies or Robinson Crusoe, thanks to this lovely list that reminds me of my time in the South Pacific. Any opinions on a good classic novel to read this year?
Big Tony in Chicago
Apparently, Anthony Bourdain spoke in Chicago last week about all topics on which he's verbose: food, travel, TV, and just about anything that could conjure opinions. Prior to the talk, he spoke to the Chicago Tribune to drumroll his performance. The interview was food-centric and classic Big T, with a couple comments I found amusing:
The big takeaway from the first book [Kitchen Confidential] are the rules, like don't order seafood on Mondays. Any new rules in the years since?
"Kitchen Confidential" was about a career that took place mostly in the 70's through 90's. When I wrote "don't eat fish on Mondays," the guy writing it didn't think anyone outside New York City would even read the book.
Things have changed so much in the industry. The behavior in any good kitchen has changed a lot. Certainly the business still attracts the same kind of personality types, but a lot of the behavior I was talking about — snorting cocaine or having sex on the cutting board — would probably be frowned upon, particularly in open kitchens, which is a relatively new development. There's so much genuine hope for a real future in kitchens that didn't exist back in the early part of my career. An Irish pub on Monday, I'm not sure I'd go for a seafood salad. But I wouldn't have a problem at the sushi bar at Le Bernardin.
What would you do if you were given control of the Food Network? Let's say profits were no issue, and you had editorial and creative control of the network.
I'd bring back "Molto Mario" right away. I'd have Mario Batali do a standard instructional show that would be the cornerstone. I would make it more chef-centric, of course. I would make sure Sandra Lee was never allowed near any cooking utensil or food item. Immediately. I'd have a long talk with Rachael Ray. I'd say, "Look, Rachael, you're bigger than food now. You're in Oprah territory. You don't have to cook anymore. Move on."
The Molto Mario comment excited me, as I will actually get to dine in his restaurant in a month! No idea if he will be gracing us with his presence, but since he's on the creative council for ProjectExplorer, the possibility is out there!
Eyes on Cambodia
Nice snap, Gary. Speaking of Cambodia, my friend Cathleen is enjoying her last month in Phnom Penh after five months of developing her Fighting For Futures initiatives. It's truly a place that could suck you in and put you in a trance. Subtly lovely.
Some great ideas on how to develop products for your blog without a massive business plan
Also, a little help making your blog more experiential...a favorite buzz word of mine
And finally...thank you Amar for giving us 7 Steps toward scoring free travel from your blog
Update on Nomadderwhere
If you've made it thus far in this post, you're a trooper. I have a lot to tell you about my future plans for Nomadderwhere and for myself. I'll start by reviewing what went out this week:
This month's Question and Answer post on grooming for the World Traveler Internship - ways to prepare for next year.
The big news on my future plans and how I got the new travel gig...through my blog
A story on SCUBA diving in Fiji over the holidays
The final Nakavika Project video, which took place on the Yasawa Islands in Fiji
As always, plenty of daily photographs to satiate your eye candy needs
Prepare for the Onslaught: As you can tell, I'm all over the place with my postings. My schedule is odd, because it's important to me to publish various forms of content: video, written, photographic, as well as displaying the work of others.
I have roughly one month until I head to Mexico on my new job, and it's been said to read more current accounts from my travels is more thrilling than the flashbacks (like I'm doing with Fiji at the moment). And though I'll be incredibly busy in Mexico, I would like to attempt more real-time postings in my favored various media forms.
Therefore, I'll soon be amping up my written postings from The Nakavika Project, telling the elaborate tales more frequently in the week in order to fit it all in before the bulk of Mexico. I'll also be covering what I'm up to in present day while still offering timeless advice and perspectives on all things travel. The videos will become more current, expansive, and interactive.
This is going to be one ca-razy month!
1 Minute or Less Moments: This week on my Nomadderwhere Facebook Fan Page, I've published raw video clips of Garrett and I enjoying the Coral Coast on New Year's Eve.
Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost, which wears a title that simultaneously excites and annoys me. I've heard this Dutch/Canadian/American's books touch on "Look how funny I am," and I've also seen his coverage of the South Pacific make lists like "The Top 50 Travel Narratives."
I read his chapters on Fiji before I traveled there and read the entire book upon landing back in America. I am now fully prepared to go at these pages with a critical eye.Read More
One year after making my site official with its own domain name, my readership has grown to heights I hadn't anticipated. I'm thrilled to see people from many nations and states commenting on my work and inquiring about all things travel.
Without these additions to the dialogue, this site would consist of me shouting out to empty space and never really landing on any concrete points. Therefore, for the first time in Nomadderwhere history, I am going to reward you, the reader and commentator, with a little something special.
This is a big deal. I don't have companies throwing free gadgets and marketing tools my way, nor do I have the money to spend on specialty items for my valued readers. Instead, I thought I'd pass along an inspiring item from one traveler to another, just as I would if I met someone on the road who impacted me greatly.
Choosing the Lucky One
Since the launch of Nomadderwhere.com, my posts have accumulated 246 comments, and today I used a number generator at Random.org to glorify one lucky commentator and offer them said inspiring reward.
#25 denoted a certain "Traveler," whose comments on my post, Rights vs. Blame, inspired some interesting thoughts on foreigners penetrating other cultures in the name of aid. I'm thrilled to offer today's free inspirational gift to her, especially after she committed much time and thought into joining a conversation I truly care about.
And what is this inspirational gift?
And no, I'm not including the little boy statue.
Traveler will receive my copy of The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009 by Travelers' Tales, and for the rest of you who commented this year, I want to thank you personally for being a part of the dialogue. I hope it enriched your travels, whether out in the world or simply in your armchair.
And the Next One?
When will the next giveaway be? Who knows! Maybe in one month, maybe in one year, maybe when I receive another 100 comments and have something to give away - I don't even know. How should you secure your odds for getting the next inspirational gift? Comment like crazy.
Not only are you increasing your odds of getting something for free by commenting, but telling me what you think about my content will help me know my readers even better. And when I know your interests, it's easier for me to create work that really intrigues you and answers pivotal questions.
How does that sound?
P.S. Happy birthday to my Danish brother, Mikkel!
I don't normally buy these sort of books, and thanks to a friendly backpacker in Fiji, I didn't have to. Why don't I buy comprehensive anthologies of my favorite genre? Because it's not enough.
Five pages about a person's trip in Mexico just gets me in the mood; it doesn't take me there. Maybe I've read too many full narratives to now have an intolerance of anything shorter. Maybe I'm missing the point of anthologies - to sample other authors or witness the best of the best.
All I know is I read this on a beach in Fiji, swaying in a hammock under palm fronds and rustling coconuts. I could enjoy any book in that setting. And though I found a few stories lacking the substance, syntax and the snazzy wit I prefer, there were enough great tales between these covers to make the book worth lugging 7,300 miles home. Let me tell about a few of 'em!
In a town full of "whispered secrets," love and loss are inevitable.
Maybe it's my interest in Mexico. Maybe the fact that Pamela made me laugh out loud. But I think one of the main attractions I had to this tale was the perspective of the author and her choice to not describe a place just as everyone can. She took her personal connotations of San Miguel de Allende and illustrated its energy by taking the reader on a journey through her heart palpitations without the plain Jane explanations of where you are and what's going on. She assumes you can figure out the essentials between the lines of her prose.
It may come with the territory of exposing quite a bit of yourself in your writing. Pamela speaks to the reader as though they understand her sarcasm - just like an old friend would. Wouldn't it seem weird to talk about a romantic evening with a studly, foreign man and then hold back in a bubble of formality? I guess that's my interest; I like people who open up and tell it the way they experience it, not the way others expect to hear it.
Big Cats, No Guns
In Africa, life is good - when you're not on the menu.
This story was much more about the substance than the voice. It might be the fact that she tells a relatable experience of a bush walk, but I certainly know I chuckled at this line:
'A good way of testing the freshness of dung, is to thrust your hand into the centre of it. If the dung is fresh, it will be warm inside.' Right. Life I'm ever going to employ this methodology. They didn't even provide a chart correlating temperature to time elapsed to distance traveled.
That's silly, Laurie. About as silly as the advice she relayed about walking safaris and that dreaded face-off between quivering biped and monstrously large beast. Standing your ground without a gun in your party sounds like a fool's direction, but that's the rule, so they say. And her character of Maureen with the new kicks and bright pink windbreaker walking around the African bush gave me a great visual. Illustrating her ironic presence there was as ominous as writing in a handgun in the story opener: something had to happen to that woman, especially since she apparently had an untied left shoelace.
Climaxing at a chance seen with dozens of other animals did the real trick. Great experience. Glad you lived to tell the tale, Laurie.
Lost in Jamaica
by Laurie Gough
In Negril, a town founded by hippies, the author explores its hedonistic ways.
Another Laurie! There must be something in the name that excites their travel writing to a level not often touched by most.
So here's the gist. Laurie befriends a local Jamaican woman and clicks with her family life - away from the drug tourists and resort hot tubs that muddy her prior exposure. Unfortunately, she burns her leg on the exhaust pipe of a motorbike and has to leave the authenticity of her experience to seek medical help.
And medicine she gets, albeit from a creepy old lady on the beach. We don't often picture 80 year-old women with wicker baskets to be drug pushers, which is probably why Laurie was caught off guard and couldn't deny the "somewhat pushy" entrepreneur her $2. Laurie ensues with an incredible explanation of her feelings while high as a skyscraper in Dubai. Not everyone has these sorts of travel experiences, nor does everyone necessarily want to, which is why I liked hearing her detail a mindset that frightens my curiosity.
I could list my honorable mentions or go on giving away some of the best plots, or you could head to your local library and check it out yourself. Again, if I were into reading snippets of exotic life over and over again, I'd totally buy this great anthology, but I think I have a zest for the art of a novel, instead. Although, I'll make the point again that I now know a few more writers I'd be interested thanks to reading this collection.
What's better than good reading material on our favorite topic: Travel!
Measure Travel Inwards
-Henry David Thoreau
I thought this was lovely, and it got me thinking about my diverse reactions to culture shock and the implications of them in terms of what I've learn and grown to believe in.
Ain't nothing finer than a dreaming in your recliner. Check out Cole's photo work, which remind me of the way I like to feel when romping around in fields.
Yeah, I Know That Place
Though this post has been up a few weeks, I thought it was an interesting examination by a long term traveler. When can you say you know a place? Matt has his stance figured out on the topic:
No matter how long we linger, little markets we explore, or non-touristy things we do, as travelers, we’ll never fully know a place- only someone who has lived there can claim that.
If you're fairly young and have a good number of destinations under your belt, chances are you haven't spend much extended time in these locations. When people ask for advice on Melbourne or China because you've graced those coordinates, can you really say you know that place well enough to comment on the lives and mindsets of the resident public? Do you know how things really function in that place?
It’s not until we begin to live like a local that we can truly get an appreciation for the rhythm of life there. That is why Couchsurfing is such a great thing. You can stay with locals, see where they go, go out with them, and put your self into the local rhythm.
The Beauty of the Far South
Vagabondish's Photo of the Moment of Patagonia is pure eye candy, is it not? And November is the start of the springtime and clear skies for this lovely wilderness. Anyone planning on hitting up these parts soon? I'm tagging along.
Is Anyone Copying You Online?
This one's more for the bloggers out there. We slave pretty hard for our readers, but what if someone lame-o is out there copying all your original material for their own uses? Problogger was all over this issue last week with his post Stop Scrappers and Spammers Fast. I checked and am free and clear of cling-ons. And you?
The Enjoyment of Unemployment II
Bob Fawcett brings a solo road trip across the States to life in his trailer for The Enjoyment of Unemployment, II. You may remember Bob from the STA WTI applicant pool, showing off his city of Chicago. Well, he's now living his dream out in L.A., plowing his way into the film and TV industry. Go get 'em, Bob.
The corporate world goes local (kinda goes against the point). It's something called "Localwashing."
Update on Nomadderwhere
A week from now, I will be in Chicago in order to:
-meet up with old friends and turn on my giggle box
-capture footage for the new STA application video
-take in the art, food and streetscapes with my parents
-hopefully make some connections, create some content and make some garsh-darn money
Specific plans include: going to Nookies for omelets, Kingston Mines for some blues, ordering a chocolate shake at the Weiner Circle (gulp...), possibly catching a showing of Jersey Boys or Million Dollar Quartet, taking tips from Jessie Barber's "Free Chicago" post on the STA blog,who really knows...
Are you familiar with the Chicago area and holding onto a great entertainment/food/cultural recommendation? By all means, toss them my way. Tweet me or comment below. I'm all ears.
Also, I'm starting my book challenge today to write 20,000 words by November 30th. Hopefully the act of updating you all via these posts will encourage the writing and maybe inspire you to push yourself harder at whatever you're doing!
Jon Krakauer is the reason I traveled to India in 2008 to see the Himalayan mountains. Into Thin Air was a personal account of a terrible occurrence on Mount Everest that for some reason led me to adore and venerate the world's ability to form this mountain range. So before I even picked up its predecessor, Into the Wild, I was on Krakauer's side and knew it would be a story deeply connected to my own.
After holding off watching the movie for a year [hoping to read the book first], I finally caved and let tears soak my cheeks as I watched Chris McCandless follow a desire that couldn't be silenced. Since the book came second, I fear the story's impact was compromised, but only by a fraction.Read More
Don George begins by subtly discouraging those who just love to travel from writing about travel for a living. He makes the very necessary statement that travel writing is still writing, and even the most fantastic trip or experience cannot carry itself in a poorly crafted article. For many, travel writing isn't the expected dream job because the majority of a writer's time can be spent fact-checking on location and soaring through cities like a blur, not in the manner in which most people love to travel. And if you couldn't write before the trip, there's not much hope in selling that trip's documentation afterward [without monumental amounts of editing, of course].
Luckily, a longstanding passion of mine is writing (I'd be pretty bummed about now if it weren't). Previously, I leaned on the place to do the talking and not the craft of writing. It's about being a wordsmith and a storyteller, not just a globetrotter with a pen. And from George's explanation of the laborious lifestyle, I realized I'm not opposed to slaving for the work if I continue to reap such happiness from its quality completion.Read More
A week at sea leaves Lindsay's RSS reader mighty, mighty full. Blame the straight day of transit yesterday for this late posting.
Don't forget about the Middle East!
Gary Arndt and AmateurTraveler.com presented a podcast this week about traveling to the gulf states that gives us an ear into a conversation on countries often left off the itinerary. I've only used the gulf states as transit points and scapegoats for complaining induced by the heat/humidity dual attack. Gary chats about the basics you probably aren't savvy to. It's the kind of conversation one would overhear in a hostel common room. Whets the travel tongue a tad.
The 20 Best Travel Books of the 20th Century
I'm a sucker for these travel book lists, and here's another one from the Times in the UK, one which immediately verified itself as quality with the inclusion of 19. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. Some of the others from the list that I hope to read in the future are:
Stairs + Piano
Intelligent Travel posted a video last week by Volkswagen, whom is apparently interested in either fun or fitness...or both (and since I'm now a VW owner, I guess that means I need to support my make). The objective here was to observe whether passers-by prefer fun stairs to a boring escalator. Volkswagen better not make sidewalks into xylophones, or they may find themselves out a few customers.
de Botton on Airline Food
Naturally airline food is dismal when we compare it to what we’d get on the ground but this is to miss the point. The thrill of airline food lies in the interaction between the meal and the odd place in which one is eating it. Food that, if eaten in a kitchen, would have been banal or offensive, acquires a new taste in the presence of the clouds. With the in-flight tray, we make ourselves at home in an unhomely place: we appropriate the extraterrestrial skyscape with the help of a chilled bread roll and a plastic tray of potato salad.
Update on Nomadderwhere
I returned yesterday from a quite enjoyable cruise along Baja California in the choppy, foggy Pacific where we ported in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Expect some practical and entertaining posts in the coming future about cruise travel and Mexico with videos and photos galore. Apologies for the untimely posting of this week's Consume & Update, and I promise a higher level of quality for next week (when I won't be stranded at sea with $.50/minute internet fees).
I welcome you to a new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Every month I will pick out a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).
Yangtze River Trip to the The Three Gorges: A trip in early fall through some incredible, mountanous landscapes could coincide with October 3rd and the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.
The Mangoky River: Madagascar's baobabs and the "slowly-slowly" mentality of the land give me two reasons to desire floating in an inflatable raft across the tip of the big island. October is the last month of reasonable weather before the ghastly heat sets in.
The Fall in Vermont: Does my longing to going on a fall foliage drive make me an old lady? Either way, I don't care if it means I get to log miles around a beautiful chunk of America and potentially camp out in the cool nights between drives.
The Dolomites: Northeastern Italy gets great weather and less tourists than usual in October, which is perfect if one desires to see sky-splintering peaks, Alpine pastures, and still speak l'Italiano all the live-long day.
The Reunification Express: After reading Catfish and Mandala, making the 1,000 mile jaunt across Vietnam seems like a trip worthy of filling numerous journals and marking off loads of "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences from the list. This train would make this trip possible, that is if you're not a crazy/cool cyclist relying on your two wheels.
Trans-Siberian Railroad: Fall colors, warm days, and cool nights - that's quite a list of benefits for traveling from Moscow to Beijing in October via a world famous train ride. The trip takes one week
Greenwich Village: True, this area can be enjoyed any time of year, but the crispy atmosphere of fall makes pleasant a couple days of perusing galleries, visiting Edward Hopper's house, and eating at former speakeasies, like Chumley's. Maybe you'll get inspired to "keep moving" while taking in Figaro Cafe, a hang-out of the "beat generation".
The Inca Trail: Dry weather meets the hearty soul that wants to trek through the thin air of the Andes in October. Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and loads of misty sights are calling you...
In Search of Culture
Treasures of Jordan: October is just as great a time as any to hire a car in Amman and hit up some ancient relics of the past in the Middle East. Fancy yourself an Indiana Jones as you bound around the ruddy sandstone of the Treasury of Petra.
India's Golden Triangle: I can attest to the fact that going on this trip in the heat of summer is just plain mean to your boiling spirits, but alas, the relief that comes in October! Agra's Taj Mahal at sunrise, Jaipur's Amber Fort and Rajasthani culture, and Delhi's urban jungle are real experiences to be photographed, reflected upon, and absorbed into the mind forever. Read my blogs from the Golden Triangle here.
In Gourmet Heaven
Bourbon Trail: Another prime opportunity to see good fall color while sipping some classic American spirits. Even though we Hoosiers are supposed to make fun of Kentucky, I've always been a fan of the horse farms and Appalacian foothill country, and I'd imagine pumping some whiskey into the equation wouldn't hurt it!
Central Valley Wine: Go from fall to spring, harvest to planting season, with a trip to Chile for some grape guzzling. The Andes are supposedly visible from every vineyard in this region, which has a unique climate sure to cause some exciting fermentation to occur. Go skiing, walk along the beach, and then go find some good wine in the hills.
Into the Action
Polar Bears in Canada: October marks the start of a great bear-watching season annually, and Churchill is known for their outsized bears. Not as elusive as the tiger, but apparently just as easily camouflaged into their surroundings; a couple days looking for polar bears sound like thrilling days well spent.
Sea Kayaking off Baja: I know I'm going to be taking full advantage of being around Baja in October by partaking in a gorgeous and exciting activity: sea kayaking. Rocky cliffs edging an ample marine world in the blue Pacific waters; it's the stuff of dreams. Check back for upcoming blogs on this very activity.
Up and Away
Flying High in Paradise: Take a heli for a spin (don't worry, you're not driving) around the volcanic islands of Hawai'i, where you'll be dumbfounded by how green and undulating the converging ridges appear. Great weather and better prices will please you in October. I've experienced this flight and loved it.
Fly the Coral Route: Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland, Dreamland - it sounds like purging your wallet for an aerial island-hopping experience in the South Pacific couldn't disappoint if it tried. And with October providing some drier conditions, you'll be able to see the blue silk in 360 degrees around you.
In Their Footsteps
On The Road after Kerouac: Though my opinion on Kerouac's instant classic novel is still unformed, I can't deny the pulsing urge inside me to hop in a car and take I-80 as far as it will take me. Maybe that makes his work a success in that it instills the desire to move for the sake of moving. From New York to San Francisco, such a road trip would be quite a thrill to take while reading the novel and hitting up Denver and Chicago along the way, not to mention the great weather October would bring across the entire stretch.
The Silk Road: Avoid the extreme weather conditions by traveling in October through western China to Turkey and some of the world's oldest inhabited cities. The spanning cultures are sensory-linked with landscapes that could slap a yak with amazement.
How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in November for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!
As this is a new series, I'd love to hear your feedback on the effectiveness of this concept. Leave a comment and be my new friend.
This week's RSS feeds and reading sessions resulted in some good finds. Here are the articles and book excerpts I've found relevant, as well as an update on Nomadderwhere. This must be why my hometown of Wabash, Indiana has been calling to me these past few months. For years, I felt odd when visiting the town I left, comparing it to my new city of Indianapolis and letting the occasional snotty comment change my perception of where I spent my first 15 years. But Christine, a head Matadorian, wrote about enjoying the simple pleasures (as determined by you) and how this can lead to an authentic, happy, on-track lifestyle.
Many of us can get caught up in what we see other people doing, and compare ourselves - positively or negatively - to how we perceive them. Instead, as Erica points out, it feels better (and I believe, gets us further) to remind ourselves of what we love in our life. The best part about her list is the fact that she names pretty simple things, ones most people can do pretty much anywhere in the world.
Yet another article from Brave New Traveler, this one relates travel with the art form of improv...not your obvious correlation there. This quote rings very true for me in many instances, and these are often the times when I feel I'm being ungrateful or in "grandma mode". However, just as I remember having to make my own fun in a small town, when traveling I often feel it's up to me and not the place to create the awesome experience.
Most of us can accept that going to a party is no promise of having a good time. Yet, not so obvious to many, is that simply going somewhere exotic is no guarantee of enjoyment. Likewise, most people don’t realize improv isn’t about going out on stage without a script and “being funny.”
Currently, I'm reading Lonely Planet's Travel Writing book that is already accumulating a lot of green highlighter marks and sticky notes for its stellar, yet sometimes obvious, advice. Some of the points I've found useful thus far either teach me something that seems to be a key into the industry or simply remind me of a concept I already know and need to continually relearn throughout this career.
Travel writing, more than any other kind of writing, has to transport you, has to teach you about the world, has to inform you, and, ideally, has to take you into deeper and deeper questions about yourself and the world...get the reader to see the world as a question
Writing of every kind is a way to wake oneself up and keep as alive as when one has just fallen in love.
Bad writing often comes from bad traveling - and bad travel is unimaginative, uninformed and unoriginal.
Writing about everything you did on holiday should be kept strictly between you and your diary; you need to find the theme that will interest an editor.
Update on Nomadderwhere
After an anti-laborious weekend with some of my childhood pals, the week became dedicated to identifying ways I can make money by doing what I already love and commit time/energy to. In doing so, I started brainstorming the possibilities for Nomadderwhere, including new sub-domains, ebooks, services to offer, and new ideas for blog posts. Not only am I looking at my own work but at what I can offer to others without having the foundation of multiple publications and such. And if I'm going to think about what others would pay for, I'm going to need to find out what people want to read, look for that hook to bring in readers.
And Future Travel?
I'm beginning to research the great country to the south in preparation for my Mexican Riviera trip in October. Did you know Mexico is crazy about being the best? or having the most? or making the biggest? at acquiring superlatives? Personally, I'm trying to steer away from the American obsession to use or obsess about superlatives (e.g. OMG, Becca, that was like the best Cheeto I've ever had!), but it looks like Mexico is trying to get back on the world's stage for something other than the piggy flu. I'm grateful to all the Tweeters helping me out with advice on Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, and if you've got suggestions for adventure sports, good times, and more local excitement, let me know!