Travel Writing

To all those hopeful travel writers out there

To all those hopeful travel writers out there

To my knowledge, there is no perfect equation that all can use in order to strike that balance between experience and processing time. Homework, books, projects, trips, community building, sports, and other desires or pressures will tug at one’s attention and make it difficult to prioritize processing time for maximum personal benefit.

Over my years on the road, I have witnessed in people who prioritize - even slightly - the documentation of their experiences:

  • more emotional stability
  • more ease with forming concluding thoughts about a place or experience
  • more clarity in drive or future path

It will take time to experiment with travel writing techniques in order to access inner thoughts, make the most meaning out of your world experiences, and utilize time most wisely for maximum gain. That time, however, will be fun and rewarding.

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Rain clouds blow through the highlands of Scotland

Rain clouds blow through the highlands of Scotland

I had heavenly expectations of the highland air. I thought it would be uncommonly sweet, a cold drink of water for my lungs. Instead, the air I invited in smelled like fresh biology, life and death but more of the former. Somewhere nearby, there was undoubtedly a cow sweating, a rooster breathing heavily, an earthworm realizing it could now slither back underground. From a 1st floor window, I sucked up all that biology in a moment of wonder and discovery, in the specialness of a start.

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Sparked by a word and leaving it to the end

Sparked by a word and leaving it to the end

It's something I've trained for, feel born with an attitude and aptitude for, have developed strong passions for and a personality around. In its absence, I feel loss and incompleteness and greater pains than the ones it causes. It shapes the way I think about everything remotely related to it–turns me into a philosopher, a guru in a cave...in my own mind.

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With pocket money and a rickshaw, some kids discover Hyderabad

With pocket money and a rickshaw, some kids discover Hyderabad

Open blocks to explore hundreds more, we feel strongmoving into a space we somewhat know, a city we sheepishly call our home, from our hostel for the homeless. Bulk home goods to crispy street food, we were happy. Dirty lake walks to all-star city specialities, we were happy. We were happy by choice, equipped with freedom and company that subscribed to the daily magazine of discovery.

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After three weeks in India, I finally feel like I'm traveling.

After three weeks in India, I finally feel like I'm traveling.

Flickers of lightning are faint but always to the left of my aim toward the horizon. They provide an additional layer of drama to my nighttime ride home from the city of Hyderabad. I booked a taxi with the help of a Hindi-speaking friend, someone whom I quickly and liberally offered my trust purely on the grounds of intuition. Hair still wrapped from a previous motorbike ride, I hope it helps me evade any potential disturbance I've been warned about, regardless of how secure I feel with being in a taxi at 8pm in the countryside. My iPhone low in my lap, I text my new friend to say that my limited Hindi and our common ground of "right, left, and straight" have brought me back to where I'm living for the next four months.

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Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

Bhutan in the winter energizes the hunger for discovery that's resident in children lucky enough to be young. It would take a dark closet for decades to produce this contrast anywhere else, the specialness clear with every sip of cold mountain air or gentle exchange. I can't say this is what travel should always be, because it's only through their unique set of occurrences that yielded such an outcome. But what they have set up, from my effortless post, has a wonderful effect. Wool is nowhere near our eyes, and we are learning individual lessons from the backgrounds we brought.

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Reviewing Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods

Reviewing Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods

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.

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What Alain de Botton says about the anticipation of travel

Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel

Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel

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?"

On Anticipation

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

Samesa with a cow head in Nakavika, Fiji

Samesa with a cow head in Nakavika, Fiji

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.

Hiking a hill in Ecuador, Barabon

Hiking a hill in Ecuador, Barabon

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

Boy in Dali, China

Boy in Dali, China

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

Lindsay photographing elephants

Lindsay photographing elephants

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.

Nakavika Fiji as seen from the school block, mountains, mist

Nakavika Fiji as seen from the school block, mountains, mist

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.

Neglect in a time of note-worthy experiences

I call myself a writer, but I haven't written - really written - in two months. Since my last real musing, I traveled to three regions of Haiti, frequented my second Carnival celebration, had a random reunion with a travel friend in the middle of a street parade, hosted my best friend and travel gal for a week in New York City, and traveled across the world to Thailand for production. I should have many a post on my site by now regarding all the previously mentioned events and experiences. Instead, I am a chicken sans head with too many things to say and not enough time to process them. And you know what else is sad? I wrote the previous paragraph in the middle of March. I call this type of article a 'Frankenstein'.

Frank N. Stein

Frank N. Stein

I've read others discussing this interesting phenomenon - the travel writer's Catch 22 - and I know I've dealt with it using various methods in the past. Even though I've been based out of home between these escapades, there is still the delicate balance between experience and reflection, one that I usually miss due to overindulgence of one.

Sadly, my mind is a sieve. Without documentation and over-processing of real-life experiences, I tend to forget or reconstruct my life. Therefore, the neglect of noting certain meaningful experiences seems dangerous and irresponsible for someone mortal wanting simply to thrive on memories in the end.

Why Write About Travel?

Writing, Photographing, Filming in the Field

Writing, Photographing, Filming in the Field

It began as a way to inform my family I was still alive. Once they gained this comfort, the detailed accounts were meant to illuminate a black hole on the world map of one's understanding. Soon after, it became a job and then a way of life through which I felt fulfillment. While documentary photo and video work easily allow for simultaneous experience, I write the way the Social Network dudes code: plugged in with total concentration and all-consuming fervor. After the arc of adrenaline subsides in a travel day, it's all I can do to charge up the batteries and coordinate logistics for the next day. Writing in the moment hasn't been a real possibility since my 7-month discovery tour.

Upon returning home, the act of processing begins involuntarily through dreams - brutally honest reactions that make for sturdy foundations later. Of course, errands to the laundromat, outings with friends, job applications, and other life logistics eventually take precedence over mental fermentation and readiness. And so, what's left from a life-changing "away game" is a brain of floating and incomplete thoughts like a bowl of Alpha-bits.

In January, my friend Jazmine departed on a two month journey throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from recommending the occasional splurge during her budget initiative, my one adamant piece of advice was to write. Especially on a whirlwind adventure, sometimes it's only in the observation of a blinking cursor on a word document that we realize the confusion of our interior. And alternately, scribbled sentences on mounting scraps of paper are the necessary mastication of the experiential piece of gum. In my opinion, there's no better way for anyone to savor that flavor, and this isn't just for those who consider themselves capable crafters of written word.

Alpha-bit cereal

Alpha-bit cereal

The Bottleneck Effect

I'm passionate about writing relevant and satirical travel narratives, and these such stories are exactly what have been lacking in my recent blogging pursuits. Instead, when people inevitably ask about Haiti or Thailand, I have to use words like "amazing" or "incredible," as though that really demystifies the destination for them. Writers should have distinct voices, based on objective truths, unique observation, and subjective viewpoints on humanity. To call Haiti an incredible experience is like saying Mariah Carey is a good singer. Thailand is a beautiful country with kind people. Earth is a planet with land and water. That's all hot air. I'm looking to add insight to the sea of declarative sentences born and syndicated every day.

The goal: document experiences uniquely and dynamically The reality: confusion, sloppy schedules, and a mere 24 hours taunting me in the day The problem: time brings new experiences whether or not I'm ready The solution: force thoughts to make a single file line outward, all with purpose

bottleneck

bottleneck

Imagine the wiggly line as my pool of thoughts, the fish-eyed text as concepts to ponder, and the bottleneck as my avenues of expression restricted by time, ability, and external factors. This isn't adult swim when the kids are back at school; this is noon at the public watering hole on July 4th. These thoughts aren't conscientious swimmers. They all need to get out of the pool safely or else they start pruning and eventually peeing in this uncertain limbo.

The Token Freudian Analysis

I hope by now the irony of this post has hit you. Am I not still treading water with this time and energy to vocalize the fact that I haven't vocalized my thoughts in a while? Why share this when I could obviously be sharing what I aim to produce? And why has this venue of blogging to the world wide web become so darn important to the sanity of man?

Even though life is a constant linear chain of experiences, the mind doesn't necessarily process them as such. And even though traveling seems like an itinerary of visits, challenges, and conversations, the entire concept of 'travel' is far more existential an arena of thought than it is a modification of geography. If I don't dedicate time and energy to sorting through what transpires in my life - big or small - I run the risk of disconnecting unconscious interpretations of superego standards from conscious actions of the ego. Translate the previous sentence with a couple of Freud's favorites:

Ego: the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego)

Unconscious: the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior

Subconscious: that which exists in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness*

It's like stepping over the question repeatedly, multiple times a day, every day, "What is this life I lead?" Are we - dare I say - robots that power forward with the sequence or humans that react to the varied stimuli we encounter daily, especially on the road. I say leave your robot on the dance floor. Experiences are had to be felt and purposefully utilized to make a person better.

The Selfish Act of Not Sharing

Mom feeding me the last drops of wine

Mom feeding me the last drops of wine

The liquid inside a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino doesn't motivate or fulfill a person's palate. Once it passes through the aerator and clashes with fresh oxygen, that sweet nectar becomes something of value. A book in Hungarian means nothing to me until it is translated into something Latin-based I can recognize. Unless an experience runs through the necessary steps to become useable to a person, it is a waste, a missed opportunity, a neglected tool for burrowing efficiently and successfully through time. It is only in this translation through the sieve of human standards and emotion that an understanding can pass through the nonconscience to the subconscience to reach the active, living conscience.

In non-Freudian terms, going somewhere or doing something means nothing if you don't understand how it affected you.

So when I say I haven't really written in months, it means I haven't actively processed that which has the great capacity to improve my being, including: • traveling through Haiti's Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and cultural Jacmel. • meeting President-elect Michel Martelly (candidate at the time). • attending my second Carnival celebration in a country pent up after a year of recovery. • randomly running into a woman that saved me years before around the world. • hosting my best travel comrade, Alexis Reller, in New York City. • spending three weeks in Thailand on production for another travel series. • reliving my first third-world solo trip in Vietnam. • finding peace and creativity in Luang Prabang, Laos.

...all experiences that drip with the tantalizing prospect of organic value, not just for me but through the informative and experiential butterfly effect. It's why we read books and talk to our friends. Sharing stories, especially via such a mobile force like the web, makes for an even greater learning experience across international and industry borders. And if we don't analyze why this process isn't happening, it threatens to repeat until we come to.

Action Plan for the Neglected

Thus ends my soliloquy of why I'm thinking too much of how I can't think enough. And of course, one cannot ramble without a conclusive caboose. I plan to revive the elicited emotions from said unprocessed experiences and craft some posts that remain relevant to what's going on today. For instance, May 14th marks the presidential inauguration of Haiti's Michel Martelly, the wake of which provides a perfect moment for reflection of our meeting. Expect 'Lost'-esque flashbacks to experiences in Thailand that dictate my present endeavors. And as always, it's not my intention to provide a static, one-time commentary but instead evoke an elongated discussion through comments beneath. I hope you're on board with that.

Surely there are others that have too much to recall or process and are grappling with this feeling of neglect. What have you neglected to process, and in your opinion, is there only a small window of opportunity for intake?

*Definitions provided by

AllPsych Online

and

Merriam-Webster

Video of the Week: Summer Seclusion Project (Webcam)

Haven't seen one of these in a while, huh? A video of the week or a webcam special. I finally got my act together! Enjoy.

Notes from this week's video:

  • ProjectExplorer.org is in post-production stateside after a fantastic filming session in Mexico.

  • I'm moving out of my parent's house for a month for some seclusion in my hometown.

  • I have four goals for the month of July.

  • Crank out stellar videos, images, and work for ProjectExplorer.org

  • Write personal travel narratives in hopes of publishing or at least having them for myself.

  • Learn how to cook basic vegetarian meals well. I don't know how veggies are supposed to taste. Sad.

  • Enjoy my hometown for the first summer in a decade and reap the benefits of relative seclusion from distraction.

  • It's time to reformat/redesign Nomadderwhere, just like I did last September. A lot has changed in my life and path, and my website needs to reflect that.

Q&A: Picking up and traveling for good

Q&A is a new series on Nomadderwhere that uses questions posed by readers and commentators to address topics of travel, alternative lifestyle design, blogging, and other interests. You can expect to see this series one or two Saturdays a month right here on Nomadderwhere.com. To send in your questions, contact me!

Hello, I would love to chat with you about my own plans since you are basically doing what I want to do.

I am leaving my job and selling my house in the spring, to travel the world and maybe never come back. I have so many questions though.

I figure I can get by on 10-15k a year on the road, but the question is: how do I go about making that? I have set up a travel blog and would love for that to generate some cash. I'm also a writer, and have published a photography/poetry book. I love writing and would like to do that for a living, while traveling the world. I'm also a pretty decent photographer.

Please give me any advice on how to make this happen. I'm a nice guy with nothing tying me down, and months away from dropping everything and seeing the world. -Sean R.

Hey Sean, I hope I can be of some assistance. Thanks for writing!

It's important to know travelers who move, think, and operate the same way you do, because getting advice from just anyone that moves could misdirect your preferred path. With that said, I know how to redirect your questions to other travelers who already do exactly what you want to do, because I can't quite relate to your travel dreams.

1. I don't have anything to leave behind. 2. I don't make money directly from my blog, writing, or photography.

Have you heard of Gary Arndt at Everything-Everywhere.com? He did what you are about to do (sold his house and traveled), and I'm sure you could learn quite a bit from his path. He's been on the road for over three years and has a huge following; however, I'm not positive whether he makes money from his blog.

Monetizing Your Blog

In order to make money from a travel blog, one has to look at their blog like a business and think:

To what end? What do I want to get out of my blog, and what valuable resource do I see it being or offering to readers?

Find your niche, and your niche market will follow, willing to pay for what you do. That's the long-term scenario. Keep in mind, however, that you don't have to have one absolutely specific focus. Your unique interests combined make for great content. And an additional note: don't claim a niche or expertise in one thing when you know you're not a real expert. The internet world doesn't need any more of those.

Get started by looking at Nomadic Matt's Secrets to Successful World Travel* ebook, as well as his Monetize Your Travel Blog ebook that has apparently been a big help for many people. I'm not so much interested in advertising as I am sponsorship and using my site as my resume and a resource for like-minded wanderlusters. I hope that gives you a better idea of what you want out of your travels and your blog.

Leaving It All Behind

AlmostFearless.com is yet another long-term traveler that started blogging after leaving her home and taking up a moving existence. I think her ebook entitled 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign your Life and Travel could help you out big time.

And a little hint: Subscribing to these bloggers RSS feeds and e-mails could score you these resources for free.

Getting Paid to Write and Photograph

Silvia Suarez

Silvia Suarez

What I've been doing is a little bit different.

I am not a long-term self-sustained traveler like those dudes and dudette - and presumably what you want to become. For leisure, I take shorter trips (though still around 1 to 7 months) and have very little money to my name (because I've spent it all on travel).

I'm a producer for a non-profit that makes virtual field trips for kids, but it's like business travel/film production. I don't get paid specifically for written pieces, though I'd love to and always keep my eye out for good opportunities.

Look into the Matador Network, because they pay $25 for articles.

My big thing isn't so much traveling but the expression of travel through multi-media, which could be what you're into as well. And it seems you're much more artistically minded than commercial - same as me, which means you probably like to work for your own agenda. That could either mean less marketability or more chance of you making a very distinct personal brand.

The Bottom Line

My advice is to check out the above links and see if any of those guys give you some inspiration toward your right path. Also, it wouldn't hurt to make out a little goal sheet or business plan that allows you to see where your blog could go in the future to make you some money. However, really make sure you stick to your trip's purpose, because the last thing you want is to be a slave to some commercial travel blog of yours that takes away from your time loving the city of Bogota or keeps you from lounging on the beach in Madagascar.

A last note, if you're serious about blogging and want some instant help with making it big time, check out Problogger and his 31 Days to Building a Better Blog.

Was this Question and Answer post helpful to you? Would you like me to expand on any points above? And if you're savvy to this topic, leave your own feedback and advice! Any other questions about anything? Comment below or contact me! And if you’d like to ask a question to be featured in this series, think about asking the question in a video and sending that URL to me!

*Note: There are affiliate links in this post. I've supplied the links to these resources not because I want your money shamelessly but because I know they've been valuable to many a diverse traveler. Though only some have been helpful to me, and contrary to what Whitney says, I'm not every woman, nor every traveler.

Consume & Update: Stuff, Tsunamis, and 15 Days

I found some good reads this week! Take your laptop outside, enjoy the warming breeze, and read on, my friends, read on.

Writing Wherever

DSC_0120

I seek location independence. I would love to be able to write and create multi-media work without a permanent anchor to my geography. Therefore, I look to those with the exact career I desire for the best advice tailored specifically for me. And though this interview about a location independent writer in Barbados didn't offer an incredible amount of sage advice, it introduced me to a few new sites that can do the trick.

Freelance Writing Jobs

The Writer's Bridge

Get Paid to Write Online

A Mission to See All Countries

I talk about this guy all the time. This week, Chris Guillebeau updates his following on the status of his mission to see every country in the world before his 35th birthday. With some quick trips here and there, he does tap into the reality of his limited exposure to the cultures he visits with this huge goal in mind. Chris relates this extreme desire to mountain climbing, justifying his goal as a triumph of the human body and spirit that connects him to the world in some sort of cosmic way.

Someone else asked if travel is “still fun” for me. This is another question that is hard to answer in a sound bite. Travel is fun, except when it’s not, and that’s perfectly fine. My theory is, if you think travel is supposed to be 100% fun all the time, I’m not sure how much you’ve actually traveled. Sometimes it’s not fun at all, and that’s OK. Most things that are worth doing aren’t always that easy, so you have to take the bitter with the sweet.

He's only got 65 countries to go in his next three years. I wonder if he'll make it...

Justice and Oil

While I was working on making a recent Nakavika Project video, I came across this animated video set to a Justice track. And judging by the comments under this one on Youtube, people had a lot to say about it. Can't deny the interesting animation style and editing (not to mention the great audio syncing). Just interested in what people think.

The Anti-Stuff Movement

Luggage full of donations

Every time I come home from a trip (or get ready to leave for one), I go about purging my closet of anything that's been sitting in there unused for far too long. That means altogether, I've probably purged my closet at least eight times, each instance taking away a large box of crap at minimum. My closet still looks pleasantly plump with things, and I don't often go shopping. How do I still have so much stuff?

It's incredibly liberating to rid yourself of sentimental knick-knacks and clothes that remind you of a different decade, especially when I'm on the road and consider my backpack's contents as my only possessions. Even when back at home, I never need as much stuff as I own, and it ticks me off. They are barnacles on my butt, sand bags tied to my ankles; my stuff seemingly weighs me down.

Matt Madeiro was robbed, and instead of mourning the loss of his unused paraphernalia, he considered it a positive disconnection from the "culture of stuff" he was being sucked into.

Cathartic? Definitely. Time spent organizing the endless mess is now time spent living, a change so simple and wonderful that the next step fell in line almost immediately: stop buying. That sounds a little extreme, I’ll admit, but putting it in practice warrants just a few tweaks – think renting versus purchasing, borrowing versus owning, and so forth.

For those of us who prefer a solitary existence, is the accumulation of things similar to the accumulation of patches on a backpack, travel scars and photographs from far reaches and amazing adventures? Does this wall of books and picture frames at my parents house signify they've lived a fulfilling (and wordy) life so far? Do we all need to collect mementos from our past in order to remember what we've done on a daily basis? Is the "culture of stuff" a biproduct of our poor long-term memories?

What do you think about the "culture of stuff?"

Crusoe and a Wall of Water

Intelligent Travel posted an interesting story about Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile and the unfortunate blast it incurred from the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami. To be short and sweet, I thought this post accentuated an interesting locale with a fantastical history, and the visual of the water wall impacting this beautiful South Pacific island was a vivid one.

Pedro Niada, Fabianna, and their two children were sound asleep, but a guest on the second-floor awoke and noticed water seeping through the floor. He looked out the window and thought he was seeing things: there was a fishing boat out the window, almost at eye level, and in the distance, a wall of water was racing toward shore. The guest woke the family and the five of them jumped into the boat, clinging to it with all their strength until the wave passed. Finally, they steered it to shore and raced up the hill just before two more giant waves hit.

Yikes.

Sporting Old Glory

Natalie Grant calls out to the American wanderers around the world: reclaim your flag.

In fact, Benjamin Franklin had a tasty little metaphor: “A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.” Our country’s reputation is easier to nibble at abroad, where there are fewer people to stick up for it.

IMG_0423

Whether or not your office is an embassy abroad, you become an ambassador the moment you board an international flight. On the road, I find myself acting very differently than I normally would, because I often feel the pressure to represent young females, 20-somethings, backpackers, Americans, etc. worldwide. I read up on world news, especially that which is occurring inside my borders, before taking off on a trip, because I inevitably become a representative for the 308 million still at home.

I collect country flag patches and sew them on my big backpack. It's a traveler cliche, and I don't care. It actually bugs me when other people do it (rational, huh?), but I've found it's an incredible way to meet people. A woman on the train to Denmark commented on my Brazilian patch, and we soon got into a conversation about her mother land and the amazing hiking experiences I had in Bahia. An old WWII refuge in Ukraine started a conversation with me about my Malaysia patch and began posing questions that opened up a dialogue between myself and history.

And in 2008, I added the American flag to the mix, partially because I've technically traveled in said country and partially because I want to be a proud American backpacker. Other than by a drunken, homeless Parisian, I've never felt hostility for being an American, and I thought it'd be a good baby step toward becoming a better ambassador for a country I often misunderstand but continue to appreciate and love.

Other Discoveries

Getting the youth discount even if you're not so "youthful"

Our village in Fiji is getting a traditional make-over...no more modern hair styles

Sadly, kids aren't reading enough great travel literature these days

Update on Nomadderwhere

I am sick, sadly, but I'm still a productivity machine! I also got some great news this week - like huge, amazing news - that I'll be sharing in the coming month! It involves my future plans, and boy are they swell!

1 Minute or Less Moments: Last week, I announced the weekly posting of raw video files from Fiji onto my Nomadderwhere Facebook Fan page. This week, three new videos are ready for your viewing eyes. Click on the icon below to watch us farm with the kids, walk through the jungle, and sit at the Sunday dinner table with our host clan.

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

Nomadderwhere's Facebook Fan Page

15 More Days: Though it's a normal day for most, I'm making it into a spectacle. My domain's "birthday" is coming in about two weeks, and I'm already knee-deep in plans to present a carnival of blogs for you, my beloved readers. Prepare yourself for a week of straight content that highlights the year's best stuff, a wide range of media, and a couple brand new ideas and series to Nomadderwhere.com. And if you're a fan of my Facebook page, don't worry; you'll receive a little reminder so you don't miss the good stuff.

Consume & Update: Air Traffic, Hatred and Two Days To Go

Soak it in, boys and girls. This is the last dose for a while! This week's good news...

World Air Traffic in 24 Hours

Really Going Rogue

Numbers 15 and 31 on my Life List mention an inexplicable draw towards countries not easily accessible to foreigners (or just Americans). Well, maybe not so inexplicable...

  • Pakistan = mountains

  • Afghanistan = rural landscapes

  • Cuba = culture and salsa

Digging into the archives a bit, I found Chris Guillebeau's How to Travel to Rogue States, which of course got me salivating for Cuba again. Who knows when my next new country will be blazed and if it could be one of these massive non-trail destinations. Any plans for a trip like this in your future?

When To Put The Camera Away

Visiting orphanages for 30 minutes?

Visiting orphanages for 30 minutes?

I've been checking out the Acumen Fund this week and found a compelling blurb on travel and documentation called When To Put The Camera Away. Marc Manara makes a comment on our intentions for taking photographs and how they come off to the subject of the moment.

Though the desire to snap a telling shot of reality may seem harmless for the sake of your own memories or appear a good move for the sake of informing others of what you've seen...you may be bruising someone's dignity or making them feel like a mystery species on a game drive.

There are times when I truly wish I could have secretly snapped the photo, but I also think that frequent inner turmoil - when these opportunities present themselves - has a lot of truth and validity. I think spending more time with the people/potential subject matter of the photograph(s) helps smooth over many of the worries one has with taking vulnerable photographs of others.

I get upset when people stare at me, and I get especially testy when people photograph me without my consent (e.g. in Doha, Qatar). I definitely don't want to make others feel the same way, especially when there could appear to be a socio-economic difference and a stress on personal dignity.

Travel and Hate

What has often been a companion of my culture shock is something akin to hatred, an ugly emotion that has the ability to take hold of my soul even against protest. I've come home angry at many things, and though it's not the way I actively choose to be, Joel Carrilet gives me a little comfort in knowing it's not just a massive character flaw. It happens with due cause.

Travel frequently introduces us to beauty, but it shows us other things too. As we lay eyes on situations and listen to voices in places we previously knew little about, our love for the world and its people will deepen. The flipside of this, however, is that our hatred—of attitudes, ideologies, and policies that take advantage of others and harm—will also deepen. For if we love with all our might, we will also be bound to hate some things with all our might.

Read Joel's article on How Travel Teaches Us To Hate, and let me know if you find travel's combined effects of love and hate in yourself.

Other Discoveries

Chris Guillebeau's new site for Unconventional Guides

Rolf Potts' interview with new writer and former English teacher in the Marshall Islands

Join in the conversation about Women Hitchhikers over at Vagablogging

Don't forget to have quiet time on the road

28 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling

Update on Nomadderwhere

In the coming months, I'm going to be a bad consumer. This will be the last weekly Consume & Update as you've know it until I return to reliable internet coverage, constant electricity and a life not centered in a remote village. However, I will still attempt to keep updates coming on a weekly basis or as often as I can.

The last steps in preparation:

Emptying out the piggy bank

Emptying out the piggy bank

1. Buy mosquito net: check. All supplies in bag: also check. Empty the piggy bank and cash in for dough: oh geez check. The village knows we're coming, and we have two days until departure! Nothing left to do but document every step and meet Garrett at LAX! Our sponsors are stacking up and sending their contributions. We're so grateful for all the people finding this project relevant.

2. I threw a Michael Jackson Dance Party in my basement to fundraise for the project. It involved Dirty Diana martinis, trivia and prizes, black and white food and a chronological ordered playlist with every great hit by MJ ever created. I also dressed up as MJ throughout the decades: the Jackson 5 era, the Bad/Thriller era...yeah, I get carried away. I'll let you know how the event went and how much was raised at a later date.

3. BJB Challenge: Remember this? I wanted to write 20,000 words in my narrative on the Big Journey. This challenge began a month ago, before I had booked the tickets for Fiji. Needless to say I was preoccupied this month to keep up with my own, self-imposed deadline for writing. It was sad, as I continue to grow away from these experiences from 2008. But among other things in Fiji, I hope to find time to write about this experience in the detail it deserves. I'll be a word machine before you know it.

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

Reviewing Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild

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

Reviewing Lonely Planet's Travel Writing Book

Reviewing Lonely Planet's Travel Writing Book

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

Finding Purpose in Culture Shock

Ireland's Coast

Ireland's Coast

I never really know how my travel experiences have affected me until I return to my starting point: home. Flying through various destinations and worrying about logistics sometimes takes away the mind’s energy to process what it’s witnessed until it’s back on familiar soil. And since each trip is different, every time I return home, it’s a brand new feeling, a new form of culture shock I can never predict. Coming home from Italy, I have felt pissed off at my hometown for not being as historical and visually stimulating as Florence. After Semester at Sea, it pained me to be away from the people I grew very close to on board. And with the conclusion of my Big Journey, I think I felt more stable and purpose-driven, albeit more confused, than any previous homecoming led me to feel. I think it all depends on the nature of the journey and where you are in your personal path with self-awareness. Because that’s one major reason I travel: to become more self-aware.

And now with the winding down of the World Traveler Internship, I have a whole new set of emotions and passions driving me. For once, I’ve welcomed the comforts of home excitedly. Man did I love sitting around! And for the last month, I’ve spent about 90 hours a week working on my website, on personal projects, and anything fathomable to get me on the path towards being a freelance travel writer. It was the WTI program that assured me I love being thrown into a new country with a mission of documentation. I’ve learned how I love to travel, where I want to travel, and how to deal with the rigors of this oddball, unconventional, thrilling profession.

Anyone with a smidgeon of wanderlust would adore being a World Traveler Intern, but I can promise you an aspiring travel writer, photojournalist, basically anyone wanting to experience and express as a career will be numbed by how cool is to have this job. Throughout the trip, I sporadically stopped and smiled, so appreciative of the opportunity and fully aware of how lucky I was. And now I look forward to seeing what lucky souls will receive the honor next year. I’m certain they will have the time of their lives and return to their home bases more alive and wanderlust-ful, because as any traveler knows, that obsession never goes away. Travel begets more travel.

And now I apply the heaviest of connotations, the deepest of meaning to these next two words, directed at the lovely people at STA Travel: Thank you.

Consume & Update: Travel Quotes, Site Potential and Mexico

Hilarious Bath Time

Hilarious Bath Time

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!

Consume & Update: Matador and Upgrade

One thing I missed while frantically running across the globe for the STA internship was the downtime to enjoy some of my favorite reading material: The Matador Network.

Click on the images to follow the stories!

In Traveler’s Notebook

iPod

iPod

Josh says your active earbuds stand in the way of experience the audio sensations of a destination. For me it completely depends on my mood, because sometimes I’m desperate to get away from the familiar and other times I want to tie old memories music-linked association to the new place I’m experiencing. Occasionally this adds layers to the music you already love (and usually gives me audio inspiration for videos), but I’m on Josh’s side with knowing all sensory factors of the places you visit.

In Matador Goods

Traveling with a scarf (or more specifically a shawl/pashmina/whatevayacallit) is something I firmly believe in. There have been many times when a scarf has served some key purposes: keeping my neck and head from touching snow and getting frostbite, looking dressy even while wearing pajamas, and dressing modestly in conservative areas.

In Brave New Traveler

One more person that makes me think my yet-to-be-explained need to write while traveling is absolutely necessary. Christine writes a good piece on travel writing that links to an interesting book I may just check out! And I understood the following excerpt all too well on the WTI trip.

“Even when we are traveling, attempting to see all the sights - and hit all the nightclubs - keeps us disconnected from this inner knowing. And when we are at home, ideas start drying up; inspiration is, well, lacking. We get frustrated and hit a wall…then, nothing.” Photo by The Trial

Young girl in an orphanage in Chennai, India

Young girl in an orphanage in Chennai, India

Shannon tackles an issue of having compassion on the road and realities behind the impoverished asking for help. I don’t like feeling so cold when confronted on the street by a shoeless child, but I know that giving money or any offering of care isn’t usually the most helpful thing to do. Shannon makes these inner thoughts visible and explains why she appears unaffected by the poverty of her resident country. We certainly all take it in and feel assorted levels of pain and guilt for the suffering of others, but what balance must we strike between indifference and active concern in order to make through the street, the trip, the long term journey? Heavy issue…good read.

And for a Nomadderwhere Update

I've decided to take Nomadderwhere a little further into the travel blog-o-sphere by moving from Wordpress.com to Wordpress.org. For those who don't understand that lingo, I'm making my website bigger and better and in doing so hopefully tailoring it more closely to what people want to read.

It may be wishful thinking, but I plan to launch the new website on my 24th birthday...not too far away! In the meantime, enjoy the current site and feel free to make suggestions for future content! The future may even hold a Nomadderwhere photography site, but it all depends on my computer capabilities...which are a bit lacking for the internet world. I hope you stick around for the revealing of:

The New Nomadderwhere coming September 23rd, 2009!

Another Good Read

Jenn Vargas, in a much appreciated move to satiate my travel reading desires, sent me an article I spent much time reading to the last period. It's about traveling on a budget that above all improves the traveler's experience through connections and relationships with places, people, and purposes.

One of the biggest expenses for a traveler is accommodation. Working (or rather, volunteering) in trade for accommodation – also known as caretaking - is a great way to meet the locals, learn about the land, and get off the beaten path. All the while saving thousands of dollars on places to sleep.

Travel Full-Time for less than $14,000 a Year by Nora Dunn