Destination: Colombia

Welcome to Escobarland

The one-time home of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar has been transformed into a theme park—and, says the Daily Mail, it’s “an attraction not to be sniffed at.” Visitors to the park can view Escobar’s private bullfighting ring, a derelict hovercraft, and a plane once used for smuggling drugs. Can’t make it to Colombia anytime soon? The Daily Mail story includes an array of photos. (Via @DavidGrann)

My Guilt-Inducing, Nausea-Provoking Street Photography Obsession

My Guilt-Inducing, Nausea-Provoking Street Photography Obsession Rob Verger

Rob Verger's quest for the perfect travel shot sometimes churns his stomach. But it's a small price to pay for what he's after.

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World Travel Watch: Violence Returns to Medellin, G20 Restrictions in Toronto and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Floods in Central Europe, Ongoing Violence in Bangkok and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Violence in Cartagena, Evacuations in Peru and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Turn Up the Tunes, Break Out Your Phrasebooks

Elyse Franko wonders: Is the United States at the beginning of a linguistic musical revolution?

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Malcolm Gladwell on Aviation Safety and Security

Photo by Brooke Williams, via

Perhaps the most fascinating section of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success, is the chapter called “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” Gladwell explores two plane crashes—one Colombian (Avianca Flight 52) and another, South Korean (Korean Air Flight 801)—and how the culture of the pilots perhaps contributed to each disaster. He focuses on how well the pilots communicated with each other and with air traffic control. Poor communication in these examples, he argues, has to do with something called a culture’s Power Distance Index (P.D.I.)—the term and concept come from psychologist Geert Hofstede—which is a measurement of “how much a particular culture values and respects authority,” as Gladwell defines it. Countries with a high P.D.I. generally value being more deferential towards authority, and thus not contradicting a superior (the U.S. and New Zealand both have a low P.D.I.). Gladwell argues that since both Colombia and South Korea rank towards the top of the P.D.I. list, the subordinate members of their cockpit crews were unable or unwilling to speak up as assertively as they should have about safety concerns.

I interviewed Gladwell in early November for an article for The Boston Globe and asked him if he would suggest changing anything in general regarding airline security. “Not really,” he answered, but added that he was more concerned “about the mistakes that pilots make and air traffic controllers make in the course of doing their jobs than I am about the threat posed by terrorists. It’s the classic thing where we demonize and terrify ourselves about the threat from outside and forget about the threat that we pose to ourselves.”

But it’s the connections that Gladwell draws in “Outliers” between culture and plane crashes that have become, not surprisingly, controversial.

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Colombia On Film (Again)

Colombia On Film (Again) Photo by *L*u*z*a* via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by *L*u*z*a* via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Sure, 2007’s Love in the Time of Cholera may never have become the big Colombian movie-tourism ticket that we were expecting (the film adaptation of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic tanked, critically and at the box office), but Cartagena—the city where “Cholera” was set—isn’t done yet.

There’s a new Cartagena-set movie in the works (called, appropriately enough, Cartagena) that will star Clive Owen as “an undercover agent at the center of the world’s cocaine trade,” as Get The Big Picture blogger Colin Boyd puts it.

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Move Over Bookmobile: Make Way for the Biblioburro

The New York Times profiled Luis Soriano, Colombia’s one-man Biblioburro, who—along with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto—brings books to some of his nation’s most remote and impoverished villages. “This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” Soriano said. “Now it is an institution.”

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World Hum Travel Movie Club: ‘The Art of Travel’

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Re-Branding Colombia: ‘The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay’

Photo of Cartagena by ho visto nina volare via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

What? That’s the only risk? What about the drugs? The rebels? The risk of catching Shakira fever? I was watching “Larry King Live” the other night when I was suddenly faced with something far more interesting than the babbling pundits: a commercial promoting tourism to Colombia. It began with footage of feet walking along a beach and a gentle voice intoning, “You are at risk when you go to Colombia…at risk of amazement, of marveling, of falling in love…” Then came images of a snorkeler in turquoise water and smiling tourists. The kicker? “Colombia. The only risk is wanting to stay.”


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Adventures in Colombia: Cocaine! And Hey, ‘The FARC Are Nearby? Cool!’

We’ve been writing for some time about the resurgence of tourism in Colombia, thanks largely to a drop in drug-related violence and crime. Even the New York Times jumped on the cheerleading bandwagon. This week, while acknowledging the trend, the Guardian reports on the small but “growing minority” of backpackers and travelers who are more interested in sampling the other Colombia. Namely, the Colombia made infamous by its cocaine trade and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

Drunken Bullfighting in Colombia: Don’t Try This at Home

What happens to the untrained and often inebriated matadors involved in corraleja, Colombia’s amateur form of bullfighting, when they take on pissed-off bulls? New York Times writer Simon Romero likened their wounds to those in a Hieronymus Bosch painting: “intestines peeking out of a belly, bone protruding from a fractured shin, blood spurting from a gash in the buttocks.” Yeouch.

Related on World Hum:
* Is Colombia the New New Zealand?

R.I.P. 64 Journalists

That’s the number of journalists killed around the globe this year—the most in over a decade. Not surprisingly, Iraq claimed more lives than any other country, 31, nearly all of them Iraqi. “Somalia was ranked the second deadliest country with seven journalists deaths in 2007,” Reuters reports. “Sri Lanka and Pakistan each recorded five journalists deaths, and Afghanistan and Eritrea each had two deaths.” One positive note: For the first time in more than a decade, there wasn’t a single reporter murdered in Colombia. Could it be further evidence of this?

Requiem for a Little Red Ship

Abbie Kozolchyk never understood why anyone referred to ships as though they were women. Then, long before it sank in Antarctica, she met the Explorer.

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