by Pam Mandel | 07.11.14 | 10:41 AM ET
According to Know Your Meme, the term “Columbusing” was coined by College Humor in a satirical video in which a white guy explains to his black friend that he’s “discovered” the bar where the black friend has been hanging out. “You can’t discover some place that people have already been to first,” argues the black guy. The white guy persists: “Yes, I can, that’s exactly what Columbus did.” It’s funny—and painful. (You can watch the College Humor video here.)
An ironic follow-up: NPR appears to have Columbused Columbusing. In a more serious take, “Columbusing: The Art of Discovering Something That is Not New,” Brenda Salinas asks when cultural appropriation is—and is not—okay.
Buzzfeed Food published an article asking, “Have you heard about the new kind of pie that’s all the rage lately?” It’s a hand pie, a little foldover pie that you can fit in your hand. They have flaky crusts and can be sweet or savory. You know, exactly like an empanada, a Latin American culinary staple.
On face value, it seems stupid to get worked up over an empanada. I mean, it’s just a pastry, right? But “discovering” empanadas on Pinterest and calling them “hand pies” strips empanadas of their cultural context. To all the people who grew up eating empanadas, it can feel like theft.
She suggests people—travelers and otherwise—ask themselves a few questions to be sure they’re not wantonly Columbusing:
Who is providing this good or service for me?
Am I engaging with them in a thoughtful manner?
Am I learning about this culture?
Are people from this culture benefiting from my spending money here?
Are they being hurt by my spending money here?
I’d add “What happened here?” and “Where did this idea originate?”
The cure for “Columbusing”? Curiosity.
by Jim Benning | 06.09.14 | 6:08 PM ET
This Louis CK rant isn’t new, but it never gets old, either. As one person commented: “They should play this looped in the terminals and on the aircraft all day 24/7.”
by Brian Kevin | 10.29.13 | 10:49 AM ET
As Brian Kevin observes, visitors can expect to see flashy import sedans right alongside donkey-drawn rickshaws. !Muy contrastado!
by Doug Mack | 04.04.12 | 10:53 AM ET
Editor’s note: For his new book, Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day, Doug Mack traveled around the continent using a decades-old copy of Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on Five Dollars a Day.”
So what will $5 buy in Europe these days?
During the course of their World Hum interview, Leif Pettersen asked Doug just that. Here’s what Doug came up with:
- Florence: Some crappy knockoff designer sunglasses from an unofficial vendor by the Arno (but only after you bargained down from the original price and the salesman, with a practiced sigh/grin, says that he’s never, EVER made an offer this low, but ...).
- Paris: A pain au chocolat and maybe a macaron from Gerard Mulot on the Left Bank, along with eternal, wistful memories of same, an enduring, bittersweet nostalgia for that transcendent instant when all seemed right with the world. This is all true. Or a couple of condoms from the Eiffel Tower gift shop. Also true.
- Amsterdam: Aw, bro, I know this kinda shady place down a back alley, you gotta bang on this steel door, but for five bucks they’ll hook you up with a little bag of this, like, super-primo ... Gouda.
- Brussels: A couple of chocolate bars in the shape of Manneken-Pis.
- Berlin: Two fake East German stamps in your passport at Checkpoint Charlie.
- Munich: Beer! Or a prostate cancer test from a vending machine at Oktoberfest. I promise this is a real thing. Unfortunately (or not), it does not involve a little robot hand cranking out of the machine, finger extended. In fact, it’s a little stick; you pee on it, like a pregnancy test, which you can also procure from the same machine.
- Zurich: Ha! Good one. Right, like you can get something for $5 in Zurich. You take a single breath of that crisp Alpine air and it sets you back 8.35 CHF, which is, like, $210.04 at the current exchange rate. Though that does include VAT.
- Vienna: Your choice of all manner of Mozart-themed tchotchkes. A Mozart wig, alas, will set you back quite a bit more than 5 dollars, but such is the price of timeless fashion.
- Venice: A map, so you can figure out where the *%$@!! you are in that enchanted labyrinth-land. Or a shoddy plastic version of those famous Venetian masks.
- Rome: Gelato. Gelatogelatogelato. Go to Gelateria del Teatro, near the Piazza Navona. Five bucks (or, you know, the equivalent in euros) will get you two scoops of creamy transcendence that rivals the Sistine Chapel for awesomeness. (Hyperbole? Of course not.) Try the lemon. Or the chocolate-wine. Thank me later.
- Madrid: A ticket in the highest, most sun-blasted seats at a novillada con picadores bullfight. Available online through a Ticketmaster subsidiary. (Again, I am not making this up.)
by Doug Mack | 04.02.12 | 10:52 AM ET
In an excerpt from "Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day," Doug Mack envisions a new future for himself in a vintage guidebook
by Leif Pettersen | 04.02.12 | 10:50 AM ET
Leif Pettersen talks to the author about his new book, travel snobbery, and traveling with "Europe on Five Dollars a Day"
by Jim Benning | 03.01.12 | 12:06 PM ET
If anyone could use some Kickstarter funding right now, it’s probably Greece.
From McSweeney’s: Welcome to the Official Kickstarter Page for Greece.
Greece is a small country in the south of Europe known for inventing democracy and western philosophy and for its national motto, “Release the Kraken!” Our shores are a popular destination for backpackers and tourists wishing to relax amid sun-drenched beaches by day and intoxicated British tourists by night.
We wish to continue this good work, but to do so our creditors are demanding 14.5 billion ($18.6 billion) by March 20. We do not have this money, nor do we think we can raise it in time: Our asset sales have gone nowhere, and the EU has nixed our plan to close shop and re-open a few blocks away as “Greeze”. And so we come to you, our friends, for help.
by Eva Holland | 02.14.12 | 11:57 AM ET
Today we introduce the Travel Story Hall of Fame, an occasional series in which we honor the best in travel writing new and old.
Title: The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment
Author: Jonathan Stern
Publication: The New Yorker
Date: April 24, 2006
Nomination Speech: I first read Jonathan Stern’s Shouts and Murmurs piece in “The Best American Travel Writing 2007,” but its tone, its language and sub-heads were all weirdly familiar, as though I’d read the story before. That eerie sense of recognition is a sure sign of a well-executed satire.
Meet the strange land of My Apartment, whose “vast expanse of unfurnished space can be daunting at first, and its population of one difficult to communicate with.” Under “Places to Eat,” Stern notes that “tourists often flock to the salvaged wooden telephone-cable spool in front of the TV as a convenient dining spot. More adventurous eaters might try standing over the sink, as the locals do. If you’re willing to venture off the beaten track, there’s balancing your plate on the arm of the couch or using the toilet lid as a makeshift table.”
Years later, “The Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment” remains one of the funniest pieces of travel writing I’ve ever read.
My Apartment’s vast expanse of unfurnished space can be daunting at first, and its population of one difficult to communicate with. After going through customs, you’ll see a large area with a couch to the left. Much of My Apartment’s “television viewing” occurs here, as does the very occasional making out with a girl (see “Festivals”). To the north is the food district, with its colorful cereal boxes and antojitos, or “little whims.”
by Eva Holland | 01.30.12 | 7:58 AM ET
Andy Murdock has been brainstorming some much-needed new travel words. For instance, “comeuppants,” a noun for those times when “an obnoxious person loses their luggage and has no change of clothes.” Or “trambunctious,” possibly my favorite of the bunch, an adjective describing someone who is “overly excited by riding trains, funiculars, and other forms of public transport.” Funny stuff all around.
by Jim Benning | 01.20.12 | 4:08 PM ET
I guess this was inevitable, given the wildly popular meme. My room is comped, right?
by Jim Benning | 01.17.12 | 8:32 PM ET
In case you haven’t seen it, a pretty brilliant scene from “Portlandia.”
by @worldhum | 08.03.11 | 11:32 AM ET
Last night on Twitter, a fun, silly hashtag made the rounds: #bookswithalettermissing. Naturally a few travel-focused titles popped up, and we’ve collected nine of our favorites:
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans. Love, friendship, cookery…. #bookswithalettermissing
Travels with Harley: Steinbeck criss-crosses America by hog. #bookswithalettermissing
Eat, Pay, Love: What really happened. #bookswithalettermissing
Our Ma in Havana: Memoir of Cuban childhood. #bookswithalettermissing
The Canterbury Ales…a guide to the finest brews in the land. #bookswithalettermissing
Notes From a Mall Island. (Somewhat less charming than Bryson’s original book.) #bookswithalettermissing
Fear and Lathing in Las Vegas. Gonzo tales from the machine shop. #bookswithalettermissing
A Moveable East: Hemingway recalls his years in Paris with a broken compass. #bookswithalettermissing
On the Rod. Kerouac’s other adventure. #bookswithalettermissing
The last time we had this much travel-themed fun on Twitter, we were talking #faketravelquotes.
by Michael Yessis | 08.01.11 | 11:34 AM ET
Love this annual contest, where writers compose an intentionally awful opening sentence of a novel. This year’s winners were announced last week and, as usual, the honorees have given us some dreadful yet hilarious travel writing. My two favorites come from the purple prose category. Mike Pedersen took the top spot with this clunker:
As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.
Jack Barry’s vision of Los Angeles was runner-up:
The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of smoke and fog, though in LA the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.
Clever, Jack. Clever.
Do you yearn to write bad travel writing? We can help.
by Michael Yessis | 07.26.11 | 7:14 AM ET
Funny story concept well executed by the man doing the chaperoning of fifth graders to Spain: Dave Barry.
Our group consisted of four dads, 18 moms and approximately 27,000 children. There was no way to get an exact count: They move too fast.
Our group assembled at Miami International Airport (motto: “Our Motto Has Been Delayed”). All of us wore identical ill-fitting T-shirts with our group name printed on them. That’s how you let everybody know that you’re a group of sophisticated world travelers.
The Washington Post Magazine covered similar ground this weekend. John Kelly joined a group of junior high students touring Washington D.C.
I began to recognize the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome about four hours into my day touring Washington with the eighth-graders of Centreville, Mich. I was starting to identify with my captors.
by Michael Yessis | 07.18.11 | 11:18 AM ET
More travel-related hilarity from David Sedaris in China, though it’s not for those without an adventurous palate. And if you do have an adventurous palate, Sedaris salutes you:
Another of the dishes that day consisted of rooster blood. I’d thought it would be liquid, like V8 juice, but when cooked it coagulated into little pads that had the consistency of tofu. “Not bad,” said the girl seated beside me, and I watched as she slid one into her mouth. Jill was American, a Peace Corps volunteer who’d come to Chengdu to teach English. “In Thailand last year? I ate dog face,” she told me.
“Just the face?”
“Well, head and face.” She was in a small village, part of a team returning abducted girls to their parents. To show their gratitude, the locals prepared a feast. Dog was considered good eating. The head was supposedly the best part, and rather than offend her hosts, Jill ate it.
This, for many, is flat-out evil but the rest of the world isn’t like America, where it’s become virtually impossible to throw a dinner party. One person doesn’t eat meat, while another is lactose intolerant, or can’t digest wheat. You have vegetarians who eat fish and others who won’t touch it. Then there are vegans, macrobiotics and a new group, flexitarians, who eat meat if not too many people are watching. Take that into consideration and it’s actually rather refreshing that a 22-year-old from the suburbs of Detroit will pick up her chopsticks and at least try the shar pei.
by Michael Yessis | 07.06.11 | 9:15 AM ET
Travel-related hilarity from David Sedaris in the latest issue of the New Yorker, as he mines his efforts to learn languages.
Thanks to Japanese I and II, I’m able to buy train tickets, count to nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and say, whenever someone is giving me change, “Now you are giving me change.” I can manage in a restaurant, take a cab, and even make small talk with the driver. “Do you have children?” I ask. “Will you take a vacation this year?” “Where to?” When he turns it around, as Japanese cabdrivers are inclined to do, I tell him that I have three children, a big boy and two little girls. If Pimsleur included “I am a middle-aged homosexual and thus make do with a niece I never see and a very small godson,” I’d say that. In the meantime, I work with what I have.
Alas, only an abstract is online.
by Jim Benning | 11.01.10 | 5:12 PM ET
Comedian Patton Oswalt apparently found himself alone in a hotel room last night for Halloween. That didn’t stop him from having a grand time. He unleashed a series of tweets. Among them:
“Trick-or-treater” at my hotel room door just Polish woman checking mini-bar. Happy Halloween. Sigh.
Just ‘cuz I’m alone in a NYC hotel room doesn’t mean I can’t have a happy H’ween.
Now to trick-or-treat in my hotel room. Trick-or-treat, mini-bar! Thanks for the scotch!
Trick-or-treat, bathroom! Yay, Q-tips!
Trick-or-treat, desk drawer! Oooo, a room service menu!
by @worldhum | 10.29.10 | 3:07 PM ET
What makes a good travel tweet? Here are eight favorites from the past month.
by Eva Holland | 10.14.10 | 1:30 PM ET
The folks at Gizmodo list seven things they never want to see photographed again. Sorry, travelers: “food” and “scenery” make the list. Don’t miss the accompanying cartoon dialogue—funny stuff.
by @worldhum | 09.30.10 | 4:36 PM ET
One strange travel quote got us started. The travelers on Twitter took it from there.
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