Tag: Media Addict

Where’s Andrew? At Home.

I didn’t know Andrew Evans when he set out to take the bus to Antarctica. By the time he’d been there and back, we were friends, making plans to meet on stopovers and detours. Now, we trade travel stories and advice, send each other postcards and chat online. But before all that, he was a voice in 140 characters on Twitter under the name@Bus2Antarctica. He was on an adventure I wanted to be a part of. I remember when he posted a picture of himself at a city bus stop with his pack. He was serious; he really was taking the bus all the way from Washington DC to the tail end of the planet. I was hooked, as were thousands of others who tagged along for the ride.

Because his travel stories brought me such joy, my first reaction on learning yesterday that he was going on hiatus was this: Noooooooooo!

As he wrote:

It’s impossibly hard to step away from a dream job that I built from scratch, but after nearly five years on the road, I have decided to take a sabbatical from this blog and its accompanying lifestyle. Over the next year, I intend to write my next book and spend a lot more time with my dog.

Andrew’s Bus2Antarctica project wasn’t the first time someone had chronicled a travel experience on Twitter, but it may be the first instance of a major travel publisher—National Geographic—putting its eggs in a basket that carried a mere 140 characters. Andrew’s ability to both be present in his travels and to share them in little haiku-like snapshots enchanted his followers. We wanted desperately to know what was going to happen next. Twitter was still a mystery to many of us when Andrew starting using it to share his adventures. He showed us how we could use this medium for maximum impact.

I’m one of many who, after seeing his penguin photos, asked if he could please bring me a penguin chick. When we met for the first time—after a series of missed connections— he handed me two fluffy little penguin plush toys. “This one is named Frida,” he said, “and you’ll have to name the other one.” I’d been considering a trip to Antarctica but I was hesitant. I get terribly seasick. We’d been trading email about the trials of crossing the Drake, but Andrew wouldn’t hear of my staying home. “You’re going,” he said, “and you should take them with you. You need mascots.” I went, and in one of those funny travel coincidences, I crossed paths with Andrew in Santiago, Chile, where I’d stopped over on my way back from Antarctica. We went for ice cream at an upscale shopping mall. “You were right,” I said. He did not say, “I told you so.”

Heather on the path/ Where the mountains disappear/ Ever-changing clouds.—Isle of Sky, Scotland

Another soft yawn of the leopard’s jaws, though it looks like she’s laughing at the funniest joke in the world. —Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa

Andrew took us all over the world—to the middle of the Atlantic and up Kilimanjaro and, most recently, to the heart of Nashville. When he wasn’t on Twitter, he wrote for his blog or for the magazine, National Geographic Traveler. But Twitter was where we could always find him. A guy with more than 30,000 followers and often in demand, he made time for fourth graders, grown-ups with a sense of adventure, and like-minded friends. We can still find him on Twitter, though we’re more likely now to see him posting photos of his dog’s quizzical face—or maybe we’ll hear about his progress on the book we all want him to write.

Andrew’s (hopefully temporary) goodbye to his readers was touching and personal.

A story isn’t a story until somebody listens, so thank you all so much for listening and following my travels. I believe strongly in Tim Cahill’s sentiment that, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Though I lost count after the first million miles, I remember all of my friends around the world, even those I knew briefly—sitting next to me on a train, behind the bar, or chatting around a campfire.

From the bottom of my dingy backpack, thank you. Thanks for reading, commenting and encouraging me in my work. I am lucky to have never been lonely on the road, because I’ve always had you with me.

No, Andrew. Thank you.

Alain de Botton on Plane Crashes and the Meaning of Life*

Wikimedia Commons

*Note: This post was written and published before reports that a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 people had disappeared Friday.

Last night at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, philosopher Alain de Botton deconstructed the news: how we consume it, how it informs us, and how, ultimately, it fails us—all topics addressed in his new book, The News: A User’s Manual.

Among the highlights of his talk, he touched on the popularity of news reports of plane crashes. An image of last year’s Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco appeared behind him as he spoke:

The other thing we love, most of all, is plane crashes. Absolutely amazing. Especially when it’s a wide-bodied airliner, many dead, sudden conflagration and a first-world airline. Again, are we crazy? No, we’re looking for the meaning of life.

De Botton noted that many people in the early modern era kept a human skull—a memento mori—on a table at home to remind them of their own mortality. Why?

There is something about the thought of death that clarifies what is most meaningful in life. We’re constantly, as creatures, losing our sense of priorities. To focus on the fact that we’re constantly at risk of accident [reminds us] therefore we need to focus on what our priorities are. This is something that happens with the memento mori of the skull. And in a way, it’s trying to poke through our interest in these sorts of scenes. These are, in many ways, the memento mori of the age. The problem, again, as is so often the case, is the news takes us to something very interesting and then doesn’t tie it up properly, doesn’t do the final thing, which is why it leaves us, very often, with a background sense of unresolved dread and anxiety. These are the emotions that have been unleashed and not closed properly, as art does.

In other words, all too often, the news media fail to provide meaning or a provoke any kind of catharsis.

RELATED ON WORLD HUM: Interview with Alain de Botton: ‘A Week at the Airport’

You can watch this at 21:30 in the video of his talk below.

Tags: Media Addict

Rejection Notes for Famous Authors: ‘I Don’t Dig This One at All’

The Atlantic has a fun round-up of rejection notes received by some now-famous authors, before they made it big. Among them: Peter Matthiessen and Jack Kerouac, whose “On the Road” is dismissed by a Knopf editor as “huge sprawling and inconclusive.” Said another editor: “I don’t dig this one at all.”

Does Travel Change Us? The Debate Goes On.

A few months back, we blogged about a provocative essay by Caitlin Rolls that argued against travel as a life-changing force. Now The Smart Set’s Jessa Crispin has weighed in too, touching on everything from Rolls’ essay to Tony Hiss’ concept of “deep travel” to Crispin’s own early travels.

The New York Times: ‘It’s a List, Silly!’

The Times responds to the Guardian’s top non-fiction picks with 33 lists of favorites chosen by newspaper staffers, and a refreshingly unambitious introduction—no best-of claims here:

Dispensing with all pretense to rigor—it’s a list, silly!—we simply asked each member of the staff to pick their five favorites… Two members of the staff saw fit to pick six titles (they’ve been reprimanded), one identified the author of “On Photography” as Susan Sarandon (she has been ridiculed), and one expressed dislike of the term “nonfiction” (that poor soul will be reading the Lives slush pile for a week).

The Times lists, like the Guardian’s, include a handful of travel favorites, from Krakauer to Kapuscinski. Mother Jones has joined the conversation, too. And while we’re at it, Budget Travel recently offered a fiction-heavy take on the 25 Greatest Travel Books of All Time.

Travel Books Make the New York Times’ 2010 Notable List

The Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2010 list has arrived, and a couple of familiar names appear on it. Peter Hessler’s “Country Driving” and Ian Frazier’s ” Travels in Siberia” both made the non-fiction section of the list, while travel writer and novelist Gary Shteyngart landed on the fiction side for his latest, “Super Sad True Love Story.”

We ran an excerpt from Hessler’s book and interviewed him about road tripping in China earlier this year. (Via The Book Bench)

Travel Headline of the Day: Travelers Opt Out of Opt-Out Day

Or variations on the theme, as seen at The Boston Globe:

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Test Driving the New Travel + Leisure iPad App

Travel + Leisure magazine just launched an app designed especially for the iPad, and the first issue, for November, is available for free.

Here’s how the magazine touts the app on its iPad FAQ page.

You’ll find exclusive videos from top creative minds and travel experts and bonus photo galleries and slideshows of the magazine’s award-winning photography from destinations around the globe. You’ll get the best of the print magazine, plus bonus trip tips, interactive maps, booking and buying links, audio reviews, and much more-all the tools you need to take you where you want to go.

I downloaded it last night and took it for a test spin.

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Paris vs. New York: The Blog

Paris vs. New York, a tally of two cities is a fun graphic blog that pairs up aspects of the two iconic spots—Quasimodo vs. King Kong, for instance, or the macaroon vs. the cupcake. I guess this is one city-to-city comparison that never gets old. (Via Kottke)

Some Travel Headlines Never Get Old

Over at Slate, Press Box columnist Jack Shafer is gathering suggestions for a list of generic news headlines that never seem to go out of style—headlines, as Shafer puts it, with “all the news value of one titled ‘Sun To Rise in East Tomorrow’.”

It occurred to us that hard news isn’t the only area that seems to rely on a rotating cast of headlines; travel writing has its fair share, too. So what are the “frequent flyers” of travel news headlines? Here’s a start:

Got more to add to the list? Let us know in the comments, or post them on Twitter with the hashtag #staletravelnews.

Atlas Unveiled as ‘World’s Biggest Book’

Australian publisher Gordon Cheers debuted a six-by-nine-foot atlas at the Frankfurt Book Fair. He’s pretty cocky about it, too. From the AFP:

“It’s all about creating a legacy,” the Sydney-based publisher said. “Today, everything is digital and it’s gone in a second. This will still be around in 500 years.”

The book took around a month to produce and Cheers is limiting the print run of his monster Atlas to 31. He has already sold two volumes to museums in the United Arab Emirates and is confident he will sell the whole lot.

But is it really the world’s biggest book? As of this post, Wikipedia disagrees!

Hunter S. Thompson and the Vancouver Sojourn That Could Have Been

Fifty two years ago, Hunter S. Thompson applied for a job at the Vancouver Sun, then under the direction of an ambitious new editor. The application letter—apparently written in a “frenzy of drink”—appears in full in this Sun article, and it’s a remarkable read. Here’s Thompson on the state of modern journalism:

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.

For fans of Thompson as a travel writer, the letter closes on a tempting note: “It’s a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I’d enjoy the trip.” (Via @AllisonCross)

Preppies Are Cocky Travelers

They may not even sit next to you on a plane if you’re wearing sweatpants. I learned this and other tidbits—one of them addressed to “Pookie”—from Vanity Fair’s excerpt of “The Official Preppy Handbook” reboot, True Prep. The travel section begins:

We travel, and we’re rather good at it. Some of us have traveled from a very early age, even if it’s been just back and forth from Princeton and Newport. We may travel to see relatives, to take a semester away, or to go to rehab. We go to Europe because it’s there, and there is so very much to learn from Europeans.

In Europe, we learn how to kiss people on both cheeks, how to do math when we convert the dollar into the euro, and how to make ourselves understood in adverse conditions. We get to practice the little bits of foreign languages we’ve retained from school, and to see that Italian men can carry off the sweater-around-their-shoulders look easily.

The travel section, along with the 15 Prep Travel Commandments, begins about halfway down the page.

The Strangest Travel Quotes of All Time

Travel ... six letters flowing like melted French Brie across two syllables.”—Cathy Salter, Sept. 27, 2010, Columbia Daily Tribune

The famous Twain quote and the Saint Augustine quote and so many other famous travel quotes—they’re just so earnest, aren’t they? After reading Cathy’s words of wisdom above it occurred to me that we could use a little more levity, a little more strangeness, a little more melted French brie in our famous travel quotes.

Inspired by her words, I humbly submit a few suggestions for the canon:

Got your own strange travel quote? Share it below, or join the #faketravelquotes conversation on Twitter. 

Local Newspapers: ‘The Heartbeat of Any Great Place’

Daisann McLane is no luddite. She reads newspapers online when she’s at home. When she’s on the road, though, bring on the ink smudges.

For a long time I thought it was just coincidence that so many of the places I gravitated to as a traveler—Colombia, India, the West Indies, London, Hong Kong—also happen to be places with a lively, even raucous, newspaper scene. (In this “post-print” era, Hong Kong’s citizens defy the pundits by continuing to support 15 to 16 daily newspapers.) But as I travel to more cities and countries and read more local newspapers, I realize they’re in the same category as public squares, street markets, and local coffee shops. They’re the heartbeat of any great place. When I visit regions that, because of political repression or economics, don’t have a good daily paper, I feel like something is missing, as though there’s a lack of oxygen in the air. Havana was wonderful, but it would have been even better if I’d awakened, as I did that time in Veracruz, to the “Music! Happiness! Wounded bulls!” headline.

Travel Morality Tales

Travel Morality Tales Screen shot from commercial for DIRECTV

Parsing the hidden travel advice in two DirecTV commercials

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A Conversation With Fidel Castro

Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg recently got a personal invitation to visit Cuba—from Fidel Castro. His first dispatch from the trip is live, and it’s a fascinating mixture of traveler’s observations and quotations from the rarely-seen Cuban leader. Here’s a taste:

The morning after our arrival in Havana, Julia and I were driven to a nearby convention center, and escorted upstairs, to a large and spare office. A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.

...Fidel lowered himself gently into his seat, and we began a conversation that would continue, in fits and starts, for three days. His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor. When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question—has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God?—he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.”

In the next installment, Goldberg tells the story of “one of the stranger days I have experienced, a day which began with a simple question from Fidel: ‘Would you like to go to the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?’”

Political Pundits Tackle American Vacation Time

‘Tis the season for lots of vacation talk, and so the Capitol Hill crowd turned its attention to shrinking vacation syndrome this week: First, a British columnist speculated that Americans “find it hard to relax” because of their Puritan heritage. Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein responded:

I’d say it’s more closely related to the fact that it’s hard to pass social welfare legislation in the American political system, and thus America is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its workers some amount of paid-vacation leave.

NRO’s Reihan Salam followed up with a mild defense of the American system. (Via The Daily Dish)

The Case for Analog Travel Directions

Giving directions is an art form, one we’re losing in the age of GPS and Google Maps. Renée Loth makes the argument:

In this season of vacation travel, I would like to issue a plea for a return to analog directions. This isn’t just a matter of technophobia. Writing good directions is not unlike poetry: an exercise in awareness, requiring an eye for detail and succinct but evocative language. It’s a delight to read something like “Travel over the old stone bridge—built in 1764!—until you see the brick library and Odd Fellows Hall on your right. Turn right there and go down the hill to the water.” Isn’t that so much better than “Head NW on S Main St/MA 1A N .5 miles toward Market Street,” or some similar digital version?

If you care enough and pay attention, you can learn a lot about people by the way they give directions. Are they nostalgic, mentioning phantom buildings or parks that were razed decades earlier? Are they crabbed and secretive, refusing to let you in on the shortcut? Landmarks give meaning to our surroundings, and everyone will emphasize a different place. One woman’s salt marsh is another man’s soccer field.

Google Maps—Minus the Map

Yet another interesting way to look at the world or, in this case, Los Angeles. (Via Kottke)