Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Foot in Front of the Other

Hello from a Boston sidewalk, where I'm sweating in 90 degree humidity and poaching someone's wireless connection while my laptop battery holds.

I recently received a kind e-mail from an American writer and photographer named Michael who lived in Japan for a number of years and describes himself as "more of a wanderer than someone with roots."

Michael's short poems, Zen observations and perceptive photo portraits are made all the more poignant by his ongoing struggle with cancer, a diagnosis which permanently changed his perspective "on everything."

I really enjoyed scrolling through Michael's blog, which he publishes at Do check it out if you have the time - or even if you don't; Michael's best posts are often short and sweet, like the following haiku entitled "STORM":

Air still as a tomb
Thunderclaps move like footfalls
toward my shaking house

Again, that link is

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New! Tales From the Road

I'm running around like a headless chicken packing for Colorado, but wanted to announce a new edition of my weekly travel writing round-up at

This week's Tales From the Road features stories from Iran, Thailand, St. Vincent and The Pink Palace, along with the best piece of journalism that's come out of the Iraq War.

Follow this link to check out my selections:

Tales From the Road


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Can Capitalism Survive Environmentalism?

No Impact Man has written a terrific, thought-provoking piece called Can Capitalism Survive Environmentalism? that mirrors many of the points Josh Kearns raised in his excellent essay The Crisis of Too Much Energy". In fact, No Impact Man links to Josh's article, which was recently republished at

Read 'em both. They're good.

Tomorrow is my 25th Birthday, I just got a wonderful letter from my cousin Emily and a copy of Get Lost Magazine with my first feature article in it. Good times.

(photo of Josh at Pun Pun Farm by Hadar)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Article! "Mango Village and the House of OZ" at

Mango Village and the House of OZ is my latest story from the Cambodian Coast Expedition. It describes a journey by long-tail boat to Koh Rong, the island I wrote about in a feature article for Get Lost Magazine and in a Secret Guide on Matador. Both articles are beautifully illustrated with photographs by Ryan Libre, who is now back in Hokkaido, ranging in Daistetsuzan National Park.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Weekly Column!

Great news!

I'm writing a column for the up and coming webzine

Basically, each week I surf the web for great travel stories, choose 5 or 6 that I really love, write a short description of each and post links to the full articles. Tough job, huh.

The first edition of Tales From the Road was published today. Here's my introduction:

"We all love a great travel story, but the truth is that truly inspiring and entertaining reads are few and far between. And who has the time to search out the diamonds in the rough?

You can hit the bookstore and pick up a hard copy of the Best American Travel Writing series, or you can keep reading this post and check out the five stories with the links below.

Some are by established writers and originally appeared in well known magazines; some I culled from the depths of the blogosphere. All have one thing in common: quality.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading these travel stories as much I enjoyed finding them."

Tales From the Road will appear every Tuesday at

Click here to see my selections!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

G. Frank Oatman Jr. on Robert McNamara

A few years ago I met Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense and World Bank President, an architect of both the firebombing of Japan and the Vietnam War. McNamara is a very old man now, and has devoted the last years of his life to explaining his actions.

A few months ago, in Cambodia, I wrote an article called "Accountability," in which I struggled to come to terms with American responsibility for the Cambodian genocide and, more broadly, with the question of how well-meaning men can commit horrible, irrational acts of destruction. "Accountability" is one of my most heartfelt pieces of writing. It was pretty well received and got translated into Italian and published in Milan.

Today I got an e-mail from Frank Oatman, a family friend who led my tour to Bhutan. Mr. Oatman is a naturalist, a poet, a former professor, a former soldier and a role model of mine. As it turns out, he also has some compelling insights into the question of accountibility for men like McNamara, and the consequences of political deception and American arrogance.

With Mr. Oatman's kind permission, I'm copying his e-mail to me below. I hope you read it. For those who haven't read my original "Accountibility" piece, here is the link: READ Accountibility

I'd love to hear more opinions. Comments are especially welcome on this post.

"Hi Tim,

Finally got around to reading your article from Cambodia in 'Rucksackwanderer.'

Very good -- and affective that it was written in and from Cambodia, where the direct results of American arrogance and willfulness are so clear.

I concur with your conclusions. As with your doubts about what good prosecuting such losers and/or ill-advisors to governments really does.

I too met McNamara -- via my cousin Lyndon Johnson, when McNamara was serving the Johnson administration and I was a lowly First Lieutenant in the US Army, getting radicalized by top-secret briefing papers on VietNam, which the General for whom I was working made sure I saw.

It was clear in those papers (and to General McKee himself, I think, who wanted me to see them) that McNamara and the Defense Department, indeed the entire American administration of my sad Cousin, were systematically and intentionally, consciously deceiving the American people and (I think) to some degree as well the American Congress.

So don't be too soft, however much a gentleman he came across to you in college, on McNamara. He and my cousin the President knew what they were doing, I can tell you categorically and with certainity from the top-secret government documents I was seeing in mid-l960's).

His greatest criminality (as my own Cousin's) was the subversion of the American constitution and the most basic tenents of democracy. We cannot sustain a real democracy in this country, in any country, unless the electorate (and their duly elected representatives) are honestly and correctly informed.

The lies of that administration are repeated in nearly exact ways by the present Bush administration. Such deception of the electrorate is what, ultimately, allows for such disgraces (and, yes, war crimes) as illegally bombing Cambodia, invading Iraq under totally false pretenses, aiding the Contras, etc., etc., etc.

I tried to read McNamara's book, largely a justification of his actions while in government. I was finally disgusted by it and didn't, couldn't finish. He remains a liar, a deceiver -- sadly, I feel, of himself as well as of others.

You met, Tim, a true evil-doer."

- G Frank Oatman Jr.

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Andy Warhol's YouTube Poem




Temperature Riiiissssiiinng

Let’s Throw Magic Rock!

Make the EARTH…Into a STAR!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Best Day Hike in the White Mountains

A quick note from the road - covered in sweat, pollen and dirt in the Lebanon NH public library. Slept last night outside Canaan NH after a long day of brutal hill climbs, hauling my full pack on the back of my sturdy little Brompton folding bicycle.

When I go hiking, I like to get above treeline - the quicker the better. I also try to avoid crowds and expensive tram rides. With that in mind, the ideal trailhead is at a high elevation away from tourist infrastructure. In the Whites, that means the Caps Ridge Trail off the Jefferson Notch Road in the Presidential Range. The trailhead parking lot is at 3,000 feet, which means you can get up to treeline in about an hour of hiking. Push on to the top of Mt. Jefferson (5,700' or so) for views across to Mt. Washington - the truly ambitious can head along the ridge to Mt. Adams, or even continue on to Mt. Madison. There are a ton of options, from an easy 2 hour hike up to rock outcrops, to multi-day hut to hut backpacking along the Presidential range.

Get to the Jeff. Notch Road from Rt. 2 or from Bretton Woods - not too far from Interstate 93. More later - but for now the sun is shining and I've got miles to ride before I pitch my tent for the night.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Frustrated? Pack Bags and Head to the Mountains

Thunderstorms whip rain against the windowpane as I type in my Vermont living room. The weather matches my mood.

The best article I've ever written is called "The Flaming City, The Golden City." It's about Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos.

So why no link? Well, because it's not published yet. I've spent months working with John Flinn, the excellent travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, and finally finished the last set of edits today. I was just about to send it when Mr. Flinn e-mailed me.

Seems there has been some fighting in Laos, and with the U.S. Embassy issuing travel warnings, the Chronicle wants to hold off on publishing for another month or two.


Two other articles on Cambodia - "Cambodia's Undiscovered Islands" and "Mango Village Brother Island" remain unpublished, although the former piece will be out soon when Get Lost magazine hits newstands.

So what am I doing?

Tomorrow, bright and early, I'm jumping on my bike and riding to New Hampshire. I'll climb up into the Presidential Range and think about things for a while. Then I'll climb down, ride my bike home and start writing again.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Matador Travel Writing Contest Winner Announced! is the only website I've found that pays writers and photographers of all levels of experience for quality travel articles. Last month I blogged about Matador's first travel writing contest, which offered a $500 cash prize. The Editors received about 80 submissions and the winner was announced yesterday, along with two honorable mentions.

Unfortunately, the entry Ryan and I submitted didn't make it to the podium, but the good news is that the winning article and runners-up are truly great reads.

Click here for the winning entry, "Huayhash: A Convergence of Change and Resilience.

And while I'm a bit bummed to miss out on the trophies and champagne this time around, there will be more Matador contests soon, and I'm excited for my first magazine feature to hit bookstore shelves sometime next month. Stay tuned!

And by the way - for those who miss my Hokkaido stories I've got some great news. Scott Lothes is writing again from Muroran, Hokkaido. Check out his blog at