Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Traveler's Notebook: Destination Guides From Matador

The fine folks at Matador Travel have launched a new travel website that features insider guides by members of the Matador community.

It's called The Traveler's Notebook, and although right now content is a little sparse, the guides and articles that are already up bode well for the future.

Each guide features travel tips that are useful, to-the-point and tailored to the needs of independent, engaged, eco-conscious travelers.

I'm proud to say that my Quick Guide to Bhutan was the first destination guide featured at the notebook.

The most recent guide, a Green Guide to Molokai, is both concise and informative, striking the perfect balance between good writing and good advice.

I'm looking forward to contributing to The Traveler's Notebook from here on out, and helping it grow into one of the best spots for travel advice on the web.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sean Aiken of "One Week Job" Interviewed on CNN

They call him a Career Adventurer.


(Don't know who Sean is? Read the post below or click here)

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

"One Week Job" On CNN: A Success For Original, Independent Online Media

One of the most interesting things about trying to make it as a travel writer has been learning about how the Internet is transforming the media industry in general, and travel writing in particular.

This is a story about how I met 3 Canadian guys who are building careers by tapping into the potential of the World Wide Web, and how creative individuals and online entrepreneurs can run circles around stodgy, corporate media.


The night before I tried to ride my bike across Eastern Canada, I hung out in Montreal with - Kyle, Ian and Sean - 3 Canadian guys who have launched an all-out assault on the gates of celebrity.

We ate in Kyle's apartment in Montreal's Plateau district. Kyle's last name is MacDonald, but he's also known as "That Guy Who Traded A Paper-Clip For A House".

I saw Kyle appear on a high-pitched Japanese variety show when I was living in Hokkaido. He made it through that show and eventually succeeded in leveraging the publicity from his One Red Paperclip project into a house - a house in rural Saskatchewan, but a house nonetheless.

I went to Kyle's place without knowing he was a "That Guy". I was there to meet Ian MacKenzie, founder of Brave New Traveler, the online travel and lifestyle magazine I'm editing. When Kyle answered the door, I thought something about him seemed eerily familiar, and when I saw a stack of "One Red Paperclip" paperbacks on the bookshelf, everything came together.

"You're That Guy!" I said.

"Yeah," Kyle answered somewhat ambivalently. "I'm that guy."

It was an interesting dinner conversation, because all the guys in the room were trying, in one or another, to establish themselves as Internet celebrities.

Ian, my partner at Brave New Traveler, has already fired one ambitious shot at the big media fortress: He once launched a Don Quixote style grassroots campaign to get himself on Survivor, an American reality TV program that didn't have any Canadian contestants.

In addition to BNT, Ian is working with his friend Sean, an affable dude (somehow clean-cut despite his long, blond dreadlocks). Sean and Ian are in the midst of creating an independent reality TV show called "One Week Job". The show follows Sean as he works 52 Jobs in 52 Weeks, with each new episode posted online. Before and after dinner in Kyle's apartment, he was firing messages back and forth with "Jay Leno's people."

I don't think Sean ended up working a week at the Leno studios (or landing that particular morsel of publicity), but his project was just written up in the Wall Street Journal, and featured on CNN.

Will Sean get enough publicity for a house, like Kyle? Or will he find a job so satisfying that he can end his "Odyssey" and settle into a career?

Will Brave New Traveler magazine become an online media heavy-weight?

I don't know - but I can tell you this: "One Week Job" is an intelligent, entertaining, timely and ad-free program.

I also know that Ian and I publish much better travel tips and articles than those "travel" magazines that try to sell you Cruise Packages and Hummers.

If you haven't visited BNT yet, come on by.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

TRUTH: Josh Kearns on GDP

Renegade chemist Josh Kearns checks in from somewhere between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Thailand with a dazzling, clear-minded essay about the Gross Domestic Product index and why it shouldn't be used as a proxy to measure economic health or societal well-being.

Or, in other words, why money can't buy happiness.

Josh speaks the truth, y'all. Read on.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Interview! "From Berlin to the Bayou" with Katherine Burgess

My interview with Williams friend and urban planner extraordinaire Katharine Burgess has just gone live at Matador. Here's a few lines from the intro - follow the link for the whole shebang!


Katharine Burgess and I were hitch-hiking down the Izu Peninsula, south of Mt. Fuji Japan. We caught a ride to the northern edge of the peninsula, where our map showed a road hugging the coast all the way to a place called Toi.

Toi means “very far away” in Japanese, but Kat and I weren’t worried – we had an hour of daylight left, and rides had come easy all day. We raised our thumbs with confidence as the sun set over the harbor...

Read More!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

George W. Bush Does The Right Thing, For The Right Reasons

Bush and Congress Honor Dalai Lama

Well done, Mr. President. Please take the Dalai Lama's message to heart.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Josh Kearns On Slow Travel

I've mentioned Josh Kearns a few times before - he's an articulate writer and a deeply intelligent, independent minded student of the world.

Josh's latest article was published today at BNT, exploring "slow travel" and offering practical resources for meaningful travel experiences.

In my humble opinion, Josh's article is the best travel advice you'll ever read.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Ian and I are having a first anniversary celebration at Brave New Traveler. If you've read the magazine and like what we're doing, please take a quick video with your phone or digital camera of you saying "cheers" to BNT and wishing our new magazine a Happy Birthday.

Then, send the files to Ian - we've got T-shirts and CDs and even quality travel insurance for prizes, and believe me, if you enter you've got a pretty good chance of scoring something.

Watch a preview of the party here.



Travel Writing Tips!

In the past year I've been very fortunate to work with David Miller, an extremely talented writer and conscientious editor. Today, the feature post at Brave New Traveler magazine is the first in a series by David called "Literary Techniques Of Travel Writing".

If you've ever wanted to write, or are just curious about what makes a good story, this is a great article to read.

Here's the link:

2 Powerful Techniques To Illuminate Your Travel Writing.

Photo by Ryan Libre. Used with permission.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"These chili peppers make my asshole burn."

One of the few phrases I know in Dzongkha, the language of Bhutan's fortress monasteries, is "Ema Sawachen, Abou Tsaome", or, "These chili peppers make my asshole burn."

This is a very useful phrase to know in Bhutan. Why? Because it makes people laugh and breaks the ice.

Nothing shatters cultural barriers like a good belly laugh.

For more of my practical and easy tips to learn a foreign language, check out my post at BraveNewTraveler, the online travel magazine where I'm now a contributing editor.

Here's the link:

7 Tips to Learn a Foreign Language on the Road.

Thanks for reading :)

Monk photo by Liz Burns, Thimphu, Bhutan. Used with permission.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Suppport A Draft

Because it's impossible to understand war (or the Middle East!) without experience of war;

And people who understand war are less likely to support politicians with soft spots for military action;

And people who understand the Middle East are less likely to support politicians like Rudy Giuliani - who want to start more wars there;

I support a draft.

Peace Corps, Teach For America, or Navy, same salary, your choice.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Escape From Burma

I just read an excellent, uplifting article in The Globe and Mail about 3 Burmese monks who escaped the military crackdown and made it over the border to Thailand.

Here's the link:

Escape From Burma

Thanks to Worldhum blogger Eva Holland for pointing me to the article.

Remember, the Burmese protesters may have been driven from the streets, but now, in jail cells and attics and interrogation rooms, they need our attention and support more than ever.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burma Edition of Tales From the Road


In light of the courageous protests and subsequent military crackdown in Yangon and Mandalay, this week's edition of Tales From the Road is focused on travel narratives from Burma.

Here's the link:

Travel Stories From Burma


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Blue Side Of Lonely

Today I rode 85 kilometers to Bathurst, New Brunswick and bought a ticket for the night train to Montreal.

The train didn’t leave until 8 pm, so I went downtown and ate a plate of spaghetti at Bruno’s Bistro.

Bruno’s was decorated for a birthday party.

Red balloons drifted against the ceiling and pastel strips of tinsel paper were strung from wall to wall. I sat at a corner table by the window and watched a little girl with pale blond hair blow on a pink plastic kazoo. An old song came on the stereo – a sad, slow, country twang:

“I’m just on the blue side of lonely / Across from the Heartbreak Hotel / I’m calling to tell you it’s over…

I was the only customer.


Yesterday I rode 94 kilometers and crossed the bridge from Quebec into New Brunswick.

When dusk fell, I turned off on a side road, lugged my bike into some cedar woods and made camp with practiced efficiency.

When everything was staked out just so, I ate dinner. First a banana, then a peanut butter sandwich, then a Snickers bar. Then some more bread. Full and unsatisfied, I burrowed into my sleeping bag and read through the Official New Brunswick Vacation Planner by headlamp.

Usually I get a kick out of the bubbly language in tourist guides, but last night’s reading just annoyed me.

“Get ready for the great outdoors and the fantastic folklore of Dalhousie, nestled on the banks of one of the 30 most Beautiful Bays in the World!

Dalhousie is a dying mill town with one of those lonely downtowns where only the Dollar Store, Chinese Restaurant and Pharmacy are still in business.

I know this because I followed signs to Main Street that led me down a steep hill. I was hoping for a grocery store, or maybe a café with free wireless, but even the Price Chopper was closed. Then I had to push my bike up an even steeper hill to get back to Rt. 134 and the Scenic Acadian Coastal Drive.

Dalhousie sucks.

Huddled in my pup tent in cedar woods outside Dalhousie, I stared at the map, wondering where I might find a bus station, how I might get home.

Later, I dreamed that I was looking at a map with a faint road…a shortcut…leading straight across Maine, dipping through New Hampshire and winding right down to Craftsbury, Vermont. I traced the route with my finger. Only 250 kilometers! Two hard days of riding and I could be….



This hasn’t been a bad trip.

I’m just tired and lonely, that’s all.

My thighs ache, my shirt smells and I spend a lot of time thinking about how nice it would be to wake up in my own bed and come downstairs to a full pot of good coffee on the breakfast table, Mom reading the New York Times, Dad off on his morning bike ride.

I’m tired of searching for wireless Internet to upload the articles that I edit at night in my tent. I’m tired of shaking out my stuffy sleeping bag and cramming my tent into its bag every morning. Most of all, I‘m tired of pedaling, pedaling, pedaling, uphill and down, day in and day out, without feeling like I’m really getting anywhere.

I could keep going. But I’ve gone through my spare tubes and the one in my rear tire has two patches on it. The nights are getting colder. The zipper on my rain jacket is broken. I’ve got articles to edit, editors to contact, interviews to finish and stories to write.

I need to learn some Spanish before moving to Argentina for the winter.

Excuses, excuses.

It’s time to go home.