In choosing a travel companion, you might look for a curious mind, a sense of adventure, or a working knowledge of planes, trains, and donkey carts. But most important is a sense of humor. When the frustrations and absurdities of travel pop up, you both just laugh and carry on.
In My Favorite Place on Earth, I talked with 75 celebrated people about the places they love most in the world, and I made sure to talk with funny folks, from actor Will Ferrell to Matt Groening, who created The Simpsons.
Robin Williams spoke about his hometown, San Francisco. "One famous neighborhood is Haight-Ashbury," he said. "It's like a Civil War re-enactment done by Timothy Leary. The sidewalks are packed, and there are still shops from the Sixties."
Jerry Seinfeld reminisced about playing on a softball team with other up-and-coming comics in New York's Central Park. "We were doing this childlike thing in the middle of this most grown-up of places," he said. "On a Tuesday afternoon you'd be in jeans and sneakers, running around playing ball, and you'd see the skyscrapers with all the real people working for a living. You couldn't escape the fact that you had just dodged this huge bullet in life: 'I'm not up there working!'"
The pioneer of improv humor, Jonathan Winters, chose England, which loves its eccentrics: "In this country we say: 'Oh, he's not playing with a full deck - he ought to be in the asylum.' Whereas the English approach such an insane person differently: 'Who did he say he was? Winston Churchill? How sweet. Of course, Churchill's been dead for some time, but if he's brought him back to life, that's marvelous. Let's have him over this evening and simply address him as the Prime Minister.' Since I'm pretty sure that I'm Winston Churchill, I like the English!"
Dave Barry loves the U.S. Virgin Islands: "The Virgin Islands were discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, who wisely elected to remain on the ship during the discovery process so as to avoid being turned into Purina Shark Chow by the people who already lived there. Before sailing briskly away, Columbus named the islands 'the Virgins' because he thought they looked like reclining women, which tells you how long he had been on a non-coeducational ship."
Next time you travel, pack your iPod and sunblock - and don't forget a sense of humor.
Do you have a short funny travel story? Please send it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s derived from the name Clark Griswold, Chevy Chase’s character in Vacation. In recent usage it has two meanings:
1) To World Hum contributor Matt Villano, to Clark is “to overly plan an adventure in an attempt to make sure everyone will have a great time, only to see the plans backfire, causing disastrous results.”
2) To Tony Hawk, to do a Clark Griswold is to practice “efficiency in sightseeing.”
We support both uses.
The Canadian travel writer, well past deadline on a new book on Northern Ireland, has found a new form of procrastination: Writing entertaining op-eds about the agony of writing—or not writing—to a deadline. Here’s a sample:
While I wrestled with the title (the wrestling of titles also being an excellent reason for Not Writing) the book itself had stubbornly and - it must be said - ungratefully refused to write itself. It lies buried somewhere in those boxes of paper, breathing, waiting for me to unearth it. I don’t need a word processor; I need a pitchfork. I need a secretary. I need - a coffee, that’s what I need. So off I go.
I caught the trailer for “2012” on the big screen last night, and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many global landmarks and tourist must-sees being smashed to bits in one three-minute clip. Go ahead, try to count em up:
Gives new meaning to “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” doesn’t it? The flick hits theaters in November.
Taking the Great American Roadtrip
My dream, from way back—from high school, when I first heard the name Kerouac—was of driving across the United States. The cross-country trip is the supreme ...
With a possible end to the travel ban in the works, Jason Beaubien takes a look at Cuba from the potential American tourist’s perspective. One tour guide he spoke to acknowledged that, infrastructure-wise, Cuba may not be ready for an American influx. “But,” he added, “if you ask me about the will of the Cuban people, I would say, yes, we are ready. We would like to have more exchange with the American people coming from the U.S. to Cuba.”
Philosophical author begins work as airport's writer-in-residence
Millions of disgruntled passengers might say it is more suited to high farce than literary endeavour, but Heathrow attained cultural respectability as the author Alain de Botton made his public debut as writer-in-residence at Britain's largest airport.
The mind behind tomes such as The Art of Travel and How Proust Can Change Your Life is mastering the more prosaic matters of baggage handling and inflight catering as he becomes the latest artistic figure to tread the precarious line between creative independence and commerce after signing a publishing deal with the financial support of Heathrow's owner, BAA.
He follows in the footsteps of others such as bestselling author Fay Weldon, who in one of the most notorious sell-outs of recent times shocked the arts world in 2001 when it emerged that her latest novel had been sponsored by the Italian jewellery firm Bulgari.
De Botton says BAA has given him complete editorial freedom and access to all areas as part of a one-book publishing deal. "One of the first things I said when they offered it to me was that I should be allowed to say what I want to say," De Botton said. "If I see a cockroach coming out of the Carluccio's here then I should be able to write about it. BAA used to be so guarded as an organisation, but they have thrown open their doors to me."
The results of his week's stint at Terminal Five will be published by Profile Books next month, with BAA distributing 10,000 copies free to passengers. The airport's chief operating officer, Mike Brown, said: "Opening Heathrow to literary critique is a bold and adventurous step for us."
A self-confessed transport obsessive, De Botton said he hoped to "lift the lid" on how an airport works. "I love transport, I love airplanes. It is the opposite of routine, even when it goes wrong," he said. "There are not many industries where you find 20 people camped on your doorstep, like plane and trainspotters, to find out how it works. You will not find people doing that outside Tesco, saying 'look at that chicken tikka arriving.' People are fascinated by this and I share that fascination."
While De Botton's last book on transport, The Art of Travel, mused on the thoughts of intellectual powerhouses such as TS Eliot, Baudelaire and Nietzsche, the Swiss author said the product of his Heathrow residency would be more journalistic than highbrow. His research so far has encompassed trips to inflight meal maker Gate Gourmet, the terminal's state-of-the-art baggage system, which failed spectacularly last year, and Heathrow's deluxe passenger lounges. Interviews with the chief executives of BAA and British Airways, Heathrow's biggest airline, will also feature in the book.
"This is me with my reportage hat on rather than my philosophical hat. There will be some ideas, but it will be a Nietzsche-free zone," he said. "I want it to be like those kids' books where you see inside a Norman castle, like a cutaway. There are many places in the modern world that we do not understand because we cannot get inside them. Like nuclear power stations, there are lots of places important to the life cycle that we cannot get into."
De Botton's prominent position in the middle of the terminal's departure hall has already seen the writer-in-residence assume a more hands-on role.
"I do get asked where the toilets are. And I can answer many of the passengers' questions," he said.Dan Milmo
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Girl goes to Rome. Girl meets boy in Rome. Magic Roman fountain causes boy and girl to fall in love. Yes, the latest flick in the grand tradition of movies about young Americans finding romance in Europe is en route. The latest incarnation stars Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel and the aforementioned magic fountain. Here’s the trailer:
It's terrible to say, but before embarking on my 50-state journey, I had made little effort as a traveler to find hotels and bed & breakfast lodgings designated as historic landmarks. I hadn't stayed in many before, so my prejudice was unfounded, but I just assumed that "historic" was code for outdated air conditioning/heating, unreliable Internet service, and lumpy beds.
While researching hotels in Denver, however, I came across the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in a terrific hotel guide put out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (it was also featured in National Geographic Traveler's annual Stay List in 2008). Built by Henry Brown in the last 1800s, the name jumped out at me and I immediately made a reservation.
When I began preparing for this trip more than a year ago I did extensive reading on the Underground Railroad, and while its existence is hardly unknown--I think most of us have at least a vague awareness of its significance in our nation's past--the specific stories have been mostly forgotten.
One of the most extraordinary involves a crate shipped from Richmond, Virginia, to 131 Arch Street, Philadelphia, at 4:00 am on March 29, 1849. When the wooden box arrived at 6:00 am at the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society more than a day later, members of the abolitionist Vigilance Committee were there to receive it but, knowing its supposed contents, dreaded opening it for fear of what they might find. One of the members tapped on the crate and asked if everything was "all right within?" A muffled voice replied in the affirmative, and the members
quickly pried open the box and let an escaped slave named Henry Brown experience his first breath of freedom. Brown had survived an excruciating almost 27-hour journey, and despite bold lettering on the box directing that it be kept "This Side Up," the crate was repeatedly dropped upside down, putting almost fatal pressure on Brown's neck and head.
I had read that Brown became a successful businessman and moved to Colorado, where he opened one of the most elegant hotels in the city. After I made my reservation, I was shocked that although the hotel's own website repeatedly mentioned how historic the building was, there was no picture of Brown and no mention of his daring escape--just a brief description that he was a "Denver carpenter-turned-entrepreneur." Which is a little like referring to Beethoven as a piano tuner.
There is, it turns out, a good reason for this: I had the wrong Henry Brown. Henry C. Brown, the founder of the hotel, was indeed a local craftsman who opened the hotel in August 1892. But he was no relation whatsoever to Henry "Box" Brown, who ended up fleeing the U.S. for England because slave catchers were relentlessly after him. I had conflated Henry "Box" Brown story's with that of Barney Ford, who was another fugitive slave with a remarkable escape story, and he did in fact move to Denver and build an upscale hotel in the city. (There is a plaque on the Barney Ford Building at 1514 Blake Street, left.)
Once I realized my mistake, I considered canceling my reservation but eventually decided against it because I had a very affordable rate at the Brown Palace, and it turns out that the hotel has a lot of other great history to it, albeit unrelated to the Underground Railroad. From both the hotel's website and their wonderful concierge, Katie Pilkington, I learned that when the Brown Palace opened its restaurant, the Palace Arms, in 1950, the head waiter was Baron Gottfried von Kroenberger--a World War I ace who flew with Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the "Red Baron." I was especially intrigued by the wrought iron grillwork panels that ring the lobby from the third to the seventh floors. (One of them is upside down, which is apparently an intentional craftman's tradition to remind us that Man is not perfect.) Katie told me that during World War II, U.S. soldiers who were lodged temporarily at the Brown would practice rapelling down the sides of the lobby. My stay at the Brown could not have been more enjoyable, and it changed my whole outlook on historic hotels. [Ed.: For more authentic, historic hotels, check out Traveler's Stay List]
Quick postscript: When I returned to D.C. for a brief visit to check mail, pay bills, make sure the home hadn't burned down, etc., I received a packet of war letters (addressed to the Legacy Project) by an American soldier from New Jersey named Allen "Hutch" Hutchinson Jr., who had served in World War II.
By sheer coincidence, one of the letters was written from the Brown Palace Hotel on May 30, 1944, before Hutch was deployed overseas with the Army Air Corps. There isn't much he could say, but he ended it with sentiments expressed by so many young servicemen well aware that the time away from girlfriends, spouses, and fiancees was putting an enormous strain on their relationships. "I hate to let things drag along," he wrote to his sweetheart, Lucile Rayzor. "Not that we don't have plenty of love + faith, but wars play dirty tricks at times as well know all too well already. This is an old record by now, but you know I will do all I can as soon as I can. With all my love, Hutch."
Hutch survived the war, and his relationship to Lucile only grew stronger; the two were wed in June 1944 and remained happily married until Hutch passed away in May 2006.
All photos and text © Andrew Carroll.
With Julie and Julia set to open tomorrow, bringing a true food-blogging tale to the masses, the Globe and Mail’s Alexandra Gill decided to come up with a list of 10 cooking-centric movies—and winds up offering a global culinary tour-by-DVD. There are stops in Taiwan, Denmark, New Jersey, Mexico, and—no surprise here—three trips to Paris.
Photo: laihiuNeed some travel inspiration? Check out these seven conferences around the world that cover health, sustainability, and cultural tourism, with writing opportunities to boot.
Mashable recently named their top 7 places to watch great minds in action.
The list included the well-known conference TED, and a bunch of other ones based on the TED model (ok, we can easily deduce who is the leader of the great minds in action).
It got me thinking, where could you watch great travelers in action? Sure, there are plenty of great travel blogs out there, such as Nomadic Matt and Everything Everywhere, but what if you actually want to rub elbows with some of the top in the field? A place where you can get to know their secrets, and also find out what is happening in the world of health, sustainability, and cultural tourism?
I searched the internet, and found the top travel conferences that blend these important issues, gives you a chance to schmooze with some of the greats, and offers the opportunity to put your travel writing skills to good use. Here’s what I came up with:Health/Industry
Location: Phuket, Thailand (2009)
What they have to say: “The conference philosophy is designed to further improve the capabilities of healthcare institutions and tour operators who are key players in the medical tourism industry and to provide each individual patient to be well-informed on the standards of medical information worldwide.” Attendees include MDs, Spa & Massage Clinic Operators, travel agents, airline companies, tour operators, and anyone in the hospitality industry.
Location(s): New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle.
What they have to say: Marketplace for travelers, offering “unique” vacation options and travel information. Also includes travel seminars, hands-on activities, and cultural performances.
Location: Crete (2010)
What they have to say: “The aim of the conference is to provide a forum for academics, emerging researchers, policy-makers, industry practitioners, and destination management and marketing professionals to discuss and debate key issues in the development and management of sustainable tourism in an era of climate change.”
Writing opportunity: Themes include alternative tourism development, sustainability and economic restructuring, and eco tourism as a possible viable route to rural development. They are also accepting paper abstracts with an October 1, 2009 deadline. If chosen, there is an opportunity for possible post conference publication in either the Journal of Sustainable Tourism or the Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management.
Location: New Forest, UK (2010)
What they have to say: “Sustainable Tourism 2010 aims to find ways to protect the natural and cultural landscape through the development of new solutions which minimize the adverse effects of tourism. This can be achieved through the development of new strategies involving the active collaboration of society as a whole. Such solutions ought to cope with the continuous growth of tourism impacts on the country including culture and society.”
Writing opportunity: You can also submit an abstract for a paper here. Papers chosen for the conference will be considered for publication in the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand (2009)
What they have to say: “The aim of this conference is to provide a forum for international educators, scholars, researchers, industry professionals, policy-makers and graduate students with opportunity to explore and discuss issues in the topics on cultural tourism.”
Writing opportunity: They currently have a call for papers for the November 2009 conference due today, July 31st, that are relevant to culture and tourism.
Location: Corte Madera, California
What they have to say: “The Conference offers an array of workshops, panels, and evening activities. There are many hours of informal interaction between faculty and students during lunch and in discussions that often last late into the evening. Alumni have published books, articles, and photos — many as the direct result of lessons learned and contacts made at the conference.”
Location: Quebec City, Canada (2010)
What they have to say: “Conference includes: low writer/editor ratio, editor presentations and panel discussions, scheduled one-on-one meetings with 4 or more editors, writer bios and clips sent to editors in advance, off site dinners and after hours networking, Writers contest judged by conference editors, pre and post conference trips, work showcased on TravelClassics.com.”
Any other great travel conferences we missed? Share your links below.
Want a foundation in travel writing before you venture to a conference? Check out Matador’s Travel Writing school, Matador U, to learn everything you need to know to become a successful travel writer.
Does life have to involve regret? / Photo: eklerTravel constantly presents us with unique opportunities to experience life. But you can’t help wonder about the ones that got away.
Regret seems to come with age maybe because, as writer David Sedaris wrote, “when you’re young, it’s easy to believe that such an opportunity will come again, maybe even a better one.”
At the age of twenty, I firmly believed in a “no regrets” policy because it was hard to think mistakes couldn’t be set right somehow. With the distance of time, my perspective has become a bit more informed.“When you’re young, it’s easy to believe that such an opportunity will come again, maybe even a better one.”
The attitude behind my policy at twenty was arrogant; especially since it masked my timidity to really live up to it.
In Voltaire’s Candide the eponymous hero can be crudely separated into two categories: the young optimist and the provincial minded youth.
His breakneck brand of innocence serves him well throughout his globetrotting adventures where he doggedly pursues every opportunity.
But by the end he has shed the proverbial rose-colored glasses viewing the heart of his past self with weariness and insists that “all that is very well […] but let us cultivate our garden.”
The Cost Of Living
Many face this dilemma at one point or another - where reconciliation must be made between the cost of living and all it entails and fulfilling “the dream.”
For roamers it is an itch that festers until suddenly you’re on a bumpy bus ride far away from a zombie existence and filled with an overwhelming sense of freedom and affinity for the moment. Some of us never turn back and continue trekking; feeding that ever increasing gorge whose only demand is that you keep on going.
But what if you lose the ability to stop and recognize the moment for its potential?
Although my time spent in Italy was happy and full, I look back at my twenty year old self and recognize two moments with an apologetic heart for my youthful rashness.
One lazy afternoon in Florence, my roommate and I were at the train station purchasing tickets to Paris. We split off to browse the nearby newsstands.
A backpacker asked what map I was looking for. I told him Paris. He had just come from there! He needed a map of Lucca. I had just been there!
Earnest and sincere he drew me in. Talking to him was easy. When discussing his favorite Parisian museum his face became adorably animated. But, I was shy and incredibly pre-occupied.
Abruptly my roommate and I left to continue our errands. He looked a bit bewildered when we turned the corner out of the station. The encounter had been all too brief and yet indelible.
Did I leave like that purposely? No, I just didn’t know any better; I couldn’t hold onto the tease of something more sparked by that instant connection. After a few moments of gasps and curses, I shrugged him off, thinking that providence would give me a chance to correct my blunder.
A delusion only the very naïve and young could enjoy.
The other offense was that I didn’t loiter around in Rome.
I barely noticed the Forum due to the crowds, sacrificed a detour to a personal favorite Bellini statue, didn’t even venture inside the Coliseum and skipped an evening out in Rome all because annoyingly, I was too cheap to catch a later train back to Florence.Are these two incidents regrets? I’m hesitant to categorize them as such; instead I’d rather think of them as important lessons.
During the sprint across the city like a mad woman to catch my bus I gave up on forming a swath of Roman memories.
Are these two incidents regrets? I’m hesitant to categorize them as such; instead I’d rather think of them as important lessons.
Obliviousness happens. The “no regrets” thing isn’t a rule. It’s a warning to remember that missed chances occur, and the only safeguard is to be mindful of that knowledge.
Frank Sinatra, one of the masters of living, summed it up perfectly in his finely aged voice, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”
Have you had any travel regrets? How did you deal with them? Share your thoughts in the comments!