Amazon Connect for Authors

Posted by Chika On 9:35 AM 0 comments

Brad Newsham Hits the Beach

The always creative Amazon has come up with another way for book authors to promote their work, and it sounds like a fine way to meld the worlds of travel guidebook authorship with blogging.

The entries were part of a new program called Amazon Connect, begun late last month to enhance the connections between authors and their fans - and to sell more books - with author blogs and extended personal profile pages on the company's online bookstore site. So far, Amazon has recruited a group of about a dozen authors, including novelists, writers of child care manuals and experts on subjects as diverse as real estate investing, science, fishing and the lyrics of the Grateful Dead.

New York Times Link

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Longitude Best Travel Books 2005

Posted by Chika On 12:54 PM 0 comments

Bill Bryson by Simon Schluter

As the end of the year approaches, you can expect the standard listings of "best of" books for the year, including a few sites that specialize in travel literature. Most of these digests are just recycles of reviews and hardly surprise, though I thought the list compliled and profiled at Longitude was adventurous and elegant.

Best of 2005

Our 15 favorite books of 2005, including an atlas we can't keep our hands off, followed by additional New & Notable books of the year.

Atlas Maior • Peter van der Krogt

A richly embellished, gloriously annotated collection of maps from the largest, most complete atlas of its day, published between 1662 and 1672 by Amsterdam mapmaker and entrepreneur Joan Blaeu. The gold-heightened, hand-colored 11-volume original, from which this sumptuous book is taken, is the showpiece of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Editor Peter van der Grogt provides a history of this exceptional example of art and cartography. (MAP22, $200.00)

The Explorer's Eye, First-Hand Accounts of Adventure and Exploration • Fergus Fleming • Annabel Merullo • Michael Palin

A gripping tale of 50 heroes and explorers from Alexander Von Humboldt to Robert Peary, Jacques Cousteau and Neil Armstrong, featuring a choice selection of archival photographs. Fleming once again dishes up surprises, telling quotes and even-more-telling photographs in this collection of diary excerpts, quotes and archival illustrations. Well done indeed. (EXP40, $45.00)

Finding George Orwell in Burma • Emma Larkin

In this penetrating book, Larkin searches for the legacy of Orwell in modern Burma, combining travel, history and reportage into an incisive portrait of the country. Writing under a pseudonym, Larkin -- a British journalist who speaks Burmese fluently -- exposes the corruption and horror of Burma's dictatorship through the people she meets on her year-long quest. Along the way she visits many of the places Orwell frequented during his five years as a civil servant in the 1930s. (BMA40, $22.95)

Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed • Jared Diamond

Diamond's provocative analysis of ecological disaster (usually pollution or deforestation) and the subsequent collapse of society. A follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel, it uses diverse examples from Easter Island and the Maya to Greenland's medieval Norse in order to make his arguments, which are insightful and tightly logical. A paperback version is expected in December. (GEN324, $29.95)

The Gods Drink Whiskey, Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha • Stephen T. Asma

Asma, a university professor and a Buddhist, writes with verve and humor of his stint teaching at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh. The book is both an introduction to Theravada Buddhism and a portrait of contemporary Cambodia. He confesses in his preface quite pointedly that it is his mission to take "California" out of Buddhism and his earthy account of his (mis)adventures is refreshingly free of cant and high-minded prattle. He is also acutely aware of his position as a western scholar in a Buddhist country (albeit one where Buddhism was outlawed by the repugnant Khmer Rouge). (CBD46, $24.95)

Feet on the Street, Rambles Around New Orleans • Roy Blount, Jr.

Organized as eight wonderfully digressive, personal rambles around a favorite city, Feet on the Street takes in the neighborhoods, music, history, food and local characters of New Orleans. A book in the exceptional Crown Journeys series, which marries writers and places. (USS370, $16.00)

Into a Paris Quartier, Reine Margot's Chapel and other Haunts of St. Germain • Diane Johnson

An affectionate, personal portrait of place, Johnson writes with insight, verve and wit of her neighborhood on the Left Bank. She weaves history, anecdote, and tales of the many, mostly American, expatriates of St. Germain. The book, a volume in the National Geographic Directions series, works as both a history and walking guide. (FRN491, $20.00)

The Fate Of Africa • Meredith Martin

Ambitious in scope, immensely readable -- and as big as a doorstop -- Meredith Martin's overview of the tumult, horrors and strides made in Africa since independence is invaluable. A veteran newspaperman and historian, Martin has written biographies of Mandela and Mugabe. He is particularly strong in sketching the personalities and events in South and East Africa. (AFR154, $35.00)

A History of the World In 6 Glasses • Tom Standage
FOOD • 2005 • HARD COVER • 240 PAGES

A history of the world as seen though six key beverages, from the stone age to now. Standage argues, the drinks that mattered are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Each is a tale of politics, prestige, imperialism, commerce and society. The technology editor for The Economist, Standage documents social and technological trends through the ages in this highly enjoyable chronicle. (GEN333, $25.00)

Why Birds Sing, A Journey Through the Mystery of Bird Song • David Rothenberg

Rothenberg, a jazz clarinetist and philosopher with a strong interest in the interconnectedness of things, weaves music, poetry and science in this intriguing series of essays. It's a riff on the meaning and pleasure of birdsong, including, of course, a chapter on the nightingale. He opens the book with an account of a jam session with -- and for -- the birds of the national aviary. (BRD23, $26.00)

The City of Falling Angels • John Berendt

Berendt here does for Venice what he did for Savannah, Georgia in the phenomenally popular Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. His central hook is the investigation of the devastating fire of January 29, 1996, which destroyed the Venice opera house. What follows is intrigue, political machinations, financial chicanery, and, of course murder. Berendt succeeds in conveying a certain essence of what it is like to live in modern Venice. (ITL644, $25.95)

Hungry Planet, What the World Eats • Peter Menzel • Faith D'Aluisio
FOOD • 2005 • HARD COVER • 288 PAGES

As in their mind-expanding, gorgeously photographed and provocative Material World, Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio once again present diverse families around the world, this time focusing on what people eat. The photographs themselves (of 30 families in 24 countries with a week's worth of groceries arrayed around them) are fascinating -- and the accompanying sidebars and statistics on food habits, diet, and economics are just as riveting. With essays by Michael Pollan, Alfred Crosby, Carl Safina and others. (WLD65, $40.00)

Longitude Link

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Travel Writing Jobs and Seminars

Posted by Chika On 9:03 AM 0 comments

Travel Writer, Rajasthan, by Carl Parkes

A few travel leads have poppped up in recent days, along with a pair of travel writer seminars.



We’ve all been to Nowhere. It might have been in the middle of Borneo or Bolivia, or in the back of a bus in Beijing or Boston. It might have been a Zen retreat, a no-man’s-land border outpost, or a six-palm Pacific island in an endless sea. You may have found Nowhere on a sultry summer night in Paris when you’d spent your last franc and had no place to sleep, or on a midnight jeep safari in the African bush after you’d blown your last spare tire, with your campsite a distant pinprick of light, or in the comforting cocoon of an all-night train compartment, in the arms of an intimate stranger. Nowhere is a setting, a situation and a state of mind. It’s not on any map, but you know it when you’re there.

Following in the grand tradition of The Kindness of Strangers and By the Seat of My Pants, Lonely Planet’s 2006 anthology, Tales from Nowhere, will present a rich, multi-faceted portrait of the many Nowheres we visit in our lives. The collection will comprise 30 true travelers’ tales, full of passion, surprise, wonder, curiosity and revelation. Through stories widely varied in setting and situation, Tales will celebrate and illuminate the fundamental truth that travel sometimes takes us places we never planned to go – and that those unexpected journeys can enrich and enlighten us in ways we never otherwise would have discovered.

Have you been to Nowhere? What did it look like and feel like? How did you get there? What did you do there? What did Nowhere teach you?

Lonely Planet is looking for original, unpublished tales of from 1,000 to 3,000 words. These can be about a Nowhere you wanted to be in, a Nowhere you accidentally found yourself in, or a Nowhere you desperately didn't want to be. We are looking for a wide range of stories -- funny, adventurous, romantic, philosophical; the subject, setting and tone are completely open.

Please email submissions to Tales from Nowhere editor Don George at, or mail them to Don George, Global Travel Editor, Lonely Planet Publications, 150 Linden St., Oakland CA 94607 USA.




We are now accepting submissions for Italy From a Backpack and Spain From a Backpack.

We're looking for first-person must-tell stories … the one story you continue to share with friends. Send us your best backpacking stories from Italy and Spain. Italy From a Backpack and Spain From a Backpack will be available in bookstores everywhere November 2006!

Length: Stories average 800-2,000 words. While we will accept stories up to 3,000 words, shorter stories have a better chance of being accepted. Please review the first book, Europe From a Backpack, to determine the appropriate style and length for your narrative. If you read the first book in the series, then you'll know what we're looking for.

How to Submit: Send your story by MS Word attachment with the following information (make sure to include all information in the Word Document):
- name
- story title
- story location
- address
- phone
- primary e-mail
- secondary e-mail
- College or University you graduated from
- Include a fun and brief bio after the story

Rights: We're interested in non-exclusive rights. The author retains the copyright and may reprint the story elsewhere.

Compensation: If your story is accepted for publication, you will receive $100 for each story of any length and two complimentary copies of the book. By submitting your story, you agree to sell the non-exclusive rights to your story at the above price.

- Round 1: January 31, 2006
- Round 2: March 28, 2006
We anticipate on sending you a publication decision by June 2006. Due to the volume of submissions, the earlier you submit a story the better. Share your story today!

Note that in the near future, we will be accepting stories from France, U.K., Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Please check back for updates. More info here.

Submit stories to:




By: Jen Leo on September 24, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | Market Leads (tag)
Have I mentioned were doing a fourth humor book? There's so much to do, I've gotten lost in the list. But yes, we are doing a fourth to wrap up the Empire of Undies. There was so much good material from Thong, that we've started with that, and are adding a bunch more. What Color is your Jockstrap? will release in Spring 06. And the big news....boys get to submit. That's right, the men don't have to have honey-pot envy anymore?we're letting them in?so to speak...

But we're on the rush job since we're making it a Spring book. All stories are due now. As in, the next two weeks. Hurry up, can't promise there will be more after this one.

Just do the usual. Send it to both me and Travelers' Tales. And make sure to let us know you heard about it hear on Written Road.



COST: $95

"Making a Living as a Freelance Writer" will be the subject of this intensive class with Michael Shapiro. A contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post and National Geographic Traveler, Shapiro will discuss strategies and techniques for earning a living from one's writing. Topics include finding your niche, developing professional relationships with editors, targeting potential markets (publications), the art of the interview, and self-syndication.


For more info or to sign up, contact Book Passage at 800-999-7909.

Saturday February 4, 2006
Book Passage, Corte Madera


COST: $395

Donald George's 18-hour intensive travel writing workshop is patterned after a graduate school creative writing program. The emphasis is on the craft of travel writing, with students reading and critiquing writing assignments each week in class. The assignments progress from a few paragraphs to full-length articles, with the goal of publishable-quality pieces. Students learn to research stories, write query letters, work with editors, and market their articles. His students have been published in many newspapers and magazines. The class is limited to 16.

Donald George is the former Travel Editor of the S.F. Chronicle-Examiner and current Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. He is the editor of A House Somewhere, By the Seat of my Pants, and The Kindness of Strangers. He chairs the annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference.

As in years past, workshop participants will focus closely on one article, with the goal of crafting a publishable piece. This workshop is always energizing and exhilarating, and numerous published articles -- as well as wonderfully thriving writers' groups -- have come out of it.

6:00-9:00 pm
Six Tuesdays, Jan. 10-Feb. 28 (no class 1/31, 2/14)
Book Passage in Corte Madera

To sign up, call Book Passage at 415-927-0960.

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Writer Beware at SFWA

Posted by Chika On 3:27 PM 0 comments

Cat Blogging Returns!

The two biggest complaints I get here is that my posts are infrequent and then quickly pile up (guilty as charged), and that I rarely post any cute cat or kitty pics. So I'm fixing that now, but I'll probably continue to be a lazy, irregular travel writer blogger.

If you need more action, and have an interest in Southeast Asia, check my FriskoDude Blog. Not only do you get the latest news on Southeast Asia, I keep the amusement quota high with recent posts on Michael Jackson and Jesus Jokes.

In other news, more tips for budding book writers at Writer's Beware, a wholly owned subsidiary of the SFWA.

Who Are We?

Writer Beware is the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Committee on Writing Scams. Like many genre-focused professional writers' groups, SFWA is concerned not just with issues that affect professional authors, but with the problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers. The Committee on Writing Scams, and the Writer Beware website, founded in 1998, reflect that concern.

Although SFWA is a US-based organization of science fiction and fantasy writers, the Committee's efforts aren't limited by country or genre. We've designed the Writer Beware website so it can be used by any writer, regardless of subject, style, genre, or nationality.

Writer Beware is a volunteer effort, run by a number of intrepid fraud-hunters--most of whom, because of the nature of their work, prefer to remain anonymous. Showing their faces to the world and taking the heat, however (are they crazy, or just dedicated?), are:

What Does Writer Beware Do?

Writer Beware conducts a variety of activities revolving around the effort to raise awareness of the prevalence of literary fraud.

We maintain and continually update the Writer Beware website with the latest information on literary schemes and frauds, and the most up-to-date information on what writers can to to protect themselves.

We constantly research the problems we discuss, reading trade publications, newspapers, and other sources, and subscribing to professional newsletters and mailing lists in order to keep current with issues and changes in the publishing industry. We're in regular touch with legitimate agents and editors, so we can better contrast their business practices to the nonstandard practices we warn against. And we're advised by an experienced intellectual property and consumer protection attorney.

We maintain an extensive database of questionable agents, publishers and independent editors. This database has been assembled thanks to the hundreds of writers and publishing professionals who have contacted us to share their experiences and to provide us with documentation (correspondence, contracts, brochures, and other material). Our database is the most complete of its kind in the world.

To give an idea of the scale of our data collection: When Writer Beware was founded in 1998, we had just under 100 names in our database. We now have more than 600, and add a new one, on average, every two weeks.

Note: All documentation is gathered in the understanding of confidentiality and will not be disclosed except to appropriate law enforcement agencies, in response to an enforceable subpoena, or as directed by counsel, and only upon special request.

We offer a free research service for writers with questions about agents, publishers, and others (e-mail us at The information we offer on questionable agents and publishers is supported by multiple identical complaints from writers or by documentation, and in most cases by both.

We assist law enforcement agencies with investigations of questionable agents, publishers, and others. Both A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss qualify as expert witnesses.

We help build public awareness of literary fraud by writing articles (our work has appeared in the SFWA Bulletin and Writers' Digest, among others), appearing at writers' conventions, conducting workshops and classes, and participating in online writers' discussion groups and message boards.

Writer Beware Link

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Tips on Avoiding Writer Scams

Posted by Chika On 2:56 PM 0 comments

Guidebooks/Rodger Cummins

Somebody named Anonymous posted a comment on this site a few weeks ago, and left behind several suggested websites about travel writer scams, including a link to Preditors and Editors. Loads of great stuff here including these useful tips for writers dipping their toes into the sometimes perilous world of publishing.

Some General Rules for Spotting a Scam Publisher

Openly advertises for writers in print or online publications or both.

Openly claims that it's not a vanity or subsidy publisher.

Claims that it has a new business model that will bring success, but never explains why other successful publishers aren't utilizing it.

The publisher gives no or very low advances for books it buys.

The publisher's books are rarely in any bookstores, particularly the large chain stores that carry books from just about all reputable commercial publishers.

The publisher's books have never been seen on a bestseller list published by a reputable source such as the New York Times, especially when said publisher claims to be large.

The publisher's books rarely sell more than 5,000 books to readers in individual purchases and more often fail to reach that number.

The publisher refuses to release even approximate sales figures for its own bestsellers.

When confronted with very low or non-existent sales, the publisher refuses to release the book from contract.

Books it claims to have published were actually published by another publisher, now defunct, that used the same business name.

Its contracts contain provisions that prohibit complaints by its authors about its service and product.

Postings in online forums never seem to include anyone who was rejected.

Online forum criticism is frequently immediately responded to by a defender of that publisher.

Acceptances usually take place in less than a month. Even less than a week is not unusual.

Acceptance letters tend to be identical when compared with what other authors received.

Contract provisions are specific as to how termination can be invoked, but the publisher disdains using anything other than some other method of communication.

Communications from the publisher are frequently unsigned by any individual using a department address so that no one can be pinned down as responsible for any comments made to the author.

The publisher never gives a direct answer to any direct questions. Instead, the publisher points to others who are satisfied with policy, procedures, contract, or sales as proof that everything is fine.

The publisher has a no return policy on its products.

The publisher threatens to blacklist its authors within the industry should they mention leaving.

Some General Rules for Spotting a Scam Literary Agency

Openly advertises for writers in print or online publications or both.

Claims that it has new methodology for gaining access or acceptance with book publishers, but never explains why other successful agencies aren't utilizing it.

Does not list any sales or refuses to divulge the titles of sales for confidentiality reasons.

The only sales it lists are for vanity or subsidy publishers or the sales it lists were made by the author before the author signed with the agent, often years before representation.

Sales it claims to have made cannot be found listed in any reference lists of books that were printed by the supposed publisher.

Sales it made were mostly to a publishing house wholly or partially owned by the agency.

Requires an upfront payment for administration or for a web display or for later postage and copying.

Online forum postings never include anyone who was rejected.

Online forum criticism is frequently responded to by a defender of that agency.

Representation is usually granted in less than a month or even less than a week.

Representation acceptances are usually worded identically.

The agency name has changed, but the same personnel still work at the same address and there was no conflict with another agency with the same or a similar name and no merger to warrant a change.

The agency never provides original comments from publishers that manuscripts were allegedly submitted to.

The agency never provides original invoices or receipts for postage or copying expenses it claims were made on behalf of the author.

The agency suggests that it will grant representation if the manuscript is first given professional editing. Frequently, it will suggest who should do the editing or offer to make its own in-house editing service available for a discount price.

The agency threatens to blacklist its authors within the industry should they mention leaving.

Preditors and Editors Link

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Tips on Avoiding Writer Scams

Posted by Chika On 2:36 PM 0 comments

Anne Lamott at Home in Marin County

The following three profiles and subsequent tips are aimed at the general writer's market, but could also be applied to prospective travel writers seeking a book contract.

Avoiding Writing Scams: Advice From Those Who Know
by J.A. Hitchcock

You've probably heard about online writing scams and told yourself, "I'd never do anything as stupid as that. How could someone not know that this literary agent (or publisher) wasn't a scam?"

That's what victims of three well-known online writing scams thought after they'd been pulled in by scam artists. Why did they let themselves get hooked like that?

Staying on Guard

"Newbie writers think, even after reading the fine print, that they're dealing with legit publishers," Crispin says, "especially when vanity/subsidy publishers claim that new writers are rarely accepted and make regular publishing look like a lost cause and impossible. There are no shortcuts to getting legitimately published and getting paid for your writing."

Rasley agrees and adds, "To guard against being cheated, you'd have to investigate all the prospective publishers, check out customers (satisfied and unsatisfied), call the Better Business Bureaus and attorney generals in their home states, have an attorney check out their contracts... and even then, you could get taken. Is it worth the risk?"

Beware of:

Requests for up-front fees (i.e., any money due out of the writer's pocket before a book is actually sold -- this includes all "expense" or "marketing" fees).

Referrals to paid services, such as editing.

Recommendations to use the agent's/publisher's own paid editing services

Offer of a "co-publishing" contract.

Being asked to buy something (such as a certain number of copies of your book) as a condition of publication.

Offers of representation/publication that come after reading just a synopsis and a few chapters.

An agent who won't reveal details of his/her track record of book sales, or claims his/her client list is confidential.

In addition, make sure any publishers an agent claims to have worked with are real ones and those you can easily find on bookshelves. Perhaps most important, don't let your desire to be published overcome your good sense. Join a local or national writer's organization and see if they have a list of known writing scams. Get involved in an online writing newsgroup, forum or message board; if you have a question about an agent or publisher, you may get answers there.

Victims Klatt, Edwards, Rau and Esrati offer this advice:

Always have a lawyer look over a contract with an agent or publisher before signing it.

Avoid agents/publishers who come to you first.

Edit your manuscript yourself or join a local writer's group to get feedback on your work.

Keep sending your manuscript out, even if you get a lot of rejections. If your work is good enough, it will eventually find a "home."

Never, ever pay any money; as someone once said, "Money flows to the writer, not away from them."

Recommended web sites:

SFWA Writers Beware -
Todd James Pierce's Literary Agents List -

Agent Research and Evaluation Site -

Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) -

Romance Writers of America (RWA) -

Preditors & Editors -

National Writers Union (NWU) -

Writing World Link

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Amy Tan at Home in Pacific Heights

Some basic questions to ask before you fork over big bucks on How to Be a Travel Writer:

Question: How do I avoid a writing scam?
4 Ways to Avoid a Writing Scam

Question: I'm considering taking a writing course that's offered on the internet. The one I'm interested in costs several hundred dollars. How can I be sure it's not a scam? eb

Answer: Hi eb,

First of all, let me acknowledge you for wanting to take your writing to a new level. Writing courses can be good ways to learn more about your craft. And you're wise to be cautious about a writing course you find on the 'net.

Keep in mind that if it sounds to good to be true, it is. Any one or any site that promises to teach you how to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars writing and teach it to you in a few weeks is highly suspect. Not because it's impossible to earn that amount - it is, and it's by and large a learnable skill. But it takes significant time to learn both how to write and how to market the writing.

I suggest the following:

Look for an unconditional money back guarantee.

Insist that you have access to two or three students so you can ask some questions.

Post on our forum, and on two or three others asking if anyone has any experience with the course you're considering.

Google the name of the course and see if, in the first few pages of results, you can find other sites that indicate the course you're considering is a scam.

If, after all this, it still seems like a good deal, you may want to go for it. I do know people who feel they've truly benefited from online writing courses as well as those who don't. Remember, if you do decide to buy the course, you'll have to hold up your end by working hard at what they're teaching you.

If you have a question you'd like to see here, send an email to me at: Please, put Q&A in the subject line so it won't get lost. I don't promise to answer every question, but I'll consider it. Know too, that when you send a question, and I do decide to publish it, I reserve the right to edit for clarity, etc.

About Freelance Writing Link

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Robert Young Pelton

A few weeks ago I attended the Adventures in Travel Expo at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and was pleased to listen to several lectures by famous travel writers such as Kira Salak and Robert Young Pelton. I've been reading Pelton for many years and had previously met him at the Book Expo in Los Angeles in 1994, soon after he had taken over the corpse of Fielding's and was cranking out books at a furious pace. I purchased his guide to Borneo, which turned out to be the biggest piece of crap in the world.

He has improved mightily over the years I think, in large part due to the efforts of his editors. His monthly column in National Geographic Traveler is always a hoot.

But the most impressive part of the lecture was his photography: stark, black-and-white images of war zones around the world. I was amazed, since I only knew him as a writer, though his real talents lie in his superb photography.

Rolf Potts has just posted an interview with Pelton, filled with Pelton's pithy and devastating opinions about the craft of travel writing.

How did you get started traveling?

I lived in a car when I was 16. I couldn't afford an apartment but I could afford $150 for a tired pink 1962 Rambler Classic Cross Country. Living in a car is called being homeless, but when you drive around and pick fruit for a living it's called traveling.

As a traveler and fact/story gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?

I travel mostly in active war zones with insurgents, rebels and people who kill other people for a living. Gaining their trust and staying alive are probably the two most critical skills.

Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?

I am multi-hypen these days: Adventurer, filmmaker, businessman, author, writer, director, lecturer, columnist, host, explorer, executive producer, photographer, pundit, vagrant and student of life. In my past life I have been a lumberjack, blaster, boundary cutter, ad spokesman, copywriter, hostage, marketing guru, hardware store manager, and bounty hunter. Lets just say I get bored easily, and writing is a broad enough excuse to do something interesting, get into trouble, and see what happens.

What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

Don't. It's like the label "war correspondent". You either write or you don't. My advice to people who aspire to be me is to stop whining and just do it. Everything falls into place once you begin the process. If it doesn't, there is always Wal Mart. Just write and use it as your passport to learning about the world.

Rolf Potts Link

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Job Posting: Sunset Magazine

Posted by Chika On 12:46 PM 0 comments
Senior Editor - Travel (menlo park)


Reply to:
Date: 2005-11-18, 5:06PM PST


• Collaborate with senior editorial staff to establish and shape Sunset’s travel coverage
• Generate story ideas that provide readers with fresh and useful articles, select ideas for further development, and plan schedule for future publication
• Conduct story meetings with writer, designer and photo editor so as to achieve consensus on story approach
• Work with art director on story layouts and packaging
• Review and edit manuscripts, analyzing articles for thoroughness, creativity, accuracy, organization and consistency with the magazine's existing style
• Supervise travel department, including other editors and writers
• Manage freelance assignment process: contracts, budgeting and review of invoices
• Foster and maintain Western travel industry contacts to keep abreast of developments in the field


• Magazine journalism background, including travel editing and production
• Proficiency working with writers and editors to develop and shape new story ideas
• Experience working with photo editors and designers on visual appeal of story packaging
• Excellent interpersonal skills, ability to facilitate productive story meetings and arbitrate differences in story approach
• Effective management experience: ability to provide vision to team, supervise staff and manage editorial projects
• Professional presence required to represent the Company at industry and media events
• Some travel required

E-mail resume and cover letter to: or FAX: 650-324-5727

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Travel Quiz

Posted by Chika On 12:53 PM 0 comments

Places I've Been

This very fun travel quiz was mentioned last week by Jen Leo over at her Written Road Blog and I've been meaning to forward the link ever since. Go to the How Well Traveled Are You? website and click the boxes of all the places you have visited, so long as it wasn't just a touchdown while enroute to a further destination.

My travel profile is no surprise. I've lived most of my life in the western parts of the U.S. and did the standard three-month student graduation trip around Europe. No big deal. Then I spent the next few decades exploring Asia while working my way into the so-called occupation of travel writer. Here's my travel profile:

Travel Profile for Carl Parkes:

You Are Extremely Well Traveled in Asia (92%)
You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Western United States (84%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in Western Europe (71%)
You Are Well Traveled in Scandinavia (60%)
You Are Well Traveled in Southern Europe (53%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (50%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the Southern United States (31%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Canada (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Latin America (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Australia (13%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the United Kingdom (13%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Eastern Europe (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Northeastern United States (0%)

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A Travel Writer on Travel Writing

Posted by Chika On 9:57 AM 0 comments


The places your RSS reader will take you. This morning I was going through my RSS feeds at Bloglines and stumbled across a few decent travel sites, including the travel writers website shown below. The author has apparently written several guidebooks to Alaska and the Inside Passage, and picked up a Lowell Thomas and other awards which indicate he actually knows how the write. Plenty of wit, sarcasms, and snarky comments.

Among the various pieces on his website is a short story, previously published, about his experiences as a travel writer -- all the good, bad and ugly about the profession. Well worth a read but do keep a cautionary eye on some of his opinions.

What we think of as a guidebook first appeared when a woman named Marianna Starke published a new edition of her Letters from Italy. She had been writing versions of the book since 1800, but the early editions weren't much more than long letters home.

In the 1820s, John Murray, head of one of London's biggest publishers, talked Starke into making some changes. The new edition of her book was called Travels on the Continent: Written for the Use and Particular Information of Travelers. Instead of just describing her trip, now she wrote a book with all the practicalities: restaurants, hotels, routes between towns. Starke even rated every painting in every major art gallery, giving them one to four exclamation points, just to save you time when you copied her trip. The book was the equivalent of those TV shows that explain how magicians pull off their tricks.

In other words, Marianna Starke made the mental leap from descriptive -- this is what's here -- to proscriptive: go here and do this.. In the process, she took travel out of the hands of the Grand Tourist, that velvet-clad fop, and put it into the hands of the masses.

We can blame her for so very much

Thanks to Marianna Starke's guidebook, by 1839, Italy was ruined; the tourist trail was little more than a treadmill. In response, Murray published a new guide for those who wanted to "quit the more beaten paths . . . and explore the less known, but equally romantic regions."

And guess what happened there?

Now, skip forward a hundred and fifty years or so, and enter Lonely Planet, Moon, Fodor, Frommer, Rough Guides, Let's Go, and dozens of lesser lights. Same song, same verse, just add cheap airfare and a much larger, much more mobile population. Think a great leveling. Think lowest common denominator.

In Kathmandu, in the 1970s, everybody stayed on Freak Street, down in Durbar Square, where there was always a chance the Kumari Devi might lean out her window and look at you with a goddess' eyes. But it wasn't long before guides started to steer you clear of the place, so you wouldn't trip on the overlanders who had collapsed into hash-induced comas. By the 1980s, nobody went there anymore: the restaurants with the good chocolate cake were all up in Thamel. Toss in the pathetic demands of globalization, and now Thamel looks just like the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, which looks just like Banglamphu in Bangkok, which looks just like . . . .

Where you see the changes fastest are in the more remote areas, where travelers go looking for bragging rights. But you can already forget Luang Prabang, and donÂ’t even think about Siktrakh, where the Saha once herded reindeer and now herd tourists onto Lena River cruises, Arctic Circle to Lake Baikal. A trip here is just a chance to watch these spots in the boonies, suddenly sanctified with good mentions in a guide, turn into The Same Place. Internet cafes, bad Chinese food, kids wearing Nike logos.

It took twenty years for Starke's book to utterly change the traveler's experience of Italy. Now the same thing can happen in a blink

Guidebook writing pays a little less than cleaning grease out of the Fryalator at McDonald's. You have to speed up the process as best you can, however you can. Show me any guidebook, and I can show you where the writer cheated. Copied, skipped a town, researched by phone. I've seen pages from my books cut and pasted into others. It's standard operating procedure. The economics require cheating, in some form or another, and nobody gets out without a nagging fear they're guilty of crimes against St. Christopher.

So why do I do this to myself, year after year? Because it's how I get to do everything I've ever dreamed of. There are a very few guidebook publishers that don't allow writers to take freebies, but no publisher gives the writer the kind of budget needed to do everything, so if you don't get it free, you have to rely on second- or third-hand information. Another cheat. My own rule is, I'll take anything anybody offers me, but I never promise a good write up. I never promise a write up at all. I just go along and smile.

In November 2001, facing crashed sales, Lonely Planet tries giving half its staff six months off at 15% pay; time to go travel while the travel economy bounces back, but the idea fails. Six months later, they all get the axe. Just last year, publishers were pushing guides to Cambodia, Mongolia, Cuba. In the paranoid new world, suddenly writers are only sent to cover places you can go without having to pass through customs. It's as if the rest of the world has disappeared, like one of those old maps where you find the legend "here there be dragons." Guidebook sales drop 50% overall, but at least one publisher increases its press run of Disney World guides by the same margin.

We all know where you'll be next year.

We could sum up with meaningless numbers: there are X travel books published each year, creating a Y dollar market, moving Z people around. Or we could talk about the ever increasing specialization of the market: guides for everything from bird freaks to tree huggers to old people with no budget to hotels that cater to dogs. It's the guidebook dichotomy: the books only work because, really, everybody travels the same way. If they didn't, you'd never sell more than one copy. But everybody wants to think they do it differently, that their trip is special.

Or we could talk about change, and the effect of guidebooks on the ground. Between editions, I expect half the restaurants in any town to go out of business. Three-quarters of the lodgings will do the same. Probably two-thirds of trip operators will up and disappear. Some of that's my fault. I've had towns ask that I never come back, because they didn't like what I wrote. But there are also people out there who are friends for life because of business I steered their way.

Or we could talk about the world's mood swings. While nobody's traveling this year, how many hawkers are out of business? How many souvenir stands, restaurants? Should we just call it a matter of raised expectations and the betrayal of hope? Think of the locals in the New Hot Spot. Some guy sees the first trickle of travelers and uses it as a chance to build a guest house, a new restaurant. In come the masses, and the world is a very happy place, until the masses leave, looking for the next great thing, and the guest house suddenly has ten empty rooms that are making interesting habitats for spiders. There's no other way to put it: when the books steer you clear of a place that was once popular, they're ruining lives, just so you can have a better trip.

Or we could talk about the job. At most, there are a couple dozen guidebook writers who have lasted as long as I have. And here's the plain, simple truth: my first book sucked. To anyone who used it, I'm sorry. Guidebooks writing is a very difficult job to do well. The learning curve is hopelessly steep, and not many make it. Odds are, the book you buy, the book you're basing your entire trip on, was written by somebody who was writing a guide for the very first time, and who didn't have a bloody clue what he was doing. The other, more frightening possibility, is that the book was written by a committee, so you got a whole group of people who didn't know how to research, how to compare, what they were looking at, didn't know the place well enough to know what was important and what was trivial, and so your book isnÂ’t much more than an e-ticket ride to hell.

So should you take a book at all, make that leap of faith into the hands of someone you'll never meet, trust them with your vacation? Of course you should. How else are you going to find the amulet market in Thailand, the footprints of Adam in Sri Lanka, a lock of Muhammad's hair in Pakistan? How else are you going to know where to be when?

We all want the planet neatly condensed between covers, and when they are done well, the guidebook truly is the magic key, offering some hope of order in the face of the unknown, a snapshot of the world at a particular moment in time.

I first traveled to Nepal in 1986 with a guidebook under 150 pages long, including trekking routes. The newest edition of the same book is 432 pages, and you have to buy a different book if you're going into the mountains. The country didn't get any bigger, it just got better at selling itself. Each one of those new pages represents some local's hopes, dreams, life. And each page sends someone else casting for what's in the margin, getting ready to move the whole show to yet another place.

The beaten track gets wider and wider, as we move a little further into the world each year, travelers holding their guidebooks out like flashlights.

Just remember to look up from time to time. Because the world holds an ever-expanding list of possibilities. Okay, so this year nobody is renewing their passports. In the long run, the world keeps spinning around, and sooner or later, it will shake us all loose again

Route of Seeing Link

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Zagat Airline Reviews

Posted by Chika On 5:18 PM 0 comments

Pan Am Direct Non-Stop Flights RTW

I would imagine that almost everybody has read a Zagat restaurant guide at some point, and perhaps even contributed to the next edition. Zagat and his wife came up with a winning formula for guidebook writing over a decade ago: solicit reviews from average citizens and publish them without pay. Voila. No pesky contracts, no royalties, no need to even keep their email address in your book. Just gather in the profits and enjoy your newfound prestige and fattened bank account. More power to them.

But did you know that the Zagat juggernaut is expanding into new terrorities, including their recent foray into the controversial subject of rating international airlines? I sure didn't, but now I see their business model expanding almost infinitely into every survey and poll ever taken at Conde Nast Traveler. You don't need to be a genius to recognize that the kindly Zagats of New York City are going to move aggressively into territories never minded by the likes of Conde Nast.

Best part of the Zagat airline survey book are the quotes from readers:

"The uncomfortable served the inedible by the indifferent."

"If they could sell space in the overheads, travelers would be stacked up like cold cuts."

"Need air marshals to protect passengers from crew."

"Cabin staff treats you like a stranger crashing a dinner party – only they don't serve food."

"Only an hour behind schedule and didn't crash – lived up to my expectations."

"If you're a transplanted NYer nostalgic for abuse, this is your airline."

"'I'm sorry, sir, but we've discontinued legroom.'"

"Once stuck I was, back of the plane
No pleasure I could at all feign
The tiny cramped seat, delays, mystery meat
And no upgrade made experience a pain."

"Best of the big full-service carriers, or in other words, the cream of the cr*p."

"Now I know what the cows felt like on the Chisholm Trail."

"Like Con Air – they'd even handcuff you if they could."

"Seats like bad lawn chairs."

"'Shut up, we get you there' could be their slogan."

"Seats should recline only so much – could have performed dental work on the person in front of me."

"Fares set by someone with a dartboard."

"Economy class is like the Bataan Death March with carry-on luggage."

"Like being shipped via UPS to your destination."

"Take it out back and shoot it."

"I'll start with the good: Web site easy to navigate. That's the end of the good."

"What's next, no seats? – wait, better not give them any ideas!"

"Nothing left to vote on – no food, no snacks, no pillows, no movies, no audio, no nothing."

"Gives whole new meaning to the word 'Airbus.'"

"What next, $3 to use the air vents?"

"Don't go unless you have a chiropractor and psychotherapist traveling with you."

"Challenging log-in, difficult ticketing, rude gate agents, wretched food and contortionist seating – what's not to like?"

"Feels like an airline going under – oh wait, they are."

"Next step is passengers dressing as flight attendants and serving drinks to save yet more money."

"Ground service and ticket agents explain what happened to the KGB staff when the Soviet Union collapsed."

"They treat lab rats better than they do passengers on this airline."

"Would rather take a donkey."

"Lost my luggage so often I keep a standard complaint letter on my PC."

"This is why the pope kisses the ground every time he deplanes."

"'Brown or gray?' could be the choice for dinner."

"Customer care rivals Sweeney Todd's."

"Could use economy as torture to get prisoners to talk."

"Only things older than the planes are the flight attendants – and the meals."

"'Good service' translates to 'we won't bother you if you don't bother us.'"

"Coach class is like the 7 th circle of hell."

"If you like bad food flung by crones, fly this airline."

Mobissimo Travel Link

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New Guinea News

Posted by Chika On 5:46 PM 0 comments

Room Service Waiter in Port Moresby

Your arrival at the Port Moresby Airport in Papua New Guinea is guaranteed to scare the hell out of you. Guaranteed. The airport terminal is a ramshackle hut packed with filthy people reaching out to you and absolutely no organization. PNG gets less than 5000 tourists annually, so nobody knows what to do with the white people.

Are they good to eat?

A decrepit taxi outside the terminal will shuttle you into town and drop you at the finest hotel in the country, a deterioraing, darkened shell more reminiscent of Somalia than anything else.

Where are those Blackhawks when you really need them?

You pass burning fields, large gangs of raskals hanging around the streets, which are largely abandoned in the late afternoon.

A city destroyed.

The hotel lobby has few lights and smells like a collapsed casualty of some long-running war. Your bellman isn't wearing shoes. You must stay here three weeks.

Welcome to New Guinea.

There is a new player on the PNG international flight market and about time I have to say. Air Niugini has had their monopoly for far too long and are keeping the prices extremely high.

The new mob is Airlines PNG. A second level domestic carrier in PNG that are now offering flights from Port Moresby to Cairns starting at the end of this week. It looks at this stage like they are starting small with the idea (my speculation) to build it up into something bigger.

The good news is for all the budget conscious travellers - and who isn't - is that their fares will be K299 (approx Au$125) one way for an inflexible ticket and K459 (approx Au$190) for a flexible fare. The bad news, and as is usually hidden in the small print, is that the taxes will be K359.

They are also, if you are quick off the mark, offering a one off K99 deal for this Friday, one way from POM to CNS and the return on Monday for the same price. Unfortunately the taxes still stick at same rate (if anyone really knows what these taxes cover let me know).

The plane they are going to use is a simple DASH-8, a small twin prop thing which I have flown in once before (Port Moresby to Popondetta for the Kokoda Track), but still it is better than nothing. And they are not that uncomfortable either.

Hopefully I see this leading onto bigger and better things, and more competition in the international market. I think PNG laws state that only a PNG airline can fly internationally, hence why we have only had Air Niugini and their inflated ticket prices.

Papua New Guinea Life Link

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Drowning NOT Waving

Always some great fun at the website of Robert Pelton Young, which he cheerfully calls Come Back Alive.

I first met Robert at the Book Expo in Los Angeles many years ago while I was promoting the first edition of my Southeast Asia Handbook for Moon Publications. Robert had purchased venerable yet deathbed ridden Fielding's guides and was cranking out new editions and updates at a furious pace.

I picked up a copy of Robert's guide to Borneo, sensibly called Fielding Borneo with a pub date of 1995. Fielding guides later folded, but Bob went on to interviews in Iraq and hooking up with kids in Marin for adventures in Panama and beyond.

He lives in a world of trouble.

My kinda guy.

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Airplane House Overview

Airplane House Side View

Airplane House Meditation Cone

A lady in Ventura County, near Los Angeles, intends to construct her new home from one of those abandoned airplanes that lay in suspended animation out in the Mojave Desert. I congratulate the ingenuity of her architect, who studied her passions and came up with this highly original idea.

If it doesn't work out, she could always move elsewhere and turn this museum house into yet another quirky California tourist attraction and collect $20 a pop per visit, or several hundred bucks to overnight. Wouldn't you pay this to experience something this outlandish?

God bless California.

West Coast Woman To Build Crash Pad Out of an Old 747
November 5, 2005

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. -- Francie Rehwald wanted her mountainside house to be environmentally friendly and to be "feminine," to have curves. "I'm a gal," says the 60-year-old retiree.

Her architect had an idea: Buy a junked 747 and cut it apart. Turn the wings into a roof, the nose into a meditation temple. Use the remaining scrap to build six more buildings, including a barn for rare animals. He made a sketch.

"When I showed it to her in the office, she just started screaming," recalls the architect, David Hertz of Santa Monica. Ms. Rehwald, whose passions include yoga, organic gardening, meditation, folk art and the Cuban cocktails called mojitos, loved the adventurousness of the design, the feminine shapes and especially the environmental aspect.

"It's 100% post-consumer waste," she says. "Isn't that the coolest?"

A meditation chamber will be one of the buildings assembled from an old jet.

Unusual homes are nothing new along the coast of Southern California, long a magnet for eccentrics and free spirits. The "cyclotron house" in Malibu is shaped like an atom smasher. The "eyeball house" in Woodland Hills is a wooden silo with four giant glass eyes affixed to it. The "Chemosphere" looks like a flying saucer perched on a toothpick at the edge of a cliff in the Hollywood Hills.

Ms. Rehwald, whose family founded the first Mercedes-Benz dealership in southern California, is intent on adding to the genre. She has reserved a junked jet to purchase, charmed local planning officials and spent $200,000 on consultants.

"I am as much a part of this world as a bird, the frog in the creek," says Ms. Rehwald, who used to work at the family dealership, of her environmental motives. She wears a white sailor's hat perched atop her tossled blond hair, and her gold and silver bracelets jangle as she speaks. "This is my antidote to the malling of America."

Mr. Hertz has designed homes for such boldface Hollywood names as Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame. He says his aeronautical inspiration struck after a long flight from Los Angeles to Scotland. The 747, he says, "though designed in the 1960s, is still an absolutely beautiful contemporary object. It was derived from pure function."

Mr. Hertz isn't the first architect to find inspiration in aeronautics, and people have turned grounded airplanes -- small ones at least -- into makeshift homes before. But Mr. Hertz may well be the first to propose building a high-end home with pieces of a 747.

First, Mr. Hertz had to find a plane. New 747s start at more than $200 million. He called Mark Thompson of Aviation Warehouse, who runs an airplane junkyard in the California desert that resembles the futuristic wasteland of "Mad Max." Mr. Thompson told him that $70,000 to $100,000 would buy Ms. Rehwald a decommissioned Boeing 747-200 that still carries the faded logo of defunct Tower Air. Half the value was in the ailerons, the moveable parts of the wing. Mr. Hertz figured he could use them to control the awning on the patio by Ms. Rehwald's swimming pool.

Mr. Thompson met with county engineering officials to persuade them that the jet parts could withstand the strong winds that sometimes buffet Ms. Rehwald's property. "It's difficult to get a city engineer who is used to working with 2-by-4s and plaster to realize that an airplane that flies 500 miles per hour can stand up to 40-mph winds."

The salvaged wings and tail flaps of a Boeing 747 will serve as the roof for this multilevel country home in California, as seen in an architect's renderings from the front (above) and the side.

Nancy Francis, supervisor of the residential permits section at the Ventura County Planning Division, says she's excited such an unusual dwelling is going up in her jurisdiction. "Everyone in the department wants to go on the site visit when it's done," she says.

A winding one-lane road leads to the sunny hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains where Ms. Rehwald intends to create her architectural oddity. The 55-acre plot with views of the Pacific, now covered in aloe, agave cactus and white oleander flowers, is one hour north of L.A. It once housed dozens of buildings erected by Hollywood designer Tony Duquette, who built with found objects and industrial garbage such as old tires and radiators. A fire in 1993 destroyed most of his strange handiwork. Ms. Rehwald bought the land last year.

Mr. Hertz and his assistants have been spending time in the desert with the derelict jet, measuring it with long pieces of string and contemplating its shapes. Eventually, he and Mr. Thompson will cut it into pieces and truck it to a valley near his client's property. He figures it will take a helicopter 10 hours -- at $8,000 an hour -- to ferry the metal chunks up the hillside.

There he intends to assemble a compound of buildings connected by narrow dirt paths. The jet's wings will rest on thick concrete walls, forming the roof of a multilevel main house. The nose will point to the sky, becoming a meditation chamber, with the cockpit window a skylight. The first-class cabin will be an art studio. The signature bulge on the top of the 747 will become a loft. A barn will house rare domestic animals such as the poitou donkey. A yoga studio, guest house and caretaker's cottage will round out the compound.

"We are trying to use every piece of this aircraft, much like an Indian would use a buffalo," says Mr. Hertz.

He says the eight buildings will be scattered across the terraced hillside as if it were a "crash site." As it happens, the site lies under a jet flight path into Los Angeles International Airport. That concerns the Federal Aviation Administration, which has asked Mr. Hertz to paint special numbers on the wing pieces to alert pilots that Ms. Rehwald's retreat is not a crashed jumbo jet.

In deference to neighbors such as Dick Clark and the former spouses of Bob Dylan and Olivia Newton-John, the structures will keep a low profile, blending into the land, says Mr. Hertz. He intends to "bioblast" the metal with walnut shells to remove the Tower Air paint and dull the sheen.

Ms. Rehwald says she has given Mr. Hertz a $1.5 million budget. She promptly adds: "I'll be real fortunate if it's less than $2 million."

He has already spent money on an archeologist to look for Chumash Indian artifacts and a biologist to tell her how best to manage the coyotes, mountain lions and rattlesnakes that traverse her land. She hopes to start construction within nine months, and to move in by 2007. Until then, when Ms. Rehwald visits the site, she stays in a Winnebago trailer borrowed from a friend.

The Wall Street Journal Link

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Boeing 777 Sets New World Record

Posted by Chika On 1:48 PM 0 comments
My first long airplane ride dates from 1959 when my family took an Air Force cargo junker from Travis A.F.B. to Yokota, Japan, with stops in Honolulu and Wake Island. The propeller plane shaked the entire 36 hours and nobody enjoyed the steel seats bolted to the steel floor, but that was Air Force transport in the day.

I also didn't appreciate the fact that candy bars cost 10 cents on Wake Island, and only five cents back home.

Boeing has just set another record for the longest continual, direct, non-stop commercial flight in the world with their 777 blazing across the skies from Hong Kong to London. Longer flights with additional fuel tanks bolted are anticipated.

But will they pass out valiums to the passengers?

Boeing plane takes off on 23-hour nonstop flight
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Nov 9, 2005

Aiming for a new distance record for a commercial jet, Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann took off in a twin-engine Boeing 777-200LR from Hong Kong this morning on a nonstop flight to London — the long way around. The eastbound, 23-hour flight across the Pacific, the continental United States and the Atlantic will cover at least 12,500 nautical miles.

The airplane was slated to carry about 35 passengers and crew, including Boeing executives, journalists, pilots from Pakistan International Airlines and Singapore Airlines, and representatives from the General Electric division that makes the engines. Three other senior Boeing test pilots — Frank Santoni, John Cashman and Randy Austin — will also take turns at the controls.

The airplane is a standard version of the new ultra-long-range jet, which will enter service with Pakistan International early next year. Boeing also offers the airplane with auxiliary fuel tanks that would expand its range even further, though no airlines have yet ordered the model with extra tanks.

Australian carrier Qantas is considering a version with six extra tanks that could fly a regular service nonstop between London and Sydney.

For now, Airbus can still boast of flying the longest nonstop regular commercial air service. Singapore Airlines operates the four-engine A340-500 daily between Singapore and New York, an 18-hour flight covering 9,000 nautical miles. But the airline is also weighing an order for the Boeing jet.

Seattle Times Link

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Tokyo on $2 Per Day

Posted by Chika On 1:33 PM 0 comments

Geisha with Cell

This stuff happens sometimes even with the big boys of travel bookings such as Expedia or Travelocity, or major airlines such as United or Icelandic, which last year offered round-trip tickets to Iceland for just $39. Mistakes. Some tired programmer or data underling late at night just puts the wrong prices on the website.

A goose egg often honored by major websites, even though everybody recognizes that it was just an honest mistake. Still, it's great fun and the publicity is probably worth honoring some of these outrageous deals.

Recently, Expedia screwed up on their hotel listings in Japan and offered rooms in first-class Hiltons for just a few bucks. They intend to honor all reservations made for the month of November, but the guy who reserved a room for an entire year is just out of luck.

The story is then followed by a snippet about an ingenious way to save money on accommodations in China including Shanghai: spend the night on a cot in a bathhouse with plenty of available extras. That actually sounds excellent to me.

Asia for $10 a night (and less)
USA Today
Hotel Hotsheet
Megg Schulte
Nov 9, 2005

Sleeping on the super-cheap just became a wacky reality. From China's bathhouse hotels that offer the barest definition of sleeping accommodations to a snafu on Expedia for hotels in Japan, this week is all about scoring a deal in Asia.

If you had excellent timing last weekend, you might be one of the incredibly lucky folks who booked rooms at the Hilton Osaka and Hilton Tokyo hotels. A number of readers wrote to say they were alerted to a mistake on Expedia that allowed rooms to be booked at those two properties for between $2 and $4 a night.

Charles Bu, a math professor at Wellesley College in Mass., scored a week in Osaka in April and two weeks in an executive floor king room in August at the bargain rate of $3.55 a night, plus tax. Including free breakfast and Internet access, his one-week stay tops out at $33.52. I just tried to book this same room, same days, and the total? About $2,443.00, Bu notes the trouble seems to be Expedia's currency conversion rate, and it doesn't take a mathematician to see they definitely had a problem.'s message boards are filled with reader postings on the "sale." One man even claims to have booked rooms for an entire year at the Hilton Tokyo; now he's trying to find a job to go along with his new "home."

Alas, when things sound too good to be true, they often are. We asked Expedia whether they would honor these reservations. According to spokesman David Dennis:

"A pricing error occurred on Friday night, and rooms at two Hilton International hotels in Japan were advertised at the wrong price due to an isolated processing incident. As soon as the error, which was obvious to consumers, was noticed, it was immediately rectified.

"Expedia and Hilton stand behind consumers. And to resolve this episode in a fair and equitable way, the following solution has been reached:

"If a booking was made for the month of November, Hilton will honor the reservation at the quoted price. But if a booking was made for December or beyond, it will be cancelled – unless it is part of a package, which will honor."

Now it's your turn: Do you think Expedia and Hilton are acting in 'a fair and equitable way' by honoring part of the bookings made? Or do you think all bookings should be honored? I'd like to hear your thoughts, so e-mail me at and I'll post a follow up in next week's column.

Sleep on a chair, save a bundle

The Japanese capsule hotels have been around a while now, but now we have Chinese bathhouses getting into the lodging business. For about $10 a night, you get a hot shower, a recliner to sleep in, breakfast and a massage, The Wall Street Journal (free story) reports. One female marketing executive, after balking at the super-high hotel prices in Shanghai, chose the recliner route on a recent trip. "It gets noisy, but it is still a bargain," she said.

Once the bastion of business men in need of a soak, bathhouses are morphing into cheap accommodations, with some even offering entertainment options (think arcades Â… this is a family publication) and even swimming pools.

I'm not sure how this would go over in the U.S. where personal space is almost a requirement, but I bet there could be a market for it in NYC, where hotel rates are once again astronomical.

USA Today Link

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Travel is a Waste of Time

One of the travel world's most quaffed talking points has again resurfaced after decades buried under the concrete of tired and trite travel industry cliches. Frankly, I thought this discussion was dead, but last weekend, John Flinn at the San Francisco Chronicle goes over that eternally fascinating question: are you a tourist or a traveler? I guess John was bored gazing out the window of his plush office in the 69th floor of the Chron, or perhaps the editors decided that the "new generation" hadn't gone through this hoop.

Or is it a loop?

Whatever. Here it is again.

I'm a Tourist
You're a Tourist
Let's All be OK with That
John Flinn
San Francisco Chronicle
Oct 16, 2005

"Tours for travelers, not tourists" is the slogan of a tour company whose brochure landed on my desk a while back. This stuck me as a pretty nifty little Zen koan. Tours that aren't for tourists, I gather, are roughly equivalent to bicycles that aren't for bicyclists and flutes that aren't for flutists.

I hate to shatter anyone's cherished prejudice, but here's the definition of "tourist" in Webster's New World Dictionary: "a person who makes a tour, esp. for pleasure." Which means that if you go on a tour -- even one operated by this particular company -- you are, by definition, a tourist.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But among the status-conscious, the word "tourist" has come to mean "anyone who travels in a style I consider inferior to the way I like to think I do it."

You can't open a glossy travel magazine or click on a Web page these days without tripping over one of those tiresome aphorisms: A tourist travels to get away from home; a traveler feels at home when he travels. A traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see. A traveler makes his own way; a tourist has another make his way for him. A tourist takes his prejudices with him; a traveler is transformed by his journeys. A tourist comes home with photos; a traveler comes home with memories.

In other words: A traveler like me is cool; a tourist like you is a dork.

The travel media loves to promote this bogus dichotomy. "Be a traveler, not a tourist," is the slogan on ads for "Without Reservations," a new show on the Travel Channel, as writer Rolf Potts pointed out recently on his blog. The very same tagline is on the cover of a guidebook series published by Open Road and was, for a while, the name of a column in National Geographic Traveler magazine.

If there really is that big a gap between travelers and tourists, I truly doubt you're going to bridge it by choosing one mass-market guidebook over another or watching a half-hour show wedged between Texas Hold 'Em tournaments on the Travel Channel.

The problem, I think, is that it's gotten so much harder for status-conscious travelers to feel superior. A generation or two ago, merely stepping onto an airplane or a train or a ship and going somewhere -- anywhere -- was all it took to give you the backyard-barbecue standing of a sophisticated man of the world. But these days everyone travels -- on the trail to Everest I once ran into a vacationing San Francisco stripper -- so what can be done to elevate yourself over your fellow travelers? Deride them as "tourists."

The thing is, as Potts noted, we're all tourists (in the "unsophisticated traveler" sense of the world). We all spend a brief time in a foreign place and then leave. Some might work harder than others to get off the main tourism grid, and some put more effort into chatting up the locals. Riding on the chicken bus or sleeping with the pigs on the floor of a village headman's house are memorable things to do, but if you think this gives you any significant insight into another culture you're kidding yourself.

Travel for me is humbling, and the more I do it, the more I realize it's impossible to come home after a few weeks with any more than a surface-skimming understanding of other people, no matter how many chicken buses I ride. I try to make a few friends and absorb as much as I can, but I've come to appreciate that the world is an impossibly vast and complicated place.

Sometimes when I travel abroad I do feel at home, and sometimes I feel (as "tourists" are accused of feeling) like a stranger in an extraordinarily strange land. I like that feeling much better. Sometimes I make my own way, and sometimes I'm happy to have my way made for me. Sometimes I'm transformed by my journeys, and sometimes, to be honest, I'm not. Let the traveler-not-a-tourist without sin cast the first stone (or flaming e-mail).

As far as I'm concerned, whatever anyone wants to do on his vacation -- walk barefoot across the Hindu Kush or sip Bahama Mama cocktails on the Lido deck -- is his own business, as long as he adheres to a couple of basic rules: Treat the people and places you visit with respect. Act in a way that reflects well on your fellow Americans. That's pretty much it.

Last year in Venice, I found myself dining next to a rather voluble family from Dallas. They spent most of their meal speculating about the upcoming high school football season, and at one point the father raised his glass and declared that they'd traveled the length and width of Italy and never once had a meal that couldn't be bettered in Dallas.

Now Venice is hardly the culinary capital of Italy, but this guy almost made me choke on my pasta e fagioli. Still, he was entitled to his opinion. I fault him only for broadcasting it to the entire restaurant. Oh, and I also fault his wife for standing up and yelling at the waiter who still hadn't brought her glass of wine after five whole minutes. I just prayed they wouldn't recognize me as a fellow American and try to strike up a conversation.

San Francisco Chronicle Link


The subject of "tourist versus traveler" was so bung that even Rolf Potts chimed in with his insight and opinions about the holy grail question of international travel and tourism. He livens it up with some tales from Kata during the filming of The Beach, but did he ever stay in Leo's room out at Cape Panwa? I didn't think so....

Been there, done that.

Guess I'm a tourist!

Flinn goes on to make a good argument for dropping the tourist-traveler debate altogether -- but somehow I doubt the travel milieu will ever lose its snarky obsession with "tourists". An illustrative case in point would be that of travel writer Daisann McLane, who made a well-stated case for why we're all "tourists" in a 2002 interview with World Hum. "We think a 'traveler' is cool, the 'tourist' is not," she said, "and there's a lot of snobbery attached to identifying oneself as the former. But I think we should let that go. We are all tourists. If you can afford a round trip ticket to Laos, and you go there for personal stimulation, not for a job, even if you end up staying for six months on the floor of a Hmong hut in a remote village, you're still a tourist."

Rolf Potts Link


The following quotes were taken from various sources and included in my travel guidebooks from Moon Publications, including Southeast Asia Handbook, Thailand Handbook, Philippines Handbook, and Singapore Handbook.

I would rather be ashes than dust
I would rather my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze
Than it should be stifled in dry rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor,
Every atom of me in magnificent glow,
Than a sleepy and permanent planet.
Man's chief purpose is to live, not to exist:
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

--Jack London

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

--Samuel Johnson

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

--William Blake

Either I am a traveller in ancient times, and faced with a prodigious spectacle which would be almost entirely unintelligible to me and might indeed, provoke me to mockery or disgust; or I am a traveller of our own day, hastening in search of a vanished reality.

In either case I am the loser.

--Claude LΘvi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

"Are you a god?" they asked. "No."
"An angel?" "No."
"A saint?" "No."
"Then, what are you?"

Buddha answered,

"I am awake."

Between the Idea and the Reality
. . . Falls the Shadow.

--T.S. Eliot

If you go only once around the room, you are wiser than he who stands still.

--Estonian proverb

I travel light; as light,
That is, as a man can travel who will
Still carry his body around because
Of its sentimental value.

--Christopher Fry, The Lady's Not for Burning

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

--Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

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Tony Wheeler on the Road

Posted by Chika On 9:54 AM 0 comments

Bangkok Train Station by Tony Wheeler

Tony Wheeler may be the world's most successful publisher of travel guidebooks, but he (sometimes) travels like every other poor schmuck in the world, by train, bus, and songtao across the border from Thailand into Cambodia. His recent travel story at the link.

Tony Wheeler: Singapore to Shanghai

Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler is on his way to a travel conference in Macau. He could just fly there, but where's the adventure in that? He's decided to don his backpack and travel overland from Singapore to Macau, and then head on to Shanghai after the conference.

This trip will be not too fast, not too slow, not too cheap, not too expensive. He's not doing much preplanning: he's got a visa for China already, but he'll sort out travel, hotels and other visas as he goes. He'll try and stop somewhere interesting every night, and schedule in enough time to look around - and to eat well, of course!

Tony Wheeler Travels Singapore to Shanghai

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100 Words Per Day

Posted by Chika On 1:52 PM 0 comments


This is a very clever site that encourages you to write exactly 100 words per day. Click on the text to move to the next page.

100 Words Link

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Storm over Kansas

You may have been reading the series of stories at Slate about the ongoing problems in southern Thailand as reported by a freelance journalist from New York named Eliza Griswold. Eliza is also the current recipient of the Robert Friedman award to help support independent investigative journalists who are not sponsored by the usual media outlets. Eliza has been published by the New Yorker and covers a great deal of Asia, including reports on political insurgencies in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and now southern Thailand.

This is one damn award I would love to win.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism gives grants, ranging from $500 to $10,000, to reporters working outside the protection and backing of major news organizations.

Grants are limited to journalists seeking pre-publication help for investigative pieces involving corruption, malfeasance, incompetence and societal ills in general as well as for investigative media criticism. The Fund does not award educational scholarships or grants for professional training.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism was founded in 1969 by the late Philip M. Stern, a public-spirited philanthropist who devoted his life "to balancing the scales of justice," in the words of a friend. Stern was convinced small amounts of money invested in the work of determined journalists would yield enormous results in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed and governmental corruption.

Stern's theory proved true in the Fund's first year, when a tiny grant of $250 enabled reporter Seymour Hersh to begin investigating a tip concerning a U.S. Army massacre at the Vietnamese village of My Lai. A subsequent Fund grant of $2,000 allowed Hersh to finish reporting the story.

"Think of it," Stern later wrote, "a mere $2,250 in Fund grants enabled Seymour Hersh to leverage a whiff into a colossal stink and contribute mightily to the change in how Americans viewed the war in Vietnam."

Over three decades, the Fund has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to freelance reporters, authors and small publications, enabling the publication of more than 700 stories and broadcasts and some 50 books. "Without support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, The Progressive would simply not have been able to publish many of the stories that we are most proud of," wrote Matthew Rothschild, the magazine's editor. "?Democracy depends on the circulation of this information; the Fund makes that circulation possible."

Fund-supported projects have won a wide array of journalistic honors. They include two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards, the Raymond Clapper Award, the George Polk Award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award, the Worth Bingham Prize, the New York Newspaper Guild's Front Page Award and many others. Authors working with the help of a Fund grant have won the Frank Luther Mott Award for the best media book, as well as the MacArthur Foundation's coveted "genius" award. Recent books written with assistance from the Fund include Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill's Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI and A Devil's Deal; Robert Friedman's Red Mafiya - How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America; Ted Anton's Eros, Magic and the Murder of Professor Culianu; Dan Baum's Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure; and Joseph Rodriguez' photodocumentary book East Side Stories - Gang Life in East LA.

Reporter Morton Mintz, past chairman of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, summed up its mission this way: "For more than 30 years, the Fund for Investigative Journalism has helped to finance exposes of harmful and wrongful conduct, such as corruption at all levels of government; corporate, governmental and press nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance; abuses of civil and human rights and of the environment; unsafe medical technologies; and improper donor influence on research in academe."

The Fund for Investigative Journalism

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Directory of Travel Columnists

Posted by Chika On 4:09 PM 0 comments

Global Traveler

Joe Sent Me has posted a listing of some two dozen leading travel columnists (some with photos!), and an expanded list of several dozen more in the sidebar to the left. Good listing, plus hot links to everyone.

DON GEORGE is the "global travel editor" of, the Web site of the respected travel guides for intrepid travelers. Thankfully, he wears the sobriquet lightly. His columns have always sparkled with truly original thinking, a burning passion for travel as a constructive force in the world and many lovely and creative turns of phrase. You should read George even if you never leave your own abode. The current iteration of the column, now called What Would Don George Do?, focuses on Don's attempts to bring guidance and sanity to traveler queries.

JOHN FLINN of the San Francisco Chronicle loves to travel off the tourist grid and he writes with verve, style and a lot of other admirable adjectives. When Flinn is on the road, he's a compelling read. When he's writing from his desk about being on the road, he's a compelling read. Flinn, travel editor of the Chronicle, posts his column each Sunday.

Joe Sent Me Link

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Google Print Sued by Authors Guild

Posted by Chika On 4:23 PM 0 comments

Thailand Handbook by Carl Parkes

The debate continues about the lawsuit, with several opposing opinions today from Boing Boing.

Authors Guild sues Google -- Xeni on NPR (UPDATE)
UPDATED: Cory Doctorow weighs in on the debate, at bottom of post.

This morning on the NPR News program Day to Day, I spoke with host Noah Adams about the legal battle Google has on its hands -- from some angry writers.

As blogged here on Boing Boing yesterday, the Authors Guild lawsuit claims that Google's effort to make books searchable and findable on the Internet violates copyright law.

Link to NPR "Writers Sue over Book Search" segment (airs nationwide, and audio will be archived online after 12PM Pacific / 3PM Eastern)
Previously on Boing Boing:

Authors Guild sues Google over print program

Reader comment: Tony Sanfilippo says,

I don't think you're telling the whole story here. I'm the Tony Sanfilippo quoted in the AP story and who also appears in Google Print's FAQ here.
I have fully embraced Google Print for publishers, even wrote a study delivered at BEA and AAUP about using the Long Tail and Google Print to find new markets for scholarship, but this is entirely different.

Boing Boing Link

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The Original Mickey Mouse

A bit of discussion surfaced a few months ago from members of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) about the origins and ownership of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). Somebody rather innocently inquired as to the ownership of the organization, only to find that barriers and more questions were raised. I've blogged about this before, so do a search with the above Google engine and read all about it.

Today, somebody sent me details about NATJA which seem only appropriate to pass along to other readers of this blog. Hopefully, the folks at NATJA will contact me with any correction as I can't guarantee accuracy with the notes below.

I don't belong to NATJA but the group has received both positive and negative reports over the last few years. They send me an invitation to their annual convention, which seems to be subsidized but certainly not free, and also an invitation to their annual travel writers contest, which offers many decent prizes such as hotel rooms and whatever but generally lack airfare to the destination. I could post about that one in detail.

So here's some background on NATJA:

What is NATJA

NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) is a fictitious business name for Apollo Interactive LLC. of Culver City California 90232. According to the FBN filed with LA County the type of business is listed as Professional Association, Marketing and Promotions. Apollo Interactive LLC is a California Limited Liability Corporation

According to the Articles of Incorporation filed with the California Secretary of State the owners are David Bohline, Justin Woo and Richard Balue. The type of business is listed as Marketing along with Internet Services and Web Site Design.

The same three people, Bohline, Woo and Balue, are listed as the the owners of Apollo Interactive Inc, a privately held California corporation on the company website. They are all graduates of USC and members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and reportedly founded the company in 1995 first working from their chapter house at USC. Apollo Interactive Inc. lists its services as Internet Advertising, Web Development and E-Business Integration

Apollo Interactive's clients include retail, manufacturing and finance clients like Jack in the Box, Reliant Energy and WB Televison. All of their listed travel industry clients are casinos, including:

Luxor Las Vegas
Cache Creek Casino
Circus Circus, Las Vegas and Reno
Excalibur Resort and Casino
Gold Strike Hotel and Casino
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
Monte Carlo Casino
Motor Cisty Casino, Detroit
Pala Casino
Silver Legacy Resort and Casino

Apollo Interactive inc. is credited as the web designer for the NATJA website and is listed as its domain owner.

The Executive Director of NATJA is Elizabeth Beshear, formerly Elizabeth Barnes. Elizabeth is the wife of Matt Beshear Matt is the president of Apollo Interactive Inc. He is also a USC graduate and member of the TKE fraternity along with Bohline, Woo and Balue.

If you want to contact the owners, they can be reached at:

NATJA is not organized as a 501(c)(6) business trade association under Federal tax code.

According to the California Law Revision Commission "A trade association is generally a membership organization of persons engaging in a similar or related line of commerce, organized to promote and improve business conditions in that line of commerce and not to engage in a regular business for profit, and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any member.


Additional Data:

Apollo Interactive LLC.
8556 Hayden Place,
Culver City California 90232

The Articles of Organization, file number 101998002167 filed 1/1/1998
Agent: David Bohline, 650 W. Mariposa Avenue, El Segundo CA 90245
Type of Business: Internet Services and Web Site Design

copy available

The Statement of Information Renewal number 199800210167 filed 12/3/2001 lists
Address: 531 Main Street #902, El Segundo CA 90245
Records kept at: 8556 Hayden Place, Culver City CA 90232
Type of Business: Marketing
Manager and Agent: David Bohline
David Bohline, 443 Loma Vista Street, El Segundo CA 90245
Justin Woo, 4243 Mary Ellen Avenue, Apt 12, Studio City CA 91604
Richard Balue, 642 8th Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

copy available

Apollo InteractiveOwner/Founders:
Justin Woo, Chief Executive Officer
David Bohline, Chief Operating Officer
Richard Balue, Chief Technology Officer

contact info:


LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGISTRAR enter search "north american travel journalists"

Fictitious Business Name Statement document 2248832 obtained from
Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Business Filings and Registration Section, Room 2001
12400 Imperial Highway
Norwalk, CA 90650


The Articles of Organization, file number 101998002167 filed 1/1/1998
obtained from California Secretary of State

The Statement of Information Renewal number 199800210167 filed 12/3/2001
obtained from California Secretary of State


TKE The Magazine of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Fall 2004






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