My Dad flew this Plane

My Dad (George Bigler Parkes) flew the plane above many times during his times in the United States Air Force, until the plane finally caught fire, all engines, and crashed into the Irish Sea in the mid-1950s. Everyone died except for my Dad and three other guys. He was deemed a survival expert and moved over to the USAF survival unit where he traveled and lectured for years about survival techniques from the Arctic to Panama.

In other news, always happy to recommend the sage advise coming from Tripso, where a small collection of travel writers and others in the industry continue to answer questions about the trials and tribulations of being a traveler. Not necessarily a travel writer, but it's close enough, and this site always rings true, plus there's an RSS feed for easy daily access.

Question: Recently, I booked airline tickets from Chicago to the Greek island of Crete online through Sam's Club. When I called to confirm my reservation, I was told that my flight had been canceled. A representative asked me to mail the old tickets back and we agreed to pick a new flight.

Although I was led to believe that we had made another reservation, something apparently went wrong with the transaction, and the booking didn't go through. I called Sam's later, when the tickets didn't arrive, and it turned out that my credit card number had been typed into the system incorrectly by one of its agents.

In the meantime, the price of the tickets had gone up $500 each. Sam's agreed to pay the difference and we settled on a new flight.

Problem solved? Not quite.

On my return flight on Aegean Airlines, I was told my tickets were "no good." If I wanted to catch a flight home, they said, I would have to stand in line and buy another ticket for about $300. The reason the tickets weren't valid? Sam's had printed the Aegean tickets on the wrong ticket stock, which made them unacceptable.

I'm trying to get my money back from Sam's for the extra ticket I had to buy, but so far, no luck. Can you help me?

Kathy Winters, Cottage Grove, Wis.

Answer: Wow, talk about the vacation from hell. It looks like almost everything related to your airline tickets went wrong: a cancellation, a booking that didn't go through and then a worthless ticket.

Although Sam's tried to make things right, it ultimately left you with a bill for $300. Then it stonewalled you when you asked for a refund.

Tripso Link

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Times Links to Travel Sites

Posted by Chika On 1:24 PM 0 comments

Canned Heat in SF

I don't know who collects or checks these links from the Sunday Times (London), but they really don't have a clue about decent and useful websites for the traveler. This is just another knock against having some junior, young, newly hired editor given the assignment to survey the travel world via blogs and websites, when it really takes a great deal of time to understand what is going on.

The 108 best travel websites
From bookings to blogs, Gareth Scurlock picks the essential sites

NOT SO LONG ago, finding what you wanted on the internet was hard, and buying online was beset with worries. Now search engines are better at finding the site that you need, and reliable, top-quality travel websites have emerged.

But the joy of the web is its sheer size and variety; there are hundreds of independent travel specialists offering something quirky, different and fascinating.

Our choice of the Top 100 Travel Websites has been based on quality of information, design, value for money and ease of use. In the freewheeling spirit of the internet, we have aimed to make our selection new and surprising, so we have excluded many bigger sites.

Instead, our list leans towards “indie” websites run by enthusiasts, bloggers telling of their adventures, round-ups of handy tips, and any free and useful service.

Times Online Link

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Funny Stuff Mistakes from a PR Hack

Posted by Chika On 11:02 AM 0 comments

Whine, Whine

I would assume that many of you travel writers know the missives of Durant, who actively participates in many of the travel writers forums on the web, and so he posts a short but very humorous missive from some PR person (unnamed) with all the guffs. Not really earth shaking news, but always fun, so thanks Durant.

Shit, I can't find it. Problems with Blogger. Perhaps later.

Found it!


To all our readers,

With all sense of responsibility, the staff, management and editors of
eTurboNews apologizes for the error in yesterday's Rail Europe ad featuring
France Wine Tour.

We are sorry that the subject for the eTurboNews Travel-Telegram broadcast
read "France Whine Tour" instead of "France Wine Tour"....

Here's his link to all things Europe:

Durant Link to Europe for Visitors

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A Happy Travel Writer

That's Brad running through the water in some warm, sunny place. Since it seems that most readers of this blog can't be bothered to click the links, I'll go ahead and give you a heads up about the recent story in the New York Times about the "trials and tribulations of being a travel writer." See, it fits right into my theme.

It's summer now, and countless travelers are fumbling their way around the globe, heads buried in guides published by Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Frommer's among others. Probably few stop to consider what goes into producing travel guides or even who wrote them. And as it turns out, many of the intrepid young writers scouring the planet doing research for next year's crop of guidebooks never stopped to consider what those jobs would entail, other than the romantic — and often overstated — prospect of being paid to travel.

While the phrase "travel writing" may invoke thoughts of steamer trunks, trains, Isak Dinesen and Graham Greene, or at the very least, well-financed junkets to spas in Rangoon for some glossy magazine or other, writing budget travel guides is most decidedly yeoman's work. Most who do it quickly learn the one hard and fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.

"Many underestimate exactly how much work goes into making a guide book," said Jay Cooke, an editor for Lonely Planet. "Some potential authors think it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. But they're expected to write tens of thousands of words. It's a big, big job, and it goes far beyond journal keeping on a beach somewhere."

Indeed a day in the life of a guide writer can be wearying. Amelia Atlas, a recent Harvard graduate who is now in Berlin researching a guide to that city for Let's Go, said that last Wednesday she set out early to case a new neighborhood, Prenzlauer Berg, for her Berlin guide. She visited three hostels and three restaurants before collecting the shopping and eating options around a particular square. She visited a section of the Berlin Wall that still stands, made notes about the historical displays there, and set about walking the neighborhood block by block to see what she might find. After a quick dinner, Ms. Atlas went to her apartment to write about the day's findings. Then she planned to go out to sample the night life. "Manic is a good word," she said.

New York Times Link

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Airline Seating Configuration

When it rains, it pours. After the post below by Erik at Gadling, Travel Happy from Southeast Asia follows up with some more discouraging advice for prospective travel guidebook writers, including a link to the recent controversial article published last Sunday in the New York Times.

Becoming a travel writer for one of the major guidebook companies like Lonely Planet or Let's Go is not the romantic idyll many imagine before they hit the road.

The New York Times has a pretty dispiriting piece on the state of the travel guidebook industry, where young, eager writers are paid a pittance to spend thousands of hours on the road collating info about hotels and restaurants for the next guidebook edition. Pay rates have spiralled downwards because there are so many people willing to take on the job and whose words can be hacked into readable prose by editors at the mothership office. It's essentially become a McJob, which one guidebook writer likens to "data entry". There's a lot of travelling in terms of logistics but precious little in terms of travel experience per se, and a huge amount of ongoing stress to submit all that information on time.

You'd have to be incredibly well organised and efficient to leave some time over for you to actually enjoy the places you're travelling and stay within your advance budget. I'm not saying it can't be done - but I am saying you should think, think and think again before getting involved with this sort of gig. Personally, I think saving up a few thousand dollars and then going travelling without any ties in South East Asia would be much more preferable, even if it doesn't have the kudos of being a guidebook writer - kudos which isn't much use because you can't tell anyone you work for one of the major guidebooks anyway for fear of favouritism.

It's definitely worth checking Josh Berman's advice on how to be a travel guidebook writer and Friskodude's TravelWriters blog - he's a veteran travel journalist who's resolutely unsentimental about travel writing for a living.

Travel Happy Link

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Gadling on Travel Guidebook Work

Posted by Chika On 9:18 AM 0 comments

Travel Truths?

Blogger seems to somewhat screwy this morning, so I'm not sure if these posts are going through. Readers sometimes ask me why I don't add more content to this blog, but do please remember that I have a theme here: the trials and tribulations of being a travel writer. It's always somewhat difficult to find new, appropriate content, but I do want to follow this theme. If you want to know where to give away your travel writing content for free, or next to nothing, you'll need to go elsewhere. And if you want to read fine travel literature, the usual suspects are listed over to the right.

In other news, Erik at Gadling has graciously put up a new post today about "the trails and tribulations of travel writing," so it fits right into the theme of this blog. Do check the link for some additional hot links. The link to the blog of Lief Pettersen is just outstanding......

For those who have ever entertained dreams of gallivanting off to exotic lands to pen travel guides, hold on just a moment. The travel-guide writing life ain't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, when you are a guidebook writer, you are more likely to find yourself checking under toilet seats or sniffing mattresses than hanging on the beach or sipping tropical drinks with the locals. The job is work, not vacation. There was an interesting article about this in a particular paper about which I cannot write. But as a secondary source, I point you to two places. Both of these sites actually do a fine job conveying what life as a travel writer is like. In this site by the travel writer Leif Pettersen, who happens to be in right now, we learn a lot about guide writing in Eastern Europe. Here in this post he coaches you along to help you nurture your skills of asking for free, I mean crap.

And then in one of my old stand-bys, I urge you to pay a visit to FriskoDude, aka Carl Parkes, who often ruminates on this very subject. And even if you can't find a post to your liking (unlikely), you can at least admire his wonderful sense of humor in the photos he posts.

Gadling Link

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World Map

I wasn't going to post this link, but just let you folks follow the link provided by Gadling, but it's such a great piece of work that I just had to pass it along. In fact, do take the time to explore the entire blog of Leif Pettersen, who's an enormously talented travel writer with plenty of useful messages and advice for prospective travel guidebook writers. I don't necessarily agree with his opinions about accepting free crap while researching guidebooks, but it's still an hilarious piece of writing.

The delicate art of asking for free crap

You may be surprised to hear that travel writing has a seedy underside. Quite often, almost routinely in fact (when you’re not working for Lonely Planet), travel writers are given a free room, meal or service, with an accompanying wink, on the condition that they compose glowing praise for whatever the free thing was, no matter how much ass it sucked.

The nadir of this ritual is called a ‘press trip’. This is where some tourism bureau organizes an all-expenses paid trip for a pack of travel writers (with assignment letters in hand, obviously, we gotta keep out the riffraff), arranging for flights, hotel rooms, meals and tours, hands held for every waking second, and then the travel writer is sent home to write an article, or more preferably articles, about how great the destination was, even if it was Miami.

Mostly this is just underhanded advertising under the guise of what lay-people assume is an objective travel article. However, tourism bureaus aren’t completely to blame for the popularity of this tactic. In the defense of what may seem like greed on the part of the travel writers, the reality is that newspapers can’t find it in their hearts to pay more than $100-200 per article. So, if a professional travel writer were to pay their own way on a one week trip, even to some relatively cheap destination like Duluth, then came back and spent two days diligently writing the article for an average newspaper fee, the travel writer’s net earnings for that assignment (nine days of time, plus expenses) would be about -$500. Over the course of a calendar year, that travel writer would net between -$25,000 and -$50,000, depending on trips and expenses. The upshot is all these negative earnings would be tax free. In your face IRS!!!

Clearly, this isn’t a feasible arrangement. Tourism bureaus saw a slick, promotional opportunity that helped both them and the travel writers and press trips were born.

As if to cement their positions as blood-sucking wankers, now many newspapers won’t accept articles that were written on the strength of a press trip, meaning unless their field of hopeful travel writers is independently wealthy, none of them can afford to take a newspaper assignment that ranges further than local zoo. Since no one is beating down their doors to work for negative money, the newspapers usually end up printing some soulless shite they bought off a syndicate that was probably written by someone who themselves wrote the piece off a press trip, or worse, wrote the piece from Internet research and thinly veiled plagiarizing off other travel articles. While the newspapers fancy this approach as being honorable and legit, in actuality everyone loses, particularly the readers.

Leif Pettersen Killing Batteries Link

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Travel Guidebook Agent Warnings

Posted by Chika On 12:50 PM 0 comments

The Road to Mandalay by Carl Parkes

Kipling wrote that famous phrase about the Road to Mandalay (up the river from Rangoon) but did you know that Kipling never visited Mandalay? Reading this blog, you get all kinds of trivia that might come in useful in your next game of Trivial Pursuit.

In other news, it's bad enough that freelance travel writers must navigate around terrible contracts, but those suckers who actually resort to using the services of an "agent" must keep their radar on high alert.

Also, I've had a few questions about why I don't update this blog very often. The answer if simple. I'm trying to keep this blog focused on the Trials and Tribulations of being a Travel Writer. If you want leads to writing gigs for no money, you can check other blogs. If you want fine travel writing, see WorldHum. If you want to know the dirt on the real world of travel writing, see this blog. I don't get much information that fits in this blog, and rather than just fill blank space, I let this blog lay dormant until I find something relevant to the subject matter. Of course, if you find something of interest, do please send it along and I'll repost it here.

Victoria Strauss -- Top Ten Signs Your Agent is a Scammer

Because we can't be serious all the time.

10. Your offer of representation comes via form letter (somehow, you never do get his phone number).

9. Whoever typed his contract didn't use spel chek and can't rite real gud neither.

8. You first heard of him when [pick one: you found his ad in the back of Writer's Digest/you saw his ad on Google/he solicited you].

7. When you asked if he'd worked for another agency before establishing his own, he said yes--a real estate agency.

6. When you asked for a list of recent sales, he told you the information was confidential, because he didn't want you pestering his clients. And by the way, only a bad, ungrateful writer would ask that kind of question.

5. When you asked what publishers were looking at your manuscript, he told you the information was confidential, because he didn't want you pestering the editors. What is he, anyway, your secretary?

4. When you got his contract, you discovered you had to pay [pick one: $150/$250/$450/more] for [pick one: submission/administration/marketing/circulation/other].

3. He told you your ms. was great, but when you got your contract you discovered you had to [pick one: pay for a critique/pay for line editing/pay for a marketability assessment].

2. He got you an offer from a publisher--but you have to [pick one: pay for publication/pay for editing/pay for publicity/buy 1,000 copies of your book].

And the number one sign your agent is a scammer: You got an email from his assistant telling you he'd been killed in a car crash, but when you called to ask where to send the sympathy card, he answered the phone.

(And in case you're wondering, I didn't make that up.)

A. C. Crispin Blog Link

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