Archive for the 'Travel & places' Category

I’m looking over my schedule for the year . . .

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

And here’s what I discover: In 2008 I’m slated to visit, in coincidentally alphabetical order, Boise, Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

First stop: next week’s trip to Miami.

Plus many engagements here in Austin, ranging from a lecture at the McCombs School to my son’s first encounter with the Pinewood Derby.

My thubnail verdict, upon looking over this schedule: Whew!

An observation on car travel.

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Especially at the holidays, it can be far more pleasant to take a little extra time and go a few extra miles on state roads and U.S. Highways rather than battle the traffic and press of the Interstate Highways.

That’s what we did today as we traveled 260 miles from the outskirts of Dallas home to Austin. The worst stretch was the 30 miles we spent on I-45. The best thing about the whole trip was all but avoiding I-35.

Beneficial side effect: more and better places to stop between large cities, which is important when you’re traveling with young children.

Some perspective on my own life of luxury.

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

After watching this sweet video, I’m going to see if I can go this whole day without thinking about the various things I want but don’t have.

Cambodian Light Orphanage

(Hat tip to Beth for the link.)

Monster links pile-up.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Talkin’ ’bout catching up from vacation, with minimal commentary:

–Dig this from my buddy Austin. In particular, follow up on the comment thread to find out more about how French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim used a 500-page debut cartoon book as a way of teaching himself how to draw. More thoughts on this anon, but for now I’ll say I love the chutzpah on display. If you’re an artist (writer, filmmaker, chef, whatever) . . . sin boldly! Sin in public! Ask forgiveness (much) later, if ever!

–Excellent 4th of July quotes here. A favorite:

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

—Frederick Douglass

–[Via Hugh Macleod:] I avoided a lot of this hype because I was on vacation on an minimum-news diet, but this is sadly all too true: “I Read the News Today, Oh Boy”.

–Fred Wilson finds the same utility in social networking tools that I do: catching up with old friends.

–For no particular reason (or maybe because Disney’s been trying to force it so hard down our throats), I hadn’t planned on seeing Ratatouille, but now Austin and David have weighed in, and Dave’s recommendation in particular is leading me to rethink: “Ratatouille is the best Pixar ever. Maybe the best animated film since Snow White. And it made me very hungry.” I should know to always trust Brad Bird.

–Recovering from adversity: Yes, it’s doable — but only if you start by thinking so.

–This Fast Company item on Atul Gawande’s approach to “positive deviance” is well worth reading. I particularly like Gawande’s advice about not complaining: “. . . Resist it. It’s boring, it doesn’t solve anything, and it will get you down. You don’t have to be sunny about everything. Just be prepared with something else to discuss . . .”

–[Via Good Morning Silicon Valley:] One of the greatest obituaries you’ll ever read — not for its subject, but for the panache with which it is written. The first sentence of the piece is this: “Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.”

–[Same source:] That Shakespeare guy, he was somethin’.

–Tom Peters thinks we’re focused on the wrong debate in health care: “My rant: Let’s spend as much time and energy fixing the fixable enumerated above, 99% independent of the insurance debate, and seeing if we can tease out longer lives as a result of our investment. If our life expectancy is so damn low compared to those spending much less, aren’t we at some level getting screwed? I know that’s crude and bizarrely oversimplistic—but there’s also a big kernel of truth to the intemperate statement, isn’t there?”

–Tom also wants us to try things. A lot. Try as a point of fundamental belief. He’s right.

–Because we can’t ever have enough reminders about this: simple things you can do to help the earth.

–Jamais Cascio (who I got to meet at SXSW this year) is smart: An Insufficient Present.

–If you do a lot of air travel, this should be useful: SeatGuru.

That would seem to be enough for now.  Enjoy.

Off on vacation.

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

What I said here, also applies here.

Y’all be good.

Travelers’ life lists.

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

I’ve been fixated on the idea of world travel lately, no doubt in part because my family had such a nice (domestic) vacation last month. The Internet, of course, is the perfect tool to enable such a fixation. So, if you want to share this fixation, here are two pointers. This was going to be a longer list, but then I vetted it considerably — gotta keep the quality high around here, you know. Plus these two should keep your imagination busy for a while.

  • The Travel Channel has launched a show connected to the bestselling travel book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. That book has been sitting on my nightstand for a couple of years now, and from time to time I pull it out and read random snippets to my wife, finding locales we’d like to visit someday. My recent traveling jones has led me to accelerate the calculation of “someday”.
  • If you want a serious lifetime travel goal, consider aspiring to join the Travelers’ Century Club. Membership is limited to those who have visited 100 different countries around the world. Note, though, that their definition of “country” doesn’t exactly match the political divisions on the map. E.g., the Galapagos Islands, though part of the legal domain of Ecuador, counts as a separate destination from mainland Ecuador; they do a similar thing for the Hawaiian islands, the Azores, etc. Their complete countries list is here.

So go fetch an atlas — or even better, a Michelin map — and crank up your travel dreams!

Mass linkulation.

Friday, June 15th, 2007

–Could we see a war break out between Venezuela and . . . The Netherlands? Maybe.

–The 50 best business blogs, according the The Times of London. (I’d be offended, but in truth BIZ is just getting off the ground.)

–Dave Winer suggests a death penalty for companies. The idea has merit.

–Forbes has an article on the world’s travel destinations most at risk of environmental destruction.

–As a demonstration of the endlessly recursive nature of the Internet, I offer this link to Treehugger’s list of green links of the week.

–Been meaning to post this one for a week: Scott Allen (nice guy; I met him briefly at SXSWi this year) offers a roundup of stories about LinkedIn. (I’m addicted to LinkedIn myself. If you know me, feel free to invite me into your LinkedIn network; my profile is here.)

–Here’s a neat site dedicated to learning foreign languages.  Tons of tips for how to do it better.

Nifty self-powered electrical gear.

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Thanks to Treehugger, I’ve discovered Freeplay, which makes spiffy flashlights, LED lanterns, cell phone chargers, radios, and more — all of which can be powered by built-in hand cranks. While these good are targeted for development and disaster-relief work, they look ideal for long-haul international travelers. (More on my long-haul international travel plans to come.)

Commonplace: Captain Richard Burton.

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Of the gladdest moments in human life, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, one feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood . . . A journey, in fact, appeals to Imagination, to Memory, to Hope, the three sister Graces of our moral being.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton
(via BootsnAll)


The best vacations are a change of pace.

Friday, June 1st, 2007

When I was a boy, my father overworked himself in his job as a youth minister and music minister. He took some good advice and started taking two-week, and later three-week, family vacations. For years, we camped along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then we started taking the mammoth driving vacations that were one of the hallmarks of my youth.

“Define ‘mammoth’,” I hear you saying.

  • In 1982, starting from our home in a town east of Nashville, Tennessee, the four of us traveled Interstate 40 all the way to the Grand Canyon, then took a right and went up to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, then routed back through South Dakota so we could see Devil’s Tower and Mount Rushmore.
  • 1985: starting from our home in West Texas, we hit four state capitals in four days (Santa Fe, Provo, Boise, and Olympia), visited the blast site of Mount St. Helens, drove through the temperate rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, took the car ferry out to Vancouver Island for a few days, then routed back through Vancouver, B.C., Banff, Lake Louise, Calgary, and Glacier National Park. Plus, as I recall, we hit Yellowstone again.
  • 1987: starting from West Texas, we went up the eastern seaboard through Virginia Beach, New York City, and Boston to Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (before the bridge), and Nova Scotia. Another big ferry ride later, we cut back through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to get to Quebec and Ontario. Then down through Detroit and cross-country via Missouri and Kansas home.

Now those were some driving vacations. Usually, we would front-load the driving, going 500+ miles each of the first few days to get most of the way to where we were going. Then we would downshift and spend longer in each place. Over the years, we camped less and stayed more in motels, which was easier on my dad since setting up the tent always fell primarily to him.

My father’s philosophy of vacationing was shaped in part by something he read, which suggested that the best vacation was the one that presented the most variation from your normal routine. If you normally get up early, sleep in. If you normally take things laid-back, amp up the intensity when you get on the road. And so on. It’s less about what a specific vacation should look like — whether active, lazy, or whatever — and more about the change it provides for your system. If you do something quite different from your normal routine, you’ll be more refreshed when you get back home.

Given the vacation I just took and the way I feel now, I can tell you that this concept works. Here’s the itinerary of the trip my little family of four just took.

  • Wednesday: Fly from Austin to JFK in New York City. (Note: avoid JFK if possible — it’s a mess.) Drive to friends’ apartment in the far north end of Manhattan.
  • Thursday: New York City tourist day. Take a long subway ride, then ride Staten Island Ferry, eat lunch in a non-tourist deli, go to the Top of the Rock (easier than the Empire State Building, plus you get to see the Empire State Building), wander around the Rockefeller Center shopping district (Saks Fifth Avenue, American Girl Place, etc.), and visit the Museum of Natural History.
  • Friday: Take your time getting up, then drive via the Merritt Parkway to Northampton, Mass. Helps if you’re attending a Smith College class reunion, so you can catch up with old friends. Have ice cream at Herrell’s. Pre-arrange babysitting for the kids so you can have a pleasant grown-ups dinner with friends in one of Northampton’s many nice restaurants.
  • Saturday: Get up early and run through the Smith athletic fields and forest trail. Attend reunion ceremonies. Take the kids to a playground and buy them drinks at a neighborhood grocery. Attend the class reunion dinner, eat like royalty, then wander through the campus when it’s lit by Japanese lanterns.
  • Sunday: Take the kids through Smith’s greenhouses and botanic gardens. Drive to Manchester, Vermont for lunch in the Spiral Press Cafe at the amazing Northshire Bookstore. (It’s funny what sticks in your mind: having lunch at this place was one of my daughter’s favorite things from the whole week, even though she got carsick later.) Drive on to stay with friends outside Burlington, Vermont. Catch up on old times, drink beer, etc.
  • Monday: Let the kids play while some of the grown-ups hike Mount Filo. Take the kids to the Shelburne Museum. Have a backyard cookout with the neighbors, including one of the folks from the Magic Hat brewery. (We’re talking about a smorgasbord of local Vermont brews over these couple of days — stuff you simply cannot get in Texas.)
  • Tuesday: Breakfast at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. Drive via I-89 and I-91 down the east side of Vermont, have lunch in Brattleboro at The Backside Cafe (a happy coincidence that we found it), then retrace the earlier drive to end up at a nice hotel in a leafy part of Westchester County. Chill out with room service, a Mets game, and then a good book.
  • Wednesday: Have a nice breakfast at the hotel, wander into the city mid-morning, navigate the atrocious signage around the Bronx Zoo to find a place to park. Take the kids through the Zoo and eat lunch there. Then give yourself several hours’ worth of extra time, just to be safe, to get back to JFK. Wait and wait and wait for your delayed flight, then fly home. Sleep in your own bed.

So, yes, thank you, a great time was had by all. This was one of those trips where there were separate highlights for each person on the trip, plus many shared moments of fun. It wasn’t perfect (delays in and out of JFK, some carsickness, a cranky ATM card, etc.), but the imperfections were trivial in the extreme compared to all the fun we had. We did some pure tourist things (Top of the Rock), and we did some things that tourists don’t get to (the backyard cookout). There was plenty of driving, but it was punctuation between two-day stretches of staying put. A nice balance overall.

One of the things that made it so nice for me was that I completely unplugged from the Internet, where I spend waaaaaay too much of my working time. My company does all of its business online, I blog, I blog more, and my overbooked life includes three very active e-mail addresses. A week away from all of this was ideal. I also resisted the temptation to bring a big stack of magazines, which I often do when I’m traveling; my logic was that I read magazines every day for work and pleasure, so this was a good time to unplug from that, too, even if only for variety. So I read Bit Literacy (more on that in a later post — it’s excellent) and a big chunk of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and then when I had a few hours to spend in JFK, I read an entire issue of the New York Observer, which was a delightful experience very different from sampling the Observer’s wares online. (Oh, and a note to our own dear Austin Chronicle: why, oh why, can you not be laid out your paper version as well as the Observer?) Again, the point of all of this is the variation from the norm.

And it’s working. Already I’m taking a cannier look at my media diet — a project I’ve been working on for a while, but which can be difficult to navigate when you’re standing in the middle of the huge information stream. I ran and hiked and walked a bunch on this trip, but now I’m ready to get back into the weight room. I’m spending more time reading books and less time reading blogs, which given the lopsidedness of my reading diet lately is a good thing.

So, if you’re one to hesitate about taking a vacation: don’t put it off any longer. And don’t just take a long weekend. As soon as you can, schedule something that will take you away from your home, your work, and your regular cares for at least most of a week. It doesn’t have to be expensive — the vacation we just took was easily the most expensive one we’ve taken in years — but it does need to get you out of your normal groove in a way that gently expands your mind. I think you’ll find that you breathe easier when you’re done.