Cost/day: $30 (includes camping permit and food hiked in)
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
The fact that people are living out here for years at a time is pretty strange/amazing. Kalalau has permanent residents, even a “mayor,” hidden throughout the valley. These people grow just about everything they need to live on, and one couple even sold us some wine they make in the valley. They walked the two miles to the beach with their pet cat on a leash and sold us a bottle of some really nice pear wine. Also, this bug was pretty strange:
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
On my short getaway to Namhae Island, my friends and I noticed globs of a bright orange, paintlike substance floating near the pier. Opting out of a swim, we came back later to find a beautiful, eerie phenomenon: the orange was now sparkling electric blue.
Apparently this rare bioluminescence happens during a red tide, when there’s a disturbance in the water’s oxygen levels. Whatever the cause, it was one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen.
Serendipity is a funny thing. The mind-blowing intersections of fate and intention that lead a person down paths heretofore unconsidered is, without question, my favourite aspect of travel.
We sat, last evening, in the formal dining room of Sir James Wallace, a Knight of the Realm, so honored for his philanthropy. How did we come to be sitting there, eating off his privately commissioned silver, discussing art and opera? We picked up a hitchhiker.
In this case, a hitchhiker who turned out to be a micro-biologist and one of the most interesting travelers we’ve run across in a long while. He tossed his pack into our van and regaled us with stories of crossing China, a protein-per-penny breakdown on the nutritional value of chickpeas, and how Shakespeare and the Brownian theory related to travel. It seems he impressed Sir James as well. He’s now ensconced in the Knight’s mansion-cum-art gallery as the “artist in residence.” He’s creating a planetary mood ring on commission. I can’t tell you how, that would spoil the surprise and endanger his beautiful idea, the intersection of art and computer science.
When considering who he might share his good fortune with, he thought of us, and so we were invited to a private piano concert earlier this week, and dinner last night.
This has got me thinking:
The path would have been entirely different if we’d said, “No,” to any number of tiny questions along the way.
I’m a believer that the Universe conspires to help us, but we have to give her some material to work with.
Serendipity is one of the reasons we travel: in search of those unexpected, delightful connections between worlds that we would not otherwise have a door into.
Have you experienced this? Talk to me about serendipity and where it’s taken you!
“I do not want to know where this journey ends. Otherwise, why call this action ‘journey’?”
–Matsuo Bashō, in his journal
In the past few months, I have complained several times about the current status of travel writing and how it does not satisfy my needs.
In this sense, it would have been too easy to just sit there and complain without actually doing something about it. And that’s exactly what I did by joining forces with British travel writer Tom Coote.
We sat down and worked hard to create a new digital magazine: Wicked World.
You can access it by clicking here.
Wicked World exists to promote the kind of travel related writing that wouldn’t normally find an outlet in more mainstream publications. We’re not here to sell expensive guided tours, round the world tickets or travel insurance. On the contrary, we are here to provide a showcase for honest, alternative and irreverent writing, with a particular emphasis on internationally oriented underground culture. And we of course accept related, inspired submissions from like minded travel writers and adventurers.
If you want examples, the very first issue of Wicked World has articles on: the burgeoning black metal scene in Bangladesh; the rarely visited Meroe Pyramids in Sudan; mine clearance in Cambodia; a haunting return to Vicksburg, Mississippi; the resurrection of a mummified monk in Thailand; a bizarre encounter with the police in Kyrgyzstan; System of a Down’s self-financed film about the Armenian Genocide; and a festival for hungry ghosts in Malaysia and Singapore.
In the future, we are planning to provide a syndication service for travel related articles, and to experiment with publishing the kind of eBooks that wouldn’t normally find an outlet through more mainstream publishers.
If you would like to get involved in Wicked World, or would simply like to know more, then send an email to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
I don’t hitchhike too much, I have four kids and a husband, which is a prohibitive number of people for a convenient pick up. I do, however, pick up hitchhikers just about every chance I get. To me, it’s a great trade, a chance to increase my per-capita gas mileage and the entertainment is for free! Sure, it takes a certain amount of faith in humanity to pick up a stranger on the side of the road, but then again, it takes a certain amount of faith in humanity for them to take the chance and get in my car. I’ll reach across that divide if you will.
So as someone with a propensity to go out of my way to pick you up while you’re hitching, let me give you a little advice, that will increase your odds of catching a ride and sharing my chips while we drive.
1. Image matters
You don’t have to be squeaky clean (you’re traveling the hard way, after all!) You don’t have to be the picture of the boy or girl next door. You can be a bit grungy, your pack can be worn (in fact it’s a good sign if it is!) You can be tired and road worn. But remember that what I see is selling me, your image matters. Smile. Have the look of the intrepid adventurer that you are. Don’t be afraid to make me laugh with your sign or your roadside “hook.” Have an instrument, be playing it. Look like you’re going to be fun to ride with. Look like I’ll regret it if I drive on past. Be the photograph that sells your story.
2. Be flexible
Be willing to hop in the back of our camper with four kids, or tie your pack on the roof of my van. Be willing to stop and run an errand with me between point A & point B. Be willing to run to catch up if I can’t stop for another hundred yards. Be willing to go only half of the distance you want me to take you. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up taking you the whole way after all!
3. Pay for your ride
That’s right. Pay for your ride. A good hitchhiker always pays for her ride. I’m not talking about offering money, or to pay for gas, or to buy me a meal. I would never expect you to do that, but I do expect a good trade for my effort, so be thinking about what you bring to the table, or the vehicle, as it were. I’ll expect some good stories, some intelligent conversation, or a good laugh, at the very least! Some of our best hitchers have become interviews for travel stories. Others have taught the kids to juggle something, or told us new jokes, or shared recommendations for things we must see in our own travels. Don’t ever take a ride without giving something of yourself in return.
Do you hitch? What are your best hooks for getting picked up? Do you pick up? How do you decide who makes the cut?
Getting sick while traveling is probably one of the most common fears travelers have – and for good reason. Not only does getting sick disrupt your daily itinerary, but finding a doctor can be a major challenge in certain parts of the world. Does this mean you shouldn’t travel? Absolutely not – it simply means that you should approach sickness with the same spirit of adventure as you approach the rest of your journey.
My family and I have traveled a fair bit over the past 30 years or so, and have been around the block a time or two. We’ve suffered from food poisoning, limped on sprained ankles, traveled with casts (and waited out part of a journey due to a cast), and been evacuated by air ambulance due to a heart condition. I guess you could say we’ve tested the medical care in many countries around the globe – and we’re still traveling.
So what do we do when we get sick? That’s a hard question to answer. There have been many times on our journeys when we faced sickness or injury, and there is no doubt we will face it many more times in adventures to come. What we do depends on many factors – where we are, the availability of medical care or medications, the seriousness of the injury, and our itinerary.
Many times we had to make a decision – was it bad enough to go to the doctor? Or should we just wait it out. Stomach problems generally fit into this category. Our typical approach is to wait it out for three or four days and, if it’s not better by then, we start looking for a clinic. That amount of time generally gives our body time to fight whatever is causing the problem. If we’re still sick after that, it’s time to consider drugs. Muscle strains usually fit into this category as well. We wait a few days to see if it is getting better – if not, we get to the doc to get it checked out.
These are the easy problems to deal with in that you have time to think, time to ask around, time to consider your options, and time to get into a city with good facilities. Ask your hotel staff where a doctor is, and jump in a taxi – chances are there is some sort of clinic in your area that can deal with minor disturbances.
On the other hand, there are times when you know you need medical care – an acute ear infection, a rapidly swelling wrist, a foot that can bear no weight whatsoever… These are the challenging situations we all fear. Can I trust the doctor to set a broken bone? Will he give me the right medication?
We have found that, in these situations, the local people know best. They deal with medical situations in their communities all the time, and know exactly where to go. We’ve also found that doctors tend to know their limits and will send you on to someone else if they are not capable of dealing with your problem.
When I severely screwed up my foot falling down some old stone steps in northern Vietnam, everyone told me I needed to get to Hanoi twelve hours away for x-rays. We hired a taxi, I sat in the back with my foot propped up on pillows, and we made our way to the hospital in Hanoi.
When my son woke up one morning in Mexico with an excruciating earache, we were able to find a clinic a few blocks from our hotel. Another day, my other son fell and sprained his wrist, which led to a journey to a hospital 75 miles away. Each situation is different, and each one will require a different course of action. Just remember – it’s all a part of the adventure.
What about those times when your life is in danger? When something goes terribly, horribly wrong and you hover on the edge of death? Although we don’t want to think about it, we all know it could happen. That’s why it is imperative that you have evacuation insurance.
If you find yourself in countries with limited health care, you may very well need to be evacuated. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m young and healthy – nothing will happen to me.” And yet, you just never know. One minute all is well, the next you’re in trouble.
We were living in Ethiopia when my husband’s heart suddenly went into arrhythmia. We had gone for an 80-mile bike ride and forgot our water bottles. I stopped at every little café to buy water; he took off to get in a good training ride. Apparently, the exertion, altitude, and dehydration all worked against him to send his heart into an irregular beating pattern.
The good news is that the doctors in Ethiopia recognized the problem right away, and they also recognized that they were not in a position to deal with it. That’s when our evacuation insurance came in very handy.
Within minutes of my phone call to the agency, they were on top of the situation and making arrangements. As soon as possible, a plane left Israel to pick my husband up in Ethiopia and take him to an Israeli hospital. The bad news, however, is that the air ambulance came with a price tag of $90,000. That’s why you want to pay those few bucks whenever you travel!
There is no one answer to the question, “What do I do if I get sick or injured while traveling.” Just take it all one day at a time and make the best decision you can at the time. It’s all just a part of the adventure!
“Contemporary life is perhaps unprecedented in the scale, quantity and global organization of modern journeys, and yet it is clear that travel is not a new human experience. Mobility is the first, prehistorical human condition; sessility (attachment or fixation to one place), a later, historical condition. At the dawn of history, humans were migratory animals. Recorded history — the history of civilization — is a story of mobilities, migrations, settlements, of the adaptation of human groups to place and their integration into topography, the creation of “homes.” In order to understand our present, we must understand how mobility has operated historically, in the past, as a force of change, transforming personalities, social landscapes, human topographies, creating a global civilization.”
–Eric J. Leed, The Mind of the Traveler: From Gilgamesh to Global Tourism (1992)
My travels in northern France have always provided vivid reminders of the battle for Normandy, which raged from D-Day through the summer of 1944. Though partially healed by the decades, scars still remain in the rolling countryside, picturesque villages, and gentle beaches.
Sixty-nine years ago today, the Allies waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France, and began the liberation of Europe from Hitler. A US veteran of the Normandy campaign said recently, “Out of my squad of 13, only 3 survived.” His story was not unique. The fighting was ferocious, and casualties on both sides were severe.
On each of my visits to this beautiful area, I have been struck by the locals’ affection for Americans. The French are not normally known for their liking of the US tourist, but in Normandy, the appreciation for the US sacrifice is strong. Several coastal villages fly American flags and bear plaques in the town square commemorating the day of their liberation by US troops in June of 1944.
Some reminders are particularly evocative for me. For example, I find few sites as poignant as the rusted ports lurking in the waves just off the coast of Arromanches-les-Bains.
Not far from the immaculate rows of gleaming marble headstones of the US cemetery at Omaha Beach, the tiny beach village of Arromanches-les-Bains was chosen to be the main port of the Allies. Still visible in the surf are the ghostly hulks of the prefabricated ports known as “Mulberry Harbors”, designed to move those millions of pounds of Allied men, vehicles, and supplies from ship to shore in the fight against Hitler.
The skeletal iron beasts, now rusted and worn away by decades of tide and salt water, serve as a reminder of the world-changing event that came to Normandy’s shores. And they remind us of the ordinary people—most now passed away—who found themselves swept up in the gale force of history.
The years go on, but the echoes remain.
Cost/day: $45/day-room, $10 per class, average $10 per meal
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
The coconuts here!! The coconuts here are magic coconuts. I am staying at the Sanctuary Resort on Koh Phangan and, here, the coconut water inside of them is green. It comes with spirulina and all kinds of grasses already mixed in. Oh, and the coconuts that drop onto the ground seem to grow words. Everywhere you look they are giving you messages that you just needed to read right that second.