Does news media effect your wanderlusting spirit?

For every travel destination, there is always someone with an opinion about why you shouldn’t go there. One person will say “I would travel pretty much anywhere, but never India.” while another person says, “I could go pretty much anywhere but never Mexico.” For a long time Colombia was the place I figured I’d never go.

I’m writing this article from Cali, Colombia, feeling perfectly fine about being here, though practicing a bit more caution than I might normally.

The reason I never wanted to go to Colombia, and the reason many people have “no-go” countries on their list, is because dangerous things do happen and we read or hear about it on the news.

This brings up the issue I’d like to think about today. There seems to be a fine line between staying informed and getting intimidated. My trip to Thailand at the very start of the military coup this spring made me acutely aware of the power of news media. Many readers emailed to ask whether or not they should cancel trips they’d planned to Thailand, concerned that it wasn’t safe for tourism. I don’t watch news at all, but it made me wonder how the media was portraying the unrest. The feeling I got from readers was that the media painted a dangerous and frightening picture.

In an article I gave my account of traveling through Thailand during martial law, a fairly uneventful tale of streets quieting down earlier than usual. It did not feel dangerous or frightening. It’s not to say that Thailand was without issue during that time, but as a tourist I never once felt unsafe.

However, I know that my husband and I tend to err on the side of under-cautious, and occasionally that does get us in sticky situations. We’ve stumbled upon riots before, for instance. I often wonder how many bad situations we’ve narrowly missed. For this reason, I certainly don’t want to be the only voice weighing in on this question.

riot in sri lanka

So I asked a few other travel bloggers or frequent-travelers their thoughts. Are other travelers watching or reading news media, and if so, which news sources do they access regularly?

Various responses I got included BBC’s website, CNN Kids, NatGeo Traveler, The Atlantic, The Economist, and of course some replied that for the most part they don’t check news resources regularly. Other, less mainstream options included and (I found it interesting and worth noting that no one news resource came out ahead as the most frequently accessed. Granted, I asked a small pool of travelers.)


As to whether or not these media resources effect each traveler’s approach to travel or not, LeAnna of had the following take:

“The truth is, I am not going to choose to go to a place that is in civil dis-rest. Not because the media tells me not to, but because I personally would like to live a few more years. However, there are several places that I have traveled to that some may consider “unsafe” (Russia, Czech Republic, Africa) but I feel that the people who consider them unsafe are uneducated about those areas.”


LeaAnna highlights the benefit in striving for an informed, realistic opinion of a place.

Where might that informed opinion come from? Many of the travelers I interviewed commented that regardless of what media resource they’re tapping into, they’re going look into the media’s claims further and do their own research too. In other words, even when news media is involved in their attempts to stay informed, it’s not the last stop before their opinions are made.


Why take these precautions to go beyond what the media is saying? Heather of offers this:

“I try not to let the media influence my travel plans; the media often over exaggerates the issue and most of the time issues are in small areas, rarely the whole country.”


Jason, another frequent-traveling friend said that rather than the news influencing his approach to travel, something quite the opposite is true. His travel influences his reaction to the news:

“I don’t think the news media influences how I travel or how I approach a new place. It’s actually more of the opposite- the more I travel and the more places I visit the more I am able to separate what’s happening in the news versus what’s happening on the ground. People generally just want the same things in life no matter where they live, a home to live in, security, food, education and a better life for their children. So the things that make them unique in the news are not really what make them unique at all. Generally the stuff that you read in the news is in the realm of government, and has very little to do with what the average person’s life is like…I’m no longer scared to go to places that everyone else is scared to go to because I know those places have human beings that are just trying to get by in life, just like we are in [the] United States.”


Over all, while not everyone is so extreme as to avoid the news entirely, there does seem to be a general skepticism of news media- that it is not, on its own, enough. Or even that it is not, on its own, helpful.

Now I’d like to know what you think.

Do you trust news media to inform you realistically about a place? Does it effect your worldview, your willingness to travel? If not, why not? How do you approach news media to keep this from happening?

 I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by | Comments (4)  | September 11, 2014
Category: Travel News, Travel Safety

Considering a career break? The time is now: Meet. Plan. Go.

Location Independent

Too many of us are stuck on the merry-go-round of dreaming about a long term travel adventure and a break from the 9-5 of our careers. It seems like something that other people get to do, the lucky ones, not us. So, we stalk their blogs, we wish we knew where to start, we keep dreaming, but we remain stuck where we are.

Sound familiar?

If that’s you, if you’ve been longing to take the plunge, have an adventure and recreate your life and career on your own terms then you don’t want to miss Meet. Plan. Go. It’s a one day event, limited to only 150 participants, in NYC on September 20th. Designed by Sherry Ott and friends to give you the inspiration, encouragement and tools you need to get serious about planning, and more importantly actually taking, that career break you’ve been thinking about.

Rolf is going to be there, along with a whole team of career break veterans who will speak from personal experience about the benefits and challenges of taking the leap. Whether you’re planning a solo trip, or a year of travel with your whole family, there will be experts on hand to help move you forward.

Space is limited. Time is limited. The possibilities are endless.

Posted by | Comments (0)  | August 19, 2014
Category: Travel News

New museum to see: The “English Pompeii” is finally on display

As a fan of great museums, England, and historical stuff in general, I’m excited about a brand new museum that has just opened this week.

Located in the historic dockyard of Portsmouth on England’s picturesque south coast, the Mary Rose Museum houses the sixteenth-century hulk of the HMS Mary Rose, the pride of Henry VIII’s navy. Built in 1511, the massive warship sank off the coast of England in 1545 while fighting the French fleet. After ages under the waves, her remains were resurrected from the sea by marine archaeologists and installed in the new museum. A museum that, incidentally, is situated in the very dockyard in which the ship herself was constructed.

Remains of the Mary Rose

Remains of the Mary Rose

But it’s the collection of objects from within the ship—thousands of sixteenth-century items being called the largest trove of Tudor-era artifacts ever assembled—that are the real stars of the museum. By a stroke of fate, the silt of the sea floor created a virtually airtight tomb for the small objects within the vessel. The resulting collection of relics is so well preserved that it has been dubbed “the English Pompeii” for its quality and poignancy.

Sixteenth-century artifacts from the Mary Rose

Sixteenth-century artifacts from the Mary Rose

The artifacts on display within the hull include miraculously preserved musical instruments, rosaries, board games, silverware, weapons, book covers, medical equipment, furniture, coins, and even the remains of several of the Mary Rose’s sailors. Facial reconstructions of the recovered skulls put a human dimension to the 500 men who perished with the ship, as do the everyday items they used. Combs with Tudor-era lice still trapped in them are also in the exhibit, as are the remains of the ship’s dog.

mary rose 4

Taken together they are sure to tell a story of lives lived and lost within a sixteenth-century ship’s creaking timbers.

I can wait to see this for myself.

Posted by | Comments (0)  | May 31, 2013
Category: Europe, Family Travel, General, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel News

Towns of Boring and Dull plan epic celebration of all things uninteresting

We all know that most cities are desperate for tourism money in this lousy economy. Some are going to great lengths to generate interest. Now a PR man (or woman) has looked at a map and cooked up the tourism industry’s latest publicity stunt:  Two towns, separated by an ocean and thousands of miles, plan to launch a joint promotional effort to entice tourists with a day of celebration that boldly promises to be a total snooze.

It all began when a UK traveler, passing through the west coast of America on vacation, happened upon a community with a name similar to his own hamlet back in Scotland. Before long, the Oregon town of Boring had itself a “sister city” called Dull, a tiny Scottish village.

A real town in Scotland. Pretty place. Not much in the way of nightlife, however.

Now an article in the UK paper Telegraph describes Boring and Dull’s plan to make August 9th— the anniversary of their union , or whatever—a mutual, transatlantic day of celebration of all things uninteresting. The  intention is to draw free publicity to their respective communities’ charms. With a low population, rainy climate, and eight hours’ time difference, it is still unclear whether Boring and Dull’s event will be, well, eventful.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | February 22, 2013
Category: Europe, Images from the road, North America, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel News

An Exciting Development in Indie Travel From Boots-N-All

Sean Keener, CEO of Boots-N-All is a friend of mine and one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to developing resources to empower and encourage independent travel. A few months ago he let me in on the Beta testing of the ace up his sleeve, and today I’m as excited as he is about the launch.

The team over at Boots-N-All has made a giant leap forward for the indie travel market in developing a tool that will allow us all to chart our own courses in a way that has not been possible up to this point.

Did you Know?

  • Did you know if you try to book a flight with more than six stops – you need a travel agent?
  • Did you know it takes at least 48 hours to book this type of trip?
  • Did you know it can take days just to receive a price quote for this type of trip?

Not any more!

Enter Indie. 

It’s the first of it’s kind airfare booking service with no rules, instant prices and online booking for itineraries of more than six stops.

It’s being unveiled for the very first time today, after being in Beta for three months. As someone who travels full time, I can’t tell you how excited I am about the possibilities!

Kudos to Sean and the team for putting together yet another practical resource the could change the travel industry.

Check it out, people:


Posted by | Comments (1)  | January 8, 2013
Category: Air Travel, On The Road, Travel News

Global data plans becoming more affordable

AT&T this week rolled out new international data packages with prices cut nearly in half, a change that comes six weeks after Verizon announced a new international data package. Although these options are still more expensive than using an international SIM card, the changes signify progress toward making smartphone internet use more affordable and accessible for travelers.

AT&T’s new international data package tiers, available for these 135 countries, are:

  • 120 MB for $30/month (previously 125 MB for $50/month; there was also a 50 MB for $25/month offered)
  • 300 MB for $60/month (previously 275 MB for $100/month)
  • 800 MB for $120/month (previously 800 MB for $200/month)


Verizon’s new plan, announced in mid-April, provides 100 MB for $25/month with coverage in 120 countries. This is the only package offered; you can add by increments of 100 MB for $25.

While AT&T and Verizon seem to be making headway in the global data market, Sprint and T-Mobile’s packages are not as competitive. Sprint offers multi-country packages covering only 39 countries, and at 40 MB for $40/month or 85 MB for $80/month, the prices are much higher than the others. T-Mobile’s international service is very expensive at $15 per MB.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | June 6, 2012
Category: General, Travel News

How many websites do you need to plan a trip?

Planning a trip can be a logistical tangle.  At any one time, I’ll have more than half-a-dozen tabs open in my web browser, each a different website.  For example:

  • Wikitravel – Get general info.
  • Air Asia – Find cheap flights in Asia.
  • Hostelworld – Book hostels.
  • Urbanrail – Look at subway maps.
  • Travelfish – Read hostel and guesthouse reviews in Southeast Asia.
  • Facebook – Find friends who live there.
  • Gmail – E-mail friends for recommendations.
  • – Calculate currency conversions
  • World Time Buddy – Figure out time differences.

Cross-checking between so many sites can be daunting, even for an experienced vagabonder. The new site Georama aims to change that by tying together different travel needs into one online platform. The slogan is “Plan. Book. Share.”  Still in private beta, but you can sign up to get advance access.

It’s certainly an enticing prospect. You’d save a lot of time from flipping from one site to another. On the other hand, it seems very much like the same idea behind web portals. Yahoo and MSN are prime suspects that the portal model can seem bloated in this age of lean, agile, focused applications.

Would you use Georama? What sites do you use for travel planning? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | May 7, 2012
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel News, Travel Tech

More travelers, less tourists…

If you haven’t read last week’s post on the “Rise of the Tourist“, I suggest you give it a quick once-over before reading on.   Short on time?  No problem.  I’ll sum up the broader points:  Tourism is big business and in 2012 there is expected to be 1 billion global travelers.  This trend will continue so long as there is economic progress in previously economically depressed nations, and, so long as there is an industry to market, package, and deliver destinations.  This isn’t necessarily a horrendous development, but rather one that is full of potential.

All caught up?  Alright then…

What’s the problem with more “tourists” anyhow?  After all, that’s a tide that shouldn’t (and can’t) be turned.  More travelers on the road can loosely be equated to more cultural exchange, more economic growth at local and national levels, and, generally speaking, broadened horizons for all.

Win-win-win, right?

I like to think so, but  based on what the fine print on my vagabonding card says, I’m obligated to point out that independent travel (long-term or otherwise) is inherently different than what the majority of “tourists” will experience. So what insights can the vagabonding perspective offer to the those inclined to partake in all-inclusive, pre-package, culturally sterile vacations?   Here’s a few thoughts:

Patronize the locals.   Eat, shop, and lodge locally.  Foreign owned companies often own hotels and airlines and restaurants and all manner of shops and by patronizing them you’re essentially creating the “leakage effect“.  Find out where your dollars are going.  Local isn’t necessarily always better, but it does mean you’re directly funding and impacting a community – aim for that.

Travel slow.  A theme covered recently on vagablogging  (Read more here and here), traveling slowly, with purpose, while soaking up the moments is a central aspect to understanding the world and cultures and peoples around us.  Travel should be more about the experience (and less the extravagance) and a good experience should always be savored and never rushed.

Go where your presence matters.   Burma?  Egypt?  Greece?  Haiti?  Japan?   Skip the hotspots and go where your money matters.  Burma, Egypt, and Greece are all clamoring for international tourism to return.   As for Haiti and Japan, both nations who’ve been hit by disaster in installments, these nations can use your time and help either as an in-country traveler or as a volunteer.

Widen your world view.  Let go of any ethnocentric thoughts and embrace other perspectives.  Read up on where you’re headed.  Familiarize yourself with the history, the land, the people, the languages, the customs, etc.  Challenge your own assumptions as they relate to governance, security, religion and the global relationships between nations and individuals.   You don’t have to compromise your beliefs, but realize that there are a myriad of other perspectives.

Be respectful of nature and replenish yourself in it.  Take the time to reflect, if not also genuflect, in nature.  Cherish the wide open spaces that rival the expansive soul residing within you.  The world is wild and impartial and that’s just its way of reminding you how indifferent it is to your worldly concerns.  I’m obligated to add that you should (re)read Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire“.

I realize that the long-term, vagabonding perspective towards traveling and life may be a bit extreme for most, but, as in politics and religion and life, the extremes have a way of informing and pushing the center.    There’s a brave new generation of 21st century sojourners out there and they’ll be hitting the “road” in unrelenting waves, year after year…let’s see if we can push them a bit in the above directions and, hopefully, in the process create more travelers and less tourists.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | March 5, 2012
Category: General, Travel News, Volunteering Abroad

The rise of the tourist

Along with the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, tourism has become one of the world’s dominant drivers of global, national, and local economic growth.  At last tally, “the industry” – an aggregate of airlines, hotels and a slew of service businesses ranging from tour guides to street food vendors – employs a staggeringly high 200+ million people worldwide, or nearly 11% of the world’s workforce.

As previously reported, this same industry is on a path that will serve 1 billion souls in 2012 (or 1/7 of the world’s population).  And, rest assured, that number won’t be the pinnacle in terms of unique travelers.  Instead, 1 billion should be thought of as a beacon, a milestone to mark our progress on a long march towards a culture of global travels and tourism.

Photorights - Copenhagen by Valkarie

Photo credit / "Copenhagen" by Valkarie

In other words, 1 billion tourists in 2012 and, perhaps, 2 billion in 2020.  Is there anything wrong with the proposition of an increasingly saturated tourist landscape, aside from personal inconveniences and the potential loss of the unspoiled destination?    More to the point, should anyone deny someone else the joy, the thrill, and the trials of travel?

Citizens of BRIC nations and other, smaller economic power-houses, whose respective GDP’s continue to trend upwards, have travel aspirations that rival their rising economic status.  These brave new 21st century travelers are simply partaking in the same “pleasures” that the developed world has had access to for decades, if not centuries.   So, no, I would argue, there is nothing wrong with an increase in travelers or tourists or whatever way you want to divide and subdivide or categorize and classify.

The rise of the tourist is, in part, due to the rise of the tourism industry; it’s big business and there’s big profits to be had.  With an expanding market (i.e. the population boom), there’s more clientèle and, shock (!), they’re going to keep doing their thing.

We must keep doing ours.  Travel slow.  Travel independently.  Travel with purpose.  Travel with a conscious.  Travel with style.  Travel in whatever ways make sense to you.   And, don’t forget to spread the gospel.

Again, 1 billion tourists are just the beginning.  Previously marginalized populations will continue to find the world more accessible via Visa and Vayama.  We’re already seeing waves of new travels from every corner of the globe, not just those where past economic performance has paved the way.

Let this marinate a bit and check back next week where we’ll look more into why the numbers aren’t what’s important, but rather how people travel is.

Posted by | Comments (6)  | February 27, 2012
Category: General, Travel News

It’s a dog eat dog world in Southeast Asia

Media has been abuzz lately about the infamous dealings of dog trafficking. It’s not the purebred puppy mill business they’re describing, but the smuggling of dogs for dinner in Southeast Asia’s Mekong Delta. Street dogs, purebreds and even stolen pets with collars on are making their way via small wire cages to restaurants and dinner tables around the region. The business is thriving, and people are beginning to notice.

Canine cuisine in Vietnam, Korea and parts of China is nothing new; people have been feasting on man’s best friend in Asian countries and beyond for thousands of years. Why, then, is it making a splash in international news?

Street puppies at Kathmandu's KAT center

For starters, it’s the wrong season to be a dog in Southeast Asia. The cold months around Chinese New Year already increase the demands of the dog trade, since the delicacy is said to “warm” those who are eating it, help with metabolism, and even bring good luck.

Flooding in Thailand in late 2011 has also enabled business to thrive, as rising street dog numbers turn Bangkok into a dog catching free-for-all. Animal rescue groups are still working to find homes for the displaced animals, but smugglers often find them first.

Dogs in Bangkok after the floods

Perhaps what is most alarming, however, is the newfound attention on domesticated pets. Thailand’s Soi Dog Foundation suggests that captured street dogs simply do not fill the demand in a season when dog meat reigns supreme. What to do when street dogs are in short supply? Stolen pets become a dog trafficker’s target.

Of course not everyone sides with the PETA activists and animal lovers. As perverse as it seems to feast on fido, (whether street dog or pet,) this business has been thriving for years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Roasted dog in parts of Vietnam is as common as roasted chicken in the states. It’s not even the animal cruelty that’s illegal, but the underground trade business which generates millions of dollars each year. For as long as the meat remains popular and lucky, there will definitely be dog for dinner.

What can you do? Aside from not dining in dog restaurants, there are several organizations around the world that focus on street dog welfare and putting an end to the illegal trade. The Soi Dog Foundation and the Kathmandu Animal Treatment center are just a few. Lastly? Don’t bring your dog on your backpacking trip around Vietnam this winter!

Posted by | Comments (5)  | January 31, 2012
Category: General, Travel News