“What do I bring?” is a vexing question that most first-time expats face. You don’t want to bring something and carry it when you could just buy it on the ground. On the flip side, you don’t want to be stuck without an item you really need.
Nick and Tim from The Elevator Life, a video blog for young Western expat entrepreneurs in China, made this video:
Some of the advice, especially dealing with banks and smartphones, were very useful. These are the kinds of things that can cause a lot of hassle if you don’t know about them ahead of time.
Have you lived in Asia? What did you wish you had brought when you first moved there?
Here’s an exciting film for vagabonders: it’s about 7 billion people, 24 hours, and one planet. Check out the trailer:
From the official description:
ONE DAY ON EARTH creates a picture of humanity by recording a 24-hour period throughout every country in the world. We explore a greater diversity of perspectives than ever seen before on screen. We follow characters and events that evolve throughout the day, interspersed with expansive global montages that explore the progression of life from birth, to death, to birth again. In the end, despite unprecedented challenges and tragedies throughout the world, we are reminded that every day we are alive there is hope and a choice to see a better future together.
Documentaries like this are notoriously tough to pull off. Moving that much equipment around, dealing with foreign bureaucracy, etc. The filmmakers hit upon an elegant solution: crowdsourcing. They opened the film to submissions from participants from all over the globe. One upshot of this method is that it adds a local perspective to the production.
On their website http://www.onedayonearth.org, the founders say that one of the founding principles was to use this film as a “time capsule.” If a picture is a worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth?
What do you think? Have you seen similar documentaries that you would recommend watching? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired film footage of San Francisco in 1906. The footage, taken by a camera attached to a cable car going down Market Street, is less than 12 minutes long, and it is mesmerizing in a way a still photo cannot be. We see bodies moving, faces moving, vehicles and pedestrians weaving all over the place in an era few of us ever bother to think about. There is a hauntedness to it all, in part because we know what the people in the video don’t: many will die in just a few days in what will be called the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Some years ago I used to take a lot of video footage in my own travels, and I’m glad I have it today. On those rare occasions when I watch some clips, they evoke time and place in a way my still photos do not. A photograph can’t capture the crickets at night in Yanjing, Tibet, or the giggles of an innkeeper’s little girl as a radio plays Chinese classical songs in the background.
I’ve not traveled with a proper video camera since 2005. I feel I just don’t have the time to do video when I’m focusing on still photography — and trying to do decent writing at the same time. But my Nikon D300s does have a video function, and I’ll kick it on once in a while. The quality is poor, but it is enough to capture something that a single picture can’t. For this post I’ve uploaded to youtube a few video clips taken in the past year. If any of the following capture your attention, you’re most welcome to check it out (the girl in the photo above is in the first clip):
It’s that time of year again when STA travel picks this summers World Traveler Interns and the two lucky candidates have been announced. The 2011 interns are Brigette Muller and Dutch Simpson. You can read more about who they are and what inspired them to apply for the position here, on the STA website.
This years itinerary takes us across 17 countries. The journey starts with a long winding path across Europe, through a bit of Asia, and finally touches down in Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America. STA’s World Travel Interns are always fresh and fun to watch. Be sure to check out their progress this summer on what is sure to be an exhilarating journey.
Several weeks ago I wrote about the film Life in a Day that is slated for release in the next few months. Since then, anticipation for the film seems to have gone viral, as the trailer and articles about the film have popped up all over popular websites like facebook, twitter, and other social forums. I feel as if unable to get online without reading some mention of the film.
With seemingly such high expectations, I wonder how the film we ultimately be received. Travel enthusiasts seem to love it for harnessing the carefree energy of travel, and for giving us a glimpse of many places and cultures around the globe. The film may inspire some people to finally hi the road and travel, others may find it to be just a simple feel good film.
Now the film has an intended release date of July 2011 and a polished trailer. Watch it here.
Did you submit a vignette for consideration for the film? Want to see it when it premiers in July? What are your feelings about the film?
A 1972 Monty Python sketch called “Travel Agent” contains a classic scene where the Eric Idle character goes on an over-the-top rant about package tourism, at the expense of Michael Palin’s travel-agent character. Many of the references are dated now — and the whole scene is drenched in hyperbole — but many of the frustrations of overly structured group-travel still ring true. Here’s the rant in full:
“What’s the point of going abroad if you’re just another tourist carted around in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Coventry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea — “Oh they don’t make it properly here, do they, not like at home” — and stopping at Majorcan bodegas selling fish and chips and Watney’s Red Barrel and calamares and two-veg and sitting in their cotton frocks squirting Timothy White’s suncream all over their puffy raw swollen purulent flesh ‘cos they “overdid it on the first day.” And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Continentals with their modern international luxury roomettes and draught Red Barrel and swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they’re acrobats forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into queues and if you’re not at your table spot on seven you miss the bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night the hotel has a bloody cabaret in the bar, featuring a tiny emaciated dago with nine-inch hips and some bloated fat tart with her hair brylcreemed down and a big arse presenting “Flamenco for Foreigners.” And adenoidal typists from Birmingham with flabby white legs and diarrhea trying to pick up hairy bandy-legged wop waiters called Manuel and once a week there’s an excursion to the local Roman remains to buy cherryade and melted ice cream and bleeding Watney’s Red Barrel and one evening you visit the so called typical restaurant with local color and atmosphere and you sit next to a party from Rhyl who keep singing “Torremolinos, torremolinos” and complaining about the food — “It’s so greasy isn’t it?” — and you get cornered by some drunken greengrocer from Luton with an Instamatic camera and Dr. Scholl sandals and last Tuesday’s Daily Express and he drones on and on about how Mr. Smith should be running this country and how many languages Enoch Powell can speak and then he throws up over the Cuba Libres. And sending tinted postcards, of places they don’t realize they haven’t even visited, to: “All at number 22, weather wonderful, our room is marked with an ‘X’. Food very greasy but we’ve found a charming little local place hidden away in the back streets where they serve Watney’s Red Barrel and cheese and onion crisps and the accordionist plays ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’.” And spending four days on the tarmac at Luton airport on a five-day package tour with nothing to eat but dried BEA-type sandwiches and you can’t even get a drink of Watney’s Red Barrel because you’re still in England and the bloody bar closes every time you’re thirsty and there’s nowhere to sleep and the kids are crying and vomiting and breaking the plastic ash-trays and they keep telling you it’ll only be another hour although your plane is still in Iceland and has to take some Swedes to Yugoslavia before it can load you up at 3 a.m. in the bloody morning and you sit on the tarmac till six because of “unforeseen difficulties”, i.e. the permanent strike of Air Traffic Control in Paris — and nobody can go to the lavatory until you take off at 8, and when you get to Malaga airport everybody’s swallowing “enterovioform” and queuing for the toilets and queuing for the armed customs officers, and queuing for the bloody bus that isn’t there to take you to the hotel that hasn’t yet been finished. And when you finally get to the half-built Algerian ruin called the Hotel del Sol by paying half your holiday money to a licensed bandit in a taxi you find there’s no water in the pool, there’s no water in the taps, there’s no water in the bog and there’s only a bleeding lizard in the bidet. And half the rooms are double booked and you can’t sleep anyway because of the permanent twenty-four-hour drilling of the foundations of the hotel next door — and you’re plagued by appalling apprentice chemists from Ealing pretending to be hippies, and middle-class stockbrokers’ wives busily buying identical holiday villas in suburban development plots just like Esher, in case the Labour government gets in again, and fat American matrons with sloppy-buttocks and Hawaiian-patterned ski pants looking for any mulatto male who can keep it up long enough when they finally let it all flop out. And the Spanish Tourist Board promises you that the raging cholera epidemic is merely a case of mild Spanish tummy, like the previous outbreak of Spanish tummy in 1660 which killed half London and decimated Europe — and meanwhile the bloody Guardia are busy arresting sixteen-year-olds for kissing in the streets and shooting anyone under nineteen who doesn’t like Franco. And then on the last day in the airport lounge everyone’s comparing sunburns, drinking Nasty Spumante, buying cartons of duty free “cigarillos” and using up their last pesetas on horrid dolls in Spanish National costume and awful straw donkeys and bullfight posters with your name on “Ordoney, El Cordobes and Brian Pules of Norwich” and 3-D pictures of the Pope and Kennedy and Franco, and everybody’s talking about coming again next year and you swear you never will although there you are tumbling bleary-eyed out of a tourist-tight antique Iberian airplane…”
China is a huge country, and an even bigger topic to tackle in a movie. Filmmaker Brook Silva-Braga took on that daunting challenge in his new documentary, “The China Question.” This is the divisive issue that causes American workers to worry, politicians to vacillate, and businesspeople to make deals: “What does China’s rise mean for America?”
One film that vagabonders, or armchair vagabonders, may be interested in is the YouTube film “Life in a Day”.
The day in question is July 24th 2010, when people were asked to go out with their cameras and film some footage that encapsulated their life on that particular day. The film isn’t shot with Hollywood caliber cameras, yet it retains a surprisingly clear resolution throughout.
Over 80,000 submissions came in from 192 countries around the world. Over 4,000 hours of film were cut down to a mere 90 minutes to make the movie. The vignettes from around the world are edited to give viewers a look at the humor of life, the poignant moments, sadness, and even tragedy as 21 festivalgoers are crushed to death during a stampede at Germany’s Love Parade.
The project is directed by Kevin Macdonald, who already has an Academy Award under his belt for a documentary film. Macdonald has said about the film, “It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. Hopefully you feel at the end of it more connected to your fellow humanity, to other human beings around the world.”
The film has already had its premier and will be available to the public later this year.
You can take a look at a few minutes from the film and watch interviews with the filmmakers on the project’s YouTube page
Several months ago, Vagablogging reminded readers that STA travel was again accepting applications for their Summer Intern Positions and encouraged everyone to get out there and apply. Well, now the lucky winners have been chosen and have been on the road and reporting since the end of May.
This year’s itinerary is just as enticing as last year’s. The 2010 interns, Casey Hudetz and Natalie Webb, will travel through Peru, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Egypt, and Europe at large. Throughout this trip, Casey and Natalie will document their travels through photos, articles, and podcasts – all published on the STA Internship blog. STA Interns never fail to provide energetic and fun reporting. Follow them this summer on that trip you couldn’t make, or get ideas for upcoming travels.
STA has enjoyed a good reputation in the travel community. While their greatest target market is the student community, STA offers deals that extend to everyone. Check their website for regular flight specials or package offers.
“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts” -Yvon Chouinard
Quick, think of your most memorable travel experience.
Judging by the stories I hear from other travelers, and the ones I tell, what sticks out for most are the moments when things went wrong, when, for a little while, things became uncertain and perhaps even risky.
Such moments may not be noted for their “fun” at the time, but later they stick out. And they stick out I think precisely because they are more real. When things stop going as planned there is nothing to look forward to, there is just the moment your are in and that is where adventure starts.
The Chouinard quote above comes from a new film, 180 South, which is itself a tale of mishap and adventure. What makes 180 South worth seeing is that the mishaps, failed plans and resulting adventure is conveyed in a way you seldom see when camera crews are there to record everything.
180 South is refreshingly raw, allowing a genuine sense of adventure to come through even in spite of all the filters of time and space between that adventure and in you in your armchair, watching. What makes the movie different is that it doesn’t have the slickly manufactured adventure you’re used to from Anthony Bourdain’s producers or the editors of Survivorman. Nor is there the manufactured adventure you find pedaled by volcano tour operators, scuba dive shops or jungle guides the world over.
There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but to paraphrase Chouinard, until something goes unexpectedly wrong, none of those cultivated experiences will fulfill the reason you left home in the first place — some universal longing for a genuine experience, a real adventure.
Such things are hard to come by these days. There are no dark spots left on Google Earth. Travel itself has become so easy you hardly notice it happening. There is a scene in the movie Snatch, which illustrates today’s travel in less than five seconds — a cab door closes, the character throws back a highball, a jet engine roars, another cab door closes and the next scene begins.
That’s not too far off how most of us travel. The door to your house closes behind you, an airplane engine hums and you’re there, where ever there may be.
Which isn’t to say there are not upsides. It’s wonderfully convenient to be able to fly around the world and cheap travel is a more democratized travel, available to people that would have never dreamed of traveling in previous centuries.
But there is also a price. We have removed most of the risk from travel. We have eliminated one of the original appeals of travel — to rediscover the authenticity of life through hardship, adventure, mishap and survival.
Without risk we have no chance for things to go wrong, we allow ourselves no challenges to overcome and end up returning home the same as when we left. Perhaps a bit more culturally aware, perhaps having met interesting people, but fundamentally unchanged in our existence, lacking the suffering and hardship that shapes our character and makes new people out of the exhausted molds we’re desperately trying to leave behind on the road.
When our travels rarely take us out of range of Twitter it’s hard to feel like we have been anywhere. We have gone nowhere inside, merely swapping the background music for a slightly different tune.
Without risk we miss the chance to fail, we miss the chance to see what happens when the mast breaks, when the rudder is lost and the ship starts to go down. It is rare these days that any traveler risks death, and yet, on some level, we travel precisely in order to risk something — to survive our own adventures, persevere when our plans go wrong and follow those detours until we arrive somewhere. There.
Most committed vagabonds, myself included, harbor some dream of buying a boat and sailing around the world. Most of us probably will never have the money, but the dream is telling. It’s partly the freedom of it perhaps, but it’s also I think the risk of it. After all travelers still die at sea all the time. It’s the appeal of risk that draws many to sailing, it requires a constant attention to the now, making you forget your plans entirely and that’s increasingly hard to find in your travels.
On some level I think we all feel this loss of risk. We’ve even invented ways to add that risk death back to our lives — bungee jumping from bridges, hang gliding from peaks or taunting Great White sharks from a cage.
We create artificial risks when we arrive because we have removed the fundamental risk of the journey.
Rolf recently posted a quote from Marian Botsford Fraser, part of which reads:
The heroic is no longer compelling. There are few places under the sun that cannot be found with the help of global positioning technology. Almost anyone can get to the top of a remote glacier and send a photo home via satellite phone.
There is in fact nothing heroic or compelling about getting on a plane and then finding yourself atop a glacier. Just close the cab door, have a drink and you’re there.
However, I do not think that just because travel is easy that that means the heroic is no longer compelling. It may not be compelling in travel writing, which is what Fraser is referring to, but it is certainly compelling to each of us on an individual level.
Like many things — religion, politics, etc — the heroic has, for better or worse, shifted from the public sphere to the private. We have internalized our sense of the heroic and we must live up to it alone.
It may be that these days no one finds an unadulterated and wild land teeming with adventure in Patagonia. In the film 180 South the characters are not even seeking an uncharted, wild land; they’re after their own uncharted, wild experiences.
In that sense, the Patagonia of 180 South becomes not place, but a journey searching for the personally heroic. Travel has never really been about getting “there.” No matter how burned into our imagination the destination may be, it’s never the place that matters. If it were just the places that mattered we could all save a lot of money and watch the highlights in HD on the National Geographic Channel.
But we don’t. We have this need to see it for ourselves, a need which I believe stems out of desire to see how we react to it, turning the “there,” the places, into a way of traveling within ourselves.
In 180 South “there” is ostensibly Patagonia, but there is no cab door closing, no highball tossed back, no plane ride. The film moves slowly, one scene sliding into the next until things start to go wrong. The there of Patagonia begins to fall away. The there becomes Rapa Nui, the there becomes Pichilemu, Chile, the there becomes Santiago, until finally, as Gertrude Stein wrote, “there is no there there.”
By the end of the film Patagonia is just a word for what we are all looking for, but it says nothing of where you actually arrive, if you will arrive at all or who you will be when you get there.