I really should have titled this “4 travel stories” since these are mostly specific parts of selected books that came to mind when thinking about enlightening voyage experiences. Tales of serendipity common enough to counteract soundbites of travel tragedy many modern media outlets tend to regurgitate for ratings.
Whether it’s you who needs a little convincing or that stubborn friend who won’t join you on an RTW, passages from these nonfictional tales can fortify large lacks of adventurous fortitude.
1. The Art Of Happiness (10th Anniversary Addition) By Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
There is certainly a connection between compassion and happiness as several studies have shown. Those two feelings being the central themes of this examination of the Dalai Lama’s theories, blended with a scientific analysis of his ideas. It’s not always easy to be happy when traveling, especially when you’re subjected to some of the scams that target tourists. For those of you who can relate to such situations, I strongly recommend you read Chapter 6 of The Art of Happiness. You may never look at getting ripped off the same way again.
2. Long Way Round
One of 8 great motorcycle books that will ignite your wanderlust and one that has personally influenced my nomadic side. Long Way Round is the dual-diary of Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, documenting their 3-month motorcycle journey around the world in 2004. Many of the negative comments about the book revolve around the fact that the two aren’t always happy and talk freely about the frustrations the road can bring. It is that aspect of the book I love however, as traveling certainly has a fair amount of crap stretches you laugh about later, after your first shower in 18 days. But one of the brighter (and funniest) tales in Long Way Round is the early chapter about Boorman and McGregor’s stay in Ukraine.
- Once you’ve read the story, be sure to check out the second part of the Long Way Round documentary to watch the experience unfold. Simply thinking about those scenes makes me chuckle.
3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X By Malcolm X and Alex Haley
The very moment I first opened the cover of this book I was unable to close it with exceptions for sleep, eating, and the occasional bathroom break. One of the most thoughtful sections of the The Autobiography of Malcolm X is Chapter 17, when he begins a series of visits to Africa and the Middle East before undertaking the Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj.
“I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land – every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike – all snored in the same language.”
-The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a staunch segregationist prior to that trip, however the communitas he witnessed in Mecca transformed him.
4. Thumbs Up Australia By Tom Parry
You might expect more than one disaster to happen to a British journalist and his French girlfriend, given they set off to travel nearly 13,000 kilometers…completely hitchhiking. Certainly Thumbs Up Australia [my previous review] is no fairly tale but as you’ll see toward the end of the story, the hitchhiking is really background to the human experience the travelers encounter.
This List Is Far Too Short, Considering The Possibilities
It’s tempting to add Jupiter’s Travels, The Pirates of Somalia, The Hidden Europe [my previous review], The Motorcycle Diaries, The Snake Charmer [previous review], Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea…and so many others to the list above. Then there are all of your comments and stories about how traveling has shown you people are fundamentally good. Still, fear and scary stories about the world tend to stick in our memories. For the most stubborn around you, here’s how to combat 2.5 million years of evolution and prevent your paleolithic brain from scaring you out of travel.
You’ve read far and wide so I’m curious, what books or stories would you have added to this list? I look forward to your literary feedback in the comments below.
Prior to leaving to travel the world, many members of my family thought I was out of my mind for making the decision to leave a job I loved and take off. They eventually came around but as time passed here on the blog, I noticed many of you sending me stories about similar situations. So today I’m excited to introduce you to my live chat guest who can help answer some of your questions about the psychology of travel.
Dr. Jamey Levy is a psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where he works as the unit chief on a general adult inpatient unit. He also has a private practice in NYC and is in training to become a psychoanalyst.
The chat is open today, March 28th from 6:30pm-7:30pm US EST (12:30am-1:30am GMT; 3:30pm-4:30pm Sydney). Scroll down or click here to pop into chat conversation below!
Whether you’re looking for advice on avoiding loneliness on your travels, how to approach people as an introvert in a hostel, or simply want to check your traveling sanity, Dr. Levy will be here to take your questions for one hour in the comments section below.
Japan’s train network is clean, extensive, and less expensive with the purchase of a Japan Rail Pass (JR Rail Pass). The only drawback is that most travelers (like myself) don’t tend to find out about it until they’re already in Japan – which is a problem since you can’t really get a JRRP inside the country. Japan has the world’s third highest rail density and trains connect practically everywhere you’ll want to see, making a JR Rail Pass a serious consideration for anyone visiting the land of the rising sun.
Complete 7-21 Day Access To Most Japanese Tracks
A JR Rail Pass is essentially an open ticket to the Japanese rail system, including most of its services, except two shinkansen (high-speed bullet) lines – the Nozomi and Mizuho. (Of course you can still get from say, Tokyo to Kyoto, it will just include a few extra stops and take a bit longer.) You’ve got two options, the green (aka. first class) and ordinary; both being unusually comfortable and exceptionally sanitary for public transportation. For most lines you can hop on any of the non-reserved seating cars in your class with a wave of your JR Rail Pass. Reserved seating also doesn’t cost you anything extra – aside from a few minutes waiting in line at a JR station or Travel Service Center.
Passes cost approximately $305/$485/$620 for ordinary tickets lasting 7, 14, and 21 days respectively; green passes will run you $405/$660/$855 US dollars.
- Is A Japan Rail Pass Worth It? – The Road Forks breaks down the numbers and the short answer is: yes.
How To Get A JR Rail Pass
For starters – don’t be in Japan. Assuming you’re not reading this from Kobe right now, you can buy tickets online from JR Travel through one of their authorized agents. They’ll then send you an exchange order which you’ll need to trade for an actual Rail Pass at one of these JR train stations. It’s also worth noting that if you’ve got some kind of work permit, residency, or anything other than a temporary travel visa you’re not eligible for a JR Rail Pass.
What If I’m In Japan Right Now?!
In case temporal mechanics are working against you and you’re already in Japan, you can purchase limited rail passes. Those passes however are generally more expensive enough to hardly make them worth purchasing (unless you’re a student or on a working holiday visa) – not to mention they don’t cover all or even most of Japan. Be sure to calculate your costs and routes carefully on Hyperdia to see if it’s worth purchasing a rail pass from inside Japan for your specific situation.
Some money saving travel tips are bold sweeping ones that can save you thousands of dollars, like accumulating all of your frequent flyer miles in one place; but more often than not, it’s the little tricks like the JR Rail Pass or Granada Card that keep your budget happy over the long term.
Whatever religion you practice or don’t, it’s likely you’ll be shopping for someone between now and the end of 2012. And, knowing you, some of those people are probably the cool, traveling type who can be hard to shop for since they like gadgets but don’t like carrying a lot of stuff. Fortunately though I’ve got you covered, with the best gifts, gadgets, and accessories for your vagabonding buddies, family members, and of course you sitting right there.
Laps And Tabs – The Best Computing Devices
Those of you having trouble deciding between between the two can take a look at my answer to the question, should I buy a tablet instead of a laptop for my travels? If you happen to fall on the laptop side of that argument, I’ve narrowed down your choices to my favorites.
- The Best Travel Laptops Of 2012- From netbooks and ultrabooks to full-sized 15-inch laptops, this collection of laptops should make your shopping decision a bit easier as I guide you to the right machine based on your needs and travel style.
As for tablets, you’re in a good time to go shopping for them, as there are great options and prices on the market right now. There are basically two varieties of tablets; the difference being drawn between smaller 7-inch and larger 9-inch screen sizes. Some of my favorite models on the available right now from both categories:
Nook HD (7 and 9-inch versions available) – In my opinion, the most underrated eReader/tablet competitor. It’s got powerful hardware (1.3GHz OMAP 4470) and excellent screen resolution (1440×900 at 243ppi) – those specs only improve on the 9-inch version of the Nook HD. Especially if you’re on the market for an eReader or deciding between a Kindle (or iPad mini for that matter), and aren’t tied to any one online store, the Nook HD is the one I would go with.
- Google Nexus 7 – Probably the least talked about 7-inch tablet on the market, which is surprising, since it’s simply solid overall.
- iPad 3 – Don’t get the 4, it’s pretty much a gimmick that’s $50 or so more expensive. Also, if you’re looking for a 9-inch tablet, get an iPad; they created the category and rule it for a reason. The iPad mini, not so much.
You can also take a look inside of my own backpack to see all of the tech gear and gadgets I travel with for some ideas. They’re road tested and traveler-approved.
Luggage That Moves With You (How To Pick The Right Backpack)
- Micro Luggage Scooter – There aren’t many bags out there that you can actually ride around the airport zipping to your gate whether you’ve got time to spare or are running late. Read my full review.
- Osprey Sojourn 25-Inch 60 Liter (Pictured above.) – This hybrid backpack-rolling suitcase is my main back I take with me everywhere and what I keep all of my worldly possessions in. I rarely find myself needing to use the backpack straps (which tuck away nicely when not in use) but the option is nice when, say, on the bumpy side streets of New Delhi.
- SwissGear Computer Backpack – The separate bag I use to keep my electronics in whenever I need to check or be separated from my main Osprey luggage. It’s got pockets within pockets upon pockets, perfect for any traveling techie.
Finally, the last backpack I carry actually sits inside of my bags, tightly packed into a ball as it’s designed to. The REI Stuff Travel Pack makes a wonderfully portable daypack, holding about 22 liters of your exploring essentials, like your camera when you’re out and about trekking around the mud volcanoes of Gobustan.
Boom, Snap, And Shot
For all of your traveling music lovers, help turn noise into sound, without the humming engine background.
Headphones: V-MODA Vibe In-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone – I’ve had my particular (red) model of these V-MODA headphones for 4 years and can’t recommend them more for sound quality, durability, and noise reduction.
Monster Inspiration Headphones With Active Noise Cancellation – Earlier in the year I traveled for 3 weeks around Asia with these headphones snugging caressing my ears. They’re high-end headphones but the sound quality is exceptional and any traveler who takes their tunes seriously will enjoy a pair of these.
Your travel memories are only as good as your travel photos and if you disagree with me now, just wait until you’re 80 years old. Arm your loved ones with the best digital cameras to get the job done.
Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 – The camera I’ve been using for the last 18 months or so and if you wander through my archives over that time and browse through the pictures, you’ll get an idea of what this camera can do. Check out my Photo Essay of The Alhambra in Spain or my Birthday Pictures of The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Since I picked up my DMC-ZS10, Panasonic has released an upgrade, lighter model, the Lumix ZS20.
- Inside I’ve got a 32GB SanDisk SDHC memory card and use my old 8GB card as a backup if needed.
xShot Camera Extender – This is easily one of the most useful and used items I carry in my backpack. The xShot not only lets you get photo angles you couldn’t otherwise without growing an extra meter in height, but makes it simple to get group or self photos without having to stretch your shoulder clean from its socket. The xShot fits standard on most camera types and is one of the best ways to take better travel photos without getting a better camera.
Save Money By Gifting Your Frequent Flyer Miles Directly
You can be generous and share you own miles, which makes for a great, inexpensive travel gift. But rather than outright transferring them to someone else’s frequent flyer account, you can save on fees by simply booking the flights directly for your friend or family member. Also, if you end up purchasing frequent flyer miles to gift them, try to keep them on one of these 3 alliances to maximize their usefulness for whomever you’re giving them too.
eBooks – The Best Is Now On Sale
The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers Version 2.0 – Become a tech-savvy traveling digital ninja by learning the hacker secrets and tricks to make your gadgets versatile tools on the road. Save more that $100 within a year and get 6 months of free technical support by me (where else can you buy yourself a personal traveling tech consultant?) to help you with any topics covered. You’ll also get 3 months of free updates learn more than you ever knew possible about your laptop. Oh, and it’s on sale, 30% off right now!
Discovering The Hidden Europe With Author Francis Tapon – It’s rare to find a book that’s as educational and entertaining as this one is. I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europe Can Teach Us, and comparing notes from my own travels there.
I read often and a few good books I’ve recently enjoyed – that blend travel and tech – to add to this list are: The Pirates Of Somalia, A Little History Of The World, and The Signal and The Noise: Why Some Predictions Fail But Others Don’t.
Giving The Gift Of Geek
Please excuse me while I turn the geek dial all other way to its highest setting for the combined enjoyment of those nerdy travelers you’re shopping for right now. Ka’plah!
- Here’s my list of all the latest recommended models.
Tickets To Geek Events – There are all kinds of conventions, fairs, and festivals for your nomadic geek buddies to attend. First though you’ll have to narrow down what kind of nerd you’re shopping for by checking out my list of the best places for nerds to travel.
Albert Einstein Mouse Pad – He goes with me everywhere, providing a smooth surface for my scrolling and offering a bit of wisdom and happy smile as needed.
Belkin Mini Surge Protector Dual USB Charger – Much like bandwidth, you can never have too many good electrical outlets. A sight that’s not incredibly common in many parts of the world or cafes either, so a Belkin Mini Surge Protector can help you make the most of an outlet when you find one.
Apps The Translate: SpeechTrans – You can combine the speech and text translating apps using SpeechTrans (Android and iOS) for $14,99. If you want to covert the functions of the other major translation apps into one, SpeechTrans may be a good fit as a gift.
High-Resistance Workout Cables – Your friends are probably not burning as many calories as they think sightseeing but these cables can help tip the scales in their favor. I travel with them for the days here and there I can’t make it to the gym, and turn any hotel into a gym with these quick 50 calorie killers.
And Finally, Gifts For Your Travel Blogging Friends
We’ve covered pretty much all kinds of techy travelers here but it would be a bit ironic for me to neglect the many other travel bloggers out there sharing their adventures with family and friends. They’re likely to appreciate a few new additions to their digital worlds and you can do that by gifting a SmugMug subscription for your photographic friends, purchasing some of their online hosting costs for the upcoming year on Media Temple, or surprising them with Aweber’s newsletter service for their fans. Additionally you can check out the blogging services I use on foXnoMad and consider one or some part of them for your travel blogging buddies, or self, as you shop into 2013.