Category: Books

The Pirates Of Somalia Is A Great Travel Book, Lackluster Movie

pirates of somalia

Imagine working in an office at age 24 and wanting to become a journalist, but instead of going the traditional route of a formal education, you book yourself a ticket to Somalia to interview pirates… as they’re actively hijacking cargo ships. In 2011, that’s exactly what writer Jay Bahadur did, and his book The Pirates Of Somalia is one of the best travel books I’ve ever read.

Earlier this year a movie by the same name was released and despite good acting, the original story gets muddled with what is clearly Hollywood executive meddling. It’s often the case that the book a movie is based on is better but Bahadur’s story is so compelling, the movie should have stuck much closer to the true story.

Adventure In Journalism

I’m not going to compare The Pirates Of Somalia movie with the book as much as tell you to read the book, despite what you may have thought of the film. In both cases, The Pirates Of Somalia starts with Bahadur’s wild idea to get a story others can’t by going to its troublesome source. The book however, covers in depth the scattershot planning it took to make this trip to Somalia plus interview pirates leaders, possible. No journalist prior had gotten such interviews and I’m sure more than a few intelligence agencies wish they had such access.

the pirates of somaliaThe Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World

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Ultimately, the planning is fascinating because it starts with Bahadur making calls and pulling connections on his own – you can imagine yourself reading this right now – following the same steps; next thing you know you’re on a 1970s Soviet-era Atonov plane headed for Puntland. (Puntland, the center of Somali piracy, is an unrecognized autonomous region in Somalia.) The movie doesn’t go into this section enough but travel enthusiasts would especially enjoy seeing the calculated chaos Bahadur’s route to Somalia took, dramatized on-screen.

Nerves Across The Pages

Bahadur does a really good job of transmitting his cool but logically anxious mind after he arrives in Somalia. There’s a naivety in the writing without straying far from the reality that things could go horribly wrong. Insulting a pirate, running into the wrong group of armed criminals, jihadists, other pirates, or a hundred other ways to get killed at worse, kidnapped at best.

In the movie, the most captivating parts (aside from anytime Al Pacino is on-screen) are the moments of complete unpredictability in what’s to come for Bahadur. Where the movie doesn’t make time to go in-depth enough into each character’s arch, the book’s writing is very personal. The Pirates Of Somalia is written almost like a journal, but structured to give you a deeper look at the people who are pirates, at all levels in the organization. Pirates are humanized, criminal motivations dissected, and a love of Land Rovers plus addiction to khat, exposed.

No To Romance

The story of piracy in Somalia has been romanticized. Although there is a very tragic element to it, the widely circulated narrative of fisherman looking for justice isn’t the reality. I won’t spoil the book but Bahadur’s adventure leads to a deep insights about Somalia any reader will benefit from. (Bahadur is now an investigator for the United Nations in Somalia.)

In the film, there’s a weak subplot about an old girlfriend that could have been discarded in favor of more scenes with the pirates, demonstrating the exploitation and modern mythos within the gangs. But The Pirates Of Somalia movie, like these 8 motorcycle books, should give you an anxious enough glimpse of the full story you’ll really want to read on your next flight.

Ask Author And Blogger (Nomadic) Matt Kepnes How To Travel The World On $50 A Day

matt kepnes

Today’s live chat guest, Matt Kepnes, is one of the first travel bloggers I met when I began blogging in 2006. In fact, he’s one of the first travel bloggers and his site Nomadic Matt is certainly one of the most successful. Matt recently published the revised version of his latest book, How To Travel The World On $50 A Day, and is here to answer your questions on traveling more while spending less.

Thank you everyone for participating in the chat!

Matthew Kepnes runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt. After a trip to Thailand in 2005, Matt decided to quit his job, finish his MBA and head off into the world. His original trip was supposed to last a year. Over seven years later, he is still out exploring and roaming the world. He’s scuba dived in Fiji, was a poker player in Amsterdam, taught English in Thailand, got lost in a jungle in Central America, and broke down in the middle of Australia’s outback.

travel world on $50How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter

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In 2009, I interviewed Matt about another book of his on how to make money; he’s back today for one hour from 5-6pm US EST to take your questions on how to travel the world for $50 a day. Ask Matt about blogging, his travels, plus smart budgeting for your next trip all in the comments right below!

What To Buy The Minimalist Traveler In Your Life

Travelers and fathers seem almost impossible to shop for since they never seem to want anything and dismissively scrutinize what gifts they do get. While you can fall back on the old reliable combo of socks and wine for dad (a purchasing paradox that may never be solved) when it comes to frequent travelers they generally want better – not more, stuff.

The Best Travel Laptops Of 2014 (Top Pick: Macbook Air 13-Inch)

best travel laptops Size, battery life, durability and weight aren’t factors that mean much to a laptop that sits on a desk all day but for those of you who carry an electronic baby on your back regularly, they’re crucial factors to consider before purchasing your next one. Read more.

The Best Mobile Phones Of 2014 For Travelers (Top Pick: Moto X 2014)

best mobile phone travel 2014All this means that any mobile you buy now has the potential to last you 3+ years without feeling like an abacus so if you want to save more for your travel budget with less on electronics purchases, here are the best phones for your pocket. Read more.

I’ll add that if you’re in the United States, although it’s Verizon-only, the Droid Turbo is basically a Moto X on steroids. Less aesthetically pleasing but much more powerful with exceptional battery life.

The Best Headphones For Travel (Top Pick: Bose QuietComfort 25)

best headphones travel 2014Whether your jamming out to Taylor Swift or listening to Star Talk Radio, these headphones are best at canceling out ambient engine noise while providing crisp sound in reliable hardware. Read more.

3 Best Compact Cameras For Travelers (Top Pick: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS 40 / TZ 60)

best cameras travel 2014These are the best point and shoot cameras of 2014, though if you’re on the market for a DSLR I recommend you check out the gear some of my favorite travel bloggers are using. Read more.

Best Carry-On Backpack

So many of you have left comments and written me echoing my fondness for SwissGear computer backpacks; one I’ve been using for over 10 years now. They’re incredibly durable with enough pockets of varying sizes to find a home for anything you’re traveling with. Padding makes them a comfortable carry while at the same time protecting valuable gadgets.

swissgear backpackSwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack 1900 (Black)

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Motorcycle Books And Running Genes

Weightless in digital form (well, not quite) these books in digital format are intriguing reads on a Kindle Fire HD or Samsung Galaxy Tab Nook.

My Interview With The Geneticist Who Overcomes Flight Phobia To Study The World’s Fastest People

  • I first read about Dr. Yannis Pitsiladis MMEDSci., PhD, FACSM in The Sports Gene, a book by David Epstein about what makes super athletes different than the majority of us. Dr. Pitsiladis is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton who has done research on obesity and the detection of doping in athletes but his passion is running. He travels around the world studying the genes and environments of the world’s top runners (often on his own dime) and created the largest known DNA bio-bank from world-class athletes.

the sports geneThe Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

8 Great Motorcycle Books That Will Ignite Your Wanderlust

  • Ted Simon rode around the world on a Triumph motorcycle during the early 1970s and wrote one of the best travel books ever. Jupiter’s Travels is his account of the trip, 78,000 miles over 45 countries. Before the trip Simon was already writing as a journalist and Jupiter’s Travels flows on every page. In 2001, when he was 70 years old, Simon took the trip again – a similar route on motorcycle – and wrote Dreaming Of Jupiter. His observations from the first trip to the second one 30 years later are truly fascinating.

jupiters travelsJupiter’s Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph

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Conduct A Covert Minimalist Survey

It’s always best to begin with some gentile probing to find out what type of replacement gadget or updated backpack the traveler you’re shopping for is lusting for – yes, minimalists still want things – they’re just pickier about them. Don’t be afraid to ask as generally they tend to know exactly what they want; preferring to get just the right gift over the thrill of a disappointing surprise.

An Interview With The Geneticist Who Overcomes Flight Phobia To Study The World’s Fastest People

yannis Pitsiladis

I first read about Dr. Yannis Pitsiladis MMEDSci., PhD, FACSM in The Sports Gene, a book by David Epstein about what makes super athletes different than the majority of us. Dr. Pitsiladis is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton who has done research on obesity and the detection of doping in athletes but his passion is running. He travels around the world studying the genes and environments of the world’s top runners (often on his own dime) and created the largest known DNA bio-bank from world-class athletes.

the sports geneThe Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

Additionally, Dr. Pitsiladis must deal with a severe fear of flying before boarding planes to places like Jamaica and Kenya. Dr. Pitsiladis was kind enough to answer a few questions about facing his anxiety to research the fastest people on Earth.

What is the extent of your fear of flying?

I typically have to ingest alcohol to board the flight. I cannot work, especially when there is turbulence. I also have to sit at the window and spend most of the time looking outside even in the dark. I only fly with certain airlines and often choose to drive long distances especially in Africa so as not to take local airlines. As a scientist this makes no sense as I am aware of the data.

How often do you travel and what is an average year like for you?

I travel typically every week of the year.

herb mckenley

[Above: Dr. Pitsiladis with 4-time Olympic medalist Herb McKenley of Jamaica.]

Has all of this flying changed your anxiety, for better or worse?

I go through ups and downs depending on how bad/good the previous experience is but mainly depending on the airline and weather. On a British Airways flight on good weather my anxiety is low. On a Russian airliner in bad weather my anxiety is sky high! My anxiety is also very high when my family travel with me although I do my best to hide it so as not to pass on my fear to them – often without success.

There’s a saying that there is no greater enemy than one’s own fears, what about your research motivates you to overcome yours regularly?

Yes totally. I never let it stop me flying with a few African examples where i will drive 7 hours to avoid a 30 min flight across the Great Rift Valley.

Yannis Pitsiladis

[Above: Dr. Pitsiladis sampling blood in Africa.]

I’m fascinated by descriptions of the Champs [Jamaica’s annual high school sprinting competition] and would like to hear your impressions or favorite memories from the events you’ve attended.

The atmosphere, especially when the victorious school is clear, which is more exciting than an Olympics – even the 100m final day at the Olympics.

Which runner(s) have been the most difficult for you to reach due to travel constraints?

For data protection I cannot answer.

Finally, where are you headed next?

To break the 2 hour marathon barrier…

Thank you again Dr. Pitsiladis for taking the time to share some of your experiences in the air and catching the fleet-footed on the ground. You can read more about Dr. Pitsiladis’ research on why people of east African descent seem to always win marathons, Jamaicans excel at sprinting, plus studies done by others in a fascinating book I highly recommend, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance.

The Best Gifts To Buy Travelers Before The End Of 2013

baby opening gift

Travelers can be a frustratingly fun bunch to shop for since there’s a lot to choose from and well, because there’s a lot to choose from. Whether you’re narrowing down the type of gift or a specific selection in a given category, let me help eliminate some of your choices while still giving you (and your budget) a lot to choose from.

The Best Travel Laptops Of 2013 | Top Pick: Macbook Air (~$999)

macbook airThe innovative dominance of Apple’s latest core products is debatable these days but when it comes to the Macbook Air there’s little question it’s the best ultrabook on the market others look up to. Unless the person you’re purchasing for is a die-hard Windows user or a serious gamer, your quest for a travel laptop should begin – and will likely end – here.

For larger laptops or smaller budgets you can browse the rest of The Best Travel Laptops of 2013 which includes the hybrid Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (~$1,100) if you can’t decide whether to get a laptop or tablet and prefer a little of both.

Best Compact Cameras Travelers Can Buy Right Now | Top Pick: Panasonic Lumix (~$370)

panasonic lumix dmc-zs30 blackThe camera I carry and highly recommend as do so many of you who travel with a model of Lumix. Alternatively the Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS (~$359) is perfect for adventurous-types who might especially appreciate a camera that is waterproof down to 15 meters (50 feet) and doubles as a baseball. Whichever camera and lens you settle on keep them clean with an iKlear Cleaning Kit ($25) good for all the digital screens you’ll be gifting.

  • GoPro HERO3+ ($399) – The best selling camera in the world and a great gift for the skydiving, whale diving, off-roading, adrenaline junkies you want to surprise.

Smartphones

A very generous way to say keep in touch.

  • nexus 5Android: Nexus 5 ($349-$399) – Thank you Google, this is how a phone is done and priced to sweep the legs of the competition. Pretty screen on the outside with powerful electronics inside – plus an efficient operating system – the person unwrapping this gift should be quite happy.
  • iPhone: Seriously Get The 5s ($699 Contract Free; $199 with Carrier) – The iPhone 5c is basically the old iPhone 5 with colors so I wouldn’t recommend getting it for someone who’s already got an iPhone 5 – unless they really like colors excluding gray, gold, or black.
  • Windows: Nokia Lumia 1020 ($799 Contract Free; $149 AT&T US-only) – This isn’t the phone to surprise someone with unless they’ve already expressed a very strong interest and realize its limited base of apps… or want the most amazing camera in a smartphone available at any cost.

Monster Inspiration With Noise Cancellation ($299) | V-MODA Remix In-Ear ($79)

moster inspiration headphones vmoda headphones red

kingston digital wi driveWireless Backup Solutions

Data backup isn’t necessarily the sexiest gift but an incredibly thoughtful one you may be graciously thanked for long after its been received.

  • Kingston Digital Wi-Drive (~$159) – Provides 128GB of additional storage plus wireless syncing of photos and files.
  • Digital Foci Photo Safe II ($149) – Useful for travel photographers and enthusiasts who want to quickly backup photos on the fly without a computer.

In addition to these physical backup solutions there’s also the gift of a Crashplan subscription ($59.99; 1 year subscription) which can prevent your next vacation from turning into a disaster.

the ultimate tech guide for travelers version 2.0A Personal Technical Consultant For Only $9.99

I recently reduced the price of The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers Version 2.0, my 208-page living ebook that comes bundled with 6 months complimentary tech support and consultation. Here’s one of the latest reviews on Amazon:

“I travel constantly and work on the road. This book is the best tool I have found for learning strategies for traveling effectively, efficiently and securely anywhere in the world. The book comes with the ability to ask the author questions via email for a limited time. I read the book and sent Anil a detailed question on two occasions and both times he followed up with specific answers within 24 hours. I think this service really ups the value of the book.

I believe any traveler, from occasional to full time, will find this information useful and relevant, as well as time and money saving. I don’t know of another product like it. It’s far superior to searching the web for random articles on the subject. It’s well worth the price and Anil’s service is a unique bonus. Highly recommended. Enjoy the journey!”

The Ultimate Tech Guide For Travelers 2.0 is available for immediate download on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

14 Physical And Digital Books Nomads Will Love

You can browse through these selections of some of my personal favorites but if you aren’t sure if some they’re already been read by the person you’re shopping for, you can fall back on an Amazon.com gift card.

tokyo japan bookstore

capturing the journeyCapturing The Journey ($10) – Written by friend of the site, Darin Rogers, who’s shared his photography tips 5 Ways To Take Better Sunset Photos When Traveling and Avoid Your Camera’s Black And White Setting To Take Amazing Monochrome Photos in two guests posts on foXnoMad. If you find those articles useful you’ll love his ebook.

picard looking upSpeaking Of eBooks, Which eReader Should You Get?

The first decision is whether or not you want a color tablet or a dedicated e-ink device. E-ink may reduce eye strain compared to color screens but without a doubt their matte screens are easier to read in bright light (bookworms by the beach, this is for you).

Once you’ve decided upon a color or e-ink device, the next big decision is which model to go for and I can make this simple for you. Basically, if you don’t have a credit card with a United States billing address or live outside of the United Kingdom, go with either the Kindle Paperwhite ($139; e-ink ad-free) or Kindle Fire HD ($139; color).

Everyone else: you’ve got a few versions of Barnes & Noble’s Nook to consider and to be honest, I think their current line of eReaders beat the Kindle to varying degrees across several fronts. Those who enjoy reading in poorly-lit train cabins or hostel dorms will appreciate the crisp back-lighting of the Nook GlowLight ($119; e-ink) [engadget Review] and adding Google Play to the Nook HD ($129) makes it an alluring color tablet. Additionally the Nook HD+ ($149), which has a 9-inch screen, was rated CNET’s best tablet value.

Online store commitment isn’t what it used to be and both the Kindle Fire and Nook HD lines can run their competitor’s reading apps meaning you can read ebooks purchased from Amazon on the Nook and vice versa.

Stay In Shape For 2014

As the end of the year approaches don’t forget that plenty of travelers will be resolving to keep their bags light in January by ditching some junk in their trunk. Fitness expert and my September live chat guest Yasmin Al-Atrache recommends Black Mountain Resistance Bands (~$35) as the ideal portable workout kit for fit travelers which make a nice addition to the Micro Luggage Scooter ($299), the small suitcase you can literally add to your cardio routine.

As picky as us travelers tend to be, we usually have a mental list of goodies we’d love to add or upgrade in our backpacks at any given time. Slyly ask the right questions and you’ll probably be able to glean the information you need for the right surprise.

Why Tex-Mex Isn’t Mexican Food

loncheria el amigo casiano valladolid mexico

Many of us travel to eat and if you’re skipping out on a trip to Mexico because of your familiarity with Tex-Mex, you’ll never be able to appreciate how distinct those two cuisines really are. Although they’re cousins, they aren’t interchangeable, and a lot of that has to do with the Tex part of the name.

The Name Says It (Almost) All

Tex-Mex is an increasingly popular type of food, spreading across the United States, Canada, and many parts of Europe. Perhaps because many people around the world like to dismiss America as not having its own cuisine, everyone seems to forget the “Tex” next to the Mex. Tex-Mex is an “American regional cuisine,” according to Robb Walsh, author of the book, The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Photos and Recipes. A cuisine evolving over the past 300 years, combining north Mexican food fundamentals with Texan meat, bean, and cheeses.

texas state capital building star

This mutation of cheese, tomatoes, and spice was the result of Mexican immigrants to Texas, native Texans, Spaniards, and local indigenous groups naturally mixing their traditions in the best place possible – on a plate.

fried corn tortillasTortillas On Steroids

Mexico is a large country, the world’s 13th in terms of area and 11th by population, so it’s not surprising that their food is hardly uniform. The Mexico-Texas border region isn’t particularly fertile agricultural land and why you find Tex-Mex is heavy on ground beef, flour (not corn) tortillas, and dairy. Tex-Mex dishes are also much larger than those you find in Mexico, remember, everything is bigger in Texas.

As the Mexican immigrants stayed in Texas, over generations, their culture diverged from that of their ancestors. Tex-Mex has become something more Texan, and ultimately, American over time. This is what happens to foods all over the world – from Moldova’s boozy Germanic mix to Georgia’s Persian-Baltic blend – and our appetites are better off for it.

Common Tex-Mex Foods That Aren’t Mexican

I had always known that Tex-Mex was related but not a replacement for Mexican food, yet for some reason it never occurred to me that some dishes I was familiar with were completely Tex-Mex in origin. These are just a few dishes that weren’t born in Mexico.

baby white donkey

  • Burrito – In Spanish, burrito means little donkey. In Texas, it means re-fried beans, cheese, and sour cream wrapped in a warm tortilla. It’s exact origins are not known but it was likely created in the early 1900s.
  • Fajita – A make your own soft-taco, they’re likely not older than the 1960s and may have been invented by Sonny Falcon in Kyle, Texas.
  • Chile Con Carne – Often spicy and literally translated “chili with meat,” it was created during the late 1800s in San Antonio and is Texas’ official dish. Jalapenos, the Texas official pepper, is an optional ingrediant.
  • Tortilla Chips And Salsa – This Texas official snack was invented in Los Angeles sometime in the 1940s by the practical Rebecca Webb Carranza. That was around the time that conveyor belts spit out tortillas one by one, with misshaped ones usually thrown out. Carranza, instead of wasting the food, cut the deformed tortillas into triangles and then fried them.

Carranza’s story is symbolic of the Tex-Mex’s mixed background. She was born in Durango, Mexico, to an American father and Mexican mother. They later moved to El Paso, Texas and then Los Angeles. Many other common Tex-Mex inventions like chimichanges have similar multicultural tales.

The Differences Don’t Have Clear Borders

Although you can point a finger at some Mexican foods like quesadillas in Tex-Mex, almost all aren’t the same on both sides of the border. Despite the similarities, Tex-Mex doesn’t represent Mexican food or all American food for that matter. After visiting Mexico, you’ll have appreciation – plus an appetite – for the differences.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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