Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring-Break Inspiration

Here's my Guideposts interview about some inspiring destination ideas for spring break: Mexico, Kansas, using local sports as vehicle to meet locals, and helping communities recovering from natural disasters.

Travel Inflation > Inflation

Anyone think that travel's not a savvy business?

Today, I read Ryan Air is levying passengers a couple pounds to pay for the airline's costs during snow storms last year. (I do love the word 'levy' though.) Of course airlines are making new fees into a critical part of their business plan. Last year, they made more for baggage and change fees (about $6 billion) than their overall profits ($5 billion).

A recent Northwest Herald article, though, noted the average cost for a travel day in 1950 as $13, including rooms and meals, which rose to $164 by 2008. That's a jump of 1161.5%, compared with a 794.6% rise in inflation over the same period. A imbalance of 46%.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Travel Etiquette on WPIX

Yesterday morning, I got up at 4:30am to get to New York's WPIX to talk travel etiquette, including a few places to go to pick your nose on vacation or why we should be made at pedestrian crosswalks here in the US.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Random Photo: Guatemalan Sloth

Everyone should study Spanish. Everyone. And the place to go is Guatemala, where you can spend about $125 for room/board AND 20 hours of private instruction.

About a decade ago, I went to Quetzaltenango (Xela) and studied Spanish two weeks at Juan Sisay School. Better place for it than the more popular Antigua in my opinion -- Spanish-colonial town surrounded by volcanoes, witch villages, rum-drinking saints and hot springs. A far fewer gringos to tempt you back into English. The school, like many there, organizes volunteer programs to help local Mayan kids learn English. One night we put on a play for them, with the mixed-bag of foreigners playing the animals of the jungle. I was the sloth.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Favorite Sign (in the World)

Sunday afternoon in Muswell Hill in North London. I went to a wine shop to get a gift bottle for the next day -- never did find one -- and found this sign outside an unexpectedly closed wine shop. It is the best sign of all time. Or should I say, 'the best sign of aPP time'?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Photo: Ray Manzarek!!

Celebrating the year 2000! My friend Matthew Jackson and I pose with Ray Manzarek of the Doors (in background), who had just told a group of reasonable people that he couldn't believe Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone had been picked over him, a failed undergraduate arts student from the '60s, to direct the film 'The Doors.'

Monday, March 7, 2011

Random Photo: Favorite Sandwich

I had the privilege recently to speak at David Farley's Restless Legs reading series at Lolita in the Lower East Side. I wrote something for the event, called "The Hopes & Dreams of Our Travel Generation's Contributions to the Betterment of Travel are Hinged on our Collective Ability, and Willingness, to Celebrate the Mundane along with the Marvellous."

Aka "Sandwiches."

It ended with my favorite sandwich:

I had it a few years ago, just as I was leaving BURMA. I was wrapping up a six-week research assignment in a country many said you shouldn’t go to because of the military government. I showed up at the Yangon airport with a $1 or so of unused kyat wadded in my pocket and an appetite to fill the three hours till my flight left for Singapore. The city had just opened a huge new airport – I zipped past immigration and found myself alone – just a sea of polished white tile and a dozen empty storefronts. No other travelers were there yet, and there was nothing to eat.

I saw a couple uniformed local women sweeping the spotless floor. One had
thanakha tree bark-paste dotting her tanned cheeks in the image of perfect suns. I asked her if I could go out for something from the sidewalk vendor, visible from the departure lounge window. She immediately set her broom down and shuffled off in her flip-flops to ask, then shuffled back to say no, and quickly offered to retrieve something for me. It’s the sort of sweetness I found throughout the country.

Soon, she returned with a portable feast: a cup of tea, a bottled water, a bag of chips, and a Styrofoam container with two sad croissants, each stuffed with a cold hot dog.
Sandwiches, YES!, I thought. I tried to give her my money, but even though the minimal cost was easily more than her day’s wage, she refused.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random Photo: Victoria DJ (Transylvania)

Victoria, Romania is a plain communist-era town with a stodgy old restaurant sporting the cutest DJ set up I've ever seen.