Category: Miscellaneous

The Last Notes

What it takes to be a travel guidebook author: Conversation with Lily Girma

What it takes to be a travel guidebook author: Conversation with Lily Girma

LEBAWIT LILY GIRMA is a freelance travel writer and photographer — and MatadorU alum — who just returned from a seven-month stint in Belize, where she completed her first travel guidebook assignment and the 10th edition of Moon Belize for Moon Handbooks. Not only did she write the guidebook, but she also provided all the photos and even landed the prized cover shot over other candidates.

Spring ski mountaineering in the Tetons

Spring ski mountaineering in the Tetons

Teton sunrise. All photos: author.You know those guys who’re constantly shaving ounces off their setup? Trimming extraneous straps and webbing off their backpack in the name of swiftness? Opting for one pair of skis over another to save a couple hundred grams? Bringing just enough food and water to ensure they don’t die in case of an extended stay?

On the geography of beards and other dogma

On the geography of beards and other dogma

On a day last week I boarded the Number 3 train at Chambers Street and got off in Jerusalem. That’s what it felt like.Rising up into the sunlight in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was like falling down a rabbit hole, at the bottom of which moved gusts of black-bearded, white-shirted Hasidic men and their chubby, child-laden women.

Kyudo: The ancient art of Japanese archery

Kyudo: The ancient art of Japanese archery

I recently went to Japan to experience and document kyudo, the ancient art of Japanese archery. It literally means “The Way of the Bow” and is considered by many to be the purest of all the martial arts. Originally a samurai discipline and heavily influence by Shintoism and Zen, kyudo integrates technical skill with the development of a completely focused and disciplined mind.

TWITTER CHAT: How do you tell travel stories?

TWITTER CHAT: How do you tell travel stories?

MatadorU and G Adventures are co-hosting a Twitter chat on travel storytelling, June 19th at noon EST. GadvMatuWHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A TRAVEL STORY, and how do you achieve it?These are the kinds of questions that Josh Johnson and I, along with industry-leading filmmakers, photographers, and writers, as well as notable wanderers-in-residence from the G Adventures community, will be addressing on Twitter on June 19th at noon EST.

Notes on codification and commodification in travel writing

Notes on codification and commodification in travel writing

Find more tips like these in the curriculum of the Travel Writing program at MatadorU.Commodificationcom·mod·i·fy (kə-mŏd’ə-fī’)tr.v. com·mod·i·fied , com·mod·i·fy·ing , com·mod·i·fiesTo turn into or treat as a commodity; make commercial: “Such music . commodifies the worst sorts of . stereotypes” (Michiko Kakutani).

Silly walks: How do you get where you’re going?

Silly walks: How do you get where you’re going?

Humanity has placed one sole directly in front of the other, stepping from place to place, without innovation, bored, since we first stood up erect.Walking — Jesus, Caesar, Napoleon, Gandhi, Bush, Princess Diana.You, and me.Step by step.That is, of course, until John Cleese.This short video clip, social commentary aside, has served as a source of laughter and inspiration to me since the first time I watched it together with my father, a little over 10 years ago.

These pools would be a frat party’s wet dream

These pools would be a frat party’s wet dream

PRESENTING THE ONE PLACE in the world where it’s not “girly” to take a bubble bath: the centuries-old Austrian brewery Starkenberger, who’ve built the world’s first-ever beer swimming pools in the recesses of their brew-castle, and, for a paltry fee, you can take a dip. Here’s the skinny…Located a few hours outside Munich, the setting for the Starkenberger Brewery castle is pretty ridonkulous, though, with the glory that’s awaiting for you inside, you probably won’t want to spend too much time out there.

The Gates Foundation Visitor Center: Where youth and social change intersect

The Gates Foundation Visitor Center: Where youth and social change intersect

“ILLIMI.” A PAUSE. “Illimi,” she said with more force. “My great grandmother explained it to me as a harmonious combination of knowledge, humility, and purpose.” So began just one of six moving TEDxChange talks this spring on the theme of “Positive Disruption.”At the Gates Foundation Visitor Center. All photos: AuthorSpeakers included Cathleen Kaveny, discussing the new face of religion and believers as positive disrupters; Halimatou Hima, on investing in girls as a key to the future; Roger Thurow, on issues in agriculture and the future of farming; Julie Dixon, on social media as a voice for social change; David Fasanya, a Nigerian-American performance artist and youth poet; Salim Shekh and Sikha Patra, two 15-year-olds from India who started a vaccine program in the slums of Calcutta; and of course, Melinda Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, where the talks were held.

MatadorU welcomes novelist Mary Sojourner as guest faculty

MatadorU welcomes novelist Mary Sojourner as guest faculty

Mary SojournerI FIRST ENCOUNTERED MARY SOJOURNER’S writing when I lived in Colorado in the early 2000s. Her work was often grouped with other Western luminaries such as Rick Bass and Craig Childs, voices for conservation and individualism in a rapidly changing West.She remains a huge inspiration, and it’s been insanely gratifying to work with her over the years as a colleague and friend.

You need patience to understand India

You need patience to understand India

I AM AN Indian by birth and by upbringing. I understand my country is not perfect. We have very hot summers. We have cities which have two seasons, a hot season and a hotter season. We have our generous share of millionaires and we have the largest slum in the world, both in the same city.We have customs and traditions that date back a few hundreds years and are widely practiced.

7 things I learned from the best travel film ever made

7 things I learned from the best travel film ever made

When I first saw “The Road from Karakol” at 5Point Film Festival, my brain had already been numbed by dozens of killer films about people radder than I could ever dream of being. A film about a superstar mountaineer who rides his bike through Kyrgyzstan to make first ascents? Sure, I’ll sit through that.

Why flight is still the best form of travel

Why flight is still the best form of travel

I hate flying. I hate everything about it, from the terror of dying in a fiery wreck, to the dead-eyed TSA drones who want nothing more than to discover my empty butane lighter so they have an excuse to finger my asshole. Throw on top of that long waits, major national airports named after my least favorite things in US history (Reagan, Dulles, Bush, and Los Angeles), and the seating spaces designed for double amputees, and you can be pretty sure the worst part of your trip is going to be getting there.

How to pack your camera and lenses for travel

How to pack your camera and lenses for travel

There are few sights more horrific for a travel photographer than finding the expensive camera gear you’ve packed ruined due to poor packing technique.GEAR COSTING THOUSANDS of dollars can be rendered useless quite easily. Accidents happen, and when they do they can tarnish trips. By putting a little forethought into how to pack your camera gear and adhering to the following suggestions, you can avoid looking at the sad sight of a cracked lens.

Promises and pitfalls of the post-Google Glass world

Promises and pitfalls of the post-Google Glass world

My brother was half texting, half engaged in our conversation…but mainly texting. We have become pros at teasing out discussions with grunts of approval and agreement.He wore his pair of retro Ray-Ban Wayfarers while looking down at his iPhone on the table. Using the trajectory of technology as a flight path for where we may be years down the line, he may, one day, be staring straight at me with a chat window slid open along the side my face like a flap on a jack-in-the-box, courtesy of the display built into his designer shades.

When home is not where you’re from

When home is not where you’re from

LONG A FAN of travel writer Pico Iyer, especially of his poignant essay Why We Travel, I’d never seen him speak before. And he speaks just the way he writes; or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, he has that ability to transport the listener (and reader) to a far-off place with his flowing and concrete descriptions of setting, though the details presented are often mundane.

Revolutionary days in Siglo Veinte with Filemón Escobar

Revolutionary days in Siglo Veinte with Filemón Escobar

One day recently, bored and impulsive, I decided to Google Filemón Escobar, a Trotskyist tin miner I lived with over 40 years ago in the town of Siglo Veinte, Bolivia. I discovered he was now Senator Filemón Escobar, a leading figure in the socialist government of Evo Morales. The last time I saw him, he was prisoner Filemón Escobar in a La Paz jail, so comfortable in his prisoner’s skin I could barely bring myself to feel sorry for him.

10 places in the UK you’d be embarrassed to say you’re from

10 places in the UK you’d be embarrassed to say you’re from

Leatherhead, SurreyMy introduction to odd place names in the UK was as a 14-year-old Zimbabwean released into the wilderness of English state schooling. I was confused for about three months as I adapted to the contrasts between the archaic system I was used to and the Lord of the Flies-style bedlam that now ruled lesson time.

How to lose a guy in 3 cities

How to lose a guy in 3 cities

As a solo backpacker, you’ll probably fall in love at least once, more than likely twice…maybe even three times. Free from the stress of your job, from expectations, from inhibitions, it will be a giddy, fantastical, quickly consummated, single serving of love.It will also end as quickly as it began.

A terrorist in the family

A terrorist in the family

“You’ll have to step aside.” The German gate agent held my ticket in her pudgy hands. “You cannot board this aircraft.”“What do you mean? Why?”She glared at us, a look that said: Stop talking. And I did.My friend Sholeh and I waited while the she admitted the next 400 or so passengers on the Los Angeles-bound jet.