I recently returned from a two week trip to Russia. Compared to the expedition and some other post expedition travels, two weeks really wasn’t very long… at least it didn’t seem very long as it flew by incredibly fast, but then again, the expedition flew by like a blur as well. Needless to say, I packed in as much as I could into those two weeks: from Russian language lessons and Moscow sightseeing, to countryside barbeques and a gigantic celebration of Russian war veterans. I also packed in as much as I could into my luggage. In Colorado, May is a tricky month weather wise. It can be snowing one day and sunny and hot the next. Case in point, the Saturday before I left for Russia, the mercury hit over 80 degrees and a few days later, Denver received 10 inches of snow. This left me scratching my head as to how to pack. My friend Elena said spring in Russia can be equally unpredictable, and considering how far north I was going to be, I decided I had better be prepared for it all.
Sounds like something you might hear if you travel to North Korea or another country with a repressive dictatorship. However, this is now the case in a country that has been fairly popular with travelers; Ethiopia. Ever since opening an account back in 2006, we have enjoyed using Skype to stay in contact with friends and family around the world and as communications technology has continued to advance, more and more people are connecting with one other and doing so with relative ease. To officials in Ethiopia though, this is a problem severe enough to warrant a 15 year jail sentence. That’s right. In essence, the Ethiopian government has banned the use of Skype within the country, although a government spokesman told the BBC that using Skype is not illegal, but making unauthorized calls on Skype is, whatever that means.
For many people who travel, trying to sum up their experiences, and more importantly, trying to sum up the value of travel in and of itself, is a difficult to do. Fortunately, someone who is used to speaking their mind, telling it like it is and doing so in a way that is simple, yet thought provoking has done just that. So thanks to Henry Rollins for laying it out. Now if only more people can pick up what he’s putting down… and be sure to check out this interesting interview by WorldHum in which Henry relates the following words of wisdom.
It goes without saying that we here at The World by Road Collective love travel and everything related to it, so it is only natural when we hear someone or something mention something even remotely tangential to the subject of travel, our ears perk up. Such was the case when earlier today I was driving back to my house and my ears caught a commercial on the radio advertising the new exhibit, Elephant Passage at the Denver Zoo. It wasn’t the grand opening of this $50 million exhibit featuring Asian elephants, which one only picks up on at the end of the advert, it was how they went about promoting the attraction.
An age old dilemma among travelers is trying to strike a balance between following a route that has been well established and passes through heavily trafficked tourist areas versus a desire to stay off the beaten path. Obviously there are pros and cons to both. Heavily trafficked tourist areas are usually there for a reason; historic sites, beautiful vistas, and well preserved landscapes. But sometimes the lure of these popular attractions can be drowned out by the hum of thousands of people snapping photos on autopilot and the commands of tour guides using bull horns to herd their groups in and out of UNESCO sites. On the other hand, off the beaten places might appeal to those looking for more silence and solitude and they can be just as magnificent, but you have to get there, and getting there might not be that easy or fit within the time frame of your travels. Travelers always seem to be comparing travel stories with one another and a common bragging point, as if it somehow validates how hard core a traveler one really is, has always been how far off the “beaten path” one has been. But what is the beaten path? Seems pretty subjective. Well, now there is some data to show exactly where the beaten and not so beaten paths around the world actually are.
May 1st, otherwise known as May Day or International Worker’s Day. May Day celebrations take on different shapes, sizes and forms around the world but to most people, when someone mentions its May Day, at least to those who have heard of it before, images of large, left-wing, Marxist rallies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and in modern day communist countries or those heavily influenced by socialism typically come to mind. While Map Day is a celebration of the international labor movement and causes typically associated with far left leaning governments, May Day has spread and is a recognized national holiday in more than 80 countries and actually began as a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago. Still, I can’t help but associate May Day with hard core communism and no place is more hard core when it comes to communism than North Korea. Here at the World by Road Collective, we have long been fascinated by North Korea; in part because of what we do know about this reclusive country, but even more so by what we don’t know about it.
April 25th is World Malaria Day. Doesn’t really sound like something to celebrate does it? Fortunately, people in many parts of the world can sleep well at night knowing they don’t have to worry about contracting malaria, but there is a sizable percentage of the population to whom malaria still poses a risk, and that risk can be lethal. Malaria, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, kills about 650,000 people a year, although the number could be higher as under reporting remains an issue in many parts of the developing world. The key thing to note is that malaria is preventable and it is curable, and increased prevention and control measures have reduced the affect of malaria in many places. Obviously though, the fight is far from over.
Today is Earth Day, a day when people around the world take time to recognize and appreciate the earth’s natural beauty and environment and take some proactive steps to protect it. Some people plant trees, others pick up trash. The first Earth Day took place in 1970 and now is recognized in 175 counties around the world. As popular as it is, Earth Day still remains a somewhat controversial event for some, but regardless of whether or not you think Earth Day is some Pagan holiday celebrated by freakish hippies, I think most people can agree the environment is something that should be respected and protected. You don’t have to believe in global warming to feel uneasy about the buildup of trash along your local highway, and you don’t have to worship Mother Earth to appreciate the beauty of a nature preserve. So in honor of Earth Day 2012, whatever that means to you, here are some pictures from a pretty unique place in Chile, Reserva Biologica Huilo Huilo. I think everyone can agree its a place worth enjoying now and saving for the future.
At some point, anyone with a bit of wanderlust has thought about the big trip; the trip around the world. Whether you decide to quit that 9 to 5 job that rewards all of your hard work and dedication with only two weeks of vacation time a year or you managed to talk your way into being granted a sabbatical or extended leave of absence, you’ve taken a major step towards making that around the world trip a reality. Then comes the logistics. Booking a plane ticket isn’t something many people look forward to, even for a short domestic return trips, so now that you’re facing the prospect of booking multiple point to point flights, where do you start and what’s the best option?
Let’s face it, no one likes going through security at the airport. It is arguably one of the least enjoyable aspects of boarding a plane and traveling domestically or internationally. Most people have come to realize screening is a necessary evil and put up with the inefficient, invasive and sometimes humiliating process of going through security at the airport.
As a follow up to the post a few days ago about Transparency International and their annual Corruption Perception Index, today we will discuss the issue of corruption in a little bit more detail, focusing specifically on one of the most visible byproducts of corruption: bribes. Bribes can come into play just about anywhere and can range from petty shakedown attempts for a few extra bucks to graft in the thousands of dollars. Depending on where you travel in the world and what mode of transportation you are taking, bribes may come in different shapes and forms and be initiated by different types of people. In the case of The World by Road, bribes usually came from street and traffic cops, and anyone who has driven their own vehicle through a foreign country, especially in a developing county, has almost certainly been flagged over and been accused of some falsified infraction that is easily forgotten or overlooked for a price.
As a backpacker, vacationer or tourist, travels are often not as affected when it comes to corruption. Without your own personal transportation, in many cases the wheels are already greased by the bus company, tour operator, or tout that is helping to get you through the craziness of less developed countries.