Friday, May 28, 2010


Here’s a travel site I found out about recently through a former co-worker of Pipi’s. It’s called NileGuide. The site is more of a travel planning site than a place to book tickets, and it features lots of content. At Travelocity, we used to dream about getting to write about travel without having to worry about selling anything, and NileGuide seems dedicated to doing just that. Best of all, they use a lot of freelance help, and I’ve been talking with the editors about contributing. It looks like I’m going to do some work on spec (publishing-speak for “without any promise of payment”) and if they like it, it may develop into something more regular. (And paid.) We’ll see how this turns out. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2010


A few weeks ago, I pitched an article on Alice Springs, Australia, to Curve magazine. Today, I heard back from them and it was good news: They want me to go ahead and write it.

I’m not exactly going to retire on the commission from this piece, but I’m excited about it nonetheless. I really do like Curve, which I’ve been reading since the magazine and I were both new on the scene. The editor also seems to share my general ideas about length, content, and tone, and gave me a generous deadline, so I’ve got a good feeling about the project.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Travel Anxiety Dream

I have travel anxiety dreams a lot, or maybe I should say that when I have anxiety dreams, they usually have to do with travel.

Usually these dreams involve scenarios that start out plausible but quickly compound. In these dreams, I haven’t just forgotten to pack something important; I’ve neglected to pack at all, and I’m not just having trouble getting a ride to the airport; I am, for some reason, attempting to get there on foot. (Good thing I never have any luggage.)

So last night’s dream came as somewhat of a relief, if only because I managed to create an entirely new problem for myself.

First of all, I was on a flight to Australia (it’s always Australia!) that included a stop in Iceland. That was stressful enough. But then, to make things more interesting (it was a very long flight, after all), I took it upon myself to clean all the ovens in the galley. They were all self-cleaning, and almost as soon as I turned them on, they started to smoke badly, which really upset my ungrateful fellow passengers. I decided that the only way to deflect suspicion of my involvement was to fake sleep, so I did, and interestingly, that’s when I finally woke up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

L.A. Times

In the spirit of “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I just sent an article on Australia to the Los Angeles Times. They are notoriously picky and selective, but the worst that can happen is rejection, which is not the end of the world. In my experience, rejection, Times-style, comes mercifully quickly, and it puts you in excellent company. We’ll see what happens.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Happy Mothers Day…

….Or “Moters Day,” as we call it in the 510, where everything is just a little bit grittier. Here’s wishing all the moms out there breakfast in bed, a nice bouquet of fresh flowers, and a big, new can of 10W-40.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another Way of Counting

Speaking of country counts, here’s an interesting (and by “interesting,” I mean “borderline crackpot”) web site for a travel club based in southern California. It’s called the Travelers’ Century Club, and it is for people who can say they’ve been to 100 countries. That sounds like a lot, but the way they count countries, you probably went through two or three on your way to work today.

For the TCC, the U.N.’s official list of 192 countries is just a starting point. According to the TCC, if a region is separated by geography or culture from its official country, then it counts as a separate place. Alaska and the continental United States, for example, are counted as two different countries.

According to the TCC, there are six countries in North America, seven in Antarctica, 51 in Asia, and 67 in Europe. Worldwide, they reckon 320 total countries. By this count, you have probably traveled abroad without even knowing it. According to this group, I have been to 28 countries, which isn’t so much more than my U.N. tally, but does include accounting irregularities that would not have occurred to me, such as separating Russia from Siberia, and calling St. Barths a sovereign nation.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How Many Countries Have You Been To?

It sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t always. The answer really depends on the definition of a country, and that’s not always straightforward. My personal rule of thumb is that if a region produces its own stamps and coins, then it’s a country, but obviously not every person would agree with me. (I’m not even sure every coin and stamp collector would agree with me.)

Things get complicated when countries split up or reunite. If I’d been to Bonn in the 1980s, for example, I could say I’d been to West Germany, but could I say I’ve been to Germany? I’ve never been to Bonn, so that’s purely hypothetical in my case, but consider Hong Kong. I was there in 1989, and it felt like a country to me. But it was an English colony then, and now of course it’s a Chinese city, so I’m not sure how to count that. (Taiwan’s problematic, too. I feel like I’ve been to three separate Chinese-speaking countries, but there are those who would argue that bitterly.)

Then there are countries that attain their independence (or something akin to it), such as is about to happen to several islands in the Caribbean.

All five of the islands (or parts of islands, in the case of Sint Maarten) that make up the Netherlands Antilles have recently voted on the issue of independence. Two islands voted for “status aparte,” which as I understand it is something just short of complete independence from Holland. Two voted to move closer to the mother country, and one, little Sint Eustatius, decided it likes things just the way they were and doesn’t want to break up the Antilles.

This causes all kinds of problems for country counters. Were the Netherlands Antilles a country before? Do the separate islands count as sovereign nations now? It’s confusing, and I think you could probably check with several different authorities and get several different answers.

The only thing I know for sure is that if someone asks me how many countries I’ve been to, all I can say is, “Not enough yet.”