Posts Tagged ‘pretending’

49. Photos with Local Children

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

kids6

Why do backpackers insist on taking photos of children wherever they go?

Sure, foreign kids are cute. I’ll give them that. But they’re also often super dirty and smell funny. I suppose all kids are dirty and smell funny though, not just foreign ones.

kids

But do immigrants come to Canada/U.S./U.K./Australia, wander onto a schoolyard and have someone snap photos of themselves with their arms out, surrounded by white children? Just wondering.

The following is a journey into the mind of a backpacker taking photos of local children, particularly in the developing world:

  • “OMG look at how cute these local children are!” (snap)
  • “Look at these kids. they live in tin shacks, but somehow they’re so happy.” (snap)
  • “Look at their genuine smiles and the joy in their eyes. These kids literally have nothing.” (snap)

kids2

  • “I’m honestly shocked they’re not asking me for money or trying to pickpocket me…” (snap)
  • “…like those damn gypsy kids in… Hey, kid. Take your hand outta my pocket.” (brushes kid’s hand away) (snap)
  • “Look at this one, touching my face and my hair. Never seen skin or hair like mine before. WOW!” (snap)

kids5

  • “I am so enlightened by this experience. More enlightened than my friends back home.” (sigh) (snap)
  • “I am so glad I came to (developing world country). I appreciate (developed world home country) more now.” (snap)
  • “Seriously. Look at these children.” (snap)

kids7

  • “I don’t want to say that I’m like Jesus. But I love little children, just like Jesus, which explains my arms-out messianic pose.” (snap)
  • “I hope their parents don’t come out during our photo shoot. I don’t want them thinking we’re exploiting their kids.” (snap)

kids3

  • “Hurry up, Kevin. Take the picture. I think that might be one of their parents.” (snap) (takes off running)

For those of you interested in “The etiquette of photographing strangers” (of any age), check out this article by Lonely Planet author Richard l’Anson.

“Photographing strangers can be daunting, but it needn’t be,” he writes. “Most people are happy to be photographed. Some photographers ask before shooting, others don’t. It’s a personal decision, often decided on a case-by-case basis.”

But approaching foreign strangers and children in a palms-out messianic stance certainly can’t hurt.

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47. Missing Sports

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Happy I get to watch this guy play right now.

Happy I get to watch this guy play right now.

Whenever I’m traveling, I tell myself it’s good to be disconnected from home. And it many ways, it is. More often than not, backpackers are excited to escape from home — school, a former job, a breakup, whatever — so being overseas (in some cases where you can’t even speak the local language) is refreshing. (See 44. Finishing school/Quitting your job.) Not for sports, though.

Missing sports makes me homesick.

I realize my opinion has been colored by the following:

  • I’m North American and apart from basketball, the professional sports I like to follow are not widely played overseas.
  • I’m not a hard-core soccer fan and don’t pretend to be (see 41. Soccer)
  • I’m not a holier-than-thou hippie who strums his guitar pretending he doesn’t care about sports, to pick up girls (see 18. Guitar)
  • I’m back home, living in a city whose team is on a Stanley Cup run.
  • I went and saw the Heat-Blazers game in January, which the Heat (currently the Vegas favorites to win the NBA title) won in OT. Beenou.
  • The NBA Playoffs are fantastic this year.
  • I didn’t have to wake up at 3 a.m. local time to watch the Super Bowl in Spanish this year. And I wasn’t in Vietnam drinking by myself when the Riders were in the Grey Cup (which I wasn’t able to watch anywhere) either this year.
  • I watched basically all the March Madness games and went to Vegas to watch the Final Four, in what was one of the best tournaments of all time. Or did it just seem that way because I was actually home to watch the whole thing? I dunno. Beenou.
  • I just slept in, made breakfast and watched a wicked E:60 piece on Carl Crawford. Found out he’s a stud all-around athlete from Fifth Ward Houston. I wouldn’t be able to watch that in Paris. I mean, I’d be in Paris… Yeah, I wouldn’t have seen it, nor would the MLB standings mean anything to me there.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, it’s good to be home and watch sports. Friends, family and 1st-world infrastructure are all right too, I guess.

All of that said, I can’t wait to go on another trip.

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44. Finishing school/Quitting your job

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Oh, what to do with my life...?

"Oh, what to do with my life...?"

Taking a gap year, whatever you call it. People of my generation love not knowing what to do with our lives. A buddy of mine said to me the other day, “We’re so different from our parents, man. It’s like we’re too distracted. It’s sensory overload.” Well put. We are too distracted.

I just spent an hour watching Zach Galafianakis’ hilarious Absolut Vodka ads/videos on YouTube**, when I probably should have been sleeping, ‘cuz I have to go to work tomorrow. But NOOOOOO, I simply had to watch fat, bearded Zach in all his ridiculous, awkward, spazzing, infantile glory. (They are awesome, by the way, and I can’t

Taking a gap year makes you walk out into a mountain field, hold your arms out and breathe in deeply.

Taking a gap year makes you walk out into a mountain field, hold your arms out and breathe in deeply.

believe they’d been posted since 2008 and I just saw them for the first time tonight. Goddammit! So much media to consume, so little time.) This is the kind of shit I’m talking about. We’re posting/creeping on Facebook, tweeting, fiddling with our smartphones until we basically walk into each other like imbeciles (I love how the new Windows Phone 7 ad shows an old man who drove into a lamppost ‘cuz he was presumably so engrossed by his smartphone that he could no longer drive in a straight line, while [on the TV version] “This is a dramatization” pops up in fine print at the bottom of the screen. It’s not fake. Oprah is on a big campaign about this. People are dead because of this. Still kinda clever marketing, though, ‘cuz it’s true… See what I mean? I can’t even focus for five minutes to write this post.)

gap-year-02

"Having no responsibilities is awesome."

I have ADHD. Everybody does (see recent Globe and Mail article).

Our parents didn’t have these distractions. They got a job (“not a career, a job — there’s a difference” according to Chris Rock). They got married. They had kids before they turned 25. (Are you kidding me? I was on my third or fourth backpacking trip by 25, beenou, and with no offspring in sight.) They accepted responsibility. My generation, the Millennial Generation, as we’re often called, is allergic to responsibility.

We consume everything. We’ll do anything short of tattooing a fricken barcode on the backs of our necks to not miss out on the exciting digital information and sensory experiences out there waiting for us. We stay up late, we eat out, we party, we spend all our money and max out our credit cards, we travel and we never, ever grow up.

We are useless. Comedian Louis C.K. nailed it with a bit he did on Conan O’Brien, saying (about how people take technology for granted): “We live in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots that don’t care.”

gap-year-03

"And now to find me an obnoxious Aussie guy."

We have no discipline. Haven’t we all heard that before? And kids are getting worse (imagine that). Talk to any public school teacher you know. The kids are monsters, they have ADHD and you can’t use the strap on them or fail them, so they don’t listen to teachers anymore.

Somebody wrote all this about kids in the ’60s, granted, but they didn’t have PVR, wikipedia, Wired magazine or YouTube back then. They weren’t watching Mad Men and sitting there astonished at the idea of smoking in an office building. They also didn’t have 1,733 airlines worldwide at their fingertips. (They didn’t have Google either. I just googled that airline stat.) And they certainly didn’t go backpacking around the world. (The Lonely Planet wasn’t founded until 1972.)

We live in a globalized society. We see stuff on TV, or we read Eat Pray Love (ick), or watch The Bourne Identity, whatever, anything nowadays, and we think, “Man, I gotta get outta here.” Anthony Bourdain eats something somewhere and you can’t stand the thought of that smug prick having one on you, so you vow to go there one day and eat that.

(Insert gap-year caption here.)

(Insert gap-year caption here.)

I started writing this post about how when you go backpacking, everybody you meet has either a) just finished school or b) quit their job because there’s no other way (unless you won the lottery or are born rich and have zero responsibility) you could simply fuck off for six months to a year. Or more. But I ended up writing about how my generation doesn’t want to grow up and why. For all of those reasons, we backpack.

Maybe (before you finished school and came on this trip) you went back to school because you didn’t know what to do with

One more time now, into the sunset.

One more time now, into the sunset.

your life. Maybe (you’re here traveling to take a break from where) you’re teaching English overseas. Maybe you’re reading this blog because you posted “FML” as your Facebook status today, googled “backpacking” and by some twist of fate you found this blog. And you couldn’t leave. And you told your friends how great this blog was and made me famous and rich, so I could quit my job and go backpacking.

*Note: Every photo in this post was found on Google, upon searching “gap year.”

**OK Go music videos on YouTube kept me at the office late today (Nov. 2). There is no escape.

Nov. 10: Upon reading this post, my buddy Dan sent me a link to this hilarious video. Check it out: Gap Yah***.

Nov. 10: My fellow young travel blogger, Lil’ Fel, sent me a link to a NY Times article about our generation’s inability to grow up: What Is It About 20-Somethings?

***Dec. 15: Guy Stagg of The Telegraph, writes that the YouTube film ‘Gap Yah’ is a comedy phenomenon, but it’s also an important lesson in how not to behave on a gap year.

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43. Reading the book about the place

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

alex-garlands-the-beachBackpackers are a pretentious lot. Actually, people who travel, in general, are full of shit. Some will tell you they’ve lived somewhere, but they were really just visiting. Or they’ve been to a place, but were actually just on a layover there, and didn’t leave the airport. These types of people insist they are into photography, global culture, art, film, music, and of course literature.

They’re remarkably insecure, which is why they constantly attempt to reaffirm their sense of enlightenment on all topics. “Have you see that movie?” Oh yeah, it’s fantastic. “Have you been to…” Yes, three times. “Have you seen Buddha?” Mm-hmm, when I was in Cambodia. “Are you better than me?” (Unspoken: Yes.)

Just as they will refuse to see the movie before they read the book, they won’t travel somewhere without having read THE book about it. Some will be leafing through the book while on the plane, train or bus en route to the place. But make no mistake, there is only ONE BOOK you simply must read before you go somewhere. Some examples:

Thailand: The Beach
No book has tickled the global backpacker imagination as much as this Alex Garland neo-classic, and the Leo DiCaprio movie didn’t hurt either. Poignant use of Nintendo metaphors amid differing interpretations of “paradise” and the “parasites” trying to find it ring true for anybody born after 1970. Ko Phi Phi has the movie to thank for the millions of parasites that descend upon it every year.

Spain: The Sun Also Rises
What Garland has done for Generation X, Hemingway did for young people in the 20s and 30s, members of the “Lost Generation.” His book is still doing it today. After all, the book is about love, partying and living overseas in France and Spain, so it should come as no surprise that it inspires countless readers to pack up and give it a go. Just as DiCaprio put Ko Phi Phi on the map, Hemingway informed the world of Pamplona’s frenzied San Fermin Festival.

India: Midnight’s Children
I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn’t get past the first 70 pages. If Rushdie were employing his own version of “magical realism,” I wish he would have used less magic and more realism. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was convoluted and senseless. Maybe if I finally get to India, it will all become clear… or at least I could find some enlightened backpackers who would be able explain it to me.

South America: 100 Years of Solitude
This book confirmed it for me: I’m not a huge fan of magical realism. Too much extraneous detail. But just like you have to try the chicken feet at the dim sum restaurant, you have to read Marquez if you want to do right by South American literature. Thankfully, the copy I bought didn’t have the Oprah’s Book Club logo on it. I’m pretentious like that.

Vietnam: The Quiet American
Like Hemingway and Orwell, Greene is a foreign correspondent-turned author who likes the sauce and in this case, opium. F.E.T. enthusiasts (i.e. white guys who like Asian chicks) will dig the protagonist, who locks down a primo local gal and enjoys the spoils of expat life and moral superiority during Vietnam’s French colonial war in the early 1950s.

The United States: On The Road
Garland to Generation X = Hemingway to Lost Generation = Kerouac to Beat Generation. The underlying theme to this wanderer’s journal is that it’s fun to hang with arty rich kids who drink booze like it’s water, listen to black music and drive wildly down the open highway. Sounds a lot like the backpacking scene to me. Oh and that San Francisco was the shit in the 50s. Still is today.

Any other geographically-specific books you’ve seen while traveling? There are tons. Please post comments to let me know which ones you’ve run into.

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41. Not knowing a thing about soccer

Sunday, June 20th, 2010
This is a decent reason to get into soccer.

This is a decent reason to get into soccer.

I am sitting in the Kabul Hostel (which is a party-animal zoo, but that’s for another post)  bar in Barcelona right now, watching the Brazil-Côte d’Ivoire game and the place is packed with Brazilian backpackers, along with other travelers watching the game. Brazil scored to go up 1-0 about 15 minutes ago and people were having fits. I mean, once the ball hit the back of the net, these Brazilians were screaming, jumping up and down, waving flags and doing everything short of having a seizure. The frenetic display lasted four minutes*.

It’s clear I’m not a die-hard soccer fan because I’m sitting here on the Internet while this whale of a match is being played, just glancing over at the screen instead of giving it my full attention. I don’t even know what that says about me. I suppose I’m pretty self-absorbed. No wait, I’m chanelling my inner journalist; I like to stay informed about world events and my friends’ business on Facebook. Yeah, that’s what it means.

As a Canadian who doesn’t even watch much hockey — I’m more of a basketball guy — I know next to nothing about soccer. Sure, I played it as a kid, but so did everybody in North America who knows as little or less about soccer than I do. We call it “soccer” for chrissakes. It’s pretty obvious we know dick about soccer. That said, I hate when North Americans pretend they’re hardcore into soccer. Fine if you’re an immigrant kid or you played mad soccer your whole life. No, I’m talking about people who go traveling or live abroad and come home pretending they’re absolutely mad about international football. It’s a joke, like coming home and using UK slang with your buddies in Buffalo (see 19. Coming Home with a Lame Accent).

Christian Lander writes,

“Most white people choose a favorite soccer team based on either a study abroad experience or a particularly long vacation to Europe or South America. When they return, they like to tell their friends about how great ‘football’ is and that they are committed to ‘getting more into’ now that they have returned home.

“Some white people take this charade so far as to actually play in adult soccer leagues or attend a local professional match.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, upon going back to reference the above post, I found that Lander’s most recent post is about the World Cup. So to not inform the rest of this post as I’m writing it, I haven’t read his last one yet.

So what more can I say? Well, sitting here watching these people take in the game makes me wish I had an appreciation for the lack of scoring in soccer. I’ve often felt that watching soccer is like constipation. You’re rocking back and forth on your seat, trying to squeeze a long hard deuce out and it just refuses to come out, or in the case of the ball: it refuses to go in the fucking net. Go in the net. It’s your home, ball. Go to your home.

How can a game end 0-0? Riddle me that. That’s not a game. That’s a two-team aerobic workout. I don’t buy tickets to a sporting event to see nothing happen, with no clear winner determined. Unbelievable, these people.

I wish I had the appreciation internationals have for the “beautiful game”: its precision, its finesse, its teamwork, its short bursts of speed and athleticism… its flopping theatrics. As a fan of the NBA, and more specifically of the San Antonio Spurs, I’ve tried very hard to find joy in seeing players dive to the ground when somebody gently  brushes by them. I just don’t like it. That’s not sports to me.

Those are really the only two beefs I have with soccer. Not enough scoring and the diving is gay**. The rest is pretty sweet. I’m having fun witnessing this cultural international soccer experience in this here hostel. In fact, I’m gonna log off this wretched computer right now. What the hell am I doing? I’d better grab a beer and really immerse myself in this live phenomenon. I’m gonna damn well enjoy myself. But let’s get one thing clear: I’m not gonna come home and tell everybody I’m so into soccer. Like I said, I know nothing about it.

*Here’s a random social observation for you: Among the 50-odd Brazilians (aged 20-30) in this room, not a single one is a black Brazilian. All of European descent. What does that tell you about their poverty gap?

From Wikipedia.org: “Brazil has the largest black population outside of Africa with, in 2008, 6.84% classifying themselves as preto (Black) and 43.80% as pardo (Brown)[7], for a total of 50.64%.”

**Two main features of San Antonio Spurs basketball, coincidentally.

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38. Teaching English Overseas

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I get it. You have an Arts degree. You don’t know what to do with your life; no particular career path in sight. You enjoy traveling and experiencing other cultures. You’re really into photography, architecture, music, geography, politics, history and ethnic cuisine. Yeah, you already told me you have an Arts degree.

In many ways, teaching English is like working in a restaurant. You can cling to whatever shreds of youth you have left. You can make decent cash without putting in too much of an effort. You can plug away, take time off, travel, not have a mortgage. Surround yourself with other people who are young or want to stay young. You can screw your co-workers without all that drama. It’s a good life.

This guy is a huge pimp in Korean nightclubs.

This guy is a huge pimp in Korean nightclubs.

I’m not against it. I’ve done the restaurant thing and more than once, I’ve considered teaching English abroad. I have family members and close friends who have done it or are currently doing it. Still, you have to admit it’s become a cliché.

I’ve decided there’s a three-year shelf life for teaching English overseas. You can’t really keep doing it forever. People your age are getting on with their lives back home. Unless you’ve reached true enlightenment (i.e. abandoned your native social pressure toward adult responsibility) you eventually have to hang it up, come home, attend to your ailing parents, get a real job, etc.

Becoming enlightened requires you to let go of your former self, to become a new, more confident person. There are a lot of “fresh starts” on the English teacher scene. Band, drama or Magic Card nerds starting anew on foreign soil. Misfits who dig Indie music (and wear skinny jeans, scarves, Chuck Taylors, etc.), who didn’t really fit in in high school, some of whom got bullied and are still bitter about it. Virgins.

Many of these people flourish overseas. Finally freed from the judgement of the “cool people” they grew up with, they can party their faces off and convince new groups of people they are actually cool.

Some of these awkward, newly-minted swans not only lose their virginity overseas, they actually start scoring quite a bit. This is especially true for guys. White guys, however homely they may appear, can become rockstars. I’ve seen the goofiest-looking geeks rocking primo arm candy in Japan. These guys are macking on girls way out of their leagues — girls of this caliber back home wouldn’t give them the time of day. (On the flip side, Japanese girls might be the female version of Hal from Shallow Hal. Where we see a hapless loser, they see Brad Pitt.)

Many of these nerd macks enjoy their newfound swagger so much, they never come home. That, or they lost their virginity to a pretty Japanese girl who cooked them breakfast the next morning and they thought, “I could get used to this,” in which case they married the girl and stayed in Japan forever. Their parents back home, instead of being dismayed that their son will indefinitely remain a million miles away, are ecstatic that a pretty girl actually gave the bastard the time of day. They sometimes worry the Japanese bride will figure out she’s been duped, but they quickly dismiss those suspicions. Their kid is happy.

Besides, nerdy white guys cannot resist Asian women. My buddy, who is a hard-core F.E.T. (Far East Talent) man*, often likened himself to John Lennon. Not that Yoko Ono was super hot or anything. Frankly she freaks me out, but anyway, you know what I mean (see SWPL.com or Yellow Fever). Woody Allen and Nicolas Cage are a couple other celebrity examples.

*He actually came up with the F.E.T. acronym, too. A real pioneer.

I feel like I’m getting way off topic, but am I, really? This is all part of the Teaching English ritual.

Unattractive girls do it, thinking they can get a fresh start, too. Not in Japan, honey. Your male counterparts are too busy having a heyday with skinny/tiny/ageless/pretty/subservient Japanese girls. Meanwhile, the Japanese guys don’t wanna mess with your man hands and cankles. (Heaven only knows why Japanese guys don’t  fall for less-attractive white gals the way their countrywomen do for the aforementioned nerds.) It’s frustrating as hell, I know, but don’t worry.

You’ll only have to deal with it for three years, tops.

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Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Link to article: What Type of Backpacker Are You?

matt-from-boston1

That's Matt, in Australia

This article was originally posted to Nomadicmatt.com in July 2009 by Matt from Boston, a self-professed travel junkie.

Some things I like about Matt (from his About Me page):

  • His favorite country is Thailand and his favorite city is Amsterdam. Both solid choices.
  • He’s down with buying bootlegged movies on the street in Asia.
  • Everything he owns fits into one bag. Very Clooney, on Up In The Air!
  • He hates people who brag about travel. “(They) are insecure and aggravate me,” he writes.
  • He wishes he had a better ear for languages. Don’t we all.
  • He doesn’t have a strong desire to go to China. I’ve also felt this way.
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35. Budget Airlines

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

“This is why we Brits call RyanAir ‘Ryan Scare,'” said the 40-year-old lady beside me, gripping her armrests as the plane prepared to land. There was a characteristically heavy bump, the cabin shook, a couple kids shrieked and about half the passengers cheered and applauded.

It was funny but weird. I’d never witnessed a landing like that before. It was as though the entire plane knew it was a rookie pilot’s first landing. In fact, people have come to expect bad landings — bad service and an all-around bad experience — from Ireland’s popular budget airline. And while everybody complains about it and other airlines like it around the world (the UK’s easyJet, Malaysia’s Air Asia, Thailand’s One-Two-GO Airlines and Australia’s Jetstar, are a few examples*), the planes are full.

airasia_plane

You could pin it on the recession, but budget airlines are profitable because passengers are willing to accept inconveniences in exchange for a cheaper fare. These airlines are a necessary evil for travelers and backpackers on tight budgets, people who accept dealing with loads of crap in order to save a couple hundred bucks on a one-way flight — just one of many legs on a long, transcontinental tour.

And why not? Every traveler knows that a trip is only limited by two things, time and money, the latter of which explains why budget airlines exist: If everybody had unlimited cash, absolutely nobody would actually CHOOSE to fly on a budget airline. All you naysayers would have to beat a polygraph to convince me that if you won the lottery, you’d still fly budget. No fucking way.

The following are reasons why, budget airlines are a luxury traveler’s worst nightmare:

  • Remote, suburban airports. Anybody who’s flown out of Paris-Beauvais at the crack of dawn knows how much of a hassle it is. If your flight departs at 8 a.m. you have to leave downtown Paris by 4:30 to get to the subway, ride it for an hour (5 to 6 a.m.) to the end of the line, hope it doesn’t have any line delays, and sprint with your luggage to a bus that takes you from the end of the line (45 min.) to the suburb of Beauvais. Once there, you stand (not enough seating in there for everyone)  in a terminal full of tired and annoyed fellow passengers until the bitter end of the boarding process because you didn’t pay the extra 4€, you don’t get priority boarding.
  • Early morning or late evening flights. You can’t avoid the above scenario, unless you take the late evening flight, which arrives at your destination at 9:30 p.m. By the time you get through customs and take the shuttle bus all the way into the city, all the hostels are full.
  • “Air bus” efficiency. There’s no time to wait. Because the plane you just landed on must be immediately filled and sent back to its city of origin, the overworked flight attendants are spraying and wiping down the sweaty leather seats as passengers are deplaning. I’ve gotten on planes with seats still wet with disinfectant. It’s disgusting.
  • Cramped seating. The Dutch are apparently the world’s tallest people. They must loathe budget airlines.
  • No frills. Absolutely none. You gotta pay for baggage, priority boarding, food and even water. While purchasing an a ticket on RyanAir.com, the shysters actually make you check “No insurance” among a list of nationalities, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll just check your country name and inadvertently pay for insurance.
  • Shitty pilots. Just kidding. I honestly have no idea if this is true or not, but it may be safe to assume budget airlines do not offer pilot salaries competitive with those of  major airlines. It may also be safe to assume the best pilots go to the highest bidder.

* To see a complete list of the world’s budget airlines check out Wikipedia’s List of low-cost Airlines.

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Backpacking in the News

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Link to article: Acoustic Guitar reviews six travel-friendly six-strings (with video)

CD 6panel outside

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Backpacking in the News

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Sienna Miller Intends to Backpack and Stay in Hostels, Not Expensive Hotels
[More on this topic…]

sienna-miller-wi04

Former Vegan Becomes ‘Ethical Omnivore’
– Finally caved (gave up on pretending) due to inability to stay off cheese while backpacking in Europe.

omnivore

Lonely Planet: Country guides on iPhone? Not just yet.
City guides, yes. Country guides, no.
[Here’s what recently brought this to my attention.]

iphone-lp

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