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Free Kareem - Free Speech is a Human RightFree speech is a human right.  It is something that most people don’t even think about as the go about their daily lives.  I know I don’t.  For the most part we can say whatever we want, in whatever snarky tone we want, and we won’t get in trouble for it.  Matters get sticky when you talk constantly about hate or you threaten individuals, the government, or society on some level, but for the most part we won’t get put in jail for saying what’s on our minds.  Not everyone is so lucky.  There are people around the world who get tossed in jail for doing what I do everyday, blog.  I found out about the large number of bloggers in jail (over 60) after reading a post on Polo Bastards.  Polo Bastards is an interesting site, unlike the usual travel sites you will find, that writes about parts of the world most people don’t think about visiting.

Yoani Sanchez writes her blog Generation Y from Havana Cuba in an effort to “let me say, in this space, what is forbidden to me in my civic action.”  She writes mostly from hotels where internet often costs upwards of $7 an hour.  In Cuba only senior officials and foreign residents can contract an internet service, leaving most of the population isolated.  The Cuban government filters her blog on the island, however their are greatest risks than silence, where some countries inhibit free speech by using jail time and even torture.

Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman is an Egyptian blogger who was sentenced to 4 years in prison for speaking his mind on his blog.  He is charged with.  “(1) Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security; (2) Defaming the President of Egypt; (3) Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt; (4) Incitement to hate Islam and breach of the public peace standards; (5) Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public.”  On the Free Kareem website you can find out all the information you need about his case.  On the site’s blog you will get up to date information, such as how he has been denied visits from his lawyer for the third time.  You will also find pictures, videos, music, and letters in support of Kareem, such as the song written by Ethiopian singer Meklit Hadero.

Free Kareem - Free Speech 2Free Kareem - Respect Human RightsFree Kareem - In all LanguagesFree Kareem - MediaFree Kareem - RallyFree Kareem - Blogging in not a CrimeFree Kareem - Speech is no CrimeIf you want to get involved or wish to contact Kareem you can do so through the Free Kareem website.  In order to keep up Kareem’s spirit’s, the Free Kareem Coalition, a group of young bloggers and college students committed to free speech, appreciates any letter sent to Kareem.  You can send a letter directly or through their contact page which they will mail to him.  If you decide to write a letter make sure not to write anything that will aggravate prison officials (they read all letters first).  It will only make matters worse for him.  Did you write to Kareem?Write to KareemAll images via: Free Kareem

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New York Times Building in ManhattanWe are a spoiled bunch.  With just the punch of the enter button on your keyboard you are seconds away from the answer to any question you may have.  How much does it cost to buy a condo in Long Island City?  How many calories are in kumquats? What the heck is ROI? Online users are accustomed to unlimited access to free information on the web.  With social networking sites like Twitter, it is possible to get updates on the latest news events, in 140 characters or less.  This is a small part of the reason why the New York Times’ new business plan is causing such a stir.  The New York Times plans to charge its most loyal readers, readers who will not doubt go over the set amount of free articles each month.  Don’t worry just yet; the plan won’t kick in until 2011.

From a purely business standpoint it makes sense that a newspaper of the Times’ size would charge people to read its content, but as we know, the online world works differently than the print world.  If you want the print version sent to your door everyday, you expect to pay for it; however if you want to read the online version every morning before you check your email, you expect it to be free.  I mean why not?  Most everything else is free online.

The prevalent business model for online media has generally been to offer free content to readers and to rely on advertising dollars in order to stay afloat.  This has put some strain on well-established and new publications alike.  Staff writers get cut and freelance writers make less money, hence the reason most writers are turning to unconventional methods to support themselves.  There is no doubt that media is changing, as it has many times before, people just have to figure out a way to change with it.  The question is, how do we do it?

While publications are suffering in general, The New York Times is of course very different than your small local paper or your daily blog reads.  It is much more costly to run such a huge operation, with reporters all over the world, as well as writers, editors, line editors, deliverymen, and distributors.  As Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research states, Google ads can’t pay for everything:

The notion that the enormous cost of real news-gathering might be supported by the ad load of display advertising down the side of the page, or by the revenue share from having a Google search box in the corner of the page, or even by a 15-second teaser from Geico prior to a news clip, is idiotic on its face.

He is right.  It is crazy to think that the high cost of maintaining such an operation can be covered by advertising, and if it can’t, how else can it support its daily operation?  David Firestone, a deputy national news editor elaborates this point.  “As painful as it will be at the beginning, we have to get rid of the notion that high-quality news comes free.”

The New York Times is worried about many things.  Their biggest worry is simply whether or not people are willing to pay for their news.  The changes won’t affect the occasional reader who stumbles upon an article after searching Google News, but rather the avid readers of the Times who return day after day.  Will these readers turn their back on the publication?  Another worry is of course ad dollars.  If the paper loses some of its audience, it will inevitably lose some advertising dollars.  It is risky, but with revenues down, they have to do something.

Some publications have found success in charging their readers.  Cook’s Illustrated charges its readers for unlimited access to their database of recipes.  If you check out their website you will notice something very strange.  There is absolutely no outside advertising, yet they were able to grow 30% in 2008.  This strategy works well for niche markets, but the Times is not for a niche market with its breadth of topics and news stories.  The Times will have to find a balance between subscribers and advertising.

Now this begs the question, would you pay for high quality news or other high profile news sources like the New York Times?  Sure people may say that they will pay, but when the time comes will they really pay up, or will they be looking elsewhere to get their news fix?  Other papers currently use the paywall method, such as the Wall Street Journal and Newsday.  The Times has tried to charge its online readers in the past, without much success.  From 2005 to 2007 the newspaper started TimesSelect which charged for its editorials and columns.  Columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman began to complain about their drop in readership.  Friedman noted that reader’s abroad, in particular readers from China and India, stopped reading his content because it became too expensive, especially for a country where $50 is a huge investment.

On a personal level I can relate to both sides of the argument.  Out of pure selfishness, I understand the draw of free content.  Times are rough and I want as much free information as the next guy.  As a writer who has been in contact with many publications that are having a hard time paying its contributors, I understand the importance of paying for high quality content.  I also believe that if a product is remarkable, then people will pay for it.  You may lose some consumers here and there, but it seems absurd to continue offering free products forever.

One thing that is certain in our information saturated world, industries are changing and little good has come from freaking out.  The music industry didn’t gain much from trying to sue every person that downloaded music illegally, and while it’s true that the music industry is struggling, products such as iTunes and Pandora has managed to keep people paying for their music.  We can stream free movies online, but that hasn’t stopped people from going to see movies on the big screen (Avatar already topped 500 million in the US).  Late night television has suffered in the ratings (such as Conan) because of its ever fickle audience; however other shows (even some non reality shows) have managed to gain large popularity by breaking the mold, such as Fox’s Glee.  What companies need to do is figure out new ways to reach consumers and hold their attention, which may be easier said than done, what with all the options we have to chose from.  Despite the blogs and new sites popping up, there is still space for a respected and high quality news outlet like the Times, where reporters are at the scene and are expected to exemplify a certain quality of excellence, even though they too make mistakes.  I don’t see this type of reporting changing anytime soon.

Image via: paalia

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Travel Won’t Answer Your Problems

by Elena on January 21, 2010

Travel With Red UmbrellaI met with an old friend this week.  We sat over a western omelet, fulfilling the ritual catch-up, reminiscing about the past and predicting our future.  It is interesting when you meet with someone after a long period time of being apart, especially if that person knows you well.  In a way they can gauge how much you’ve changed, or how much you’ve stayed the same.

Like some people, he thought vacation was going to be his escape, maybe even a small answer to all his frustrations and worries.  He learned quickly that this wasn’t the case.  He had been looking forward to his trip and when his expectations didn’t live up to reality, he was inevitably disappointed.  He returned home, back to his routine, spending hours and days in his place of  business, disillusioned by his travels.

This got me thinking about the expectations we have when go abroad.  If you’ve traveled a lot you may start to feel overwhelmed.  Churches and cathedrals all start to look the same and you may even begin to get a little pretentious.  My vacation spot is way better than yoursI went to Machu Picchu way before it became one of the New 7 Wonders. Long term travelers can also be perceived as running away from responsibilities, problems, or the ‘real’ world.  People may ask what exactly it is that you are looking for or running away from.  These are difficult questions to answer because we all travel for different reasons and in different ways.  Because of limited vacation time, most Americans travel for short periods of time.  Some of us may want to get drunk in Cancun, while others want to climb mountains, learn a language, or live abroad.

In my experience, one of the great things about going away is the feeling you get when you leave a place behind.  It isn’t completely rational, it’s probably not entirely healthy either, but there is nothing like knowing that tomorrow you will be somewhere new.  Not everyone will agree of course, but when you get that itch you will recognize it right away.

For this reason it is easy to think that once you’re gone all your troubles will be left behind.  Of course this isn’t always the case.  Similar to the way some people may find comfort in a brisk jog around their neighborhood, or more appropriately a couple pints of beer, travel comforts too, but as we know a carton of Ben & Jerry’s won’t get rid of the problem and neither will picking up and flying to the South Pacific.

Traveling isn’t always easy.  I’m not talking about a resort vacation with a massage therapist and daily yoga, that seems rather easy to me, but rather the decision to travel long term and see the world, often on a budget.  You won’t get the comfort and amenities of home and you will spend significant periods of time away from family and friends.  What travel can do, however, is bring you in contact with a different way of thinking.  Read Rick Steve’s Travel as a Political Act if you want to get inspired.  He talks about the ways travel can broaden your perspective and help you answer some of the pressing questions and problems you have back home.  Experiencing something outside of your comfort zone may be difficult at first, but it will teach you something.

Travel itself won’t answer your problems, but it can aid you in figuring out just what you want to do in life, what makes you happy, and what situations you can handle.  It can help you grow, and frankly, like a small carton of Ben & Jerry’s it can make you feel a hell of a lot better, at least in the moment.

Image via: alicepopkorn

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Weekly Photo: Vancouver Cloudy Skyline

by Elena on January 20, 2010

Vancouver Skyline

This picture was taken from Stanley Park in Vancouver, on a particularly cloudy day.

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Granada and The Tales of the Alhambra

by Elena on January 14, 2010

Alhambra Granada SpainWhat does it take to be first online to get into the Alhambra?  If you avoid the reasonable route of getting your tickets in advance, like other more responsible travelers, then you will have to wait in line, a really really long line.

After a couple days in Seville we made our way to Granada with a vague plan of interest and no guidebooks.  The heat of summer in the Spanish south had sucked out all of our energy, and a small part of us had no desire but to sit around drinking freshly squeezed orange juice under one of the makeshift sun blockers in the streets of Seville.  Needless to say we were not prepared for our excursion to the Alhambra.  We arrived, somewhat brazenly, to the entrance of the palace shortly after 8am.  The line was impressive, so long and winding we couldn’t see the unlucky chaps at the end of it all.  Even they were luckier than we were.  We were not getting in that day.  Our only other choice was to arrive unreasonably early the next day and wait in line.  Although many people assured us that we need only arrive a couple hours before the ticket booth opened at 8am, my cousin wanted to be one of the first people on line, hence arriving so early you might as well take a sleeping bag.  At first I felt guilty that he was ‘taking one for the team’ and going to stand in line to ensure our entrance into one of the most remarkable sights in the world just about when I was entering my REM cycle, but then the clock started buzzing at 3am.  You try waking up at 3am with jet lag, travel fatigue, and a sudden bout of I’m not a morning person.  He left the hostel sometime after 2am and was behind only two other groups, a group of hippie Spaniards who had slept at the entrance overnight and a friendly Moroccan family who offered him some coffee brewed from homegrown coffee beans.

The Alhambra is definitely worth the wait.  We were able to enjoy the benefit of entering early, as well as an early entrance time into the Nasrid Palace.  The gardens are better enjoyed if you visit them in the afternoon.  The sun can be brutal, but the flowers look their best under the sun’s rays.  Alhambra means red fortress, and it certainly looks like a fortress when viewed from lookout point San Nicolas.  You would think that this fortress would be filled with medieval Christian architecture rather than its distinctly arabesque designs.  Originally an Islamic palace, it eventually fell into the hands of the Christian kings after the fall of the Islamic Empire in Spain.

The Alhambra is big but you can easily see everything in one day.  The following are the major sites that you mustn’t miss.

Palacio Nazaries (Nasrid Palace)
The Nasrid Palace is one of the most elaborate and recognizable Islamic structures in all of Europe.  It is known for the intricate stucco work, painted tile walls, and extensive courtyards.  The palaces inside the Alhambra were erected for the Muslim sultans of Granada.  In this palace you can walk though ceremony rooms, courtyards, private residences, and offices.  As well as the time slot they give you to enter the Alhambra, you will also have a time slot for entering the Palacio Nazaries. Once you get inside you don’t have to worry about time for the rest of your visit.

Alhambra Granada Spain 2The Court of Myrtles is an iconic image of the Alhambra and the Nasrid Palace.  The Moors loved incorporating patios into their architecture.  There are many theories as to what this particular court was used for.  Some say that the sultan’s harem were kept upstairs behind the windows with wooden screens, after all, it isn’t appropriate for the sultan’s harem to be seen by other men.  Others simply believe that the upstairs was used during the cooler winter months and the outdoor courtyard was used in the summer.

Alhambra in Granada SpainThere are twelve lions around a fountain in the Court of Lions.  The twelve lions were a gift from a prominent Jewish leader at the time.  Granada had an extensive Jewish population, and a rich history of Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together, sometimes not in harmony.  As for the significance of the twelve lions, historians aren’t certain, but they probably represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  The lions were later turned into a clock that spouted water out of a different lion’s mouth according to the time of day.  The clock no longer works after the Christian conquerors took it apart to see how it worked.  Unfortunately, on my most recent visit to the Alhambra, the lions were taken away to be restored.  The good news is that they are coming back soon, sometime in 2010.

Court of Lions Alhambra in Granada SpainAlhambra Granada Spain 3Washington Irving penned his legendary story, Tales of the Alhambra, from within the Alhambra’s very walls.  Irving’s work helped introduce western audiences to the treasures of the Alhambra.

Washington Irvings Room in Alhambra Granada SpainAlcazaba
The Alcazaba is the fort of the Alhambra.  Alhambra itself means fortress, making the Alcazaba the original Alhambra.  It is the oldest and hence the most ruined of structures.  This fort was used to defend the small town within the Alhambra wall.  If you climb the high structures you will get amazing views of the Sierra Nevada, the city of Granada, and the Albazin.

Alcazaba at the Alhambra in Granada SpainGeneralife Gardens
The Generalife Gardens are a short walk away on the opposite side of the grounds.  If you have time to kill before your assigned entrance into the Nasrid Palace, you should make your way to these gardens and Generalife Palace.Generalife Gardens at the Alhambra in Granada SpainThese gardens were planted in an overzealous effort to create a paradise on earth.  The flowers, shrubbery, and fountains are all said to have kept their Moorish character.  Fruits and vegetables were also grown for the inhabitants of the palaces.  The sultan is said to have enjoyed the Generalife Palace during the summer, when he could roam around the gardens and enjoys its fruits and flowers.Generalife Gardens Alhambra in Granada Spain FlowersEl Partal is right at the entrance of the Generalife Gardens.  Here you will find another large courtyard with a pond.  I imagine these ponds help keep the area cool during the hot summer months.  They seem to do the trick.

El Partal in Alhambra in Granada SpainCharles V’s Palace
The Alhambra wasn’t always under Islamic rule.  Muslim Spain slowly came to an end, and Granada eventually fell from Islamic rule in 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella took over Granada and the surrounding areas.  When the Christians came into the power, they built their own structures, as conquering parties often do, within the Alhambra walls.  Charles V constructed this palace with the money from the taxed Muslim population, another way of exerting Christian authority, and rubbing some salt on their wounds.

Alhambra Granada Spain Palace of Charles

Alhambra Granada Spain Palace of Charles V

Buying Tickets For the Alhambra

  • The best choice is to buy your tickets ahead of time on www.alhambra-tickets.es.  Buying ahead of time will ensure that you won’t have to wait long on the line or risk not getting in at all.
  • You could always wait in line like we did.  This of course means that you will be up inconceivably early during high season and reasonably early during low season.
  • Book with your hotel or hostel.  Sometimes hotels put aside tickets for their guests.
  • Pay for a tour.  This of course is the more expensive option, but if you have no other choice it could be well worth it.  Go to a local travel agency or hotel and see what tours are available.

When you buy a ticket, you are given an appointment time when you can enter the Alhambra and Nasrid palace.  This prevents overcrowding.  Make sure to arrive an hour before your assigned appointment to enter the Alhambra because you will most likely be waiting awhile on line (even if you bought your ticket ahead of time).

The floors of the Palace of Charles V are rather slippery.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Alhambra Granada Spain Palace of Charles V 2

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Weekly Photo: Alhambra in Granada Spain

by Elena on January 13, 2010

Alhambra in Granada SpainThe Alhambra is a Moorish palace that sits atop the Spanish city of Granada and is by far one of the most spectacular sites to see in Spain.  The inside of the Alhambra is impressive even for the most seasoned traveler.  The view from afar, at the Mirador de San Nicolas, is also memorable.  If you are lucky, you may get the chance to hear some flamenco.The Alhambra is a Moorish palace that sits atop the Spanish city of Granada and is by far one of the most spectacular sites to see in Spain.  The inside of the Alhambra is impressive even for the most seasoned traveler.  The view from afar, at the Mirador de San Nicolas, is also memorable.  If you are lucky, you may get the chance to hear some flamenco.

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Looking Forward In 2010

by Elena on January 8, 2010

Henri-Cartier-Bresson-Dieppe 1929The word resolution can be intimidating.  Someone who is resolute is firm and determined, bold and steady.  That is a lot to live up to if you ask me.  Most of the time, on the journey to figuring out career, happiness, the meaning of life, people are more likely to waver than stay firmly planted in their decisions.  Resolutions are usually made because of our very nature to teeter back and forth.  Should I eat the cupcake?  Should I not eat the cupcake?  Trust me, you should eat the cupcake.

2009 was a big year for me because I made the decision to start pursuing this crazy idea of writing for a living.  The end of my stint in Montreal, meant I return to NJ and look for a job.  It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands.  This blog, and a few others along the way, got me into the habit of writing.  It is a great discipline and there is no better teacher than practicing on a frequent basis.  You yourself are accountable for your success.  This site has been a huge learning experience for me, in many ways.  In 2010 I hope to expand my audience, gain more contacts within the industry, travel more,  and basically do the things that make me happy and keep me jonesin.

In 2010 you can expect…

  • A new photography section, including travel photography and other pictures that strikes my fancy.
  • A growing travel and city guide section.
  • More personal travelogues.
  • Articles on innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Articles on working in new media and the freelance world.
  • More South America and Mexico.

I have a lot to be grateful for in this past year.  I was able to visit South America for the first time in my life and wander about Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.  I saw sites like Machu Picchu, Salar de Uyuni, and Mendoza’s wine country.  I ate some of the best beef you could imagine, and got a serious bout of altitude sickness that didn’t completely ruin my digestive system.  I wrote extensively about my two road trips to Montreal and this year I will write more about South America and the time I spent in Mexico.

In 2010 I’m looking forward to…

Becoming a Digital Nomad – This is still one of the main goals that inspired this website.  I continue to be inspired by so many people on the web like Timothy Ferris, Nomadic Matt, Chris Guillebeau, Christine Gilbert, and the Frugal Traveler.

Using 80-20 Principle – So this Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, came up with the idea that 80% of all effects come from about 20% of causes.  That means 80% of your finished work comes from about 20% of the effort you put in.  Now here’s a thought.  What would happen if you spent more time on the 20% effort that actually gets the job done.  Well you would save a lot more time and headaches, that’s what.  I plan to test out the theory and find out exactly what 20% of effort I put into daily activities has the most desired result.

Deconstructing a New Language and Refreshing the Old – The techniques to learning a language is very popular topic among travelers.  Writers, like Tim Ferris, claim that language classes don’t work, that you can learn any language in as little as 3 months, even 1 hour.  Based on a recommendation from a friend, I picked up the book How To Learn a Language in 7 Days, by Ramon Campayo.  (I wasn’t able to find an English version).  I want to experiment various theories of learning a language and see if it is possible to quicken the process.  Maybe we have approached the process incorrectly.  I would like to chose two languages, one that will be fairly easy because I already speak Spanish, and another that will be more difficult because it doesn’t use the roman alphabet.  So I’m thinking Portuguese and Hindi.

Becoming a Master Cook (in my kitchen) and Gourmand –  I decided to keep my expectations high learn not only to cook, but to cook well, so well in fact that people are licking their fingers and begging for more.  It won’t be easy, as I’ve learned with a few mishaps in the kitchen, but it is enjoyable.   Food has always been a very important part of my life, beyond the whole nourishment and daily bread aspect. Eat Drink & Travel documents it.

Writing an EBook – This year I will get started on my eBook and post it on this site.  I have a bunch of ideas and I still haven’t selected the exact one yet, but it will be in a similar vain to the content found on my sites.

Less Clutter Less Junk – Toss it!  That’s my new mantra.  I will finally get rid of my pack-rat tendencies and move on to having a simpler, less cluttered life.  Hmm I should probably start with my pile of fashion magazines.

Figuring out my Canon Rebel XSi – It seems only fitting, since I included the photographs of one of my favorite photographers on this post, that I think about finally figuring out my new camera!  This year I want to get more technical, pick up a few books, and finally conquer the art of Photoshop.

Oh and at some point I want to lie on my back on a beach of pebbles with an umbrella over my head.

Do you remember this song?  I think it came out around the mid 90s.  Jesse from Rising Bean used the Baz Luhrmann song “Sunscreen” in his video documenting his various trips around the world.  

Image above : Henri Cartier-Bresson Dieppe, 1929

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Weekly Photo: Tango in Buenos Aires

by Elena on January 6, 2010

DSC00471-1

Photo © Elena Vazquez

This picture was taken in the basement at Cafe Tortoni, one of the most popular cafes in Buenos Aires.  Each night you can watch a tango performance in this legendary peña, a place where people come together to eat, drink and watch performances.  Cafe Tortoni is also a part of Argentina history with impressive clientele like literary great Jorge Luis Borges and tango legend Carlos Gardel.

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Memorable Book List of 2009

by Elena on January 4, 2010

Memorable Books of 2008Happy New Year everyone!  Hopefully everyone had a great holiday season.  My Christmas and New Years are always based around food, so it goes without saying that I had a great time.

Last year I put together a mental list of all the books that I really enjoyed throughout the year.  This post is a little late, but I feel like the books are still very pertinent.  The list of 2009 is a personal one, as you can see the books didn’t necessarily come on in 09; they did however inspire and entertain me this past year.

TRAVEL WRITING

Travel writing is a medium I greatly enjoy and often read.  In a certain vain I strive to write like these authors I listed.  They are no doubt some of my favorite authors, who all have a distinct voice, whether snarky or informative, and who constantly keep my attention, make me laugh, and change my perspective.

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act is a must read for any person with a love of travel.  Steves explores traveling as a means to finding out more about the world, your country, and yourself.  While there is nothing wrong with travel where you relax with nothing more than a margarita and some sunblock, he reminds you that there are other forms of travel where you can learn something besides how to nurse a sunburn.  He discusses and compares the way other countries handle issues such as drug abuse, war, globalization, and religious differences.  No country has all the right answers, however we only benefit by understanding other cultures and experiencing them firsthand.

Road Fever by Tim Cahill – I read Road Fever while on the road in South America, therefore I had a very strong connection with the work.  Cahill writes about his journey and quest to break the world record time for a road trip from the very tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay Alaska.  Tim Cahill writes in a manner that is entertaining and infectious, where a 5’3 short girl like myself would consider the possibility of following in the footsteps of these two explorers clearly mad for trying.

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson –  Like all great storytellers, Bill Bryson makes his story of traveling around Europe that much more interesting than anybody else could.  He has a snarky side which I always welcome and a definite British wit as he recounts his past, and muses about strange foreign customs.

Sand In My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write From The Road by Jennifer L. Leo and Jessica Maxwell – This collection of short stories are written by a group of adventurous women who have at some point, put the open road before all else.  I received this book as a gift from my cousin, who thought that the title aptly applied to my travels and misadventures.  It was refreshing and fun to read a book from a female perspective in a genre, it seems, that is dominated by men.  If anyone has any other suggestions, please contact me!

A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines by Anthony Bourdain – I’ve read A Cook’s Tour multiple times and returned to it again in 2009.  The book really resonates with me, in particular the section when Bourdain is in Portugal, where certain memories and subsequent pig slaughter ceremonies, reminded me of my summer’s in Galicia as a child.  This book sparked my interest in culinary travel, exploring new cultures, and finding other books of this nature.  Anthony Bourdain’s writing style is funny and addicting like a Krispy Kreme donut that you would be willing to drive 20 miles to eat a bite of.

Smile, You’re Traveling by Henry Rollins – Reading this book is like slipping into a portal that leads to Rollins’ mind, except you don’t get tossed near the Jersey Turnpike when you’re finished.  You experience his crazy adventures firsthand, right in the middle of his stream of consciousness.  I admit that it was hard to keep up the first time around but after some outside coaxing I agreed to try again.  Rollins’ thoughts are often scattered but they are never dull and they will always make you question your own perspective on the world.

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Travel photography, like all types of photography, tells a story of its subject and setting.  I honestly haven’t read that many photography books, preferring to browse through picture albums and portfolios online.  This year I’d like to read more about the craft of photography.

Travel Photography: Documenting the World’s Peoples & Places by Bob Krist – Bob Krist makes photography interesting and attainable in this book.  His book doesn’t delve too much into the technicalities of taking a picture, the camera itself, or Photoshop, however that was exactly what I was looking for.  He gives a more general approach to working with color, movement, composition, flash, and time of day.  I especially liked his tips and anecdotes about taking pictures of people.

MARKETING AND LIFESTYLE DESIGN

Marketing and lifestyle design books are the source of many dreamers’ dreams.  These books in particular got my creative juices flowing, and spurred a few grandiose views of the future.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable by Seth Godin – Seth Godin’s blog is a wealth of knowledge.  Each post provides insight on how to spread your ideas or grow your business.  He has opened a new way for me to look at marketing.  In his book, Purple Cow, he talks about the way old ‘proven’ marketing tactics no longer apply, and how each and every company, employee, or website needs to be remarkable if they want to stand out from the heard.  Basically you want to be a purple cows in the midst of the black and white ones.

The Big Moo: Stop Trying To Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable by Seth Godin – The Big Moo is a continuation of the ideas in Purple Cow.  This book is edited by Seth Godin and has many different contributors tell a story or anecdote about being remarkable.  The interesting thing is that you don’t know which author wrote what.  If you need another push to buy it, know that all proceeds go to charity.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferris – The 4-Hour Workweek was one of those books that started it all for me.  If got me thinking, dreaming, and being outright delusional about my future.  A four hour work week is something that most people aspire to, and Timothy Ferris explains how it can be possible.  Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you will be sitting around doing nothing all day, what it does mean is that you have more available time to work on your own ventures, instead of wasting time dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s.  He just came out with an expanded edition that I haven’t been able to check out yet but I am excited to read soon.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

After reading a few marketing books, I got the  itch so to speak, of turning ideas into something more.  I don’t usually read business type books because I think I may be slightly allergic, however these books were interesting and quite insightful.

Awakening The Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies by Michael E. Gerber – I picked up this book after reading about it on Timothy Ferris’ blog (a must read as well).  Although I haven’t finished it yet (I am somewhere in the middle) I would recommend this book for people who are looking to start their own business, or expand on their own ideas.  Gerber talks about the process that innovative entrepreneurs take to follow their dreams and see them to fruition.

The E-Myth Enterprise: How To Turn a Great Idea Into a Thriving Business by Michael E. Gerber – The E-Myth Enterprise expands upon the ideas of Gerber’s previous books and it also gives more of a personal perspective and tells the success stories of people that the reader can relate to.  These people were able to create businesses and make their business thrive.

NEW MEDIA

New media is blanket term to describe the emergent digital and computerized information that has grown dramatically in the past decade.  Online publications, blogs, social networking sites, and digital technology are all a part of new media.  Print publications and television are not.  If you have a blog or site of your own, you are already aware of new media, in fact you are a part of it.

The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media by Paul Gillin – Gillin’s book provided the insight I needed to really understand the influence of new media today.  More companies are developing blogs and switching their marketing strategies and the all important advertising dollars in order to keep up with the changes.  The book also illustrates the tremendous power that bloggers and new media insiders have over the market.

[Updated Jan 5th]

EBOOKS

EBooks are becoming much more popular.  I have been a little reserved about them, but this past year I have bought a couple that I felt were helpful and informative.  People tend to be more careful when buying eBooks because they can be more expensive than a book you pick up at Barnes & Noble.  Let’s just say they shouldn’t be impulse buys.  When buying an eBook I always take a look at the reviews and see what others have said about them.  If an author offers a free book, you can test out and see if you like his style and topic choices.

Make Money With Your Blog by Nomadic Matt –  This eBook was a great deal of help for me when I wanted to delve into the world of ‘monetizing’ my websites.  For full disclosure I am an affiliate of this eBook, and I decided to do so  because of how helpful it was for me.  When I started my sites I had a drive to write and explore, but I also had little experience with actually ‘building a site.’  If you are knowledgeable about blogging and creating websites then this eBook may not be helpful because you will know a lot of its content.  This eBook is for anyone new to creating blogs, or the ways of new media.  It will teach you the basics of starting a blog, getting traffic, figuring out SEO, and monetizing your site.  Matt gives you the foundation that you can build upon with dedication and hard work.Make Money on your Blog

279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau – The great thing about this eBook is that it is completely free!  It is an encouraging manifesto written by the creator of The Art of Non-Comformity site.  It is a great way to become acquainted with his site, which is truly as a home for unconventional people doing remarkable things.  In the manifesto he discusses the steps he took to become a full time writer and entrepreneur of the web.manifesto-279daysUnconventional Guide to Working For Yourself by Chris Guillebeau – If you enjoyed Guillebeau’s free manifesto then you should really look into his other products.  They are pricey, but I believe the content is well worth it.  This eBook goes more in depth into the life of creating a business on the internet.  He discusses important factors such as the mistakes that many entrepreneurs make when building their business.  When you buy this eBook you also get bonuses about SEO and affiliate marketing.  As with most things, remember that these strategies are never a quick fix.  Working for yourself requires lots of hard work and dedication.UG workingselfUnconventional Guide to Art and Money by Chris Guillebeau – I purchased this eBook in a deal with the Guide to Working for Yourself.  The topic is very interesting and the eBook is thorough and easy to follow.   Basically it discusses the way artists have been supporting themselves through their artwork and new media.  It is interesting because while artists can be taught technique in art school, they are not often taught how to make money doing so.  The eBook discusses ways artists can promote themselves and gain a following that can lead to success in their field. UG artmoney30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World by Christine Gilbert – Christine Gilbert created the popular travel site Almost Fearless, a site that I check on a frequent basis in order to gain insight into travel and the digital world.  This year Gilbert concluded a series she was working on called 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World.  The series went further into the world of travel and conquered such topics as budgeting, turning your job digital, telling your family and friends, and getting a job when you return from travel.  You can check out the series on her site, and you can also download a free eBook of the series by subscribing to her site.Almost Fearless

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Coca Museum In La Paz Bolivia

by Elena on December 30, 2009

Coca Museum in La Paz BoliviaWhile in La Paz, Bolivia I was looking forward to seeing this small unusual museum, especially after a bout of altitude sickness in Peru that had me chewing on coca leaves for days.  The museum is on calle Linares, and lucky for us it was down the block from our hostel.  Like many shops and restaurants in La Paz, the museum is located inside an alcove hidden in between buildings and back alleys.  It is on the second floor of what looks like a residential home.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by a man who looked confused to see visitors who were so uncharacteristically on time for the opening of the museum.  He turned on the lights and opened its doors for us.  After his brief statement about the museum, he offered us some coca leaves which visitors are free to chew on during their visit.  The museum consists of one large room with many displays covered in pictures and text, as well as a  few small artifacts.  There may not be much in comparison to other more elaborate museums, but they certainly are not as provocative.  The information dedicated to this small leaf, is hard to find anywhere else.

Coca Museum in La Paz Bolivia 4The coca leaf is a very important part of Andean culture, and the plant was seen as sacred by the Incas.  It is believed that people in the Andes have used coca leaves since 2500BC after traces of the leaf were found in mummified bodies in the ruins of Northern Peru.  The oil of the plant was used to remove tumors and prevent the body from physical discomfort.  Today many people continue to use the plant, in particular those who live in the highlands.  While traveling around the Andes we saw many people chewing on these leaves which are said to relieve altitude sickness.  The coca leaf stimulates the respiratory centers, allowing more oxygen to absorb in your body, especially helpful for those of us who aren’t born with the larger lung capacity of people who live in high altitudes.  It is also believed that the leaf regulates metabolism of glucose and contains nutritious qualities similar to quinoa and wheat.Coca Leaves

During colonization, the Catholic Church first banned the use of this leaf but later recognized its medicinal purposes.  This sudden change of heart most likely had more to do with the increase productivity of the native workforce that chewed the leaf rather than concern for people’s health.   The curator of the museum explained how the colonists abused workers by relying on the plants increased productivity, as well as lowered appetite.

Fast forward hundreds of years and you get to 1863, the beginning of the legal cocaine boom.  The coca leaf is made up of various alkaloids, one of which we know as cocaine.  Cocaine is made when you extract the alkaloid from the coca leaf.  The trade of cocaine first started after chemists visited the region and saw the popularity of the coca leaf among people that live in high altitudes.  The first purpose of cocaine was of course medicinal, but it soon became used for other forms of entertainment.

A French chemist name Angelo Mariani used coca leaves from Peru to make his wine vin Mariani.  It was essentially cocawine and contained about 6mg of cocaine per ounce of wine.  The ethanol in the wine helped extract the cocaine from the coca leaves.  Another pharmacist by the name of John Pemberton also included coca leaves in the drink he created, which later helped create one of the most successful companies in history.  Coca-Cola’s original purpose was not as a soft drink, but rather medicine that relieved exhaustion and headaches.  The original recipe of Coca-Cola did have traces of cocaine (9mg per ounce), but they changed its recipe around 1903 when people began to worry about the effect of the drug.  Some say the drink didn’t become completely cocaine free until 1929.  Coca-Cola became wildly popular around the time of prohibition, when Americans were forbidden to drink alcohol.  Today Coca-Cola continues to use coca leaves that have been “spent,” meaning they no longer have traces of cocaine.  Their manufacturing plant imports the coca leaf to the US, but don’t try doing the same.  Don’t even think about bringing back coca leaf tea, if you live in the US, unless you want to spend some time with airport security.  The Stephen Company manufacturing plant, is only company allowed to import coca leaves of any kind, so drink up all your coca tea in Bolivia.

Coca Cola and Mariani WineThe Coca Museum was created by doctors, sociologists, anthropologists, and various institutions in order to create awareness about the coca leaf and its derivative cocaine.  Drug use in Bolivia has only increased in high numbers since preventative drug laws were enacted, however the coca leaf is not considered a drug, in essence it isn’t much different than the popular stimulant in the US, a cup of jo.  The curator of the Coca Museum made it very clear that the coca leaf is not cocaine (which needs to be created in a lab), but rather a natural remedy and tradition that has lasted for many years.

Coca Museum in La Paz Bolivia 2This guy doesn’t look so good.  Reminds me of the Bolivian version of the D.A.R.E. program.  Just say no to drugs or you’ll end up looking like this guy.

Image of Coca-Cola and Mariani Wine via: Coca Museum and Wiki.

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New Jersey Is Not So Bad, In Fact It’s Pretty Nice

December 17, 2009
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Tweet Being from New Jersey I have heard the brunt of many Jersey jokes.  I know what it feels like to sit behind big hair at the movies, to watch a cashier count my change with her the long finger nails sticking between the bills.  I can recognize the distinguished nasal accent the second I […]

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Salar De Uyuni Photo Journal

December 15, 2009
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Do What You Want Now

December 11, 2009
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Tweet Something one of my professors told a class of mine really stuck with me throughout the years.  It was a class on television and media, and although the exact details on the curriculum are fuzzy, his words are very clear. He knew that there were a lot of aspiring writers, producers, directors, and creatives […]

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Weekly Photo: Billboard in Havana, Cuba

December 9, 2009
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Billboard in the heart of Havana says a distinct message to imperialists.

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Is Travel Good For Business?

December 7, 2009
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Tweet While reading the innovation article that inspired the majority of my posts last week, I started to think about the connection between travel and growth in business.  It seems inevitable especially in our ever globalized business market.  Based on the findings in the innovator study, managers who have been on assignment abroad show about […]

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Use Innovative Strategies To Do What You Want In Life

December 4, 2009

Tweet It is impossible to judge who has the best job or lifestyle, since everyone has different aspirations and ideals.  Some celebrities gripe about the pitfalls of fame; yet there are many more people searching for their 15 minutes.  Not everyone will become the next creator of a popular social networking site, nor does everyone […]

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Be an Innovator and Create Something

December 3, 2009
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Tweet What do guys like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos have in common?  Yes they are insanely wealthy, and yes they were young when they made their millions, and ok yes a few of them started their companies in their garage; but besides all that, what I want to focus on […]

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Weekly Photo: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

December 2, 2009
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The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and is located in Bolivia.

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The Fall and Rise of Media

December 1, 2009
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Tweet Media and print journalism traditionally are difficult industries to enter.  Most prospective employees have numerous unpaid internships under their belt.  They work countless hours each day, often for very little compensation.  The stereotype of the lowly intern getting coffee for the reporters in the newsroom has been true for some time.  He pushes through […]

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Eid al-Adha, The Festival of Sacrifice

November 29, 2009
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Tweet Eid al-Adha celebrates the biblical story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his willingness to sacrifice his son for God without question.  Soon after Ibrahim ties up his son, an angel came down from heaven to stop the sacrifice and Ibrahim sacrifices a ram instead.  The story illustrates Ibrahim’s obedience to God and his willingness to […]

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Gadhimai Mela Animal Sacrifice

November 27, 2009
Gadhimai Mela Animal Sacrifice

Tweet Images like this man leaping in the air with a machete swung over his head, are what make photojournalism such an affecting medium.  It garners discomfort because the viewer knows that seconds after this picture was taken the man’s machete made its way through the animal’s flesh.  The story behind the man and this […]

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Happy Thanksgiving and Eid Mubarak

November 26, 2009
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Weekly Photo: Children Playing in Tepoztlan Mexico

November 25, 2009
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Children play along a small street outside the marketplace in Tepoztlan.

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New Guide Section

November 24, 2009
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Tweet After several hours of playing around with my new Canon Rebel EOS XSI and taking pictures of various nonessential objects in my bedroom, I decided I need to step away from the camera!  My ‘new’ camera arrived yesterday from Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  Since my old camera died a slow death about a month ago, I […]

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Cairo Nights Travelogue

November 19, 2009
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Tweet The cab driver weaves in and out of traffic accelerating and decelerating in a matter of seconds.  I reach over the driver seat and point to the small piece of paper the receptionist gave us at the hostel.  “This is our address,” I repeat for the second time, accenting my voice ever so slightly, […]

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Weekly Photo: The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

November 19, 2009

The Egyptian Museum seen from a distance during a busy day in Cairo, Egypt.

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