December 31, 2008

Happy Old Year

The new year has crept up on me with little notice or regard for my schedule. I don't know if I'm ready for 2008 to be over. It's been a rather good year, taken me to some good places, surrounded me with good people. I've been to Mexico and Paris, Jerusalem and the Kalahari Desert, to the French-speaking Arctic and Panamanian rain forest -- all good adventures. I've met a bunch of very cool travel writers and got to visit a good deal of family. And I've published, which is all we can ever ask for. I will spend the last day of anno domini 2008 writing about food and getting over a sore throat. BUT, last night I rode the subway all the way out to the Virginia hinterlands and watched a grand Bollywood musical epic that left me with twinkling eyes and a beating heart. I must remember that the most exotic things are often so closeby.

My hopes and best wishes to all of you out there.

December 22, 2008

Forgotten Hero/Anti-Hero

My current bedtime stories of choice is the riveting biography, "The Adventures of Kimball Bent", published in 1911 by James Cowan. The story is that of one man Kimball, born in Maine, ran away to England, pressed into the British army, deserted, captured and repressed into the British army, sent to India, sent to New Zealand, again deserted, then a lifetime spent living among the Maori of Taranaki. Fascinating. My mother-in-law in New Zealand gave me the book as a Christmas present a few years back to provide some context for my travels in Taranaki. (My book pile is a few years long).

What I gather is that this man was not an 'adventurer' per se, or even a 'traveler', but that he traveled across the globe and ended up living with the Maori simply to survive. He's quite a controversial historical figure--some people count him as a traitor, others a coward, etc. etc., but his story is entirely unique and despite grotesque attention to the intricacies of warfare and cannibalism, his life and story capture a time and a place in the world that would have otherwise been falsely historicized neatly on some library shelf. Here's a brief nod to the man by Wikipedia.

So yeah, at night, right before I go to sleep, I'm at the base of a volcano on North Island, circa 1867.

December 16, 2008

All Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True

Just got confirmation that I will be speaking at the New York Times Travel Show on Sunday, February 8 at 11:00 in the morning. I shall be the voice of unreason on a panel entitled, "Make Your Wild Travel Dreams a Reality". Perhaps I should just put it out there that not all my wildest travel dreams are ever a reality, yet. I still haven't snowshoed in Antarctica or watched the sun set on a beach in Yemen or even been to New Hampshire but I guess the important thing is to always keep trying. This year's NYT Travel Show will include for the first time ever a country booth dedicated to Ukraine (!). I've also got a few book signings scheduled throughout the two days of the show. See you there.

December 12, 2008

In Which I Talk on Television

Look at me, I am on TeeVee.

December 4, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Thanks to protesters in far away airports and the general global chaos of the moment, I'll be staying in this December. Normally I would protest right back, you know, you have to fight for your right to travel, but frankly I'm afraid of anyone who willingly sleeps at the airport for a whole week. Once upon a December I spent 36 hours in a freezing Moscow airport, a single shivering body in a huddled mass of unpapered Indians stranded on their way to Bangalore. Never again. Until further notice, you can find me in not-that-snowy-just-yet Washington, DC. Me and my laptop and a cup of hot chocolate. Working on a bunch of projects, the main one being Christmas. Also, a bundle of restaurant reviews for Blackbook. Tasting menus are kind of a consolation for not crossing the Pacific.