Sunday, 27 April 2008

Times' travel essayist article - Michael de Larrabeiti

A few years ago I stumbled (not in the online sense) upon the travel writer H V Morton. It was his A Traveller in Italy book that first caught my eye and kicked off my old travel books collection. The first book I found was in a secondhand book shop/gallery in Peterborough (sadly, since closed down). Other finds hail from Cromer and Sherringham, on the Norfolk coast; Uppingham, Rutland; Stamford, Lincolnshire, and also London. My boss gave me one as an early Christmas present too.

It's not often that I ponder a Morton purchase, but a copy hidden on a bookstall in a Turin street did cause me much deliberation. Damn the thing for being an exact dupe of one I owned back home. Was it an exciting find or a surplus dust gatherer? Wasted euros when what I actually needed was a lunchtime panini, or something that would last much longer in memory? I debated and debated, sensibly leaving the copy on the shelf. Had it been an Italian translation or a first edition, there would have been no argument. But as it was, I stood strong and sensible.

Dipping from one to another and then to another copy, I can't actually claim to have finished any of my many Morton's. No matter! Whenever I dive into his journalism - and however randomly - I emerge from it with a smile for the nostalgia-inducing character of travel writing that is this out of date (Morton wrote from 1925-79. It reminds me why I've carried my heavy box of 'Morton's' from house to house to house again.

Until I've collected all of the Morton's I can find - and then read them - I doubt I'll have much time to delve elsewhere. Jan Morris gets an occasional look in: when I've a train journey and her paperback anthology, being light and less likely to be damaged than my precious hardback Morton's, makes it into my handbag. She's waiting though. I'll get there one day.

Trouble is, this article from the Times celebrating Michael de Larrabeiti also caught my eye. Once I've travelled with Morton through 1979, I'll be reading my way through Larrabeiti; the oldest articles first to the present day. Read more!

Compass PopOut Maps versus Berlitz Pocket Maps

A recent story in a publishing trade magazine tells how travel book retailers have been asked to withdraw a certain brand of pocket maps. Reason being that the latest maps on the scene bear too close a resemblance to the Compass maps that travellers know and love.

When a best friend of mine headed off to Oz for her year out after uni we boxed up some useful going away gifts, including a map of Sydney in PopOut origami style. It was the one thing she kept in her handbag during her whole time in the city of backpackers and bridge walkers.

We all know how amazingly useful a pocket size pop up map can be. Now it seems that the equally useful Berlitz maps have been accused of copyright infringement as they get a piece of this easily cart-about-able cartographical action. Read more!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Bloggers' Choice Awards - Sandwagon nominated for best travel blog

Read more!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Unforgettable Walks To Take Before You Die - BBC Books

Publisher: BBC Books ISBN: 0563539089 Format: Paperback XL
Number of Pages: 256 Price: £18.99

Books such as this are a depressing reminder that there's a wide world on the outside whilst you're toiling away inside. And worse still, that you'll do your life a gross disservice if you never see the world, do it, taste it, walk it before the inevitable happens ... you die.

As a welcome tonic for frustrated souls infected with wanderlust but isolated at the office for all but four or five weeks of the year, the latest in the Unforgettable family features thirty walks that can be achieved in under two weeks. By tailoring the content to the needs of today's time-poor travellers, the book's editors and co- photographers Steve Watkins and Clare Jones, have made the Unforgettable, unmissable: epic travel has been reclaimed from the galloping sands of time.

Speaking recently about the book at Stanfords (the travel book shop, Covent Garden) Steve and Clare picked just four Unforgettable Walks to showcase the diversity and geographical reach of the book's thirty recommendations.

Highlights of the four walks that were shared with the audience were:

Darjeeling Tea Trek, India Tea house accommodation, tea in bed, tea at lunchtime, tea with dinner; sunrise illuminating Mt Everest at the start of another day's walk

The Drover's Roads, Spain
carpets of wildflowers; siestas; drovers milking their sheep

Mali Sleeping under a mosquito net beneath the moon and so many stars that the sky is more white than black; the colourful, authentic dances of the Dogon tribesmen

Loftoten Islands, Norway
Midnight sun, walking unaware of time for 25 hours; the salt cod industry; eating just cod or salmon burgers; so few walkers that the sheep look surprised to see you

Perhaps I'll try to take one of the book's epic walks every year for the next thirty; the most challenging ones first, the more easy going on the joints in my retirement years!

Unforgettable Walks to take before you die is the fifth title in the BBC's Unforgettable series. The four other being;
Unforgettable Things to Do ...
Unforgettable Places to See ...
Unforgettable Journeys to Take ...
Unforgettable Islands to Escape to .... Read more!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Leave the hanger today! NEW Travel jobs feature

This weekly feature showcases top travel jobs, as selected by the Sandwagon. Read more!

Dubai Literature Festival - get bookish by the beach

The Market Focus of this year’s London Book Fair (at Earls Court) was The Arab World. So, as far as book trade exhibition stands go, the Middle Eastern publishers and representatives raised the bar, bringing along enough 7-star star showing off to distract passersby from even HarperCollins and Faber & Faber displays. Vast opulent stands with sexy silvery reception desks and seating with handy nibbles bore close resemblance to executive airport lounges: minimal, metallic, set off by soft hues and Arabic script in crisp typography. It proved that even a rented space in an exhibition hall could become a thing of beauty. Then again, throw money at most things and they assume a certain - if generic - sense of class.

Slightly less classy was 'my office' in the Arabic Deli, where I was handed a ticket to the launch of the new Dubai Literature Festival. Running from 25 Feb - 1 March 2009, Dubai hosts the inaugural Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) .

Authors confirmed to speak at the festival include;
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Paolo Coelho, Lynne Truss, Anne Fine, Jeremy Strong and Lauren Child. Other authors will be household names in genres such as fiction, children’s, lifestyle and sport.

I've yet to hear whether the festival will remain in Dubai or move around the Middle East, showcasing authors and destinations as it passes through. This said, even if Dubai plays host for one year only, it's a high profile cultural event that could - with the correct treatment - soften the city state's materialistic edges. But given the red carpet treatment, it could become just another show without substance.

Is Dubai trying to right its image as a culturally devoid playground for the rich and quasi-famous? Sure, it has culture - all the culture that money can buy in the form of visiting theatre groups, musicians et al. But all that we usually see from afar are the competitive hotels with gilded suites or snobby restaurants' gluttonous brunches.

This festival is a great addition to the scene and I’m sure that Dubai will profit richly from it. Read more!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008 - the best blogs right before your eyes

A while back on SandWagon, I was singing the praises of netvibes: a feedburner that displays all of the posts from travel blogs, the second that their authors hit PUBLISH. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that by keeping me up to speed with latest news across a myriad blogs (my daily doses range from the broadsheets online to the British Antarctic Survey's 'Penguin of the Day' posts) netvibes completely changed my professional life. I just added the URLs of my trusted blogs or news feeds, and the headlines magically appeared on my homepage. No more sieving sites for gems, no more did I rely on 'feelings' about the next emerging destination, and no longer was I oblivious to Ryanair's latest landing strip, in yet another corner of another foreign field.

But just as I thought netvibes made life in the travel media as easy as it could get, there came along a bunch of people from They've only gone and collected the top (in their opinion) travel blogs for you on one easy to view page (RSS feeds already set up and running). Bloody brill: a ready-made travel trends analysis tool at the click of an URL.

Enjoy! Click here for alltops ....

As a quick aside...I'm also very happy to say that the SandWagon has made it onto the top 60 sites that inform the page! Read more!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Bradt Guides/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2008

If - and I don't pretend to understand this - travel writing for the sheer joy of it doesn't come easily, I urge you to investigate this year's Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition. The prizes and the prestige of winning this competition should prove motivation enough for you to swallow any doubts and show your worth. Go on...let your mind wander, employ the setting sun as your muse and, balancing laptop on a wobbly bench overlooking the ocean or leaning your scrap paper on the coffee-stained drop down tray on the commuter train home, let your own brand of atmospheric prose flow.

I truly believe that the less intimidated you are by the established travel media the better. Become a counterfeit Bill Bryson or plastic Michael Palin and readers will skip your piece, finding more life in the tv listings.

Respect established travel writers, of course. They've spent lifelong careers inspiring and informing their readers; flying, sailing, walking and writing it all up. What's not to respect? But fresh travel writing talent is conceived of passion and a unique voice that challenges cliches, taking readers with them to the heaving or serene heart of a far flung field, festival or falaffel stall. No fluff or bubbles; this is travel writing and not holiday brochure copy writing.

Next thing you know, Hilary Bradt will be congratulating you on a fine piece of writing and the Independent is heralding you the new Louis Thereoux ... you'll soon be over run with commissions for articles and guidebooks. Enjoy your new life and buy me a beer when we're on that dream research trip to Fiji together!

Who's it for? Published and unpublished writers

Theme: 'The heart of the city'

Word count
is 800 words max.

First prize: a commission (a 1,200-word article for The Independent on Sunday) and a research trip (for two) to Kyrgyzstan

Prize for unpublished writers: a travel-writing course in the Spanish city of Granada, with Travellers' Tales

(get going!) noon, Friday 16 May 2008

Visit Bradt's website for the ins and outs

Read last year's winning article here Read more!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Top Travel Article - Sandwagon Inspired

This piece on river rafting in Sweden by Nick Thorpe caught my eye... something for the back-to-basic travellers amongst us.

Read the article here

To play Huck Finn for yourself contact Simply Sweden Simply Sweden's Raft Adventures Read more!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace

...but I wouldn't flog your back too much for ever being or still being a 'tourist'. All travellers were first tourist. I don't consider the appreciation of the planet and others' lifestyles that tourism opened my eyes to as loathsome.

Although to agree with Wallace, the thought of mass-market tourist cruise ships surging towards virgin Antarctica or around the Galapagos Islands leaves a distasteful, seasickness taste in my mouth.

Consider the Lobster (2005) is a collection of essays by novelist David Foster Wallace. It is also the title of one of the essays, which was published in Gourmet Magazine in 2004. Read more!