Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Twitchhiker

Big hats off to Paul Smith, a.k.a. the Twitchhiker. This creative traveler has taken online social networking to new heights—or should I say, to faraway places. Whatever the proper wording for the metaphor, this guy is my new travel hero.

Harnessing the social power of Twitter, Smith set out to travel from his home in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK to a small island off the coast of New Zealand (the exact opposite side of the globe) within 30 days. The rules for his expedition: he had to travel strictly via free offers of travel and accommodation that he received from other Twitter users; he could only make plans less than three days in advance; and if he received no offers within 48 hours, he would have to return home.

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it's a microblogging site where users post very brief messages about whatever they're doing at any given moment (as those of you who use Facebook do when you update your status). Smith set out on March 1, and he's already in New Zealand. Simply astounding. And proof positive of the sense of community that social networking sites like Twitter create.

Read more about his story; it's quite impressive.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Join the "Stricklandia" community

I'm having a bit of writer's block tonight, so instead of writing about travel, I'll write about this travel blog—or, more specifically, its readers. In a word: You.

This blog doesn't enjoy a huge readership, but I can tell from the traffic data that I have a fairly loyal daily audience. Yet most of you remain quiet; it's uncommon that one of you posts a comment to a posting. Which is unfortunate, because blogs are not simply a virtual soapbox for people to self-publish their ramblings. The hallmark of a good blog is the creation of a community, an ongoing dialogue between its author and audience.

So I welcome, encourage, entreat you to join the conversation. I hope you enjoy reading this blog, but even more, I hope you consider interacting with it. Post a comment if I write about something you care about or have an opinion to share. Better still, if someone else posts a comment, jump in and keep the discussion going.

I'll kick-start things by asking a question: How are you dealing with the pain of air travel this year? Packing light? Buying tickets far in advance? Not traveling by plane at all?


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fodors travel forums: pure online travel gold

The Fodors travel forums are a gem among online travel references. The site offers different forums for every major region in the world, and the community that visits and communicates in these forums is huge, active and vocal. If you have a question on virtually any travel-related topic, you can either find an answer with a quick and easy search of the forums, or you can post your question and get 10 answers in as many minutes. It's like having thousands of knowledgeable friends at your disposal at any hour to answer whatever question you may have.

But watch yourself: these "Fodorites" aren't just overflowing with knowledge—they're also full of opinions, and they aren't bashful about sharing them. Nor are they shy about putting you in your place, whether or not you're deserving of their frequent scoldings. They'll just as soon tell you that your itinerary is all wrong or that you should have searched the site instead of posting a frequently asked question as they will offer advice or help you find that cheap hotel or great restaurant.

No matter the idiosyncrasies of some of the Fodorites, though, the forums are pure gold when it comes to travel research. Just take care in how you present yourself and what you say—which I suppose is good advice for any traveler in a strange land.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards

TripAdvisor is one of my favorite travel sites, and I never book a hotel stay without first reading reviews on that site (though I sometimes have to keep a few grains of salt handy while reading).

This week, TripAdvisor published their 2008 Travelers' Choice Destinations Awards (download PDF), in which they named the top 100 world destinations (and the top 25 for every region) based on reviews from their site.

Such lists are always subjective—my own top 100 list would certainly look different (I would not have placed Charlotte Amalie in the #6 spot, for example!). But I still found myself going through the list, counting how many I'd been to (25 of the 100, which I guess is pretty good). And reaching the end, I had mentally added a few new destinations to my "top 100" wish list.

How many of these places have you been to? What destination not on the list should have made the cut?

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

33 of the best dive sites in the world

I recently came across an online collection of "33 of the best diving sites in the world." Of course, as most seasoned divers know, any list that claims to feature the "best" dive sites should be served with a grain of sea salt. Such claims are subjective, and the "best" dives are almost always made memorable by the marine life that you see—which is never the same from dive to dive. (Though I was gratified to see that Catalina Island made the list.)

Nevertheless, this list serves as a passport for the armchair diver to virtually travel to these 33 dive sites, so for that reason alone, it's definitely worth a visit. For any divers reading this blog, what site do you think should have been on this list?

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is Arthur Frommer getting senile?

I saw Arthur Frommer at last weekend's Travel Show. While he's getting up there in years, he seemed mentally sharp as ever. But while browsing the travel blogosphere this morning, I came across something that made me wonder: is Arthur Frommer getting senile?

In his blog, Frommer asks his readership to explain the attraction of travel to Dubai—specifically, why anyone would want to visit: "What reason is there for vacationing in Dubai? ... What does one do there?" He also comments on the restriction of certain freedoms in Dubai, as if to suggest that's reason enough not to visit.

A few lines down, one of his readers offers the brilliant reply "
Ask the editors of 'Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel.' They had a big article on it a couple of years ago." I did a quick Google search, and sure enough, Frommer's magazine published at least two articles on Dubai in the last few years, in 2005 and 2007.

After I stopped laughing, I thought about why Frommer would post such a blog article. He's nearly 80 and is a travel writing superstar, so I can't imagine he has much day-to-day oversight over the travel publications that bear his name. Still, I can't imagine why someone in full possession of their mental faculties would write something that makes themselves look so dumb. It would be like Jim Cramer recommending a specific stock, and then later asking his readers/viewers "Why would anyone own this stock?"

So I ask again: is Arthur Frommer getting senile?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Travel podcasts

Podcasts—digital programs (typically audio) made available online for free download to your computer or iPod, usually by syndication/subscription—are nothing new. But it wasn't until recently that I started checking out the many travel podcasts available on the internet. Now I spend my time on the subway exploring the world.

You can find hundreds (thousands?) of hours of free programming on just about any travel topic or destination. Here are my brief impressions of some of the more popular podcasts: podcasts consists of in-studio interviews with experts, and you'll get the same quality of information you can expect from their guidebooks. What I've found most useful about these podcasts is the range of topics they cover; rather than focus on profiling destinations, the programs discuss the latest travel news and issues, which is a great way to stay informed.

By comparison, most Lonely Planet podcasts feature profiles of travel destinations, and most are recorded on location. The mix of on-the-scene interviews and polished sound effects adds so much color that you almost feel like you're watching instead of just listening. Check these out if you've got a trip planned and want some in-depth info on your destination.

Europe-on-a-shoestring expert Rick Steves offers several types of podcasts. As the Europe expert that he is, his Italy and France walking tours podcasts are the highlight: you can download these programs to your iPod and take Rick along as a virtual guide. He also podcasts his radio show, and recent programs cover such non-Europe destinations as Nicaragua, South Africa and Afghanistan. Like podcasts, the format typically features interviews of experts.

Rough Guides podcasts mostly feature interviews of guidebook authors, and provide additional information about the topic of the authors' books. While these can be valuable if you're interested in that particular destination or topic, they can sometimes be a bit dry.

Finally, if you're looking for a podcast that will virtually take you away to a destination, Travel in 10 does just that. These 10-minute podcasts are recorded as if you're right there with the host, and provide a wealth of information on a particular destination. It's almost too much information; I sometimes found myself disoriented, wanting to see what the host was talking about.

Travel podcasts mentioned in this posting: | Lonely Planet | Rick Steves | Rough Guides | Travel in 10


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

jetBlue now serving LAX

jetBlue has long been serving the Greater Los Angeles area with flights to/from Long Beach Airport, but they just started flying to/from LAX—and are offering some pretty decent fares to promote this new service.

The airline also offers some cool city guides on their website that include crewmember blogs and recommendations for "best" things to do. Currently, they offer guides for New York, Houston, Orlando, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.


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