Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Quest for Adventure is Moving!

This will be the last post from The Quest for Adventure on Blogger as the blog is moving over to and changing name (slightly) to Questing for Adventure. This new platform gives us much more freedom, and you’ll already notice some cool changes – like being able to easily navigate to all the crazy trip ideas. And more upgrades are on their way.

For those of you who read Q4A’s feed rather than visiting the site, have no fear! Nothing will change for you. Thanks to Feedburner you’ll still get the feed like you do now without having to change a thing.

I hope you enjoy the new site!

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Still Worth It

A while back I noted that Intrepid Travel was running a sweepstakes for free trips. Looks like they are still doing the same promotion, just with a bit of a snazzier interface and a more narrow set of their trips. I know the odds are slip, but a chance at a free trip is well worth joining a mailing list if you ask me. But then again, I was on the mailing list anyway, so no skin off my back.

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Free Trippin

MSNBC Travel (of all places), has a good list of ways to roam for free. Their top 9 are

  1. House sit
  2. Trail maintenance volunteering
  3. Sister city exchanges
  4. Workamping (US specific)
  5. Driveaways
  6. Couchsurfing
  7. WWOOFing
  8. Rotary Club Scholarships
  9. Home swaps

Of these Couchsurfing and WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) are the most attractive to me. I haven’t done either, but I’ve met several people in the midst of long WWOOFing and Couchsurfing trips who were paying nearly nothing to roam the world. Damn good options if you are up for some vagabonding.

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Ryanair = Wal Mart?

I’d heard some rumors about Ryanair starting to run flights from NY to London, but this weekend brought even more news: they’ll be going from multiple US cities to multiple European cities.

Of course I’m excited for this news. I like Ryanair. I like that I get a cheaper flight if I don’t check a bag, check-in online, and can tolerate an airplane that has all non-advertising weight trimmed. But the news that they are spreading brings a nagging thought to me that they are turning into the Wal Mart of the skies – which would suck. Are they going to drive down quality and worker’s compensation and rights across the board?

I have enough traveler guilt knowing how much damage flying does to the environment. Do I also need to start worrying about flying an airline that will drive mom and pop carriers out of business and degrade the quality of air travel in general?

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Election Night

I’m a US political junkie, and it kills me that I’m going to be out of the US for my second US Presidential election in a row. I do take a little comfort though that I won’t be alone on election night, and there will be a pack of other people staying up till the wee hours to hear the results.

If you are abroad, and don’t know where you are spending tomorrow night yet, check out either Democrats Abroad or Republicans Abroad to get info on E-night parties. It is certainly going to be a night to remember, make sure you don’t miss it.

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Friday, 31 October 2008

The big value of small national airlines

Surinam747300.jpgThis piece is cross-posted at Flight Blogger.

The question was raised on a travel blog earlier this week about the necessity for small countries to operate airlines of their own. The question of justification came to the fore when looking at Surinam Airways, an unlikely country to have an airline, and whether or not a country with a gross domestic product of $2.4b should have (or needs) an airline of its own.

For nations large and small, rich and poor, civil aviation has been a vital tool to connect citizens with the world on its own terms.
"International aviation is thus not just another problem in a changing economic system, though it is that; international civil aviation is a serious problem in international relations, affecting the way governments view one another, the way individual citizens view their own foreign countries, and in a variety of direct and indirect connections and the security arrangements by which we live." - Andreas Lowenfeld

That quote, from a 1975 article in Foreign Affairs Magazine, inspired my senior thesis in College. The title was Aviation as Ambassador, not coincidentally the same name of the first post on FlightBlogger in 2007.

The historical Western global leadership in civil aviation in the first half of the last century has served as an example to all nations as a symbol of modernization and progress.

Civil aircraft (in both their development and operation) are symbols of power and prestige for nations. We need only look to the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 to see the impact these aircraft have had on the identity of the nations that operate them.

For the United States, the same year Charles Lindbergh flew non-stop from New York to Paris in 1927 (contrary to popular belief he was not the first to cross the Atlantic) Pan American Airways came into being as an airmail service between the Florida Keys and Havana, Cuba. With the relative protection of the US Government, which saw Pan Am as the "chosen instrument" for US travel abroad, the airline quickly became America's flag carrier. Later on in the century, Pan Am would become Boeing's launch customer for the 747.

The idea of a flag carrier in the US is somewhat outmoded though. Pan Am folded in 1991 and TWA in 2001 (merging with American Airlines). Today, we have Delta/Northwest, United, Continental, American and US Airways - so the idea of one airline representing the US abroad is foreign to Americans.

In the case of the US today, international air travel is a representation of the free market forces that enable such competition, multiple airlines competing with one another vying for the attention of the consumer. In the absence of one flag carrier, we find the identity of the United States. Though protectionist tendencies still abound with restrictions on foreign ownership and cabotage.

These same political motivations created (and protected) the airlines of the world's largest economies; Pan Am (defunct), Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and others are also found in smaller countries like Surinam.

For airlines like Surinam Airways, which operates a fleet of two aircraft, connecting its citizens to the world is an important representation of self-determination and modernization; profitability and operational effectiveness often falls by the wayside.

There are two sides to this coin. A national airline can carry both a positive and negative message about a country. As an extension of national identity, airlines can become a liability  in the event of an accident. Accident prone airlines like Garuda and other Indonesian carriers have found themselves blacklisted by the EU, unable to serve Europe causing  significant damage to the economic health of the nation.

Surinam Airways was founded in 1955 and became the national carrier when Surinam gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975. Today, the airline operates one Boeing 747-300 and McDonnell Douglas MD-82, both built in 1986 for long haul and regional routes respectively serving seven destinations in Europe, North America, the Carribean and South America.

The airline is as much a tool of economic development and tourism as much as it is a diplomatic symbol of Surinam touching down in countries around the world.

For the nations that don't hold significant economic sway, aviation is ambassador.

- Jon Ostrower

Photo credit: Pascalg_1991/Creative Commons License

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Thursday, 30 October 2008

On Lamu and Others

I ran into this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the tiny Swahili island off the Kenyan coast, Lamu. Now, I had the opportunity to visit Lamu twice during my stay in Kenya, and it is hands down one of my favorite places I have ever had the privilege of visiting. Lamu is easily the most unique place I have ever been to. While the Swahili island Zanzibar gets the name recognition and the tourists, Lamu and its culture has luckily been more preserved. No vehicles are allowed on the island, fishing is still the dominant way of life, and the locals are incredibly friendly.

Taking such pseudonyms as "California," "Captain Smiles," and even "Satan," the locals immediately offer to let you into their world. Late night bonfires on the beach, sketchily bought illegal palm wine, drumming five gallon buckets late into the Indian Ocean night--Lamu was one of a kind.

Photo: Me in one of the Lamu dhows

And this is why I suppose that reading the piece in the Philly Inquirer brought mixed emotions. For me, it always feels strange to read about another's travel experience that is similar to one of my own. Rarely do I think the narrator's account is spot-on; rather, I tend to view it in an over-critical eye. These feelings were just magnified when the account was about Lamu: "Oh, he is probably just stayed in an expensive hotel," or "I'm sure that he was just another one of those wazungu tourists who didn't even realize he was getting ripped off in the market every day."

I'm not sure exactly what causes this backwards negativity upon reading others' stories similar to my own--jealousy of the uniqueness of my own memories, unjustified pride in the quality of my own travelling experiences, nostalgia turned against itself--but it really isn't fair.

So here's to Mr. Steve Goldstein's fun times in Lamu. And may everyone else get the chance to enjoy that beautiful little island as well. I highly recommend it.

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