Tuesday, July 27, 2010

from the "whoops" dept.

I've been asking myself a series of life-related questions since arriving back in Vancouver. The top one is: "What was I thinking?"

Not in reference to coming to Vancouver but rather, moving to Edmonton. There's a chunk of my life I won't get back.

Anyway, Vancouver is tempting me with spectacular weather, cold beer and fresh salmon. To say nothing of the sushi, coffee and, well, everything else.

I'm now in full scheme mode -- trying to figure out how to move back here, live for next to nothing and find a steady income. These answers don't come easy.

But there should be some major news soon.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

from the "a long tramp" dept:

Are we there yet?

For no particular reason, here are the stats from my epic Edmonton-Vancouver drive on July 24, 2010 (all times in Mountain):

6:14 am - Downtown Edmonton 0 km
8:06 am - Edson, Alberta 200 km
9:00 am - Hinton, Alberta 286 km
9:21 am - Jasper (East Gate), Alberta 316 km
10:12 am - BC/Alberta border 393 km
10:56 am - Highway 5 / Highway 16 interchange 471 km
2:07 pm - Kamloops, BC (East) 792 km
3:25 pm - Merritt, BC 900 km
4:24 pm - Hope, BC 1021 km
4:59 pm - Chilliwack, BC 1076 km
5:14 pm - Abbotsford, BC 1104 km (brutal traffic on Hwy 1)
6:10 pm - Port Mann Bridge 1144 km
6:15 pm - Burnaby, BC 1152 km
6:22 pm - Vancouver 1163 km
6:25 pm - Second Narrows Bridge 1166 km
6:37 pm - West Vancouver (Fulton & 15th) 1181 km

Total time: 12:23
Total length - 1181
Average speed: 95.3701 km/h or 59.2602 mph

If not for the horrible traffic between Abbotsford and Burnaby, I could have shaved at least half an hour off my time. Still... a pretty good average.


Friday, July 23, 2010

from the "and so it begins" dept.

I'm moving. Slowly. And honestly, I'm not sure where I'm moving to.

I do know this: I'm driving a car full of crap from Edmonton to Vancouver. Or, more precisely, to my storage unit in Surrey.

Why? Because I'm not staying in Edmonton. That much is certain.

When I will leave for good and where I will go to is all up in the air. It could be: Australia, Belize, Nova Scotia, Guatemala, Mexico or Vancouver Island. Or none of these. Fate will likely decide. Or I'll have to actually choose.

But the Edmonton "adventure" is wrapping up. Soon, I'll have very little in the way of stuff here. The remaining bits -- chairs, cutlery, my George Foreman grill -- they're all headed to Calgary. Or the Sally Ann. Or the dump.

I'll save my parting shots for after I leave permanently. I wouldn't want to be run out of town just yet.

Next stop: Vancouver!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

From the Archives

Here's a radio feature I did on Kent Pandy, a children's television show host in Belize. It aired nationally in Canada on CBC Radio's Definitely Not The Opera.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

From the audo archives

I've been going through my creative archives and finding all sorts of treasure... like this:

It's a radio feature about shortwave radio in the digital age. It aired in Canada a few years ago on CBC's Definitely Not The Opera.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The End Justifies the Dreams

I've never been one to accept the status quo (at least for more than a year). Life is an adventure, and I intend to live it. And now that I have made my decision to leave Edmonton at the end of October, new opportunities are popping up like wild oats.

If you've been playing the home game, you know that there have been a lot of questions about my next steps. I've been asking those too.

The reason for the return to life unstructured is simple: Building passive income from internet based business. Wanderism.com is a start -- but there are many additional ideas to explore. It's too hard to be an entrepreneur while working full time. And now that I've devoured What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis, I'm inspired and focused and chomping at the bit.

And that leads us to the decision part: Where to next?

It is important to keep overhead low while I work on this internet stuff. There may be zero income for some time. A lot of sweat equity is required but the payoff will be huge: freedom.

After I leave Edmonton in the fall, I plan to go to Vancouver to get my ducks in a row. Address changes, storage sorting and meetings with business partners and internet gurus.

And then the options:

1. I'm waiting to hear if I'm the successful candidate for a gig authoring a guidebook about Belize. If I get it, I'll move to Belize for six months or so. Break out the One Barrel!

2. Return to San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala and/or Chiapas, Mexico. Both offer a great climate, interesting people and low overhead.

3. I've been asked to housesit in Australia (Brisbane). This is at the top of the list, but depends on what happens with the guidebook project.

4. Move back to West Africa to work on a roving news bureau. I see doing this in 2011, but it could be moved up.

5. Make Halifax my base of Canadian operations next spring.

So: Lots of options. Some compatible with each other. Some that require serious long term commitment.

Options are good. They make life interesting. And, once November rolls around, I'll be ready to start living life again -- this time with a wad of cash tucked in my jeans.

Remember: You have but one life to live. Follow your bliss -- it won't steer you wrong.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Photo of the Day: July 6, 2010

No Photo!: Kosovo
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

This is the last "photo of the day" for a while.

The idea began as a way to encourage/force me to take a fresh picture every day while living here in Edmonton. Sadly, I realized that to be an impossible task. So, I began raiding my archives.

Recently, it was pointed out to me that without a description of what the photo was about -- some context -- that the idea fell flat. I agree. It also became a bit of a pain in the ass.

So, from this point on I will only post photos when they're fresh and new and I have time to write some relevant text.

I'll start posting photos of the day when I'm living abroad again.

And this photo? It's of my Dutch pal Harry ten Veen looking at a no photo sign in Kosovo. We were there in 2005.

CONTEXT: Harry reads the sign, while I ignore it, thinking that a series called "No Photo!" would be fun. Of course, it is also somewhat of a challenge. This shot was taken at the Kosovo-Macedonia border crossing. I got caught too. UN Mission in Kosovo folk weren't pleased. But they didn't keep the camera or card. Suppose that's why they're called Peace Keepers.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

How To Be A Travel Writer

How To Be A Travel Writer:

There are lots of books, e-books, courses and seminars that claim to tell you how to be a travel writer. Some are good. Some are a waste of money. But, for absolutely no cost, I'll tell you the secrets you need to know so that you too can make money while traveling.

I won't go into a long-winded story about my past. But I will tell you this: I get paid for my words and images and so can you. You want proof? Here's a sample of my work: online, in print, photos, and more.

So let's get started!

1. Talent - You need to be able to write well. Period. This is something you can't fake. And if you don't have a good handle on the English (or any) language, you will not be successful. If you want to improve, I suggest taking a creative writing course and reading Strunk & White's The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition. That book is your bible. Read it. Know it. Live it.

2. Read - Read travel writing online, in newspapers, and travel literature. Get a library card and read everything you can. What do you like? What moves you? Emulate that.

3. Style - You need to have a style. Whether it's nuts-and-bolts or flowery prose. Hone your style. Become the king of your style. And you can have more than one!

4. Practice - Just write. Write about your town. Someone you know. Get a feel for color and structure. Does it makes sense? Do you like it? Let others read what you've written. Do they like it? Why? Do they hate it? Why? But don't be too critical! You're likely your own worst enemy when it comes to reviewing your material. I never read anything after it's been published. Why? Because I always feel I could have made it better. And once it's out there -- it's out there! Let it go!

5. Travel - You don't have to go far, but you have to go. And then witness things. Make notes. I use a pad and a portable audio recorder. Be meticulous. Take pictures. These can add extra dollars to potential sales if the quality is good enough. A small digital camera helps with note taking too: Photograph signs, names, menus. You'll thank me later!

6. Write - Luckily for you, almost anything can be a story. I've written about Chernobyl and Karaoke in Belize. But do you could write about a local museum or event.

7. Markets - Ah, selling! This is the tough part. These days it's getting harder to find buyers. But they do exist and you can make a living as a writer -- but it takes work. A lot of work. You have to think about your writing as a business. Target your piece to the relevant publisher. Don't send a story on golfing to a surfing magazine. To find markets you can buy the latest 2010 Writer's Market Deluxe (Writer's Market Online) or create your own list. That's what I did.

I spent several weeks combing through the internet in search of every English language newspaper in the world -- and for the email address of their travel/feature editors. Once I had that, I was able to send out query letters with machine-like precision. My goal isn't to sell the list, but since it took so much time (and really, our time is all we have to sell -- whether we're writers, engineers or nuclear physicists) to create, that I think it's only fair to be compensated. This is a business, remember! If you're interested, just drop me a note.

If you know another language, why not pitch publications in that language as well. And, don't forget that if you know people who speak different languages, you can hire them to help you translate your story. The more markets, the more money.

8. Sell-Sell-Sell - If you're just starting out, I've got some bad news. You'll likely have to write on spec(ulation). What does this mean? You work (write) and then pitch your completed story in the hopes that someone will buy it. Eventually you'll get to the point where your portfolio speaks for itself and you can just pitch ideas to editors. Writing on spec isn't necessarily a bad thing. It'll help you practice your craft and hone your skills. I know that Wanderism.com is always looking for travel pieces. They don't pay (yet), but they do give you a venue for your work. Email Wanderism.

Sometimes you'll be offered a low price. That may be disheartening, but it doesn't have to be. If you sell the rights to your piece for one-time only and to a restricted geographical area -- you can sell the same stories multiple times. My Chernobyl story? I made $3000 by selling it several times. My mantra is simple: Do something once, sell it many times.

9. Tools - I almost need a page dedicated to good travel writer kit. If you're on the road, keep it basic. I recommend: A notebook. A good pen. A digital voice recorder. A good, compact, tough point and shoot camera. A laptop (I prefer Macs on the road). And, because you can't write all the time, a Kindle!

That's it! And you can likely leave the laptop at home.

10. Benefits - Being a travel writer sounds like a lot of hard work. It is. Period. And you likely will never become rich doing it. But there are loads of benefits:

- Free Travel: Once you're established, you can often join junkets provided by airlines, resorts, hotels. The catch is that you have to write about your experiences on the junket. Are you selling your soul? Not if you're honest!

- More Free Stuff: Armed with your business card and portfolio, the words "Do you host travel writers?" can open many doors -- especially hotels -- for free! Don't make promises you can't keep. Do tell them you're researching. You'd be surprised by how friendly the tourism industry is to writers these days.

- Fame, Fortune and Romance: Heck, you're a travel writer! Enjoy it!

Best of luck with your endeavors... keep me posted on your progress!

Photo of the Day: July 4, 2010

July 4, 2010
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Taking Liberty. NYC.

Friday, July 02, 2010