vicarious travel - photography and narratives
July 8, 2003 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Photos by Martin - a gem of a site for vicarious travelers, it features wonderful, charming photos and fascinating stories from a guy who quit his job three years ago to travel the world. He credits global photojournalist Steve McCurry as an influence. I am such a fan of these photo travel narratives, professional and amateur alike - has anyone else discivered some special favorites?
posted by madamjujujive (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These aren't all photo driven but contain great photos none the less.

Let Me Stay For A Day - he's currently in Canada.
WalkingTom - on hiatus, but good archives.
BikeBrats - finished, but spent several years biking around the world.
posted by wackybrit at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2003

Oh, and.. good post. Very lush images. And this story really highlights why Africa has major health problems.
posted by wackybrit at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2003

excellent post, madam. a few favorites: 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:56 PM on July 8, 2003

...I'd be interested, personally, in how he could afford three years off. I just completed a one year trip, and it put the hurt on my finances (which I knew it would).
posted by aramaic at 8:10 PM on July 8, 2003

and obviously, the guy's not married and has no kids. I have to admit, I'm more than a bit jealous.
posted by crunchland at 8:33 PM on July 8, 2003

Depends on how nice you want to live during travel time. For instance, I had no trouble living off of $1000 for four months in Asia, (not including airfare), and that includes getting some souveniers. You just have to balance safety with adventure, and throw convenience out the door. For instance, you can fly from Bangkok to Siem Riep in Cambodia for $200, or you can go on the back of a pickup truck and drive across abysmal roads for 8 hours for $4.

Remember, as long as you stay out of the major cities, most people you'll run into live on very meager sums and will be happy to take some hard currency to help you out. Though, a lot of the time a friendly smile and a few cigarettes will get you a lot farther than your greenbacks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:34 PM on July 8, 2003

Just as an aside, for those of you thinking about extended travel: one of the smartest decisions I made was to get a limited power of attorney for someone who was staying at home. saved my ass, because they had the legal authority to sort out certain financial matters that arose unexpectedly. I registered the power of attorney agreement with my bank, who therefore allowed my proxy to sign things, deposit funds in my account, etc. without having to fax nine million forms back and forth across the world at inconvenient hours.

Of course, you have to be careful: an evil person with a POA agreement can destroy you.
posted by aramaic at 9:12 PM on July 8, 2003

Amazing post madam. I love traveling vicariously through others. Now all I need is a better digital camera, a ticket and a destination. Chile looks good right about now.
posted by damclean2 at 9:14 PM on July 8, 2003

[this is good] - thanks madamjujujive!
For an interesting book with some travel photographs (but mostly anecdotes), I can recommend 'Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden' by Tim Moore. Moore was a Vietnam War photographer and the book is about his return to Vietnam and Cambodia.
posted by plep at 9:25 PM on July 8, 2003

Also Peter Moore. He's a travel writer who has done an overland trip from London to Sydney, as well as across Africa and Central America, and his site has some good galleries.
posted by plep at 9:27 PM on July 8, 2003

Overland from London to Sydney! Now that's incredible!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:47 PM on July 8, 2003

He didn't quite manage it - he had to get a short flight from Timor to Darwin because there weren't any boats. But yes, quite an achievement (and he claims it cost him a couple of thousand pounds...)
posted by plep at 1:14 AM on July 9, 2003

aramaic: Interesting. I can have anyone deposit funds and checks into my bank account in the UK. Of course, they can't take any out, but the bank couldn't care less who's putting the funds in, as long as they've got my 'Paying In' book.

whalecock: How did you get lodgings on such a budget? I find that lodgings tend to run up over 50% of the budget, unless you strike lucky.
posted by wackybrit at 5:47 AM on July 9, 2003

aramaic, a year is pretty impressive - where did you go? I agree with Civil_Disobedient, although one thing or another usually keeps me from hitting the road as often as I'd like. Seems like when I have the time I don't have the money, and vice versa.

Some Mefi members have had interesting travels that they've logged - here are a few I've discovered:
quarsan living in Tanzania and building a website for a small village; carter visiting Ladakh and observing the construction of mandalas at Buddhist monasteries;
rory recording his impressive global travels in Walking West; and plep has recorded an impressive array of travel.
(thanks for the links wackybrit and plep!)
posted by madamjujujive at 6:32 AM on July 9, 2003

Wacky: Heh.

But to answer your question: generally the trend around the world (at least, around the third world) is that the cheaper the accomodation, the more you can bargain. It's a nice bit of reverse capitalism, I guess. Stay out of heavily touristed areas unless you have to, because while backpacker havens will certainly abound, they'll also be extremely consistant in their pricings. For instance, in Bangkok your cheapest options if you want to be inside the city are, unfortunately, Kho Sahn Road, which is just the most awful, wretched place if you're trying to get a feel for the Thai culture. There are a few other options (in the "Chinatown" area near the water, surrounded by what I recall to be hundreds of auto-shop scrap places, for instance, there was a pretty nice hotel that cost only a bit more than Kho Sahn, and was very, very nice).

Indonesia is another example of this trend. If you stay in Kuta, Bali, your options are large, but there seems to be almost a collusion among the guesthouses to never lower their prices to reasonable amounts. But go just an hour outside the city (e.g. - Padangbai), and you can negotiate down to 20,000 a night for a nice bungalow on the beach (provided you stay more than a day, which you'll want to). That's about US$2.50 a night.

Move to more remote areas, however, and watch the prices fall. In Cambodia, we got guest accomodations in a pretty decent place that offered all the marijuana you could smoke for free as an added incentive. The cost: US$2.00 / night. In Laos, the figure goes down even more, but not in Vientienne, since it's the capital and just across the Thai border. Just remember to keep bargaining, be prepared to walk away, be polite, but firm, and above all, try to do the negotiations in the native tongue. I can't stress this enough. It's not very difficult to learn a few basic words like "how much" and the numbers in any language. Take three hours to learn these two things and you'll open up a whole new world. Also, take local transport whenever possible (with the exception of Thailand, which has great public transport, and Indonesia, which has the reliable Parama bus line).

To give you an example of proper negotiations, I will regail you with an anecdote from Yogykarta, Indonesia. My friend and I needed to get from the main city to the absurdly named "central bus station" -- located a couple of miles outside the city. It's a hundred degrees and wet as a Thai whore, and we've got thirty pounds on our backs. We decide to take a bechak (a bicycle-powered version of the tuk-tuk), since it's the cheapest option. There are literally hundreds of bechak drivers just loitering around, but none of them would give us a ride for less than 10,000 rupiah (it should cost about 2-3,000). Of course, they'd be glad to give us a two hour tour of the city, which would inevitably involve trips to their brother's silver shop and their uncle's sarong shop (where we would be forced to endure the hard sell). I kept declining the "three hour tour" and pressing for the bus station, when my friend had a novel approach. He walked up to a driver and said:

"How much for a tour of the city."

At which point the driver's eyes opened wide with delight. "Oh, for you special price, only 3,000 rp!"

"Great. Now, we just want to go to bus station. How much for that."

And the guy was stuck. He knew that we knew that he had no options, since to price the bus station more would be to admit that 3 hours of grueling work pedalling our asses around is somehow more economically adventagous to him than a 15 minute ride. The funny thing was, his friends were near and started laughing. He looked down so dejectedly and said, "Uh, 10,000 rp." At which point we all started cracking up, because the jig, as they say, was up. Another driver who heard this thought it so funny how we had tricked him that he offered us a ride for 2,000 rp.

The moral is, just because people are living in poverty doesn't mean they're stupid. You have to be pretty crafty in your negotiations, but be persistant and polite, and remember that saving face is a big part of the Asian culture.

Hope this helps...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:38 AM on July 9, 2003

Another follow-up anecodote I just remembered about Yogykarta.

Sometimes Coke is safer than water, so I used to buy these 1-liter bottles for walking around each day (cheap calories, and it keeps you going in the heat). Now, every day I would go to the same shop where the same guy would sell me the same sized bottle of Coke. And every day, without exception, I had to negotiate to get the right price. I mean, I'm the same guy from yesterday, but that didn't matter. And it was at first very frustrating for me -- I mean, this isn't native art we're haggling over, it's a friggin' bottle of Coke. And every day we'd end up at the same amount -- 8,000 rp. (a dollar). Every day we'd go through this little rhetorical dance.

Anyway, one day that was particularly hot, the guy simply wouldn't budge from 10,000 rp. See, they know it's hot, they know you just want to taste that cold, sweet nectar of the Gods. And I was ademate: no way I was paying anything over 8,000 rp. I finally told him, "Look, you know me, I'm the same guy who comes in at the same time, every day for the past week, to get the exact same thing. I know how much it costs. Just give me the Coke." So he looks down, then looks back up at me and says, "Ok."

He goes back into the store, and comes back with a bottle. Then he says, "Oh, did you want one that's cold?"

We both just stared at each other for a second, then started laughing our asses off. He got me, fair and square. I happily paid the 10,000 rp., and from that moment on, I looked at every bargaining session in a whole new light. It's like a game, and should be played, won, or lost as such. If it's hot outside, that's a point against you. If you don't ask in the native language, that's another point against you, because now this person has to speak in your language, and thus you lose face. Play the game well, and be sure to have fun.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:51 AM on July 9, 2003

Excellent stories, I really enjoyed these. I don't really have any experience in non-Western cultures, travel-wise, so it's interesting to hear.

It sounds like economics is really played at the base level in some of those places. If they think more people will want Coke (because it's hot out) then they'll charge more for it. If it was a rainy day, they'd accept less. Economics is, after all, the best form of rationing.. so I'm all for it!
posted by wackybrit at 8:18 AM on July 9, 2003

Excellent anecdotes, C_D. Thanks.

(and great post, too!)
posted by jammer at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2003

Great site, madamj, and thank you to everyone in this thread - look forward to checking out all these sites. I used to go on extended trips around the world too - 6 months at a time. Man, I miss those days sometimes. Though I have finally found my home and put down roots, which is what was always missing. Now I'll just have to figure out how to combine the two.
posted by widdershins at 10:42 AM on July 9, 2003

Just a note: the author of Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden is Tim Page, not Moore. Thanks plep!
posted by letitrain at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2003


Thanks letitrain. Obviously I had Moore on the mind ;).
posted by plep at 11:53 PM on July 9, 2003

Personally, I'm a fan of Max, who seems to be on a permanent vacation from reality, or is it the other way around? ...vacation to reality? I'm confused. Never mind.
posted by thisisdrew at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2003

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