The departures terminal at the Tel Aviv airport

Filmmaking Essentials: The Fixer Upper, Part II

When last we met…
The idea of engaging in the services of a fixer immediately conjures up images of dark alleys, shady men in overcoats and whispers of “Psst, hey buddy.” Or at least, what for me is the definitive shady character of my youth:

It all seams a little on the seamy side. I mean, what, after all, is so tricky for a filmmaker that it requires a professional to grease wheels, palms and anything else that is on first inspection, more than a little squeaky?
Turns out, there are Continue reading “Filmmaking Essentials: The Fixer Upper, Part II”

Counterintuitive Travel Tips

Counterintuitive Travel Tips

Counterintuitive travel tips can save your trip.

I love travel advice that goes against conventional wisdom. Going against the grain is, after all, part and parcel of the travel gig… At least, it is if you’re doing it right. Yes, see the sights that are the hallmark of a city or region, but if you’re not making room for the unknown or the counterintuitive, what’s the point of leaving home?

Counterintuitive Travel tips
Check these tips before you jet off to your next adventure

I call this the RendezvousSyndrome, and it comes from the time when I worked in Memphis. Everyone visiting Continue reading “Counterintuitive Travel Tips”

Blindness 101: Essential Reading

I have to admit I’ve never felt much buy-in when it comes to the idea of inspiration, or at least the inspiration business. What was the phrase Eisenhower coined? The military-industrial complex? Call this the inspiration-motivational complex. There is, really, a large industry built upon motivating one group of people to be inspired by another. This has real and often unfortunate consequences and one of them is an unintended victimization. This TED talk illustrates exactly what I’m talking about.

That video was one of the reasons why, when I was invited to deliver a TED talk of my own, I went to great lengths to make sure that it was not an “inspirational” speech. I invite you to Continue reading “Blindness 101: Essential Reading”

Essential travel tips
Essential travel tips

5 Essential Travel Tips I Learned From A Blind Guy

I take my essential travel tips wherever I find them. I just finished reading one of the most fascinating travel biographies I have ever had the good fortune to come across. While planning my next trip as part of my documentary, a friend of mine recommended a book he described as essential reading. The book is A Sense of the World, by Jason Roberts, and I can now wholeheartedly recommend it to other travelers as well.

Essential travel tips
Take your essential travel tips wherever you find them as you traverse the world

I will warn you that this book has absolutely no information about the minutia of 21st century travel., but what can you expect when the subject of the book is a man who was born in 1786? James Holman is one of the world’s great travelers, though, and the fact there was no online booking system, no frequent flier program… hell, there wasn’t even a telegraph network when Holman first set out on his circumnavigation of the world… it hardly makes his essential travel tips any less essential, and should not dissuade you from absorbing this book into your travel planning. At the very least, make a few spare inches for it in your pack, or clear out a few megabytes on your Kindle and read it in your downtime.

You should also not let the fact that Holman was completely blind get in your way. After all, he didn’t.

If you are under any preconceptions that a blind traveler, a blind solo travelers has to be a joke, a myth or at the very least an exaggeration, the book goesto great lengths to document the fact that this was a man who not only broke down barriers, he broke them first. Holman accomplished feats as a traveler that were not duplicated by fully sighted expats until years afterward. We have to remember that in the mid nineteenth century, when Holman, blinded by what we would now call uveitis, his life had largely been considered over. His career as a naval leftenant in the Royal Navy had been cut short by the onset of his blindness, as well as almost crippling rheumatism.. This was a different era, to say the least. If we think it’s difficult to be blind today, it was remarkably difficult then. Braille had not yet been devised as a means of writing or reading. Blindness itself was still considered by many people a punishment from God for sins known and unknown. Even the invention of the long white cane did not happen until years after Holman’s death.

However, Holman had another disease that is familiar to many of us today, and I’m of course referring to the travel bug. Over the course of his life, Holman traveled unassisted, to more than 400 destinations around the world. He traveled alone through China, West Africa and Siberia, not knowing the languages of most of the regions he traveled through and having no access to anything resembling mass transit, let alone speedy travel, he was a best selling author who rode horses, navigated the jungles of  South America and once steered a sinking ship to shore.

Are there essential travel tips to learn from James Holman? Quite a bit, and the lessons apply to travelers of any age.

Essential travel tips from a blind traveler

1. Don’t let money stand in your way

This is one of those essential travel tips that should be timeless. Isn’t this the number one reason armchair travelers never leave the armchair? We want to travel in just the right way. We create meticulous budgets. We  calculate airfare and hotel room costs, exchange rates and shopping sprees. I would urge you to consider the fact James Holman’s annual salary was 84 British pounds per year. That’s roughly $12,000 a year in today’s U.S. dollars, not even what you would make with a minimum wage job. Holman, quite simply, did not have a lot of money.  What he had was an urge to travel the world

2. Figure it out as you go

Another problem that didn’t seem to bother the Blind Traveler, as Holman even called himself (it’s on his gravestone, so I’m pretty sure he was ok with it), was the details of the itinerary. I was surprised to read that when Holman set out for Russia and the Siberian interior, with the intent of crossing over to Mongolia and then China en route to the upper reaches of North America, he had no idea exactly how, or even if, he would get across the border. Balancing itinerary with random inspiration – it’s one of those essential travel tips that should always be on your mind.

Do yourself a favor – do your best to make sure you get started, and use a pencil instead of a pen for your plans. I’m not saying buying a one-way ticket or traveling without a map is always the best idea, but you don’t get a river named after you (as Holman did) by planning it in advance. Just sayin’…

3. Don’t be afraid of travel failure

That first circumnavigation attempt via Siberia? Kaput. Holman was forced by the Tsar himself to turn back. Tsar Alexander even sent one of his personal emissaries to fetch Holman and all but drag him back across Russia’s western border, thanks to efforts to conceal military activity near the eastern border in Kamchatka into what is now Alaska.  Holman’s response? In a slightly more modern vernacular, he picked himself up, dusted himself off… and figured out another way.

I’ve found over the years that the best travel stories don’t happen when everything goes right. Deadheading it across New Zealand in a driving rainstorm to catch the last ferry to the South Island all because we had to find out why central New Zealand farmers put up competing signs to sell you quality… excuse the earthiness here… pony poo? Worth it. Finding yourself in a backwoods hotel room with flickering electricity during an unexpected blizzard after you realize you left your snow chains in Astoria? It happens. Taking a bunk in a crowded Flagstaff hostel because it’s the only place with a mattress after you stroll into town late one January nigh? Well, you just might meet an Ingrid Bergman lookalike in the communal kitchen. And that’s as far as I’m going with that story, thank you very much.

4. Notice everything

I completely trust a blind guy for this advice. Holman missed every sunset, had to have every painting described to him and never read a foreign newspaper. I venture to say, though, he breathed in everything the world has to offer regardless. I wager it’s not that the other senses took over as much as he paid attention to them that much more. Holman’s books and notes are filled with references to descriptive passages of experiences so vivid, you’l be forgiven if you think they must have been experienced by someone else. How he learned to do this is something I want you to experience for yourself through reading the book.

5. Don’t let anyone say you can’t

Of all the essential travel tips that apply to the spirit of adventure, this is the biggie. It saddens me that the one consistency in Holman’s life, and it’s one of the few similarities between Holman’s time and our own, was a steady stream of people who told him he could not, should not, must not attempt his travels. however, I find it even more encouraging that there were a great many of his friends, colleagues and admirers who essentially said, “why not?” I think this is the one truism of any age, whether it’s the 19th or the 21st century. The people who say you can’t are usually the same people who say they wouldn’t. We travelers are the ones who say that we’re going to get up and get out.

Two weeks before writing this post, I had no idea who James Holma was. Today, he’s one of my great inspirations.

I invite you to read the book about Holman’s travels, and also to check out my web series to find out why I’m so inspired by Holman’s example.

Road Trip Soundtrack solutions: Keeping The Whole Car Happy

Creating a road trip soundtrack that makes everyone in the car happy must seem like the fool’s gold of the road trip treasure hunt. I’m here to tell you how I found the measure map. As Edgar Allen Poe might have did, it was hidden in plain sight.

Creating a road trip soundtrack
If you’re going to hit the road, creating a road trip soundtrack is the extra ingredient that makes the experience even better.

The Great American Road Trip is part myth, part tradition, part legend. Woven into the fabric of our nation the road trip serves a multitude of purposes and can be inspired by any number of events. It can be as simple as a family vacation or Continue reading “Road Trip Soundtrack solutions: Keeping The Whole Car Happy”