Toronto high-school students have been visiting the USA since their inception; I remember my own high-school trips to Buffalo's Albright Knox gallery warmly. But they are a relic of the past, because the Toronto District School Board will not risk harassment and worse of its students at the US border, where people born to Arab or Muslim families, or in majority-Muslim families, report widespread discrimination. Read the rest
We spent hours upon hours driving, walked on hundreds of beaches, Watched nearly every sunrise and sunset as well as ate a whole lot of tinned food! 35,000km later we were back where we started, the big lap complete! Here is just a small selection of the photographs I took along the way as memories.
Bonus video: Catherine Lawson and David Bristow take newborn Maya all the way around Highway 1.
A huge coalition of human rights groups, trade groups, civil liberties groups, and individual legal, technical and security experts have signed an open letter to the Department of Homeland Security in reaction to Secretary John Kelly's remarks to House Homeland Security Committee earlier this month, where he said the DHS might force visitors to America to divulge their social media logins as a condition of entry. Read the rest
China's nightmarish "citizen scores" system uses your online activity, purchases, messages, and social graph to rate your creditworthiness and entitlement to services. One way your score can be plunged into negative territory is for a judge to declare you to be a bad person (mostly this happens to people said to have refused to pay their debts, but it's also used to punish people who lie to courts, hide their assets, and commit other offenses). Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking first-hand reports of travellers being asked to divulge their social media habits by US border guards (beyond the optional field on the ESTA form) (email email@example.com); meanwhile, ACLU urges travellers to stay on the customs/immigration side and let them know if people are being detained (Tweet @nobanjfk). Read the rest
Randal Munroe nails it again in an XKCD installment that expresses the likelihood that your houseguests will be able to connect to your wifi (I confess to having been the "firmware" guide -- but also, having been reminded to do something about my own firmware when other difficult houseguests came to stay). Read the rest
The five Volkswagen executives who were criminally charged in the USA for their role in the Dieselgate scandal have been advised not to travel to the USA because they are liable to arrest there: they've also been told that leaving Germany is risky because they might be arrested and extradited to the USA. Read the rest
I enjoy Lithuanian travel vlogger Jacob Laukaitis' YouTube videos. He travels around the world and makes videos like this one about the ruins of Hampi, India, which was once the second most populous city in the world:
And this one of Khari Baoli in New Delhi, the largest spics market in Asia:
Recently, Jacob was hit by a drunk driver in Thailand and broke several bones in his face. His medical insurance company refused to pay the bill until it started getting negative publicity on social media, after which it agreed to pay the $10,000 bill. Lucky for Jacob he has a lot of social media followers to help him out. Jacob said he's heard from other people insured by the same company who have been denied medical coverage.
I'd be interested in learning from readers about the travel insurance companies they use, and whether they've had positive experiences. I've used TravelGuard (AIG) a couple of times, but have not needed compensation for anything, so I can't vouch for it. Read the rest
There are many options for touring Alta Guajira, the northernmost part of Colombia (and of South America), but overlanding in your own vehicle is definitely choice. The only rub is that many of the roads aren't really roads so much as they are just the tracks of the last vehicle that passed through, and not necessarily in the direction you're headed. So, navigation is tricky for a local, and nigh impossible for a visitor.
The various paths that lead to Punta Gallina are unpaved, rocky, and cut through a desert with infamously muddy patches that cars can be stuck in for up to a week. And driving through it during rainy season, as we did, can be especially treacherous.
We had a bit of "luck" on our side, if you can call it that. Unfortunately, the Guajira region has been subject to a five year long drought, making the difficult life of the Wayuu people who live there even more difficult. The UN and the Red Cross have both stepped in to try and alleviate the starvation and the lack of water, but providing aid has not been easy. So when we say "lucky," we mean only for the road quality, since we encountered little of the mud we'd been warned so vehemently about, and made it out with very little trauma to our 4Runner.
The other bit of luck we had was accidentally stumbling on a tourism agency that specializes in trips to Punta Gallina, while actually searching for different agency all together. Read the rest
It’s a big world we live in, full of fortune-telling fox-woman hybrids, libraries where books are chained to the shelves, rusting shipwrecks, and amusement parks at the bottom of salt mines. The website Atlas Obscura collects the most intriguing of them, and now Atlas Obscura is in book form, perfect for flipping through while waiting for water to boil. It’s plentifully illustrated, with photographs or drawings on every page.
This is not The Book of Lists, and it is not for young children. Many of the entries concern war or atrocities, and some photos are gruesome; the world is full of mummified limbs. The authors treat the subjects respectfully, and have done their research. The story of the Bicycle Tree in Washington State, for example, has both the glurgy and the factual versions.
Some entries are not location based, such as the two pages of entheogens from around the world, or the list of abandoned nuclear power plants. But most entries have the latitude and longitude for each attraction, and sometimes street addresses; you could use this as a guidebook for a particularly unconventional wanderjahr.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton Workman Publishing Company 2016, 480 pages, 7 x 10.5 x 2.1 inches (hardcover) $21 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest
Mary Forgione, a US citizen, was stopped and detained by Turkish border patrol when she attempted to reenter Turkey while on vacation. She wrote about her interesting experience for the LA Times. Takeaway: the State Department won't help you if you get detained in another country because a border agent forgot to stamp your passport.
Were's your other passport?" the border agent at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport snapped as he waved my U.S. passport.
He was annoyed, but so was I. I didn’t have another passport. The one in his hand was it.
"You came to Istanbul, you didn't exit and now you are re-entering,” he said slowly, his tone serious. “Where were you?"
But I had exited. Eleven days earlier, I had sailed from the city’s Karakoy port with a group of college friends on a Mediterranean cruise bound for Rome, I told him.
He shook my passport again and said, "Show me! Where does it say that?"
I looked in vain at the pages as he kept hold of my precious U.S. passport. He was right. I didn’t see any stamp that showed I had left Istanbul.
I didn’t understand how this had happened, but he did — or at least he thought he did: He decided I had a second, secret passport that I was hiding. But I didn’t.
These folks don't seem the least bit flustered with this guillotine train door. Read the rest