Hyperlapse Tool Takes Google Street View To A Whole New Level

Google Street View was a boon to desk- and couch-bound wanderers when it debuted back in 2007, but even the most fervent Street View explorers would agree that the endless clicking is a bit of a chore.

Enter a free online tool that uses Street View images to create a personalized animated road trip. The Hyperlapse tool, created by a Toronto design company, lets you choose any two drivable points on the map, and then stitches together the Google Street View images to create an animation that you can pan around in real time.

The above video demonstrates the hyperlapse tool’s remarkable capabilities. The montage includes drives past major American landmarks and through other countries like Denmark Slovakia, Canada and Australia.

The online interface currently only provides basic point-to-point animation with a locked frame rate, so a two-hour drive like the one I animated from Montreal to Ottawa will take but a couple seconds. However, the featured hyperlapses, which show custom-made drives through the places like the Australian outback and Yosemite National Park are well worth a look. No word yet on when we will be able to animate trips to Street View’s more unique destinations, like up Everest or down the Amazon.

Survey Ranks ‘World’s Most Unfriendliest’ Countries

Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.

The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.

According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).

Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).

On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.

Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.

The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.

Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)

Friendliest

1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 6.7
5. Austria 6.7
6. Senegal 6.7
7. Portugal 6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.6
9. Ireland 6.6
10. Burkina Faso 6.6

Unfriendliest

1. Bolivia 4.1
2. Venezuela 4.5
3. Russian Federation 5.0
4. Kuwait 5.2
5. Latvia 5.2
6. Iran 5.2
7. Pakistan 5.3
8. Slovak Republic 5.5
9. Bulgaria 5.5
10. Mongolia 5.5

Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.

[via CNN]

[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]

Vagabond Tales: “The Governator is better, yes?”

Crossing borders can always be a bit of a hectic experience. There are long lines, scam artists, customs officials, new currencies, people offering to expedite your visa process for a fee, screaming children, rogue livestock, and occasionally people with guns. Dirty and dingy, border crossings are never the favorite part of my trip.

Luckily, however, I was once aided through a particularly tense border moment by of all things, an American politician. As any American traveler who spends copious amounts of time out of the country will tell you, divulging the fact that you are an American frequently involves being buffeted by a hailstorm of opinions/questions/debate over American foreign policy, war, clothing, oil, health care, politics, and lately, Justin Bieber.

This is because–and excuse me as I fabricate completely random statistics to argue a point–it’s becoming apparent to me that about 70% of the globe knows more about American politics than 70% of Americans do.

Evidence? I offer three examples:

-A particularly smelly hitch hiker I once picked up in New Zealand was able to tell me how many seats the state of Hawaii has in the House of Representatives (2).

-The Kathmandu shopkeeper from whom I was purchasing a $1.50 plate of dhal bhat discussed with me the geopolitical ramifications of Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Burma.

-A mate from Sydney writing me to express his concerns about the upcoming vote in Congress to once again raise the debt ceiling.

The list goes on.

Although flashing the blue cover of an American passport will frequently lead to this uninvited political joust, I would like to thank one American politician for effectively waving me across international lines.Prior to Slovakia being an EU member and part of the Eurail network, the border crossing by train from Slovakia to Austria was not exactly warm and rosy. Perhaps it’s because it was the depths of winter and the whole of central Europe seemed to collectively huddle beneath a fog of frozen breath and post-Communist-era gray, but the passport control was cold in every way.

Instead of having all of the passengers depart the frigid rail car, two chiseled specimens of angry looking police officers toting unnecessarily large automatic weapons boarded the train and checked the passports of each passenger row by row. From the truncated grunts in German and the international sound of pleading it was apparent that for some passengers the proceedings were going less than swimmingly.

Finally, with a stone cold glare and a heavy thudding of boots the two officers made their stop in front of my assigned seat. Brandishing our shiny, navy blue passports my college girlfriend and I handed over our international identity and awaited what the vibe of the car was telling us might be a hard-fought entry stamp.

Scrutinizing the details of my girlfriend’s passport, a thick, monotone voice came from within the border patrolling giant.

“You are from California, yes?” he stiffly questioned.

“Ummm…yes, California” was the meek reply she could muster.

Moment of truth. Friend or foe.

Then, with a smile that could bridge the Iron Curtain, the gun-toting guard slapped his companion on the chest and jubilantly exclaimed, “the Governator is better yes!”

What followed can only be described as the laugh performed by the alien characters in “The Simpson’s” who carry on with a guttural belly laugh for so unbelievably long that after the first 40 seconds have passed it becomes hilarious in its discomfort.

At no point while boarding the train to Austria did I expect the fact that the Austrian-born actor turned California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would ultimately expedite my passage through the border.

The guffawing agent–obviously pleased with his joke–nonchalantly stamped the passports and flipped them back into our stunned laps. only to unleash a throaty gumbo of syllables on a dreadlocked hippie behind me who, apparently, was not a California resident.

So thank you Arnold for getting me into Austria, and for allowing me to use my passport for more than political banter. Schnitzels on me.

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Want more travel stories? Read the rest of the Vagabond Tales here

[Photo: Flickr: Toprankonlinemarketing]

Eurail to expand into Slovakia

Attention college students, rail-lovers, and European travelers with a fear of flying. Eurail has just announced that starting in 2012 the national railway of Slovakia will be included in the oft-purchased Eurail Global Pass, thereby linking Slovakia with 22 other nations in what has historically been many traveler’s favorite means of scouring the European continent.

When I last took a train into Slovakia it was before the country was even a member of the European Union, much less part of Eurail. There were guns, and soldiers, and a hailstorm of passports being thrown about the cabin from all angles. It was also New Years Eve, the streets were full of liquored up Germans, and there was a tight-wearing archer shooting flaming arrows across the Danube. That’s another story for another time, however.

With the addition of Slovakia into the Eurail network, it’s now possible to connect the Slovakian capital of Bratislava with virtually anywhere else in Europe for the low 15-day price of €345, if, of course, you’re under 26 years old. The rest of us, per Eurail standard rates, are still forced to shell out considerably more.

Regardless, for those lucky European travelers holding a fancy new 23 country Eurail Global Pass for 2012, you are now stuck with 3,616 more km of rail to further complicate your decision on how to get from Athens-Zurich, all the while attempting to fill in towns that start with the remaining 24 letters of the alphabet while you’re at it.

Photo: Flickr/Chris Yunker

Israel, Chile, Slovak Republic among countries with highest adventure travel potential

Israel, Chile, and the Slovak Republic are amongst the top adventure travel destinationA new study conducted by George Washington University, Vital Wave Consulting, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) shows that Israel, Chile, and the Slovak Republic led the way in adventure tourism in 2010. The study, which resulted in the third annual Adventure Tourism Development Index, uses a mix of quantitative data and expert surveys to rank nations from around the globe on their approach and commitment to sustainable adventure travel.

The study examines what researchers call the “ten pillars” of adventure tourism. Those pillars include such things as infrastructure, cultural resources, adventure activities, entrepreneurship, and more. When those factors were all examined and ranked accordingly, for each country, a score was calculated that resulted in rankings for both developed and developing nations.

So exactly which countries earned high marks in the latest Adventure Tourism Development Index? The top ten developing countries included the following: Israel, Slovak Republic, Chile, Estonia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Jordan, Romania and Latvia.Conversely, the top ten developed nations included: Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Austria.

The ATTA is quick to point out that these lists are not an indication of how well visited these countries currently are as adventure travel destinations, although some are already popular amongst travelers. Instead, it is a general rating on the climate that exists in these places that make it possible to support sustainable tourism now and into the future.

Judging from the list, it appears that Europe is well ahead of the game in terms of promoting sustainable travel. Both lists are dominated by countries from that continent, which could come as a surprise to many travelers.

To read the entire report click here.