Video: New World Record Likely Set For Surfing Biggest Wave

Hawaiian pro big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara may have just broken his own world record for surfing the world’s largest wave. Via Skype with Anderson Cooper on CNN, McNamara described the “endless drop” of the estimated 100-foot wave he surfed on January 28 off the fishing village of Nazaré, Portugal.

Nazaré is also where McNamara set the world’s record in 2011, for conquering an estimated 78-foot wave. When asked by Cooper if he got an adrenaline rush from his latest feat, McNamara responded, “No rush, so it’s probably not at 100 feet! I’m not kidding you, Anderson. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. There’s definitely something wrong.”

Whatever the problem is, shredding monster waves isn’t it.

Portugal To Vietnam By Rails: Are You Up For The Ultimate Train Challenge?

Last year, Michael Hodson and two travel blogger friends challenged each other to take on the world by train. For a month the bloggers traveled on separate routes from Lisbon, Portugal, to Saigon, Vietnam, on a competitive quest to conquer the longest continuous stretches of train tracks currently on the planet. The rails-only expedition was dubbed the Ultimate Train Challenge, and after the bloggers completed the trek, Hodson found he wanted to instill his competitive spirit – and love for travel – in others.

Recently, Hodson announced that the competition would take place again. Only this time, any travelers can take part in the challenge, which is being sponsored by Intrepid Travel, Eurail, Hostelworld and Urban Adventures. Anyone with the month of November free, a $425 entrance fee and additional cash to fund the trip can join in on the 15,000-mile expedition. During the challenge, participants are asked to each raise at least $500 for Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation supporting street children, children with disabilities, the rural poor and victims of trafficking in Vietnam.

Do you think you have what it takes to travel across Europe and Asia by rails?

[Photo by Libby Zay]

Photo Of The Day: Summer In Lisbon

Summer in Lisbon is usually pleasantly warm; seldom does Portugal‘s capital swelter. From this vantage point along the Calçada do Duque, a prime tourist zone, clear skies and colorful bunting render Lisbon especially welcoming. Think about a short Lisbon break for a few minutes: good strong coffee and egg tarts for breakfast; grilled sardines and a nice vinho verde for lunch; and an evening stroll before a leisurely dinner.

Flickr user (flicts) snapped this photo earlier this month. Upload your summer images of other European capitals in full blush of summer to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. We choose our favorites from the pool to be Photos of the Day.

The Travel Conundrum: Does Misery Make the Best Travel Companion?

Ask almost any seasoned traveler (or travel writer) about their most memorable journeys and you’ll likely get a tale of pain and suffering. “The best trips are the worst trips,” is a quip I constantly hear coming from travel writers’ mouths. And they’re right. Not only because, after the fact, it makes for good verbal consumption at a party but because it does something deeper to us. It almost feels like in those moments – smack in the middle of a desperate what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-now? moment – we’re really living. We don’t realize it at the time but being out of our comfort zone – even in such dark places we’d never willingly put ourselves – we become human.

As travel has become more accessible to people around the planet and the machinations of the travel industry have grown, experiencing pitfalls along the way are sometimes impossible to avoid. If you have a passport, if you’ve ever stepped on an airplane or a train or a bus, if you’ve journeyed beyond your backyard, then you too have had a bad travel experience. I asked a few people for their tales of travel misfortunes and here were some of my favorites:

Magazine editor Dana Dickey wanted to give herself a birthday present: a short trip with her friend to one of her favorite cities, Lisbon. She was late boarding the flight in New York and flashed her passport at the gate agent before quickly boarding the Lisbon-bound plane. But when she was standing in line at the passport check at the Lisbon airport, she noticed something was wrong: it was a few days after her actual birthday and her passport was expired. “The immigration officer unfortunately noticed, too,” said Dickey, “and he took me into custody, while my friend went on his merry way and checked into our suite at the Four Seasons.” Meanwhile Dickey was escorted to a dodgy antechamber in the customs office where she sat (with “suspicious looking chaps” who lounged on mattresses on the floor) for hours. The hardest to take for Dickey, however, was what her friend did – or rather, didn’t do – next. “Rather than enlisting the Four Seasons or someone to help me in my plight, my friend opted to call our mutual friends back in New York so that I could become water cooler jest while still in detention.” Six hours later, Dickey’s passport was extended a few more days and she was free to explore the city.

Nithin Coca, a 28-year-old San Francisco resident, also had passport issues, but of a different kind. While in Paris, he left his backpack at a bus stop. He was actually relieved to learn his wallet, passport and cellphone turned up at a police station, but was in for quite a surprise when he went to fetch it and learned his possessions were found on the body of a murdered person. Coca was brought into an interrogation room and suddenly realized he was being investigated for murder. “I was worried that, as a wide-eyed foreigner, I was being accused of a crime, or forced to go on trial, or worse,” said Coca. Fortunately, after 30 minutes of questioning, they gave Coca back his belongings and told him he could leave.

When writer Alexander Zaitchik was traveling to see a friend in the Czech Republic, he wasn’t so lucky. Tired from his travels, he did the one thing he could not afford to do: fall asleep on the train. With no money on him, he woke up and realized he’d missed his stop. He got off at the next town, the winter cold blushing his cheeks, and boarded the next train headed back to his friend’s hometown in the center of the country. Because he didn’t have a ticket – at least not one for this train journey – he’d hoped a forgiving ticket checker would look the other way. Not so. When he couldn’t produce a ticket (or the equivalent of $1.50), the train slowed to a stop and, in the middle of a snowy forest, Zaitchik was unceremoniously tossed off the train. So he walked and walked until he found a road and stuck his thumb out until a generous driver stopped and, as luck would have it, was headed to the same town Zaitchik need to go to.

Travel wouldn’t be travel without the occasional misfortune. Yet, we don’t stop that from keeping us going. We continue moving to explore our own personal uncharted territories. It’s, at first, a human thing – we charted the planet and now we’re going further, into space. And it’s also a human statement: that no matter how hard life becomes, no matter what pain and suffering and discomfort our travel experiences serve us, we keep on trekking, putting one foot in front of the other, until the pain turns into joy, which (eventually) turns into pain again with the next bad experience. And so on. But in the end, what we’re left with is something a five-star resort or a Michelin-starred restaurant or an upgrade to first class cannot ever deliver: a lot more wisdom than we began with. And, in the end, that will be the one thing we’ll never forget to pack.

It’ll also provide one more thing: a damn good story to tell.

What are some of your travel horror stories?

The Most Useful Useless Phrasebook Phrases

I’ve frequently touted Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on Gadling (about as often as I’ve truthfully stated that I receive no kickbacks from them). They’ve saved my butt countless times, helping me do everything from getting on the right train platform to finding out what obscure ingredient is in a dish.

There’s another reason I love these indispensible travel companions, however, and that’s for their entertainment value. Like all LP books, the personality and preferences (and sometimes the nationality) of the authors shine through, although the content is consistent. Whether Czech, Hmong, or Mexican Spanish, you’ll find the layout and categories the same, barring cultural or geographical improbabilities: don’t expect to learn how to get your car tuned up in a Karen hill tribe dialect, for example.

I confess I’ve used my phrasebooks as icebreakers on more than one occasion because they make the ideal bar prop or conversation starter. Whip one out of your daypack, and I guarantee within minutes you’ll have attracted the attention of someone…so wield and use their power carefully.

The following are some of my favorite useful useless phrases culled from my collection. Disclaimer alert: May be offensive (or just plain stupid) to some readers. Also note that phrasebooks, unless written by native-speakers, will always have some errors or inconsistencies in grammar or dialect, especially when transliterated, so I won’t vouch for the complete accuracy of the following:

“No, it isn’t the alcohol talking.” Non, c’est moi qui dis ça, ce n’est pas l’alcool qui parle.

“Maybe a Bloody Mary will make me feel better.” Peut-être qu’un Bloody Mary me fera du bien. Unsurprisingly, many LP phrasebooks are written by Australians.

Spanish (Spain/Basque version)
“I’m sorry, I’ve got better things to do.” Lo siento, pero tengo otras cosa más importantes que hacer. Trust me, this comes in very handy if you’re a female traveling in Latin America.

“Do you have a methadone program in this country?” ¿Hay algún programa de metadona en este pais? Because savvy travelers are always prepared for the unexpected.

Under a heading called “Street Life” comes this handy phrase: “What do you charge? Quanto fa pagare?

And because Italians are romantics at heart, you’ll do well to learn the following exchange:
“Would you like to come inside for a while?” Vuoi entrare per un po?
“Let’s go to bed/the bathroom.” Andiamo a letto/in bagno.
“I’d like you to use a condom.” Voglio che ti metta il preservativo.
“Would you like a cigarette?” Prendi una sigaretta?
“You can’t stay here tonight.” Non puoi restare qui stanotte.

“I have my own syringe.” Ich habe meine eigene Spritze. This is actually useful, but not so much in German. If you’re traveling to developing nations and have a condition such as diabetes, definitely take the time to learn this. As for carrying syringes and hypodermics in developing nations if you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition, do so at your own risk. I’ve debated it and to me, I’d rather not be caught with “drug paraphernalia” on my person.

“I may be in a wheelchair but I’m able to live independently!” Posso andar de cadeira de rodas mas consigo ter uma vida independente! This isn’t so much funny as it is totally random. And I like the exclamation point.

“Oh baby, don’t stop.” Nao pares, amor! Better have this memorized or you’ll defeat the purpose of looking it up when needed.

“Sorry, I can’t sing.” Go men na sai, u tai nam des [phonetic]. Very “Lost in Translation.”

“I’m feeling lonely/depressed.” “Miserable as a shag on a rock.”
My favorite ‘Strine phrases – not found in the LP book; I just know a lot of Aussies – include “leg opener” (a bottle of cheap wine) and “mappa Tassie” (map of Tasmania, referring to a woman’s pubic region, although I suppose this made more sense before Brazilians became the norm).

“Do you want a massage? mát-xa không? Not a cliché at all.

“You’re just using me for sex (male speaker).” Am jeé moo úhn laám ding ver eé aang toy [phonetic]. Talk about progress.

Thai: “Where can I buy some gay/lesbian magazines?” mii nang seu keh/khaai thîi nai? Emergency!

[Photo credits: heart, Flickr user Toronja Azul; woman, Flickr user;Tasmania, Flickr user NeilsPhotography]