Two Travelers Are Making Their Way Around The World … In A Tuk Tuk?




In possibly the slowest form of transportation known to man, backpackers Rich Sears and Nick Gough have recently set out on an interesting journey. Their goal is to break the world record for longest ride in a tuk tuk (shown above).

Beginning in France, they’re making their way to Rio de Janeiro. According to news.com.au, the men will be catching a ferry from Turkey to Egypt then traveling across India and Singapore, to the west coast of the United States. They’ll also be going through Central and South America.

The challenge isn’t so much the distance, but the speed. With a top velocity of 34 miles per hour going downhill with a breeze, they aren’t able to move very fast.

“It’s slow. Again something you think might be obvious but the average speed is a lot slower than the speedometer has been pumping our egos with,” it says on their blog. “Uphill and it starts to get embarrassing. The dizzy heights of 5-6 mph have been hit on some of the steeper hills.”

Other concerns are extreme noise, disease and weather conditions. We wish them luck, as the journey is raising money for The Tuk Tuk Educational Trust, a registered UK charity that aims to “promote and advance education worldwide.”

Sears and Gough hope to complete the journey by the end of next year. You can check out their website or follow them on Twitter to keep up with their travels or get involved.

A Drive Through Rural Oxfordshire And Buckinghamshire

Oxfordshire
England is so much more than its cities.

Most itineraries take in London and one or two more: Oxford or Cambridge, Brighton or Bath. While I love all these places, and live part time in Oxford, it’s the countryside that I truly enjoy. Glimpsed from the motorway it makes a pretty backdrop, but get off onto the country lanes and you’ll find villages filled with history, old inns with great beer, and amazing stretches of natural space.

Oxfordshire is one of my favorite parts of England. While it’s more built upon than the northern counties it is rich in antiquarian landmarks. Yesterday my wife and I set out to explore them with the same two friends who took us out on our last rural ride through Oxfordshire. While I have a ton of work to do this week and next, I can never pass up the offer of a road trip through England.

I thought I knew Oxford University inside and out, but our first stop proved me wrong when we arrived at the university’s Harcourt Arboretum a few miles outside town. Peacocks strutted amid a forest of trees gathered from all around the world. I can’t say I’m a big arboretum goer, and while I prefer natural forests to artificial ones, I did enjoy it. The sight of power lines and the distant hum of the motorway did nothing to reduce the feeling of calm that settled on me. Thoughts of my book deadline and the thousand other things on my to-do list disappeared.

Soon we were off to something I know a bit more about – medieval history. Passing down narrow country lanes flanked by hedges and old, lichen-covered stone walls, we came to the village of Ewelme (pronounced “you elm”). Like many English villages, nobody knows just how old this cluster of thatched-roof relics and Victorian trophy homes is. Ewelme became prominent in the middle of the 15th century when Alice, wife of the Duke of Suffolk and granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer, built a church, school and almshouses here.

The church is one of those magnificent little houses of worship you find all over England, such as in Dorchester or Binsey. Like with most of my visits to rural churches, we had it to ourselves, and we wandered at leisure admiring the heraldic carvings, fragments of original stained glass, and the alabaster tomb of Alice herself. The tomb is a bit grim even by tombish standards. In addition to carving her lying in state with her hands clasped in prayer in true medieval piety, the sculptor added a second image of Alice at the base showing her decayed and rotting. This was supposed to be a reminder of the way of all flesh. The creepiness still works six centuries on.

%Gallery-163241%Through a narrow doorway and down a flight of steps we entered a small cloister surrounded by 13 little houses. The charity that Alice set up is still in operation and needy people from the parish still live in houses paid for by Alice’s original donation. They are snug, tidy little homes and worlds apart from the grim concrete monoliths many of England’s poor live in.

The third building is a school that’s said to hold the record for the oldest continually operating school in the country, according to whoever it is who keeps track of such things. Sadly it was shut up for the summer, so we were left studying the worn medieval carvings on the wooden door and wondering what lay on the other side.

Suddenly this peaceful village scene was interrupted by the roar of jet engines. Seven red fighters shot overhead, trailing colored smoke. They were the Red Arrows, putting on a show at the nearby RAF airfield. They banked and looped and resisted all attempts at a decent photograph. After a while I stopped trying and simply watched. As we retired to a nearby pub for lunch (fish and chips and real ale, what else?) the Red Arrows were replaced by noisy relics from World War II that flew so low we could see the pilots. It was good to know the pub was safe from the Luftwaffe.

One-and-a-half pints and 50000 calories later, we headed out through more winding little lanes past curious cows and old cottages to neighboring Buckinghamshire, where we climbed a steep hill to Brill, a village that has one of the region’s oldest surviving mills. The mill has been standing here since the 1680s and while it no longer makes flour, it offers a fine backdrop from which to look out at the surrounding countryside.

The hill itself is pitted and gouged with steep clefts. Brick makers in centuries past dug out great chunks of the terrain in search of clay. This provided a great opportunity for a group of local boys. One half of the crowd tried to kick a football over to their friends on the other side. Each attempt ended with the ball plummeting into the pit and one poor kid scrambling down to get it. They weren’t deterred, though. I got the feeling that whoever managed to kick a football over that crevasse would become a village legend, his boyish exploits repeated and exaggerated for generations at the local pub until he took on the legendary stature of a Robin Hood or King Arthur. Or maybe he’d just impress the local girls. Either way, they kept trying.

A day spent away from the cities reveals England at its best. So if you’re in this or any other part of the country, it would be worth your while to rent a car and see the lesser-known rural sights. Just be careful driving on the left.

How To Put On A Travel Photography Exhibition

travel photography
You got back from an amazing adventure travel vacation a few weeks ago. Your friends and family have heard all your stories and seen all your photos. Now what? Instead of tucking your photos away in an album or hard drive, why not show off your travel photography to a wider audience?

I’ve run two photography exhibitions and been in several more. My first exhibition was on the painted caves of Laas Geel in Somaliland. Right now my wife and I have an exhibition up about Ethiopia. We are by no means experts but we have learned a few things from the experience. The main thing is that putting on a successful photography exhibition isn’t as hard as you might think, although it does take a fair amount of organization. Here are some things to keep in mind.

You don’t need to be a pro
Here’s the secret to getting good photos: take lots of pictures of interesting subjects and some will turn out well. Look through your collection with a critical eye and have someone who hasn’t been to these places look with you. They’ll be looking at the shots with fresh eyes like your audience will. Take your photos at the highest resolution possible, 300dpi minimum, so they will be publication quality. A good photo shop will be able to turn your hi-resolution photos into lovely prints. This won’t cost much and you can get decent frames cheaply too.

Decide on a theme and purpose
It helps to have a coherent theme: wildlife, a certain historic site, etc. We’ve focused on Ethiopia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and children, Ethiopia’s past and future. Our show benefits A Glimmer of Hope, an NGO working on rural education. Having a coherent theme helps people grasp your subject better and a charity benefit tends to attract more attention.

Pick an appropriate venue
Not being superstar photographers, we picked a local bar here in Santander, Spain, that’s a popular hangout for artists, musicians and generally liberal-minded people who would be interested in photography about Africa. Our themes fit in with the general vibe. Bar Rubicón is a Santander institution and word gets around when they host an event. Putting your prize photos up in a bar may not seem very glamorous, but over a month-long exhibition they’ll get seen by lots of people.Think out size and spacing
How many photos do you want to exhibit? What’s the lighting like in your venue? Which are the most visible walls? Think all these things through ahead of time. It helps to bring a print in the size you want to display and take a look at it within the space. In my first exhibition, I made the mistake of printing the photos too small and they looked a bit lonely hanging on a big wall.

Make a snappy poster
I’m lucky that my brother-in-law, Andrès Alonso-Herrero, is an artist. He whipped up this poster in no time. Even if you don’t have access to someone with talent, it’s not too hard to make a poster with Photoshop or PowerPoint that highlights one of your photos and gives all the necessary information.

Send out a press release
Having worked for two small newspapers, I can tell you that editors are starved for interesting local content. The regional paper El Diario Montañés gave us a nice write-up and we made it onto several “What’s On” style websites as well. Be sure to write a clear press release with all the information and attach a couple of high-resolution photos they can publish. Try to write the press release like a newspaper article. Journalists are overworked, underpaid, and many of them are quite lazy. You’ll find that much of their coverage will be simply cut and pasted from your press release. Sad to say, much of the news you read is written this way. If governments and corporations benefit from it, why shouldn’t you?

Tell everyone
Email your friends, hang up posters, do a social media blitz. Get your friends to spread the word too. Don’t be shy; you want people to see your work!

While you have their attention …
You might as well mention any other projects you have going. In the press release I mentioned I had just come out with a novel and that made it into the newspaper coverage.

Host an opening party
On opening night, be there to meet and greet. It helps to have some sort of presentation. Since people will be coming and going it’s best not to have a formal speech at a set time. I’ve found that a slideshow running on a TV hooked to your photo archive works well. It goes on a continuous loop and shows everyone the photos that didn’t make it into the exhibition.
On our opening night, many people gathered around the slideshow and I gave them a running commentary of the places shown in the pictures. It also helps to have some music. There’s no local Ethiopian band that I know of (although there’s a West African band in Santander) so the bartender compensated by putting Ethiopian music on the sound system.

Don’t expect to make much money
Unless you’re a pro showing your photos at a major gallery, you’re not going to make much. If you break even you’re doing well. The point of showing off your photos isn’t the cash but the exposure. You’ll meet plenty of cool people and have the satisfaction of knowing your photos are hanging in people’s homes. Being relative newcomers in northern Spain, our opening night made us lots of new, interesting acquaintances. We’ll take any photos left over at the end of the month and give them away as gifts or hang them in our own apartment.

Most important of all … have fun!!!

Online travel agency donates 100% of profits to charity

teleotravelFor those who love to travel, there is now a way to see the world while also doing a good deed. A brand new online travel agency, Teleotravel, operates under a generous philosophy and donates 100% of its net profits to charity.

Explains Adam Beardwood, the Founder and President of Teleotravel, “My idea for Teleotravel came out of a need to create a sustainable way to financially help charities in a consumer forum. That is, people and businesses can participate in ending extreme global poverty as simply as doing something they are already doing, like buying travel…My hope is to capture a small percentage of [the online travel booking market] which could potentially raise millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars for charities.”

Travelers making a booking on the site can choose from a list of charities that they would like the net profits from their booking to go to. So, why do you have to choose a charity from a predetermined list? Because the team at Teleotravel want to make sure that these bookings are making a significant impact. Instead of myriad charities getting one single donation, a set group of specific charities can receive significant contributions each day. As of now, the official charity partners of Teleotravel that can benefit from bookings made on the site include:

Says Beardwood of the mission of the site, “My partners and I did not start this business in order to build up our own wealth but to help others succeed in rising out of poverty, may that be nationally or globally.”

To learn more or to make a charitable travel booking with Teleotravel, click here.

5 Phnom Penh restaurants where you can eat ethically

phnom penh restaurants

In Cambodia, Phnom Penh is known for its great restaurants. And since many of the city’s eateries are run by NGOs or function as social enterprises – companies that operate for profit while providing a social benefit – it’s easy to combine social responsibility with sustenance. Here, a sampling of Phnom Penh restaurants that allow you to eat ethically.

Friends Restaurant
As the name implies, Friends is a popular, cheerful café run by local non-profit Mith Samlanh, in partnership with international NGO Friends International. Street children and other marginalized youth are trained in every aspect of running a restaurant in Phnom Penh, from cooking to serving to management. Many move on to higher-paying hospitality jobs, or start small enterprises of their own.
Try: Delicious fresh fruit shakes in off-beat combinations.
#215, Street 13Café Living Room
Of the Phnom Penh restaurants, Café Living Room is one of the most popular for ex-pats, serving up a mix of Western and Cambodian dishes using fresh and imported ingredients. The owners employ and pay a fair living wage to graduates of programs that work with vulnerable and at-risk groups.
Try: Substantial western-style breakfasts with fresh preserves.
#9, Street 306

Lotus Blanc
Lotus Blanc is a training restaurant run by Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, a French NGO that tackles hunger and poverty by providing education and skills training to children on the street. All of the restaurant’s servers are enrolled in PSE’s hospitality school, which means the service is impeccable, if sometimes over-the-top.
Try: Deep-fried prawns in tamarind sauce.
#61B, Street 51

Romdeng
Another Mith Samlanh/Friends restaurant, Romdeng provides upscale dining in a beautiful colonial mansion and garden in the heart of Phnom Penh. The restaurant’s interior is outfitted with locally produced furniture and décor, including silk from Mith Samlanh’s sewing vocational school and paintings from the art classes at their training center.
Try: Romdang’s famous fish amok, a spicy fish curry served in a banana leaf with a side of jasmine rice. The adventurous can also try one of Cambodia’s most popular children’s snacks: fried tarantula.

Sugar ‘n Spice Café at Daughters Cambodia
For the best brownie in Phnom Penh, head to Sugar ‘n Spice Café, a restaurant on the second floor of the Daughters Cambodia visitor center. A Christian organization that works with women who have been trafficked, Daughters also sells fairly produced goods, operates a small salon, and provides an informational exhibit on trafficking in Cambodia.
Try: The brownie with ice cream, washed down with an iced Khmer coffee.