Chesley Sullenberger, of Hudson River plane landing fame, touts new book on the Daily Show

Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, was the guest of last night’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart, with the energy akin to an adolescent Golden Labrador, gave Sullenberger– one of the more reserved and modest people on the planet, a venue to talk about his new book and rehash details about that day and its aftermath.

Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters is not only about that day back in January. It’s about all the moments that led up to the point when Sullenberger decided to go for the river landing. For Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles, that decision changed how they view their purpose in life.

As Sullenberger says, the plane landing was much needed good news for people. Last January, when the river event happened, the economy was in shambles. Job loss and foreclosures were taking up much of the news and producing a sense of hopelessness. The plane landing gave a boost towards hopeful thinking.

As a result of that day, and the response afterwards, both Sullenberger and Skiles have looked for ways to continue to make positive contributions–in essence to keep hope alive.

Along with highlighting Sullenberger’s book and rehashing the details of that remarkable airplane landing, the interview with Sullenberger was seasoned with Stewart’s brand of wacky fun. Pick a situation and Stewart can find the absurd.

For example, the spot on the Hudson where the plane landed is close to where The Daily Show is filmed. Also being filmed that day at a close by location was an episode of Law and Order. When folks at The Daily Show saw the commotion caused by the plane, they thought it had to do with Law and Order and were impressed with how much effort was being put into making the episode look realistic.

Stewart also wondered if when Sullengberger landed the plane he thought about how Jon Stewart was just a block away.

Stewart also joked about passengers who might have complained that the plane hadn’t landed closer to the section of New York where they lived–as in why didn’t Sullenberger land it in a more convenient location for them to get home more easily.

During Stewart’s banter, Sullenberger mostly smiled, made a few comments, and seemed generally unsure about how to josh along with Jon. A kidder he is not. Not being a kidding type did come in handy back in January.

Stewart and Sullenberger also talked about how the plane’s manual used to be published with tab markers for the various sections which made it easier to use. As a cost cutting measure, the manuals aren’t published with the tab markers anymore.

That meant that Skiles had to rapidly leaf through the book looking for the pages that had the details about making a water landing. Sullenberger’s years of training kicked in to help him land the plane, but checking the manual was a double check.

As the interview’s last point, before Stewart gave Highest Duty one more plug, both Sullengerger and Stewart agreed that those tabs need to be put back on the manuals.

To watch last night’s full episode, click here.

New travel inspiration: AFAR magazine

Greg Sullivan and Joseph Diaz, the founders of AFAR magazine, saw a need for a magazine that focused on “experiential travel that helps people experience every destination as local residents do.” So they started their new travel magazine to fill that niche.

When major glossies are closing down at an alarming rate, starting up a new magazine – with an online community, tv partnerships, and books in the works – is a bold move. But, if the first issue of AFAR is any indication of what’s to come, it’s one that will enrich the travel community as the company grows.

The goal of AFAR is to encourage authentic travel that avoids superficial, mass-consumed, beaten path tourism and digs deeper into a local cuture in all aspects of the trip, from where you stay to what you eat to how you can make a difference in a local community. AFAR hits that middle ground between offering details that you can use (a calendar section lists events around the world and each feature has the typical “if you go” logistical info), facts that educate (a piece on the culture of maid cafes in Japan was fascinating) and stories that inspire (a feature on Berber culture in Morocco only fueled my desire to go there).

The premier issue also contained an interview with a long-term traveler, information on ocean-cleanup vacations, a profile of the rock music scene in China, and a closing essay by Tim Cahill. The editors also promise to continue this issue’s “Spin the Globe” section, in which they send one writer on a spontaneous journey. This issue’s destination was Caracas, and while the article didn’t offer much in the way of “where to stay, what to do” information, it did offer a very intriguing, honest portrait of the city. For foodies, there was also a feature detailing how one writer learned to make bread from a French master baker.

The writing is solid, the photos are beautiful, and in keeping with the editors’ statement that “life is about more than how much we consume”, the magazine isn’t cluttered with ads (though, ironically, many of the ads are for luxury products). At $19.95 for 6 issues (the magazine will be published bi-monthly), I recommend subscribing. You can get a taste of what you’re in for if you do, or just satiate your thirst for travel inspiration in between issues, on the AFAR blog.

America travel inspiration: Blue Highways

For many Americans, dream trips involve far-flung international destinations. Traveling thousands of miles from home to a foreign land just seems more exciting. You get to experience a new culture, sample unfamiliar cuisine, and of course, get that all-important passport stamp to add to your collection.

A trip within your own country just can’t compete with that. The food is the same, the history is shared, the language is (usually) easily understood and you don’t even have to exchange money. There’s nothing exciting or exotic about that. Or so you may think.

But travel around your own country with open eyes and an open mind and you may realize that the good old US of A isn’t as homogeneous as you thought. Approach your homeland with the same anthropological curiosity and cultural hunger than you do to foreign lands and you’ll see that there may be as much to learn about different regions in your own country as there is places on the other side of the world.

One of my favorite sources for inspiration to explore more of the U.S. is William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America. Down on his luck Heat-Moon takes off on an epic journey around the country, sticking only to the two-lane country roads called blue highways. Along the way, he finds solace in the road and in the characters he meets on his journey. He explores the cultural differences that can exist between people of the same country and paints a captivating picture of life in rural and small town America. If you’ve never had much interest in traveling the lesser-known routes of the U.S., just wait until you see the country through Heat-Moon’s eyes. I know that I can’t read the book without feeling an urge to hit the open road and discover my own America.

Susan Boyle: The Global Ambassador of Good Will

If there ever was a Global Ambassador of Good Will, Susan Boyle, the woman who has wowed the world from her “Britain’s Got Talent” performance is it.

Ever since I saw the video, I’ve been enamored. First, there’s the song. Who hasn’t dreamed a dream of days gone by? The first time I saw “Les Miserables” I was living in Singapore. That musical seemed to seep into my pores. Hearing Susan Boyle sing reminded me of my first impressions, but more importantly, about what I think most world travelers know.

The world is filled with astounding people who surprise you when you have time to absorb the nuances of their lives. It might be the shopkeeper who puts fruit on a scale with a certain hand movement and a smile–or the way a woman sweeps a sidewalk in the early morning. It could be the way a group of school kids throw their arms around each other and tilt their heads back in laughter when they ask you your name. It could be that woman who could be age 40 to 80 who scoots over to make room for you to sit down on a bench. It’s hard to tell how old she is because her days are spent out in fields in the sun and wind. There’s something about the way she sits and how kind she behaves that is alluring.

Those people that attract us to them might be wearing threadbare clothes, have a tooth or two missing, and not have a decent pair of shoes, if any, but there is an essence about them that travel with us long after our taxi or bus has pulled away. When we go through our photos, we look for them–, and if we didn’t have our camera, wish that we had just in case the good feeling could be absorbed into a photograph so that we would have a prop to help us recall it at will.

Watching an inteview with Susan Boyle is a peek into a normal person’s life–the woman who might live in the house down the block or in the apartment on the third floor. She’s the one with the cat whose life seems to move through days like clockwork. If you stop by, she’ll invite you in for tea and you’ll feel comfortable and sane.

When we get busy about our days with billboards and TV commericals and the marketing of celebrity sameness, and stories about just what’s wrong, we can forget about what’s right. That a person like Susan Boyle can walk out on a stage, belt out a song with a triumphant lift of her arm during the high notes, and remind us just how great we can be. In today’s word, it’s also astounding that such a message can reach millions around the globe almost as soon as the magic begins. What better Global Ambassador of Goodwill is there?

Here’s a video I found with various shots of Susan Boyle in her world

And another one of her singing “Cry Me a River” that was published on a fundraising CD. Her performance wasn’t a fluke.

Photo of the Day (01.15.08)

I never been a particularly religious person, but seeing nuns always makes me pause for a moment, as if I’m in the presence of a saint or a god-like figure. This photo captures that feeling perfectly — with the gentle mist thinly veiling the trees in the background and the bundled nuns going about their day in the foreground, the photo has enough depth to be a inspire the spiritual side in all of us. Thank to Our Man Where for the stunning image.

Have an inspiring image of your own? Submit it to our Gadling Flickr Pool.