The ever-evolving language of travel

While it is clear that travel itself has evolved in many ways in the past decade or so, it appears that travel language has, too. It is something that seems to happen overnight, without anyone really noticing that new vocabulary words are being invented but using them anyway. Check out this list of some relatively new lingo that has stuck in the language of travel.

Couch Surfing

While at one time we would have just said that we were “staying with friends”, there is now a global resource for travelers that has really made an impact on the niche. Couch Surfing allows backpackers and budget travelers to stay with local people in the regions they are visiting, as well as host travelers who come to visit their native land, for free.


This is a specific type of trip that allows travelers to not only visit another region, but also help out a cause or organization while they are there. Some of my favorite resources for voluntourism include International Volunteer Headquarters and SE7EN.Agritourism

This type of travel involves staying with locals in a rural area. Basically, it is a farm stay or rural retreat.


Related to agritourism is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFING). It is a global network that connects travelers with organic farms. The gist of the program is that in exchange for room, board, and the chance to learn about organic farming and local lifestyle, travelers help out with the daily work.

Digital Nomad

This term is used to refer to someone who is location independent and can work from anywhere in the world using technology such as smartphones, laptops, iPads, WiFi and other gadgets. Actually, an entire separate article could be written on the new technological terms for travelers that have come about in the past decade or so (hmmmm…).


Staying on the topic of technology and travel, this term refers to the more affluent type of backpacker. While most backpackers are thought to be on a tight-budget, flashpackers tend to have a large disposable income and also carry lots of tech gadgets with them, such as laptops and smartphones.


This type of travel became popular during the financial crisis of 2007-2010 and refers to relaxing at home or taking trips to nearby attractions.


This is a type of trip for those who want to experience the great outdoors while not roughing it too much. For example, instead of staying in a basic tent, someone who is glamping will use more high-end camping gear, such as a tent with electricity and an air mattress.

Slow Travel

Slow travel is the idea of traveling more slowly to enjoy each place and experience it in more depth by, for example, spending a week in one city or opting for a vacation rental home.


This term refers to a “men only” vacation (think girl’s weekend or all-girl’s getaway for guys). With the trend catching on, travel packages are now catering to this type of travel. Interested in a mancation of your own? Urban Navigator can help you book packages that include things like golf, camping, and hiking.

Moleskine notebooks introduces new bags, reading, and writing accessories

Few products (analog, at least) get travelers, writers, and artists as excited as Moleskine. The classic black Moleskine notebooks have been used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, as well as many a journaler and design-lover. A new collection unveiled this week at Milan’s Salon del Mobile is the stuff of many travelers’ dreams. The Reading, Writing, and Traveling series from Italian designer Giulio Iacchetti includes bags and computer cases, pencils and pens, reading glasses, a rechargeable reading light and an e-reader stand. Each piece is designed for maximum mobility, and to complement each other as well as the original notebook, complete with the signature black elastic band.

The new collection is on view in Milan now and at the ICFF design show in New York in mid-May. See more photos and details on the Moleskine Facebook page and on the design blog core77, along with an interview with the designer.

We can’t wait to get our hands on a Moleskine laptop bag, though we can’t help hoping they branch out to luggage as well. What Moleskine products would you like to see?

Photo courtesy of Moleskine on Flickr.

Top five travel gadgets NOT to take on your next trip (and what to pack instead)

I’m in the throes of packing for a two-month journey to Ethiopia. I try to pack light, other than the inevitable pile of books. While some tech freaks pack a lot of travel gadgets, I find these to be more of a hindrance than a help. Here are five things that you might want to leave behind if you’re heading out for some adventure travel.

Yes, these are handy, but they can break with rough handling and are very attractive to thieves.
What to bring instead: A compass. It’s cheaper, much less likely to break or be stolen, and with a good map is just as useful. It also makes you notice the terrain more and become more aware of the lay of the land.

Ebooks certainly save space, and many travelers like ebooks, but ereaders are far more stealable than some tattered old paperback. Plus you need to recharge your device and you can’t give or exchange books with the locals.
What to bring instead: A paperback or three. Preferably something you don’t mind trading or giving away.

Music is fun to have on the road, but it cuts you off from the sounds around you. I want to hear the muezzin’s call, the chatter of foreign languages, the local tunes blasting from shops and cafes. My playlist is part of my life back home, so I don’t need it while I’m away. I can listen to it when I get back.
What to bring instead: Nothing.Translation software
Translation software has improved a lot in recent few years. There’s even Word Lens, an iPhone app that overlays English onto foreign writing. When Jeremy Kressmann visited me in Madrid earlier this month we tried it on a menu. It was impressive but didn’t translate some of the culinary terms. I prefer learning a language the old-fashioned way. Except for France, all of the 31 countries I’ve visited are filled with people who want to help you learn their language. What better way to hook up with locals?
What to bring instead: A good dictionary and phrasebook. Also pack a good attitude.

To be honest, I do take a laptop on some of my trips, but not on an adventure. My laptop means work, and while part of my work is travel writing, the best way for me to do that job is to focus on what’s going on around me. Computers can be a huge distraction and you always have to worry about them getting stolen or blasted by a power surge. If you do take your laptop to a developing country, pack a voltage regulator.
What to bring instead: A notebook and pen. Don’t worry, even Ethiopia has Internet cafes.

If there’s a theme to this, it’s that all of these gadgets distract you from the place and people you’re visiting. Doing without them for a month or two can be a welcome break, and your trip will be richer because of it. I didn’t need any of these things twenty years ago when I started doing adventure travel, and I don’t need them now that they exist.

[Photo courtesy user rkzerok via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Bring an A/V cable for your laptop – Hotel tip

Many hotels offer high-speed wireless from the room, and the more upscale rooms will provide a decent-sized HDTV, as well. By bringing an audio/visual cord compatible with your laptop, you can plug right into most TVs, giving you instant access to all your online content on that beautiful in-room screen.

In addition to making use of a Netflix instant viewing account or Hulu, you’ll be able to bypass overpriced in-room movies (costing $12 or more) in lieu of a $4 new release at the Amazon On Demand Store!

Pro tip: Overcome bandwidth issues by downloading your flick before you arrive.

[Photo: Flickr | wlodi]

SkyMall Monday: Portable Laptop Desk

Business travel can get lonely. You’re either traveling alone or with colleagues whose company you barely enjoy in the office let alone in a Bennigan’s in whatever podunk town in which your company’s satellite office is located. All too often, business travelers spend their free time in their hotel rooms working, eating overpriced-yet-mediocre hotel hamburgers and watching a movie that they would never have considered viewing had they been at home. In those painfully boring, sleepless hours in far-flung towns, even the most stoic of road warriors has turned to every man’s time-filler of choice: internet porn. By day three of any business trip, you’re ready to disregard the fact that your company’s IT department is disgustingly aware of every keystroke you make on your incredibly heavy and sadly outdated company-issued laptop and steer your browser towards whatever perverse videos will help you while away the excruciating hours that stand between you and your return home. Here at SkyMall Monday, we understand your pain. And the SkyMall catalog stands at the ready to help you alleviate that tension in a comfortable and dignified manner. Rather than troll the internet for your favorite fetish while sitting at a cramped desk in your depressing hotel room, now you can recline in your (hopefully clean) bed and conduct some business of your own using the Portable Laptop Desk.This isn’t the first time we’ve tackled portable desks on SkyMall Monday. However, that previous model strapped onto your neck, which isn’t convenient for when you are watching videos of people using strap-ons. When it’s time to seduce yourself on a business trip, you need to be able to relax. Being able to recline while keeping the ten pounds of hot metal and plastic that is your antiquated work computer away from your genitals is just the relief you need to turn boredom into arousal.

Think that laying down with your work computer violates the teachings of the scripture company handbook? Believe that computers should only be used at immobile desks? Prudes like you need to read the SkyMall product description:

Fully adjustable to maximize comfort while in use, the laptop table helps to relieve neck and back pain, and allows for the correct placement of your arms for easy use of your computer… It also eliminates the heat on legs or lap.

When spending special time alone, correct placement of your arms is key. No longer singeing your inner thighs is simply icing on the cake.

Business trips are tedious and draining. Being away from your friends, family and normal routine can make anyone crazy. Rather than let that frustration boil inside you, release the pressure with the Portable Laptop Desk. Just be sure to clean off the keyboard.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts