Google Makes Travel Easier For Lazy People

Google Takes on Hawaii's Hiking Trails
Google’s ongoing world digitization is opening up some very cool travel experiences to people sitting in front of their laptops and tablets. Now, rather than spending thousands of dollars, lots of vacation time and a decent amount of physical exertion to see these places, you can arrive by a click and multi-task your exploring as you commute to work, procrastinate a project or tune out in a meeting.
Last fall Google Maps debuted a “street view” of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs, allowing armchair travelers with no diving or even swimming ability to take a peek at the world’s greatest underwater treasures.

More recently the site teamed up with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau to feature Hawaiian hiking trails on Google Street View. Hiking guides on the Big Island will carry Google’s cameras on roughly 20 of the Islands’ best trails, stitching together a 360-degree experience that people can enjoy anywhere.

Another recent addition to Street View will please Harry Potter fans who can’t make the trip across the pond to London’s Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Muggles can now tour Diagon Alley and the wizarding shops it houses through Street View.

Google Maps isn’t the only thing bringing travel experiences to the masses. Though still in its infancy, Google Glass is expected to change the way people document and share their travel experiences. This year a Running of the Bulls competition invited two Google Glass users to Pamplona to view the annual San Fermin festival events. While the Glassers aren’t expected to actually run with the bulls (too bad, that’s something we wouldn’t mind having Google do for us!), they’ll be watching the bull run from a balcony and sharing the experience via a daily webcast.

It’s doubtful that Google’s online presentations will actually keep people from wanting to experience these places in real life, but we’re intrigued about what other experiences will become available to interactive travelers. Climbing Mount Everest? Surfing Jaws? Space travel?

Where do you want your maps app to take you next?

Video Of The Day: Woman’s Painful Escape While Running With Bulls

A woman narrowly outruns a trio of bulls stampeding through the streets, only to find herself having a run-in of a different kind. Her painful escape is a reminder that running of the bulls ceremonies often result in serious injuries, most of which aren’t directly caused by bulls. In Pamplona, Spain, the most famous location for this type of event, between 200 and 300 people are injured during the runs each year. Most injuries are minor, but according to Wikipedia, 15 people have been killed in Pamplona since record keeping began in 1924 – most by goring or suffocation. If the idea of being chased by bulls still sounds like a good time, the tradition is running strong in cities and towns throughout Spain, Portugal and Mexico.

[Video: Mortationparkour on YouTube]

BBC mapping tool Dimensions creates unique mashups

Ever wondered about the size of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome? Or the how long the infamous Running of the Bulls route is in Spain? The BBC has a great new mapping tool, called Dimensions, to help give visitors and interesting perspective on these unique sights, historical marvels and famous events. Dimensions drops the outline of famous cities, tourist hot-spots and historical points of interest onto a Google Maps view of any postal zip code, creating a uniquely personal context for these well-known places.

To give Dimensions a try, stop by the BBC’s new website, over at www.howbigreally.com. You’ll be presented with nine different topics to map, pulled from a mix of news topics and places: The War on Terror, Space, Depths, Ancient Worlds, Environmental Disasters, Festivals, The Industrial Age, World War II Battle of Britain and Cities in History. As you browse the various choices, dropping the maps onto your hometown, unique insights come to light. For instance, who knew the camp at Nevada’s Burning Man Festival was bigger than the Chicago Loop? Or that the circumference of the Moon is about as big as the entire United States?

BBC Dimensions isn’t just a fun toy. Taken in the larger context of journalism and travel, it represents an innovative way to put news stories and tourist destinations in perspective. Our experience of the world is ultimately derived from what we know. By helping us understand important places in a new way, BBC Dimensions makes the abstract something more than mere stories in a newspaper or photos in a guidebook. A new type of map to help us make sense of the world.

Photo of the Day (06.14.10)

Ever been in a situation that caused you to analyze every decision you made leading up to you arriving in that moment? I remember one time when I was on stage at a sex show in Amsterdam. There was a man in a gorilla suit that was – shall we say – anatomically correct. And his phallus discharged a liquid that I dearly hope believe was water. I don’t know why I was on that stage nor do I recall what my role in the audience participation segment of that show was. I just know that it was awkward. And erotic.

As for the gentleman on the ground in this photo by Flickr user MurrayJ3, well, he’s probably screwed. And he most certainly wonders how the hell he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. One can only assume that alcohol and/or hubris was involved. But probably just alcohol.

Have you run with the bulls in Pamplona? Have pictures of other amazing festivals or wild travel adventures? Upload them to our Flickr pool and we might choose your photo to feature as a Photo of the Day.

Five great ways to get naked around the world

With Nude Recreation Week just behind us, TripAdvisor has announced the top five naked events in the country. So, whether you like to wet your willie while skinny dipping or prefer to bike in the buff, you have plenty of choices to hang your wang.

Biking in the Buff: World Naked Bike Ride – Worldwide, June and July
This one just ended, but put it on your calendar for next year. Since 2004, bikers from around the world have converged to protest our car-driven culture. Show some skin for what you believe in!

Daring Dip: AANR World Record Skinny Dip – Across North America, July 2009
More than 12,000 people set a record by wearing nothing but water in July, creating the world’s largest skinny dip. Everyone had to be shoulder-deep, which I imagine was easier on the eyes in some cases … and disappointing in others.

Maslin Madness: Nude Beach Olympics – Maslin Beach, Australia, January
You have time to plan for this! Maslin is Australia’s first official nude beach, so you can take part in history as you stumble along in the three-legged race (feet, mind you, are joined).

Barely Bulls: Running of the Nudes – Pamplona, Spain, July
PETA’s “Running of the Nudes” is meant to protest bullfighting, but it doesn’t have to be political. Free your body from that fabric prison, and mingle with the few hotties you can find at these types of event. One TripAdvisor traveler admits, “I was shocked but entertained because everything was jiggling around and flopping around, if you know what I mean.”

Share Some Skin: Burning Man – Black Rock Desert, Nevada, August – September
This is an American classic, billing itself as a retreat for self-expression, creativity and community. Burning Man attracted almost 50,000 people to the Black Rock Desert in 2008, many of them getting service without shirts or shoes.