Photo of the day (12.16.10)

What charmed me about this photo from Thimphu, Bhutan, other than the pleasant colors and lines, was the caption. Flickr user AndreaKW translated the suggestion box’s Dzongkha script as literally “thoughts box” and I love the idea, much less pressure than coming up with constructive suggestions. A thoughts box could have notes like “Next time, pack fewer shoes” or “Why don’t I ever eat meat on a stick at home?” or even the classic “Help! I’m trapped in a thoughts box!” The possibilities are endless, especially for traveler interaction, like the postcards from strangers project.

Have any photos to leave in our thoughts box? How about adding them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just choose one of your shots as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the day (10.21.10)

Do spies wear sundresses? Flickr user jrodmanjr snapped this woman in Moscow‘s Red Square and imagines she may be a cold war spy, her black briefcase full of classified documents. More likely an art student with a portfolio, but any any rate, its fun to speculate on the secret lives of strangers. As a photo, it’s pretty interesting too: nicely framed, distinctly Russian, and the mysterious girl’s dress balances nicely with the colors of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Photograph any intriguing people on your travels? Submit your photos to Gadling’s Flickr Pool & it could be our next Photo of the Day!

Spend five minutes talking to your seatmate – Airplane tip

We’re accustomed to two extremes: the gregarious seatmate who talks through the whole flight, and the one who has his eyes closed from the start. Most of us prefer the latter, but we may be cheating ourselves out of a business contact or an interesting story.

In my opinion, here’s the best greeting to use to help find that middle ground:

Hi. Nice sitting with you. Would you mind giving me five minutes about you, then we can each read/work/listen to music/sleep, having had our lives enriched by knowing another interesting person.

You never know, you may wish you had a longer flight.

The modern couch potato

While I was backpacking across Peru the last couple weeks, I kept hearing about couch surfing. (And not the lazy TV-watching kind). Apparently it’s become the rage of late, traveling not hostel to hostel, but couch to couch.

The most established organization–and nonprofit to boot–that connects you to complete strangers who will host you while you’re traveling is the Couch Surfing Project. We introduced it last year, when it was already a couple years old (but still considered in its infancy).

Now it’s hit prime-time. Membership has apparently tripled in each of the three years it’s been up, averaging roughly 5,000 new members each month. The editor of Budget Travel, Erik Torkells, nicely sums up the reasoning behind the phenomenon’s booming popularity. “If I couch surf I could be on some cool ex-pat’s or local’s sofa. I’ve already leapfrogged barriers. It would take weeks under ordinary circumstances to get in someone’s home.”

I think the next time I’m in South America, or anywhere else, I’m going to try being a couch potato.