Top 10 reasons that Top 10 lists suck

The Top 10 list is as prominent in most bloggers’ toolboxes as hammers are in carpenters’, um, toolboxes. Bloggers love to compile lists. Readers love to judge, debate and share those lists. In theory, everybody wins. However, if you’re a fan of travel writing – or any writing, for that matter – the Top 10 list is the embodiment of the death of narrative. Sure, Top 10 lists can entertain readers, share information and convey feelings, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Travel blogger Michael Hodson (aka @mobilelawyer) decided to take on Top 10 lists in a recent post on his blog, Go, See, Write.Hodson points out that “No one even bothers to do them right – A Top 10 lists should be a countdown from 10 to 1.” Well, he has a point there. We should be celebrating number 1. We’ve been guilty of that mistake here at Gadling. Heck, we’re guilty of using top 10 lists often here on the site. Why? Because we think that we have ideas to share. So, while Hodson claims that “Every good Top 10 has been done,” I must respectfully disagree.

I think every bad Top 10 list has been done several times over. I also think that many bloggers use the Top 10 list as a crutch to hide poor writing skills, muddled ideas and laziness. However, I think that Top 10 lists can be helpful. But, as Peter Parker’s uncle once noted, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Top 10 lists written purely for the sake of shock value or to generate some page views are a disservice to readers. Top 10 lists that are well thought out, promote discussion and truly share useful information have a place in the travel blog world. And, yes, so do Top 10 lists that are just plain hilarious.

Hodson’s post is worth a read and should give travel bloggers pause before they write their next Top 10 list.

Photo by Flickr user sam_churchill.

Top Ten Reasons that Road Trips Rock

Yesterday, Annie posted a top ten list about why road trips suck. I was shocked and appalled, to say the least. After reading her piece and discussing it with folks on Twitter, I deduced that Annie didn’t really hate road trips. She hated long car rides. There’s a distinction and it’s an important one. Road trips make the journey the adventure. The act of being in the car, seeing the sights and not having to rush becomes your trip. The destination is secondary. Long car rides are just attempts at saving money or avoiding a confrontation with your fear of flying. They’re utilitarian and should not be confused with what you and I consider a true road trip. Road trips should be celebrated. To all of you whimsical travelers who have ever made a mix tape specifically for a road trip (and still nostalgically listen to it today as an iTunes playlist), this one’s for you. 1. Time Doesn’t Matter – Who cares when you get to the destination? You’re with your friends, you’re on vacation and you chose to drive for a reason. Enjoy the scenery. Moon the car next to you. Play License Plate Bingo. Cherish those moments in the car because they will breed the inside jokes that you repeat not just on that trip, but for the rest of your life. It’s not about killing time. That’s murder.

2. Pit Stops – Cracker Barrel. Waffle House. Truck stop diners. Gas station convenience stores. These are a road tripper’s oases. All foods are viable options on the road. I’ve seen vegetarians eat meat and justify it with the “I was on a road trip” excuse. Relish that fast food burger. Enjoy a side of pancakes with your omelet (Perkins, I’m looking at you). Buy chips and cookies and candy that you would never think to eat at home and bring them back to the car to eat on the road. You’re on a road trip. You can eat anything you want!

3. Instant Gratification – Ever been excited to go on a trip only to sit at the airport for five hours? Ever had a vacation delayed because you missed a flight? Road trips can’t be delayed. Traffic? Who cares (see #1)? Are you in the car? Congratulations, your vacation has started.

4. Look at That! – If you’re sitting on a plane, you’re only scenery options are the tiny screen in front of you or, if the person in front of you has reclined, some dandruff and a bald spot. Not exactly riveting entertainment. On a road trip, you never know what you’re going to see next. It could be an amusing sign, a classic car or even a sheep herder who needs to play through. Keep your camera handy because road trips are human safaris!

5. Pranks – Sure, at some point the laughter will die down and your car will become a moving nap box. This is the perfect time to mess whoever passed out. Draw a penis on his face. Scream at the top of your lungs and swerve to trick her into thinking you’re about to be in an accident. Call his mother and tell her he’s dead. OK, that last one may go a bit too far but you catch my drift.

6. Music – Road trips need soundtracks. Mix tapes may have given way to MP3 players, but the effect is the same: sing-alongs! If everyone on the trip brings their iPod, you’ll have music for days. And, if they die (or you get sick of listening to your friends Backstreet Boys “classic mix”), the radio is a viable and underrated option. Radio gets a bad rap, but listening to local stations is a road trip tradition. Blast that country music in the South, listen to some bizarre Christian talk show or find the Top 40 station that every town has and harmonize with Rihanna. Because Rihanna is awesome.

7. Detours – Have you ever asked your pilot to make an unscheduled stop along the way? The FAA frowns on that. But if you’re road tripping and see something like, oh, I don’t know, a hedge maze, you can make an executive decision to get lost in some shrubbery. There are countless amazing destinations just waiting to be stumbled upon. The world’s largest ball of twine is going to call out to you some day. Will you answer?

8. Souvenirs – Road trips generate the best makeshift souvenirs. A menu from a dilapidated diner can easily be slipped into a purse and added to a scrapbook later. Trucker hats from rest stops with innuendo-filled names make great keepsakes (I own a Kum & Go hat that a friend purchased for me on a road trip). One man’s schlock is another man’s memento.

9. Friends Both New & Old – Who needs hotels when you can stay with friends? Road trips are a great excuse to call up old friends to ask if you can stay the night when you pass through town. Or, if people are willing, to stay with friends of friends who are willing to put you up. If you announce on Twitter or Facebook that you need a place to stay en route, you’ll be surprised who volunteers their couch or air mattress. We’re only strangers until we say hello.

10. Bonding – The older you get, the harder it is to spend real quality time with the people you care about. Work will demand more of your attention. Family will become a bigger priority. And the time you have to share with friends will diminish. A road trip is a great opportunity to really be ourselves, relive old glories and create new memories that will sustain us through those dull days at the office. Road trips heighten emotions. Jokes are funnier. Laughs are heartier. And the farts stink more if you lock the windows.

Road trips are less about the destination than the journey. It’s cliché, I know. But if all you cared about was getting from Point A to Point B, you wouldn’t call it a road trip. You’d call it driving. A road trip is its own special category of travel. Enjoy each and every moment of it. And then avoid your tripmates for a few weeks when you get home. You’ll be sick of them by then.

The Gadling Top 10 Top 10 lineup of 2008

Can you believe that the year is almost over? When I saw the first Christmas items pop up at my local Costco back in September, the Holiday season seemed so far away.

But now, with less than 2 weeks left in the year, it is time to slowly start looking back at some of the best Gadling had to offer in 2008.

So, please let me present (in chronological order), the top 10 of top 10’s posted here in 2008:

In January, Neil posted about the 10 most common cities where Americans are arrested. Number 10 is Hong Kong, but you’ll need to visit the top 10 to see where in the world Americans seem to misbehave the most.


If you like travel and food, then this list by Iva mentions the top 10 foodie destinations. You’ll read where the best food is, and what is on the must eat list when you travel abroad.


New York City has some of the worlds most impressive architecture, and this list by Anna talks about the top 10 must see building in the Big Apple.


When you add the best roads in Europe, with motorcycles, then you end up with this list posted by Iva. The list mentions the best 10 roads to enjoy on your bike.


British band Scouting For Girls had a big hit this year with “I wish I was James Bond“. If you share their wish to be the British Spy for a day, then this list of the 10 best Bond locations is a must-read. It’ll even tell you where you can find the Goldeneye hotel, which is the Jamaican location where Ian Fleming wrote most of his novels.


Do you still book your trips using a travel agent? Chances are you might not be getting your moneys worth. Back in June, Aaron posted a list of the top 10 signs you have a bad travel agent. Don’t worry though, the list was written by David Letterman, and has some hilarious entries like “Your plane ticket is a post-it note”.


This top 10 list was one of my favorites of the year – Annie dug up 10 of the most stupid laws you’ll find around the world. Thanks to the list, I learned that I can no longer be drunk in Scotland while in possession of a cow. If her top 10 wasn’t enough to entertain you, she added another 10 to the list in her followup post.


In October I wrote down my top 10 ways to make cheaper phone calls when you are abroad. In the list, you’ll find tips like using a Blackberry to make free calls, or when to use prepaid mobile phone cards.


Karen assembled this awesome list of the top 10 things you must pack before you go abroad. It is a must-read if you are leaving the country, and has some great tips, including my favorite – “an open mind”.


And finally, in December I decided to vent, and list the top 10 things I hate about staying at a hotel. Check out my list, and decide for yourself whether hotels suck, or whether I am just a chronic complainer.

So there you have it. The top 10 top 10’s from 2008. If you have any suggestions for a new top 10 list, feel free to leave a comment below!