Where The Hell Is Matt? Gets Zapped By Tesla Cannon

In case you’re unfamiliar with gadabout/YouTube sensation/random dancer Where the Hell is Matt?, I suggest you click here. Or, you can take the easy way out and read this synopsis: Matt Harding is that guy who made a bunch of videos of himself doing a goofy dance in front of various global landmarks, and achieved that peculiar level of fame unique to those who have gone viral.

In the video below, Matt is shown getting bombarded with 10,000 volts of electricity by a Tesla cannon. I had no idea what that is, because my editor just assigned me this post. I’m glad, because I was watching a really bad Greek film on Netflix.

Anyway, a Tesla cannon, according to Fallout Wiki, is a “shoulder-mounted directed energy weapon using technology pioneered by Nikola Tesla.” I also needed to look up who Nikola Tesla was, so don’t feel bad (maybe I should feel bad)?

Matt, we appreciate your taking one for the team in the name of travel. Next, we’d like to see you dance in front of a herd of stampeding Cape buffalo in Uganda.


Uncornered Market Q&A: Audrey and Dan on Iran

uncornered marketUncornered Market is one of the most popular travel blogs out there. A quick gander will demonstrate why this is the case. Audrey Scott and Dan Noll’s labor of love boasts some of the most arresting travel photography around. The subjects the two take on are of broad interest as well–from reflections on cultural traffic to recipes, to reflections on the importance of diplomacy on a personal level, and even to a particular brand of self-help.

Audrey and Dan talk to Gadling hot on the heels of their first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran with a range of opinions, suggestions, and tips.

Q: Good day, Audrey and Dan. Define your occupations.

A: Storytellers, writers, photographers, world travelers. Mostly, we’re known as the husband-and-wife team behind the travel blog Uncornered Market.

Q: You recently traveled to Iran. Tell us how the trip came about and where you went.

A: Our interest in Iran dates back to 2003 when we befriended Audrey’s Iranian colleagues at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and attended a slideshow presentation from travelers who’d recently returned from Iran. Our curiosity was piqued; we wanted to see for ourselves what the country and people were like, to find an alternative story than what the media tends to portray.

We’ve been on the road for five years and now seemed like the right time to satisfy our curiosity despite the fact that our family and friends thought we were crazy given the current political climate.

Our trip began in Tehran and then made a loop through Hamadan, Kermanshah, Ahvaz, Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan, Abyaneh, Rasht, Masuleh, Ardebil, and Tabriz. We finished the journey with an Iranian train trip from Tabriz to Istanbul, Turkey, which took two and a half days.

Q: In your interactions with Iranians, did politics ever enter the picture? Did you discuss geopolitics or the actions of the US and Iranian governments with anyone?

A: We never began our conversations on the topic of politics, but particularly after we earned people’s trust, it entered the discussion. Most of the Iranian people we met took issue with their government, its rules, its rhetoric, and its disengagement with the rest of the world. Many would conclude with: “People are good. Politics and governments are bad.”

The impression of America, and especially of the American people, was strikingly and overwhelmingly positive. The Iranians we met wished to engage more with the rest of the world. However, most Iranians we spoke to did not expect change within their own government, and as a result, they were not optimistic that relations between the Iranian and American governments would improve any time soon.

Q: How were you received, generally speaking?

A: Like rock stars. We traveled with a small group of Americans, Australians and a Dane. We were all well received, but as Americans we were often shown special positive attention. Being American got us a lot of handshakes, hugs and invitations to people’s homes.
Q: Did you find yourselves unpacking assumptions made in advance? Did you encounter any surprises along the way?

A: Yes. What we found in Iran – and particularly regarding ordinary Iranian people — was so profoundly different than the prevailing media narrative. Iranian people, as a rule, are kind and are not a bunch of terrorists.

Iranians also actively seek and find ways to circumvent censorship. For example, everyone seems to have Facebook accounts and satellite dishes, both of which are technically banned or blocked.

We were also pleasantly surprised by how often we managed to slip off, walk the streets, and talk to people on our own and how safe and normal it all felt.

Q: What were your favorite places in Iran?

A: Shiraz — like the wine, though they don’t serve wine there anymore. (Iran is a dry country.) The Shirazi people are friendly and the archeological sites (Persepolis, just outside town) and various religious sites like the Pink Mosque and Shah Ceragh Mosque really blew us away with their elaborate and dizzying designs.

We also really enjoyed the Persian Islamic architecture of Esfahan and the Zoroastrian burial sites in Yazd. Throughout the country, bazaars (markets) were fun and served as great places to meet people.

In the north, we were big fans of the ancient Armenian monastery near Jolfa and its ethereal mountain setting.

Q: Do you have any recommendations, logistical or otherwise, for Americans interested in visiting Iran?

A: Three things. First, Americans are required to have a private guide or join a group tour. The tour company will sort your visa paperwork. The visa process involves obtaining an authorization number from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then procuring an actual visa from an Iranian consulate. The entire process can take up to two months, so get started early.

Secondly, try not to bite off too much. There’s a ton of Islamic history and pre-Islamic history in Iran, including around ten UNESCO World Heritage sites. But the country is huge, so being selective will help you avoid spending all of your time in transit.

Lastly, always be aware of the context, but don’t be afraid to talk with people on the street.

Q: What’s next for the Uncornered Market duo? (Or should I ask where’s next?)

A: We are in the midst of planning 2012. Israel is near or at the top of the list. We’ve collected numerous invitations from newfound Israeli friends and travel companions. We’d like to see Israel for ourselves, especially after our experiences in other parts of the Middle East.

In addition, Audrey would like to visit Australia, which will be her seventh continent. Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Balkans are in the conversational mix.

Our 2012 non-travel plans include redesigning our blog and completing several publishing projects. It’s also about time to write that book we keep talking about.

A profile of travel writing school Matador U

matadoru traveling writing courseAs someone who has been traveling around the globe since before I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a travel writer. While I would often blog about my trips to my friends and family, write about my trips for school papers, and create websites and content for (unpaid) internships, I never realized that travel writing was something that normal people could actually make a living out of.

Matador has always been one of my favorite travel websites, so when I saw that they were offering a MatadorU travel writing course, I became interested. I did a bit of research, read reviews and feedback from other students, contacted the instructors, and, after deciding it sounded worthwhile, signed up. Plus, I liked the fact that they allow you to try the course for a week for $10 to see if you like it, risk free.traveling writing course with matadoruThe total for the course is $350 which gives students access to various lessons, resources, and support forums. With all the course offers, I can honestly say it is the cheapest yet most worthwhile course I have ever taken. Before even get started, there is a pre-course that helps you setup your blog and learn what steps to take to get the most out of the course. After that, there are 12 weekly chapters (although, you are allowed to take as much time as you need to complete them), each with key terms, lessons, examples to make the lessons clear, and assignments that are critiqued. Unlike many of the assignments that I completed in school, what is great about MatadorU’s assignments is that each one becomes content to help build your blog. There are also assignments that help you create photo essays, podcasts, portfolios, and advertising pages to help monetize your site. Some other important lessons learned from MatadorU include:

  • creating successful pitches
  • finding and approaching editors
  • crafting compelling beginnings, middles, and ends to your story
  • creating characters and dialogue
  • writing in different tenses and using all of the five senses
  • writing different types of articles, for example, destination pieces vs. reviews
  • crafting a successful bio
  • how to apply for press trips and etiquette to abide by if you are chosen
  • tips for successful freelancing
  • tips for travel writing full time (for example, how to get insurance)
  • how to successfully use social media as a travel writer
  • how to work on the road

And much more (seriously, that isn’t even half of what they cover). Really, though, if there isn’t something covered, you are free to seek help by contacting the instructors or posting in the community forums where your peers, as well as staff, comment. The forums are not only a great place to learn and get advice about travel writing, but are also helpful in creating contacts, finding potential project leads, finding out about writing contests and jobs, and allowing you to talk to like-minded people in your niche.

By the time I had reached Chapter 3, I had not only begun contacting editors and sending pitches, I had started making money. My first article that I successfully pitched and sold was for an online adventure travel magazine about hiking in New York. While they normally didn’t pay for articles, they liked my idea so much they gave me $50 to create a mini-hiking guide for them. While this isn’t a ton of money, just starting out, I was pretty excited, especially since for years I had been writing for websites that didn’t pay me a dime. It also gave me the drive to really put all of my efforts into the MatadorU course and get the most out of it, giving me the confidence to pursue higher paying avenues (many times, successfully!).

Aside for the immense amount of information they give you and the feeling of a strong support system, there were two things about this course that really made me feel like it was worthwhile. The instructor in charge of the course, Julie, is the most helpful teacher I have ever had. I was always amazed at how much thought she put into giving me feedback on my assignments and my endless questions and e-mails. She has taken the time to Skype with me about future steps in my travel writing career and has even set me up with some networking projects. I am not sure how she finds the time to give each student so much attention, especially since she is a travel writer herself, but she does.

The other factor that has really made me a fan of MatadorU is all of the resources that I have, and always will have, access to. Just the Magazine List alone, with publication information, submission guidelines, and editor contacts for over 100 travel-related magazines, was worth the cost of the class. There are also pro-modules that are helpful to alumni, as well as a Market Blog that posts press trips, job leads (I have actually gotten paying assignments and jobs from this), and a weekly Writing Lab where you can have any piece of writing you wish to submit critiqued.

So what did I get out of the course? A lot. By taking this course I have not only helped enhance my writing, researching, note-taking, social media, and blogging skills, but have also seen that it’s actually possible to be paid to do what I love most, travel.

Travel blog celebrates Memorial Day

Memorial DayWhatever your plans are for this Memorial Day, odds are there will be thoughts of someone who served in the military. Formerly known as Decoration Day, today commemorates U.S. Service members who died while in the military service and is a reason for parades, shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, celebrations, picnics and more. Memorial Day is also a day when those who write blogs reflect on what the day means to them.

Princess Cruises blog, 50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List blog posts once a week and has taken us all over the world with personal accounts of travel from some of their longest-serving employees. The blog started with an account of President and CEO Alan Buckelew’s service in Vietnam. Today, the blog returns to Buckelew with some further thoughts

“This Memorial Day weekend will take me to Washington, D.C. as my mother-in-law is laid to rest with her husband in Arlington Cemetery. While there, my family and I will have the honor of visiting the Vietnam Memorial and observing the Rolling Thunder “Ride to the Wall,” a motorcycle ride to support POW/MIAs.”

Buckelew goes on to tell us about half-scale traveling version of the Vietnam Memorial called The Wall That Heals and about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund‘s Call for Photos, a campaign to collect a photograph for each of the more than 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall.

“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is working to gather all 58,272 photos of those with names etched into the memorial to make sure no face is ever forgotten – nearly 19,000 have been collected so far.”

Another blog with Memorial Day content/wishes is The Word, All Entertainment, All The Time where you can vote for your favorite of the 10 greatest war movies ever made or listen to 20 Songs To Celebrate Memorial Day.

Flickr photo by paul-simpson.org

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Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial

Roller Coaster Tour attempts to ride every coaster in the U.S.

Karol Gajda is on a solo mission to conquer every roller coaster in the United States – and he’s given himself just three months to do it.

Karol’s ambitious coast-to-coast roller coaster ride started last Saturday, and he’s already faced a few ups and downs. His dream was to travel cross-country in a hearse or similarly quirky car, but he had to settle for a more modest vehicle (although he hasn’t yet divulged any details for fear it might break down). He also ripped his shorts at his first stop, Michigan’s Adventure. Let’s hope he brought more than one pair for the trip!

Why is Karol on this mission? Because he wants to. “It’s that simple,” he writes on his blog, Roller Coaster Tour, where readers can keep track of his adventures as he circles the States.

Above, Karol talks more about his quest and encourages followers to meet up with him at parks. Luckily, the coaster enthusiast did have the foresight to get cool rock band-style t-shirts with tour dates on the back, which will make him easy to spot at theme parks during the busy summer season.