Archives for October, 2012

On the morning we arrived in Cairo, someone threatened to kidnap me. Not me individually, but all of us, in fact. Like some distorted welcome nod, on the same day our private jet landed in Egypt’s capital, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri posted a video online urging Egyptians to kidnap Westerners. Frankly, I am flattered…

I am relieved to discover that King Tut’s tomb is smaller than my apartment back home. Now, when I return from this transcendent circumnavigation, I am less likely to suffer from any serious bouts of post-travel claustrophobia. After freely roaming around the gargantuan sphere of Earth, I expect my home in the city will seem…

We speak of the blue planet, and praise the beauty of our living green Earth, but I am swiftly discovering that much of our world is simply brown. This is not a bad thing. Brown can be beautiful when it goes on forever, as it does on the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania. The…

This voyage feels like I’m flying through the pages of the National Geographic Atlas. I love it. Every other day we move many inches across the map, jetting away from one intricate landscape of the Earth, soaring high overhead, taking in the scenes of mountains and rivers and sea below and then coming back down…

From the air, India is an immense puzzle— –a hazy puzzle of dusted field and clustered village, with broken beige roads like sun-bleached branches on a dead tree. Down below, pixelated city blocks resemble the square doodles I draw and fill in mindlessly when I am back at home, sitting on hold and waiting for…

Panda Love #RTW

How do you get a panda to sit still? With lots of honey. This is what I learned while visiting the Chengdu Panda Base during a morning layover on this, my extraordinary expedition around the world by private jet. That’s right. I got to cuddle a baby panda on my private-jet layover in southern China.…

Not once while I was in China did I eat rice. Perhaps I was ordering wrong but I also don’t remember seeing it on any menus. Instead, I was fed a steady diet of delicate dumplings and noodles so long it took me ten seconds to slurp a single spoonful. Chinese food may have already…

Two Tombs #RTW

In China, it’s all about the gift shop. Since arriving in the Middle Kingdom, nearly every destination we visit comes equipped with a well-stocked gift shop manned by an English-speaking staff all ready to grant us, their new friends, at least a twenty percent discount. Even a callused traveler as myself is susceptible to the…

I enjoy being a tourist. Too often, the word tourist becomes an unfavorable accusation—perhaps understandably but not always fairly. Frankly, I find the whole tourist/traveler debate to be tiresome, and I am the first to admit that in most cases, I am nothing more than a tourist. Tourism demands different priorities than mere traveling. Instead…

Sleep is entirely overrated—travel is not. While both sleep and travel share priority status in my life, the latter tends to beat out the former in every case. For instance, after flying more than 18 hours from San Francisco (with a water and wi-fi break in Korea, as it were), I touched down in the…

Seconds after updating my Facebook, San Francisco comes out to play. Don is back from Bali, Spud invites me to the office, George texts “Drinks in the Castro!” and Jason wants to grab lunch. Andrew Nelson is in New Orleans but delivers one of his no-fail food missions (Go to Tartine! Get the orange rolls).…

So far, I have never missed a plane in my life. Ever. Perhaps this is because all my journeys begin in the still, black hours of pre-morning, when not even the rats are roaming the streets of our nation’s capital. If I start early enough—say, 4 AM—I can usually make it from my doorstep to…

Cross Country

This past Saturday morning, I ran across an entire country. No matter that the country was Liechtenstein—the sixth smallest nation on Earth; No matter that there was no official race course or registration or crowd of spectators to cheer me on—I ran solo across a landscape I knew only from the maps I had read,…

I am a self-professed (and exceedingly proud) geography nerd. Maps and places are what I studied in college, countries and capitals were personal obsessions when I was an über-nerdy middle-school kid competing in the National Geographic Bee, and this whole field of cartographic science also happens to be the basis upon which the National Geographic…