Inquirer: My first couch surfing experience

A full-length travel story of mine focused on the five year anniversary of CouchSurfing.com at first destined for the Philadelphia Inquirer last January never found a home there. After a back and forth, I went another direction and it got a tad stale for the daily’s travel editor.

So, because I’ve shared other stories that didn’t run as planned, I’ll do so today. Additionally, as always, I also like to share some grafs that were reworked and items I cut from my original story, which also can be seen below.

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Travel writing and why no one wants to hear about your European backpacking

Travel is most often the privilege of the privileged. Two years ago last month, I was returning from a trip that was certainly a great privilege.

If you can’t go out to eat with friends without referencing something you learned or experienced from some travel experience you had, then I think you’re doing it wrong.

Great travel writers, I think, tend to have always done so for a personal love for travel — not primarily to be a travel writer or to tell someone else about what you did.

Of late, I was reminded.

There are nearly a dozen different, conflicting things I believe strongly about travel:

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My guest post on studying in Ghana and other personal travel blogs of interest

dateline-accra

I was asked to guest post on Dateline Accra, the small, personal travel blog of Stephen Zook, a young journalist whose spirit I adored when I was editing his copy a few years ago at The Temple News, the college newspaper I once worked and this year he’ll lead. He is studying in Accra, the capital city of Ghana in West Africa, this summer.

This was my contribution:

Don’t be afraid of the satchel water.

Pretty quickly on in the urbanized sprawl of greater Accra in coastal Ghana, you just might notice that the kids buy plastic bags of water, a corner of which they bite off to chug the contents. If no one convinces you otherwise, you just might stick to the bottled variety.

Don’t be afraid of the satchel water — that much I learned.

I spent a portion of summer 2005 studying at the University of Ghana in East Legon outside of the capital city of Accra. It wasn’t long enough to fully familiarize myself with even the university, set aside the city, the country or the region and Hell if I have even a taste of the continent, as one of the great lessons from travel should be that cultural learning comes from decades not days in a place. I did, however, pick up that the satchel water was refreshing, cheap and unique. Read the rest here.

Before he left, I promised him a beer when he returned. Now, I think he owes me one.

I hope he has a transcendent summer, explores and shares everything he can on that site. I also hope he builds traffic to share his story. He’s using Twitter, though he has some ground he can certainly make, as he’ll have plenty of compelling stories to tell.

Of course, this made me realize I follow a handful of low-traffic, personal travel blogs of friends or acquaintances who offer interesting reading. After the jump, peep seven such blogs that might be worth your time, whether you know the writers and their locations or not.

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Inquirer: Zurich bicycle-trip personal essay

Standing with Sean Blanda and his brother Brian in Zurich, on the dock described in my Inquirer story below.
Standing with Sean Blanda and his brother Brian in Zurich, on the dock described in my Inquirer story below.

A personal journey essay of mine appeared in today‘s Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

If I keep my hand steady long enough, I just might get a photograph of me racing down the steepest hill in Zürich on a bicycle. But I’ll have to settle for the shot of me standing on a dock on Lake Zurich, shadowed by the yellow sun, framed in crystal blue skies, as I peer at the Swiss Alps, not 20 miles away. Read the rest here.

See related video, another photograph and read some details on the story below.

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The Northeastern U.S. Cities: an embarrassment of urban riches

This is a conversation I’ve had too many times.

I am in Washingto D.C. today, the day after Martin Luther King day, for the inauguration of Barack Obama. While I will have much more to say on that in coming days, being here reminded me of how often we in the mid-Atlantic take for granted what we have: five of the most influential cities in the country and among the more meaningful in the world.

All Americans have relative access to them, but the densest collection of our residents can visit Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington D.C. for the weekend.

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In Washington D.C. for Obama inauguration, Franklin birthday

I am going to the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. tonight, to get settled and look around town, where I will be covering the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday.

More on that to come.

Obama left yesterday from Philadelphia to head to D.C., also making a stop in Delaware. Leaving from Philadelphia is a historic nod to past presidents, like Abraham Lincoln, and fittingly landed on the 303rd anniversary of the birth of Philly’s favorite founding father: Ben Franklin.

Celebrate that below.

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Notes on seeing Europe from a train

On the train destined for Stockholm, Sweden
On the train destined for Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 1, 2008.

By Christopher Wink | Oct 23, 2008 | WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com

You take trains from big cities to other big cities. Lands, untold by tour books and unseen by sloppy tourists like yourself, unfold beneath your high carriage of jet setting: two months, 10 cities 3,000 miles wide and two or three days deep.

You are riding great dividers of place and time, laughing at great empires of history. Slicing corridors of culture. Other trains pass with silent screams at 70 miles per hour. You mull issues of personal importance and navigate narrow bathrooms.

There’s the old story of the boy who took a train and came back a man. No great story of accomplishment or adventure, but stalking late-night cars and toeing empty rail yards. Sleeping with a bag in his lap until he wanted someone to know him again. Until he learned who is chasing whom.

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WDSTL travel essays posted

On the train destined for Stockholm, Sweden
On the train destined for Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 1, 2008.

On the Creative page of this site, I have posted a handful of travel essays I wrote for WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com, while podcasting and blogging in Europe.

They are not professional clips, but if you didn’t get a chance to read them this fall on WDSTL, see them here. Direct links below.

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Web presences, social networking that can be put on hold

google-reader

Google Reader I am back.

Last month I returned from five weeks backpacking Europe and moved into a new home in Frankford, a neighborhood in lower Northeast Philadelphia.

Somehow, even though I was travel blogging and video podcasting at WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com, my month-plus European tour was an Internet vacation (IV) for me.

It was a chance to look at what social networking devices are easiest to put on hold.

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The boy in the train station coffee shop

By Christopher Wink | Oct. 8, 2008 | WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com

Worlds – yes, disparate worlds – come to some form of a cross-section in red-eyed, late nights in train stations.

Early Tuesday morning, we were doing that, surfing the intersection of the young and the acutely itinerant – being reminded of the sociological difference between situational and generational poverty.

We, three, were in a 24-hour coffee shop just before 1 A.M., waiting on a 6 A.M. train. A security guard recommended the spot, a few modern chairs off to the side where people buy cups of foam and cream. A young man, a year or two my junior, sat beside me, tapping his foot and twitching in his chair, regularly, if subtly. The kind of movements you might expect at 1 A.M. in a late-night train station coffee shop.

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