Travel Shooter

by Ant Stone on August 24, 2010

in Europe,Latvia

I had a whole post, buffed and polished for today. It’s full of good advice and hearty opinion, which will help us all look after ourselves while on the road. I made a coffee, swilled it around my mouth, then gargled a little bit before delving around a few travel blogs. A rush of blood hit my head, and all sense of sensibleness got canned.

We’re all so hung up with being responsible.

Travel safely. Travel wisely. Travel responsibly. Travel considerately. Travel cheaply. Travel slowly. Travel ethically. Travel nicely.

I feel like travel bloggers all exist in a soap opera, but without any cliffhangers. So, what of the dark side of travel; where’s the raunchy underground of international travel?

I wonder where’s all the sex? The drugs? The crime and rage? If travel bloggers were scooped up to form our own nation; we’d be like Switzerland, with a dash of Antarctica.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always an angel on either my travels, or my in life in general. (Who is?)

While I’ve shed many of my more mischievous traits, I still become unstuck now and then, and those moments are easily among my most treasured travel memories. They bring me back in touch with my inner diablo, which isn’t such a bad thing.

Look at this photograph.

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e.g.

With one hand I’m pointing a gun at my head. In the other I’m holding a pint of beer.

It was taken in Riga on February 25th, 2007. Four months before I set out on the journey which seeds TrailofAnts.com.

My flatmate and I booked the cheapest flight out of Stansted, and before I knew it we were getting slapped about by a Latvian winter and the odd wink from sultry girls.

As all good Englishmen do in this situation, we dived into the nearest pub. Then bumbled out of that one and into the next one. And so on.

I woke the next day with a thundering hangover, and reached instinctively for my mobile phone. I knew it held the answers to questions I didn’t yet have the mental energy to form.

When I saw this photo, it all came rushing back to me.

Most of the pubs had closed, but we were thirsty for more. Eventually we discovered a discrete set of steps leading down to a basement bar. A cheerful chat with a thuggish-looking man gained us entry. The bar was small and sparse, but suitably warm and busy.

As the barman poured our beers, I spotted his gun.

Normally in this situation I’d get a bit edgy, but I had a full pint, so we started chatting. One thing led to another, and he handed me the gun to a chorus of boyish cheers.

I’m not advocating blog writers rush out and stick a gun against their giddy heads. I’m just interested to know who we’re all trying to fool?

I believe a large part of it is because many of our kith and kin read our work, and so we do extend a certain restraint when reporting from the road. There’s a certain amount of, “what happens on the road, stays on the road” attitude, which fuels a community of invisible enigmas.

What I’d love to see more of, is some dedicated, gonzo travel blogging. Some content we can all live vicariously through while we continue our plight for prim and proper. Perhaps you know of some already?

Am I right, or are we all perfect angels? What overall impression of travellers, do you get from reading travel blogs? Are there any niches you’d like to see flourish?
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Anil August 24, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I don’t know of any but think the niche is wide open. Personally, I’d like to see niches flourish. Many travel blogs, while entertaining, are a bit all over the place. Some more specifically-focused ones (i.e. a region, place, *specific* way of traveling) would be great.

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Jane August 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

My underground stories could never be told! Not unless I used an anonymous name! :)

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Daniel August 24, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Preach, brother! Amen—would love to see something like that. And, in fact, will promise to take up a similar style when the rubber finally hits the tarmac!

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TheCyberGypsy August 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Gawdy, I’ve been in some very hairy situations – usually alcohol induced, or triggered by wanting to get off of the beaten track morally, metaphysically or just plain physically.
One thing I’ll write a good long blog post about one day is when I decided that instead of running away from the carpet selling rickshaw wallahs in Agra, I went with the flow and visited the carpet showrooms, made buddies with the head honchos and drunk tea. Due to the interest I was apparently showing in carpets (I was quite transparent and told them that I was only window shopping, but any positive interest was seized upon like a fat kid seizing on a cake) this progressed to my being wined and dined and driven around in a chauffeur driven ambassador car.
This was all fine until the Agra mafia got involved…I’ll write a full on blog post about this soon

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Ant August 25, 2010 at 4:29 am

@Anil: Me too. I think there are a number of niches that are either empty, or being poorly served that could be capitalised on by new bloggers, or bloggers looking for a shift in direction.

@Jane: You have my email address? ha! Anonymity is another issue altogether. I’m not a big fan, but if it serves a purpose (like, Belle de Jour) it could fuel a big readership.

@Daniel: Don’t make promises you can’t keep — but come back and post a link to the first post.

@TheCyberGypsy: “…wanting to get off of the beaten track morally, metaphysically or just plain physically.” Nice. That could be the slogan. The Magic Carpet of Agra… go with it! Post a link here when it’s up.

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Jools Stone August 25, 2010 at 7:54 am

Mindblowing stuff potentially, and I thought you were ‘a conservative blogger’ Ant! ;-) I sometimes wish that things would get a bit edgier too. I like Larry David’s motto he had in mind for the brilliant American sitcom Seinfeld: ‘No hugging, no learning.’ And even if you have no real tales of such pistolwhipped derring-do to your name, it can still be expressed in the style of writing.
Jools

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Laurence Norah August 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Have to agree with the general theme here, that being that the wildest adventures I go on seem to be alcohol induced. The problem is that when reviewing them in the cold light of the day, they seem less palatable for public consumption. The closest I got to this style of journalism was detailing my brothers performance at a book launch we attended, which ended up with him in a buffet. The strategy here, of course, was to make it sound like I had a wild night, whilst putting the blame on someone else. That is here. http://www.findingtheuniverse.com/2010/07/who-is-mr-satoshi.html

I did read another blog recently, about strangers hooking up, over at Gadling, which I thought was less conservative than the norm, although again, spot the use of pushing the narrative onto someone else rather than the narrator :)
http://www.gadling.com/2010/08/20/airport-hotel-hookup-a-true-story/

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Ant August 25, 2010 at 6:34 pm

@Jools: “No hugging. No learning.” Sounds pretty good to me! You’re right though, writing style would have to be a major driver for the niche. I don’t think I could bear picking through the bad grammmmar to get to the sex skandals.

@Laurence: Nice. I’ll read those tonight. Alcohol does seem to be a factor, which has surprised me a little. The only thing holding me back is my better half might not enjoy reading about my escapades! Still, if I were to start a travel blog a few years back, I reckon I might try out my theory.

Thanks for your comments guys.

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Matt August 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

First of all, what a bloody brilliant story – and a photo to boot.

You’re saying you don’t believe the entire community of travel bloggers are angels? Shocking. I think we lead a life of only learning about far away places, unique cultures, and experiencing special traveler-meet-traveler moments of zen. Not really, but I guess we find the stories of drunken adventure better told through other venues. You’re right, I think there is a growing void that could be filled by the right person.

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Ant August 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

@Matt: Imagine if Hunter S Thompson wrote a travel blog. I think that’s what I’m picturing. Just look at the publicity surrounding Thomas Kohnstamm’s book (although that was because of his research methods). People love a bit of scandal.

@Everyone: Can I just clear something up, I wasn’t suggesting they have to be drunken stories!

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Stephanie August 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oh man, that would be a VERY interesting travel blog to read! If you’d been to tbex you definitely would have seen that no, we’re not all travel blogger angels at all…

I’ll admit that I do some self-censoring on my blog- it’s partly to do with family/prospective employers viewing it and partly because something about my travels has to be mine and mine alone. It’s always a bit of a struggle to me how much I want the entire world to know.

I also like to have the REALLY fun stories close to my vest to whip out at cocktail parties or wherever.

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Ant August 29, 2010 at 5:16 am

@Stephanie: I’m sure TBEX (a travel blogging conference) would have been the perfect breeding ground for this style of travel blog :)

Self-censoring is perfectly fine, I do it myself.

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Sarah September 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

What a good point, well made. I’m thinking though that the real difficulty with warts’n'all blogging is that most bloggers count their parents/aunts/nephews/priets amongst their loyal readers. How would they feel about a ‘bare all’ (metaphorically, although possibly also literally) approach being read to their nearest and dearest?

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Ant Stone September 18, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I think you’re right, Sarah. Perhaps one of us should change our name and create an anonymous — warts’n'all — travel blog. You first.

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