Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Virtually Vicarious

Feel like drifting off for a while? Search the Internet for travelogues.

By Paul Gerald

SEPTEMBER 20, 1999:  One of the best things about the World Wide Web has always been that it is strictly voluntary. If you want, for example, to show the world your latest digitized vacation pictures, you can either e-mail them -- which forces people who probably don't want to see them to sit through long downloads -- or post them on a Web site. That way, anybody who's looking at them is doing so because they chose to.

Along those lines, the Internet is a godsend for the particular breed of folks who cannot help but tell their travel stories. It's where everybody has a "home." And even if many pages are basically mybigegotrip.com, the Web is where everybody can let it all hang out, because after all, your audience chose to be there and didn't pay a penny for it.

As a teller of tales from the road, I am always curious to read the tales of others. So I did a little Internet search for travelogues -- yikes. I am now behind in life by yet another day, having spent this one reading about other people's trips. Yahoo! breaks online travelogues down into 74 regions and countries and then such subjects as Around the World (47 of them), aviation, cycling, fishing, honeymoons, motorcycles, paddling, and "ongoing."

Many of these can be helpful if these people went where you'd like to go. You get a little inside scoop, as it were. Others are just fun to read.

Take, for example, John and Janet Circle the Globe, at tawny.bu.edu/JandJ/. This is a husband-and-wife team that spent a year and a half traveling -- and putting the site together as they went. They've got hundreds of photos, a 300-page book available, and running commentary from their frog puppet, Fargo Phraugh. Yes, their puppet. He appears in numerous photos, as well. As we have already covered, reading this stuff is strictly voluntary.

Then there's the Earthwalker, at home.earthlink.net/~earthwalker1. This guy walked around the world, taking more than four years to go 14,450 miles in about 20 million steps. He did use four different mules to carry his stuff, but the Guinness people say he's the first person to walk the globe.

If you're thinking of going to Hawaii, check out www.jans-journeys.com. Jan has descriptions of (and screensavers from) 28 trips, mostly out west and to Hawaii. This is a slick, fancy site with tons of photos, as well as links to what I assume (and hope, really) is every site relating to Hawaii that exists.

The "Tombstone Tourist," at www.teleport.com/~stanton/, has his own thing going: His motto is "how to get within 6 feet of your favorite musician." From Roy Acuff to Frank Zappa, the book is 440 pages with 250 photos highlighting over 225 musicians of the past. The guy claims over 2,230 verified locations worldwide, which at least suggests that he leaves home often. Some of the people on the internet apparently don't.

I found several of the links at Global Passage's StoryBoard, www.globalpassage.com/storyboard, to be out-of-date, but there are such goodies as the adventures of Adam Levin, a "27-year-old, white, African, queer, Jewish journalist, based in Johannesburg." He did a nice piece about a somewhat mad restaurant/hotel owner called "Fawlty Towers on the Swahili Coast." Global Passage also has a searchable database of over 15,000 travel-related sites.

Ever wanted to go out chasing tornadoes? Meteorologist Steve Gaddy has his "storm chaser log," with cool photos, at rossby.ou.edu/~sgaddy/chase.html. He also has a strictly factual (no pictures) analysis of just about every road in America. Of the Memphis-to-Virginia run on I-40, he said it was "just about the longest continuous stretch of interstate highway I've ever driven within one state."

I've always thought true travel writing is writing that's done while traveling. It had never occurred to me to put out entire magazines while on the road, but that's exactly what Monk Magazine, at monk.com, is all about. It calls itself "the epic saga of two men who quit their jobs and sold everything they owned and hit the road." What they would do is roll into a town, interview local celebrities, and write stories about the town and their adventures there, and then sell ads to local companies, print the thing, and head on down the road. Several of these, as well as some guidebooks, are now on their site.

There are even "ongoing" travelogues out there, although in fine Internet tradition most of them are now finished, out-of-date, or "under construction." The "Mad Nomad" (madnomad.com) is roaming the Middle East as you read, and the protagonist at earthtourlive.com was last seen in Florida, trying to hitch a ride to Arkansas.

And since the Web is essentially about shameless self-promotion, I have to note that your humble Flyer travel writer recently took one of the biggest steps into computer dorkdom, registering my name as a domain. So at paulgerald.com you can read all the Flyer's travel columns as well as stories from the Alaskan fishing fleet and yet another online, round-the-world venture, this one from 10 years ago.

Like most things in Cyberland, it's not too important, but it's also free. And, let me repeat, strictly voluntary.


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