Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vote for Sacred Rides

Mountain Equipment Coop is running a contest for homemade adventure videos, and I make a guest appearance in one of the entries. Mike Brcic, the tireless principle behind Sacred Rides Adventures and the Bikes Without Borders charity, has uploaded a 10-minute video of a scouting trip (which I wrote about for Financial Post Business Magazine) looking for the "El Dorado" of singletrack in Chile's Atacama Desert.

You can watch the video here. Be sure to vote for Mike and tell your friends to,as well, because he plans to donate any prize money if he wins to Bikes Without Borders, which refurbishes and supplies used bicycles to needy communities around the world. A great video and a great cause.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Review: The Adventure Blog

I was thrilled to get a long and appreciative review of Fatal Tide on The Adventure Blog, one of my favourite online stops, where I get my daily fix of updates about adventure news around the planet. Hopefully, that positive mention will get a little viral marketing buzz going south of the border among readers interested in adventure racing and outdoor topics.

As the book pages of major newspapers wither and die, blogs have stepped up as both a way for authors to update readers about their work and also to get reviews and other mentions of their books out into the world. Other blogs I check regularly include:
  • D.B. Scott's Canadian Magazines Blog, which keeps me and other magaholics in the loop about industry news and gossip
  • Book Addiction, whose mystery author (hi, Richard!) lists his recent book-buying sprees (guided by his taste in environmental literature) with handy mini-reviews and annotations
  • Leeward Press, home to Chad Fraser, a kayak enthusiast and fellow author out East
  • Green Tenant, a great idea for a blog by a buddy in Toronto: ecological resources for renters
  • And last but not least, Life with Two, the blog on written by my find out what I most recently did wrong, plus remind myself how cute our kids are when I'm travelling.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Simonator

I'll be the first to admit it: I'm a byline junkie.

As an aspiring creative writer years ago, seeing my name in print (in campus and community newspapers) was what ultimately teased me over to the "dark side", from the high, lonely peaks of capital-L Literature to the muck-raking, deadline-thick valleys of lower-j journalism. It's a fast and dirty fix. Hammer off a 800-word news article or a 2,500-word magazine piece. Wait a couple weeks or months. And—budda-bing, budda-bang!—there it is: your work and (better still) your name in print.

I still don't get tired of it. And now, as a magazine writer, there is a special thrill on those rare occasions when a feature story I've written gets prominently displayed on the publication's cover. Such was the case recently, as I was wandering through Ottawa International Airport, and I stepped past the magazine stand and saw Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield staring back at me.

It was the cover of the new issue of explore magazine. And it was my long feature profile of Simon that had made the cover (which was news to me). I was lucky enough to get to spend several mornings and afternoons hanging out with Whitfield and members of Canada's high-performance triathlon team as they geared up for the Beijing Olympics, and then interview a number of triathlon experts and past coaches who understand what makes Canada's top triathlete (and former gold-medal winner) tick. I was also lucky enough that my editor at explore gave me plenty of room (5,500 words, in fact) to dig into Whitfield's background, training regimen, and prospects for the 2008 Olympics.

Can he retake gold in Beijing in three days? Hard to call. There are about a dozen elite male triathletes who could podium: Tim Don of the U.K., Andy Potts of the U.S., Greg Bennett of Australia, several Kiwis and Germans and Russians... and of course Javier Gomez, the Spanish wunderkind who has been tearing up the sport for the last two years. He's anyone's top pick for gold.

But I'll definitely be watching and cheering Simon on (as well as Canada's Paul Tichelaar and Colin Jenkins). Researching the story only deepened my respect for the sacrifices and physical punishment that our amateur athletes endure. Sure, it was my story on the cover of the magazine. But it's Simon's amazing accomplishments and athletic efforts—past, present, and future—that make the story worth reading.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Travel Wanking

Here's a hilarious blog post from the Sydney Morning Herald's website about "travel wanking". Anyone who has accumulated a few rare visa stamps in their passport or kipped in fleabag hostels around the world has likely been a victim of—and probably an indulger in—travel wanking: the unselfconscious one-upmanship of dueling road tales, travel as an accumulation of arcane experiences with which globe-trotters can bully fellow travelers with their superior tastes.

Of course, it's always travel not tourism—the latter is what other, less sophisticated people do. (Full disclosure: I've surely wanked about my own travels more than a few times; apologies to anyone who has ever suffered from the vanity of my past voyages.) One of my favourite postcards, given to me by a colleague, sketches a man in a suit riding a camel past the pyramids. He declares to his companion: "I'm a traveler, not a tourist." Beside him a thought bubble rises from the head of an ambulatory Egyptian: "Another cultural imperialist!"

That's a distinction that the true travel wanker has uttered at some point in his or her post-trip recollections: "I'm a traveler, not a tourist."


And be sure to read the comments thread that follows the blog for further evidence that travel wanking, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, is a mirror in which the wanker sees everyone but himself.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Extreme Do-Gooding

I got a fun assignment from the Life section of the Globe and Mail (thanks, Pat!) to write about "extreme do-gooders": Canadian adventurers who tackle epic outdoor challenges to raise awareness or money or both for environmental and other noble causes.

I'm glad the editors had space not just for the main profile of Benjamin Jordan and Leonardo Silveira of the Above + Beyond expedition (and Kevin Thomson of Creative Crossings Society of Canada), but also list some of my favourite outdoor altruists: Rob Dyke, Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison, S├ębastien Sasseville, Greg Kolodziejzyk, and the tireless Ray Zahab.

All of them inspiring folks.