Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
For more about the book and Andy Crouch, please visit

Posts tagged travel

from "The U.S., one bowl of chili at a time," by Jason Panella, Comment, 9 April 2010

My year-long exploration of the United States is—so far, at least—surprisingly cost-efficient. My trip from the state of Washington to Pennsylvania, for instance, only cost around $9. If I keep this up, I’ll be able to smell the smells and taste the tastes from the Atlantic to the Pacific—non-contiguous states and the District of Columbia included—for a little over $100. And it’ll keep me fed in the process. So far, this journey has taught me a lot about myself, about discipline, about improvisation under pressure, and an awful, awful lot about chili.

Chili. Chili con carne, or “peppers with meat” in Spanish. Simply meat and chili peppers, if you’re a purist (plus a lot of other ingredients, if you’re not). OK, so I’m not actually traveling from state to state, but instead I’ve been using Jane and Michael Stern’s Chili Nation (Random House, 1999) cookbook as a tour guide. The Sterns made stops in each state and collected recipes that they felt captured some of the local flavour—coffee-accented chili from the state of Washington, chili with seafood in place of beef from Maryland, a flavourful dish popularized by some of the diners on Mississippi’s Route 61, and so on.

So, in lieu of spending a year traveling, I thought I’d let my tastebuds and stomach take a trip instead. Fifty-one chili recipes in 52 weeks. One chili a week, with one week off (which I’ll probably cash in on my honeymoon, but my fiancée likes chili too, so maybe not!)

from Tristes Tropiques, p.43, by Claude Lévi-Strauss (translated by John and Doreen Weightman), 1955

And so I am caught within a circle from which there is no escape: the less human societies were able to communicate with each other and therefore to corrupt each other through contact, the less their respective emissaries were able to perceive the wealth and significance of their diversity. In short, I have only two possibilities: either I can be like some traveller of the olden days, who was faced with a stupendous spectacle, all, or almost all, of which eluded him, or worse still, filled him with scorn and disgust; or I can be a modern traveller, chasing after the vestiges of a vanished reality. I lose on both counts, and more seriously than may at first appear, for, while I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment, since I have not reached the stage of development at which I would be capable of perceiving it. A few hundred years hence, in the same place, another traveller, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see. I am subject to a double infirmity: all that I perceive offends me, and I constantly reproach myself for not seeing as much as I should.

from "'s Nate Barksdale," interviewed by Christy Tennant, IAM Conversations, 08 October 2009
from "Biking 'Fastest Growing' Way To Get Around NYC," AP Article/WCBS, 15 August 2009

In a metropolis known for its aggressive traffic, noise and fumes, cyclists crisscross New York City on two wheels while dodging cars, trucks, cabs, pedestrians—and even other bikers tearing around with no hands on the bar.

Despite the dangers, biking is New York City’s “fastest growing mode of transportation,” says City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who herself bikes to work in lower Manhattan, about a mile from her Greenwich Village home.

The number of cyclists has jumped by 80 percent in the past decade—to 185,000 among the more than 8 million city denizens. City officials say they’ve worked to make the city more biker friendly. They note the hundreds of miles of marked bike paths created in recent years, safety awareness campaigns and handouts of free helmets to unprotected cyclists.

from "A new idea in travel: Airline for pets," by Andrea K. Walker, Baltimore Sun, 15 July 2009

Dan Wiesel and his wife, Alysa Binder, remember the guilt they felt after their Jack Russell terrier Zoe had to fly cross country in the cargo area of a plane when they moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Florida. “When she came out she just wasn’t herself,” Binder said. “We thought there had to be a better way.” The couple’s answer is Pet Airways, a new airline just for cats and dogs that the couple founded. The airline had its inaugural flights Tuesday from several airports, including BWI Marshall Airport.

There are no human passengers aboard Pet Airways flights, just animals, which are called “pawsengers…”

The airline is sold out for its first two months, Binder said. Pet Airways serves Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, but Binder said the company hopes to expand to 25 cities in a couple of years. Ticket prices average $250, Binder said. Other airlines charge $75 to $275 for pets, with prices varying depending on where the pets ride. In May, Southwest began allowing people to bring small pets on board for $75.

One airline expert said there is a niche for people who want to take their pets on vacation and other travels. But it is unclear if this airline is the answer.

It may be complicated for passengers to plan their flights with their pet’s flights, said Robert Mann, president of airline consulting firm R.W. Mann & Co. Inc.

“It’s an interesting concept,” Mann said. “There is a need for it. The key question is if this particular concept really meets that need. Time will tell, as it usually does.”

from "Expats at work," The Economist, 14 May 2009

Anecdotal evidence has long held that creativity in artists and writers can be associated with living in foreign parts. Rudyard Kipling, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Samuel Beckett and others spent years dwelling abroad. Now a pair of psychologists has proved that there is indeed a link.

As they report in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, William Maddux of INSEAD, a business school in Fontainebleau, France, and Adam Galinsky, of the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, presented 155 American business students and 55 foreign ones studying in America with a test used by psychologists as a measure of creativity. Given a candle, some matches and a box of drawing pins, the students were asked to attach the candle to a cardboard wall so that no wax would drip on the floor when the candle was lit. (The solution is to use the box as a candleholder and fix it to the wall with the pins.) They found 60% of students who were either living abroad or had spent some time doing so, solved the problem, whereas only 42% of those who had not lived abroad did so. . . .

Merely travelling abroad, however, was not enough. You do have to live there.

When I acknowledge to myself that I’m interested in everything, what am I saying but that I want to travel everywhere?

—Susan Sontag, Where The Stress Falls

from "Strangers in the Air," by Lindsey Crittenden, Good Letters: The IMAGE Blog, 16 January 2009

His name was Peter, and he carried an L.L. Bean canvas bag, monogrammed and trimmed in forest green. It was December 28, 1988, and I noticed him at the gate. Preppy, but kind of cute. And then we boarded, and he took the seat next to mine. American Airlines; JFK to SFO; a DC-10, which meant a layout of two-five-two. I had the window, and he the aisle. We gave each other brief, courteous nods, he stashed his L.L. Bean bag, and I turned back to my book, sneaking an occasional glance his way.

The flight attendants did their familiar demonstration. The plane pulled away from the gate and taxied onto the runway. The plane stopped. The captain came on and made a lame joke. Peter (although I didn’t know his name yet) and I exchanged glances, rolling our eyes in shared wariness. He said something, I said something, and we didn’t stop talking for the next six hours, during which I didn’t look at my book or attempt the movie.

By the time the plane landed at SFO, we knew each other’s names, hometowns, employers, current neighborhoods, and how our mothers didn’t approve of the people we were dating—in my case, because the guy, in Mom’s words, “acted like a kindergartener,” and in Peter’s because the woman wasn’t WASPy enough, a fact Peter underlined by gesturing toward the L.L. Bean bag at his feet.

excerpt Passport census
from "Open Letter to Senator Clinton," by Rudolph Delson, n+1, 18 December 2008

I also admire the State Department’s evident desire to create an Album of America—a collection of snapshots that, over the course of the passport’s twenty-eight pages, catalogues the members of our national family. And I am impressed with the diversity the State Department has achieved. Aside from (i) the distant silhouettes of the passengers and crew of the Mississippi Steamer and the Yankee Clipper, (ii) a shadowy herd of cows, and (iii) the identification photograph of the passport holder, the new passport depicts American life in the following numbers:

 Male Humans:11
 Longhorn Cattle: 8 or 9
 Bald Eagles:6
 Totemic Spirits:3
 Female Humans: 1

Of the eleven men, nine are white. The other two are cowboys whose race is rendered indeterminate by their Stetson hats. The lone woman is the Statue of Liberty.

from "airtraffic," by Karl Rege et al., The Zurich School for Applied Sciences:: via Autopia
by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Every year there is a terrific lineup of summer courses at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia. There may be no better place in North America to find inspiration and education for Christian culture making.

This coming year Week 5 (27–31 July 2009) is especially rich, including Michael Ward, author of the extraordinary book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, and Calvin College’s Quentin Schultze. The erudite and wide-ranging theologian John Stackhouse will be teaching a course called “The Ethics of Filmmaking and Other Media” with producer Ralph Winter (X-MEN, et multa cetera). “It will cover how money, sex, power, and ideology affect commercial filmmaking,” John writes on his blog, “with particular reference to Hollywood but to other other film centres (such as Vancouver itself) and, indeed, to other media as well.” If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, I suspect it will be well worth the trip.

In a sign of the embarrassment of riches available these days, the very same week I will be in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at IMAGE magazine’s incomparable Glen Workshop, teaching a week-long seminar on “Culture Making: Meaning in the Material World.” Other faculty include Makoto Fujimura, Lauren Winner, Barry Moser, and Over the Rhine. Wow. I’ll post more information when it’s available. Whether it’s Vancouver or Santa Fe, maybe a summer course registration should be on your Christmas wishlist this year.

from Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit, 2001

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts….

The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making.

from "The End of Service Trips?," by Tim Ogden, Philanthropy Action, 15 October 2008

[Some doubt] whether it’s even possible to achieve the goals of a real encounter with poverty in a week to 10 days. According to Crouch it is—if the trips are radically different. He suggests three ingredients for trips to have an impact:

1. Make trips a part of a lasting, organization-level partnership: Many youth groups feel they have to go someplace new each year to interest participants. Visiting the same place year after year allows the Americans to begin building more of an understanding of local context and needs, and increases the likelihood that the “help” they offer is actually helpful.

2. Properly set expectations: The more a trip is described as a learning experience rather than an opportunity for an unskilled teenager to “help”, the more likely the trip is to have an impact.

3. Small is beautiful: if personal contact is the sine qua non of such trips, they have to be small enough to allow actual personal contact between Americans and their counterparts.

Still, Crouch doubts that one trip can make a difference:

“The trips only make sense if they are part of a comprehensive program of changing people’s attitudes and behaviors. Evidence is shockingly clear that a single trip has no impact. No matter how well you do a trip, especially when you’re talking about teenagers, they are at such a high-velocity developmental stage that I don’t think any single experience is going to have an ‘impact.’ . . . The organizations that have thought about this the most and are doing the best job are making these trips part of a much longer engagement with the issues. For instance, there’s one organization that requires a year-long commitment and the trip occurs in the middle—they meet just as often after the trip as they do preparing for it. . . . The grooves in our culture are too deep for us to escape without that level of commitment.”

from "Rolf Potts: Revelations from a Postmodern Travel Writer," interview by Michael Yessis, World Hum, 19 September 2008 :: via Ideas Blog

Of course, the motifs and assumptions of well-told travel stories do change over the years. Twenty years ago, for example, books like Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu showed how travel writers had a new duty to deal with the charms and challenges and complexities of globalization. By the time I started writing for a living in the late 1990s, it had come to the point where it was nearly impossible to write a travel story without acknowledging globalization in some way. It’s difficult, after all, to project the old exotic clichés onto foreign lands when you keep meeting Burmese Shan refugees who can quote West Coast hip-hop, or Spanish Catholic girls who have crushes on Chinese movie stars, or Jordanian teenagers who idolize Bill Gates.

from "Little India, Singapore," by williamcho, 1 September 2008 :: via the Intelligent Travel flickr pool
from "Meals and Wheels on Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes," by Martina Sheehan, New York TImes, 17 August 2008

In Ecuador, the sources of some of the best bargain eating can’t be marked in a guidebook or circled on a map. In fact, even a well-versed local won’t be able to tell you exactly when and where to find these particular meals. Mostly, you just have to sit back until they find you, which they inevitably do, courtesy of a series of one-person mobile-food-stand entrepreneurs who hop aboard public buses, sell their delicious and amazingly varied wares and hop out until the next group of captive diners rolls by.

These gray-market vendors thrive on the ridership on Ecuador’s efficient and extensive bus system. In Cumandá terminal in Quito, more than 30 competing bus companies vie for customers, shouting impending departures from their ticket windows, so the wait is never long and the price is right. Even at the extranjeros, or foreigners’, price, tickets average $1 per hour of travel (the American dollar has been the official currency since 2000). Besides the music, all buses come with air-conditioning — and a chance to acquaint yourself with local culture and cuisine.

On my recent three-and-a-half-hour bus journey down the Pan-American Highway, the ice-cream man was only one of dozens of people who jumped aboard at various stops as we beat a path southward from the capital city of Quito to the nation’s adventure mecca, Baños, through the valley known as Avenue of the Volcanoes. The vendors hawked everything from herbal cures to watches, but the real one-of-a-kind items were brought aboard by people clutching baskets or coolers, like the helado man. The homemade sweets and snacks they sell, along with the fast food cooked up at stands around markets and bus stations, offered a thorough sampling of regional specialties.

from The global evangelical, by Brian Howell, The Immanent Frame, 28 July 2008

Foreign missions have long been a significant element of Christianity, and everything from the popular books of Victorian missionaries to the stadium crusades of Billy Graham have brought a certain global consciousness to rank-and-file Christians. Unlike that removed and professionalized globalism, however, this is a globalism of the rank-and-file itself. As millions travel to various sites, and millions more hear from their friends and family members about these travels, they gain personal contact with a world that was once just so many pieces of yarn stretched from the picture of a missionary family to their location on the map of the Missionary Bulletin Board in a church basement.

Moreover, this is not a one-way globalism. It is not simply a neocolonial movement redux. These newest internationalists are part of more complex global flows that carry influence in multiple directions. In their article on the Global Issues Survey, Wuthnow and Offutt cite the flows of people, resources and knowledge as far more multidirectional than in the past. While acknowledging the enormous disparity of wealth and influence between American Christians and those in many other countries, they note examples of Brazilian Pentecostal broadcasts finding significant play in the New York City Spanish language market and Ghanaian gospel hip-hop gaining a hearing in Atlanta congregations. In my own research on short-term Christian volunteerism, I have found that those who make these trips or meet with foreign visitors in their home congregations often are struck by similarities. Statements such as “even though I couldn’t speak Spanish [or Portuguese or Chinese or Amharic], I knew we were worshipping the same God” reflect a belief in a unity and connection with non-Western Christians that few evangelicals personally experienced in the past.

NASA photo :: via the Boston Globe's The Big Picture blog.
a Boing Boing post by Mark Frauenfelder, 10 June 2008


Readers of Todd Lappin’s Telstar Logistics blog are entitled to a free copy of the fantastic reader-made travel magazine, Everywhere.

Everywhere is a travel magazine that’s created from articles and photographs contributed by members of the online community at The community votes on their favorite contributions, then Telstar Logistics fleet management officer Todd Lappin (who also moonlights as the editor-in-chief of Everywhere) curates the best of the best to produce an inspiring travel magazine that looks fabulous on your coffee table or personal jet. Published contributors receive $100 and a free one-year subscription.