Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

These skilled words and pictures (a LOT of both) take you to a place you are likely never to go and with people you are likely never to meet, all with a powerful richness of texture and color. That's without even taking into account the project's important underlying mission - "to produce, preserve, and present documentary work about traditional cultures" - which it most certainly does.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks Matt. I wish others had found this just as riveting (and quality) as we did.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I have two young children. Sometimes they absentmindedly kick and we do our best to stop them. Sometimes they let loudly vocalize the frustrations we all feel when we strap ourselves into the standard economy seat. But anyone who has been on both sides of the divide -- anyone who now has kids, but who obviously didn't in earlier years -- knows how insulting the child-free premium-flight proposal is.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

With all due respect to both parties here, I would like to call attention to the community guidelines, especially items 1, 2 and 4. See .

I think we should begin with the premise that Adrian's intentions were honorable. According to his bio and background, he comes from a good place.

That said, Adrian, items 1 and 2 go to the heart of what we're trying to accomplish. We want only the *best* and we want everyone to acknowledge that sometimes the best comes from other places. If what you share isn't the best, the community will know it and it won't attract any (positive) attention. So what's the point? We're not just another distribution channel, since anything that isn't truly excellent won't really get any distribution.

More importantly, your four submissions thus far have been four pieces you wrote. Surely there is other excellent writing on other websites out there that you admire! We want what you're proud of AND what you would recommend by others.

Alastair, while you've stepped up to champion our intentions and we greatly appreciate that, we hope to keep comments constructive. We consider that the bedrock of community building. Without wishing to blunt your respected voice, can you explain how something like this could be made more excellent? And it goes without saying that we would love more of the kind of opinion you expressed about Natalie's very fine Istanbul article (see ).

I look forward to your thoughts, should you wish to share any.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Alastair, there's a sharp difference between writers lancing with nib-bared ballpoints and battalions lobbing live ordnance at one another. I'll stay way clear of Syria, thank you, but do appreciate the kind words.

You're very right, of course, that commercial copy doesn't usually rise to the levels of excellence we would like to celebrate, although I can imagine your lovely descriptions of French roast and other percolations in the wintry Alps that could keep readers reading. :)

I do actually think there is enormous value in strongly written and informative service articles. Part of what we're asking people to submit is solid work that serves a legitimate purpose. But there's no question that if it's sticky with advertorial drool, other readers will give it a wide berth.

In the interest of constructive debate, Adrian, if you're reading this, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks, Adrian, for your reply and my apologies for the delay in responding.

It does help to know about how you arrived on OutBounding and what you thought it was before you were alerted to its intended purpose. Given your helpful remarks about site functionality, I suspect that, like you, many people are not wading into the guidelines, so that's perhaps something we need to look into -- a way to front them more bluntly. After all, they are the glue that we hope will hold OutBounding together.

So you have a deeper understanding of some of the mechanics of the site and why posting excellent content from multiple sources is important: As we've just explained on Tnooz (at ), "The platform’s algorithm adds muscle to the curation process by restricting behaviour that would harm the overall standard of submissions and by rewarding users who play a positive role with more voting weight. ... For example: Users who only ever submit weak content from their own domain will see their influence decrease in relation to users who submit strong content from diverse domains."

I mention this now because, regardless of the specifics surrounding the articles in discussion here, it is essential to us that the community share the love. The best of the best love, actually. (We look forward to what you will bring!)

I also would like to respond to your contention that "Part of being great, I think, is timeliness." With great respect, I strongly disagree. I believe that excellence has no expiry date, that something truly superb is timeless, even if it may once also have been timely. As an example, there were some stunning articles published in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the "superstorm" that laid waste to parts of NYC (and other places). Certainly what made it poignant was how relevant and time-specific it was. But its true power as excellent writing is its long-lingering heart, quality work that zips us back in time to a loathed or loved place and helps us to live it afresh.

That being said, there's definitely a world of difference between human-interest journalism following a natural disaster and writing largely in support of commercial interests, even when the latter is honorable and respected, as is clearly the case of your undertaking. And I should add that timeliness *is* critical for the work you published, given the speed with which restaurants change!

I'm also not sure I see the definitive qualitative difference between a single authoritative voice and a multiplicity of voices. A detail-oriented best-of list involving a small subset of options (38 total pools) in a controlled area (Paris) where the author can prove solid experience in that area and with those options doesn't seem like it wouldn't work. By contrast, an inspiration homage to something with massive scope (thousands of restaurants) over a huge area (all of Canada) would absolutely require a complex tapestry of inputs. 

The question for you (Adrian and Alastair) and the community remains: Do the timeliness and backstories of your work help elevates enough? Do the grand scope and many hands of one make it more constructive and excellent than a single-author piece that is more than two years old? Or are both not quite to the level of excellence we all aspire? Can we share far far better?

By the way, Matt, the full 50 reviews are indeed there. The article is split across multiple pages so the link provided is only to the first page. If you wade in further, you'll find the rest.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

What a fantastic piece of writing. I knew neither the author nor the website, but have flagged them both. Thank you for posting this, Jodi. I will definitely look for more. And I strongly encourage browsers to click the link. I happily read all the way to the end of this -- a rare event!

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Jodi, I got the authentication request too, but then when I clicked on 'cancel' I ended up where I wanted to go anyway.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks so much for thinking highly enough of this to submit it, Linda. To me, just as import as how it's said is what the article's about: a maverick who, with grit and determination, has created incredible things, all without compromising his concern for long-term environmental sustainability. There's a lot to be learned from him, both on the ecotourism side of things AND on the quality-service side. They can go hand in hand, or green thumb in silk glove.  

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Well put, TransitionsAbroad. *Ethics* and *aesthetics* should be as close in practice as they are in spelling. And finding a way to bring in the -- um, I dunno, let's stretch the spelling thing a bit -- *athletics* of presenting it in a balanced way is the challenge to content creators, our part of the deal.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Wow. I dream of seeing it one day. I know that day should be now (high point in the cycle) but I don't see it happening. It's every 11 years, right? I guess it can hold until until 2025. Anyway, interesting details in the description about how the eye sees -- cones versus rods. Will have to look that up. 

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I think about what you've outlined above the same way I do about cyclical urban change. 

Take any "bad" urban neighborhood that has some appealing quality -- sometimes it's got an enviable location (very central or near a big park or important infrastructure like a transport hub), sometimes it's got notable architecture and/or large living spaces at affordable prices, and sometimes it's got something only a visionary can see. Whatever the case, a small number of people stake out ground there. If it's a blighted area, they squat in abandoned buildings and slowly rehabilitate them; if it's in troubled ghettos, they take up residence at the edges and make slow inroads; if it's in disfavored industrial zones, they show it some residential favor.

What happens next is something we've all seen. That "bad" neighborhood slowly becomes "good." Commerce sets up to service the needs and interests of the few who led the charge. Infrastructure is improved and more people arrive (less courageous than the first few, but braver than those who will follow). The neighborhood develops some cachet and, eventually, money and development follow, to fundamentally change the nature of things.

What doesn't get discussed all the time are (a) what happens to the original residents (if there were any) who were slowly but surely priced out of their homes, (b) what happens to the original settlers, many of whom are also eventually forced to move on by the rising cost of living, and (c) whether the new neighborhood is really all that "good," even when compared to the original "bad" one.

I think you'll see how the questions raised about the Hippie Trail directly parallel those I've laid out above. Has the change brought on by those in search of something new been beneficial in the long term, even if the short-term positives are solid? For whom were they positive (locals versus arrivistes)? 

I don't think there are always clear answers. Nor do I have time right now to share my feelings in full!

What I will say is this: Every era looks back with affection on time gone by, even when those times are objectively horrible. Today, in a year during which we will mark the 75th and 100th anniversaries of the starts of our two 20th-century World Wars, we look back with affection on the Great Generation, forged out of ghastly necessity. We scorn the war but would never dream of turning back the clock given all that's been accomplished since then. 

And so it is with the novelty of travel in a world that once was. I started my travels in the late 1980s and like everyone who has seen anything that can't be seen anymore, I lament the losses, especially to things that can no longer be accessed. But I am also terribly saddened by access to things I never had. Will I ever again be able to travel without worrying about where/how to connect to people who aren't there right next to me?

Another big thought that deserves deeper development, perhaps on another day: Can we really blame the state of travel today on those overlanders of the 60s and 70s? No, no more than we can (or should) blame $20 cocktails in bars on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on young artists 20 years ago. Suggesting that one person can change the world is to honor the power of genius and determination. But to posit that hippies are responsible for wars in the Afghanistan and Islamic fundamentalism is painfully simplistic. 

The times they are a changin' because time brings change. Some people ride that change, others influence it; yet others lead it. But no one is Time. Otherwise I'll start looking for some Baby Boomer to apologize for the deaths of everyone from the Indian Ocean Tsunami. After all, some hippie traveler threw a pebble into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Aceh 50 years ago, I'm sure of it.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Great discussion here, Ron and Greg. But I do think we need to divide and conquer a bit more than we do. And by that I mean several things, so let me divide and conquer my attempted explanation of divide and conquer. Oh so meta.

First, I don't think we should trouble ourselves with criticism of industry speak between industry professionals. There's a reason for technical language in the mouths of technicians. A mechanic or a doctor has to be able to tell her fellow mechanics and doctors more than just "The motor's broken" or "This guy's sick." Conveying detail is critical. So we're always going to have -- and need -- language that helps quickly convey whole rafts of ideas/concepts/plans in a few short words.

That being said, even within the tourism industry, and especially the niche-market side of things in which "responsible travel" and "sustainable travel" find themselves, our jargon is not clear. People who should find common cause are at odds because there are quiet and unnecessary confused-word turf wars going on. Megan Epler-Wood, one of the world's "ecotourism" pioneers, has just written about this, echoing an utterance of Mauro Marrocu, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC): "We are far too fragmented, and this competition between definitions creates weakness." Epler-Wood has put out a call for word clarity and, as conveyed by the title of her piece, A New United Front for Sustainable Tourism. (

Second -- and going to the heart of what's being discussed above -- just how much should we trouble ourselves with sharing our jargon with consumers? Do they really care? On the one hand, I agree that labeling (and bickering about labels) often does nothing for consumers. What they want is to have a good time when they travel, to experience amazing things that they will never forget. So does it matter if they are "sustainable" or "eco" or anything else? No, not really. As others have frequently stated, we should all be focused on delivering quality first. 

On the other hand, I see an important place for labels, especially in our world of growing granularization, where people define themselves by their interests, both very general and very particular. I love cycling, but not really mountain biking; when looking for people with shared interests, I do need to be clear about that. Similarly, travelers have passions and are looking for people -- providers and fellow travelers -- who share them. We've all become mechanics and doctors, and language is an important way of communicating our desires and finding what we want. While I agree that the majority of people don't know or care about labels, those labels a still critical tools in marketing. And, more important, there is a powerful and revelatory sense of belonging, of community, that comes about when a certain kind of traveler discovers that he is not alone, that there are words to describe his feelings, and that there's a whole support network that wants to foster them.

So maybe Epler-Wood is on to something. We *are* suffering from a lack of clarity in our definitions. But not just in the words. It's about a lack of clarity -- and vision -- in the concepts themselves. The multiplication of terms may be because nothing really captures the imagination and the meaning of what the "responsible" or "sustainable" travel industry is trying to do. Today it's all about "local" and "authentic" experiences, but how long will that last, especially while the existing label lobbies, many now making superb progress in the halls of power, chug along?

Third, and following on my second point above, I think the lack of clarity stems in part from lack of commercial confidence and followthrough. To explain this, I think of a world in which there's only one flavor: vanilla. Except it's not called "vanilla," it's just "flavor" because it's the only one. Then someone discovers what we call chocolate. Now you can't accurately describe how chocolate tastes; there's just no way to accurately describe any flavor. So do you come up with wild and technical jargon -- decide to call it "chocolate" (and, at the same time, start splitting hairs by now calling "flavor" "vanilla") or do you come up with some wishy-washy way of saying you've come up with a "new" "flavor" that's like "flavor" but different? Did Nike come along and brand itself as the new Puma? No. It boldly staked its ground and went for it. 

I get that tourism is an experience, not a product. Interestingly, today the trick to selling a product is the sale of an experience, so why can't we learn from the success stories? I don't think we should just be selling a new "flavor." I want a brilliant, powerful and unforgiving BRAND that unapologetically sells sustainable (or whatever) travel.

Fourth, events are tough. They're inherently introverted because the organizers (rightfully, I believe) want to give full energy to the people in the room. So what we need to redefine is what constitutes "people in the room" and the different ways in which to treat them. Ron's contention that we need to use technology to open events up (and bring people into a larger virtual room) is 100% accurate. It's the way to create better dialogue, the way to give meaning to empty words and push principle more aggressively into practice. 

That said, having been been involved in event creation, I can attest first-hand to the difficulties in making that happen. Technical hurdles and additional costs are just the tip of that ice berg. I'm not saying we're dealing with insurmountable hurdles, but that it's organizational will confronting unforgiving budgets and old systems. I want it to happen, but the commercial event-management and, more importantly, event-services sectors need to help by making it is as straightforward as catering. That's not yet fully the case. 

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I wouldn't call it satire either, just pithy snark (and definitely not plainly irresponsible). I agree with Matt that it's not all that subtle, but then I don't think it was trying to be. A couple of its strengths are its brevity and its consistency. Another is its accuracy in terms of stereotypes. As Justin observed, I think we've all seen pics like these and know a few people in them.   

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Before I discovered this discussion thread here, I brought up Epler-Wood's article in another one, and commented on this topic at some length. If you're interested, see 

The short of it is that I agree we need strong definitions, but, as expressed by others here, much more important is the pursuit of stronger concepts and actions. We have to get beyond bickering about words.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks for pushing this into the mix Aivar. It's almost two years old now, but still remarkably (and unfortunately) relevant.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Yes, it's unfortunate that Travelllll didn't survive. If you're curious about what happened... and why... see In the meantime, I'm pleased you find my article in its republished form. I should find a way to push out my other Travelllll pieces too.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Not every writer's writing will please every reader. But I am held captive by Lauren's.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks for the thoughts, Justin. Yes, there are a LOT of going things going in Costa Rica. While I was there, I met quite a few people who (rightly) appreciated zip lines for what they were -- excitement in the forest -- so I was wanted to put them in the very important larger conservation context. 

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

The subtitle of this gorgeous photo essay says it all: "In a region of ancient Hindu lore, modern-day widows are condemned to a life of exclusion and humiliation. For one festive day last spring, everything changed." 

Three short and evocative paragraphs set the stage, which is then dominated by alternately dynamic and peaceful, but always moving, petal-filledimages that transport you to another place, time and tradition.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

My handicap: I haven't been to Singapore in 20 years. And in that time, a whole new city-state has taken shape, one I have longed to take in. When I first took it all in back in the 1990s, Singapore was even then, especially in contrast with neighboring nations, a modern metropolis, but nothing like what it sounds like today. 

This was a fine piece for the honest and balanced approach it took.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Wow. Great collection of images. Even better reminiscences. And to think that we're talking about something that's only 40 years ago! Man, time flies.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Thanks for sharing this, Ron. Too bad that it will only be live for such a short time. It makes me think that this makes a very strong case for why we need to talk about Ireland, it makes an even more potent case for why we need to talk (honestly, imaginatively, passionately, musically, poetically and even sometimes stridently) about... EVERYWHERE.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Some of this is universal -- in cities you should carry only what you need, not display your wealth, be polite etc. Not that there's anything wrong with contextualizing it specifically for Vietnam, and this article states it clearly and constructively. It makes me wonder how things could be if we spent as much time speaking positively about what we love as we often spend casting aspersions on what we don't. 

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

Where, except in Africa, is an entire continent held accountable for the actions of one small part of it? As the author asks: "Would North America... ever be judged as crazy or criminal by the first week of 2014 in Florida?" 

The New Yorker in me desperately wants to answer "yes" to that latter question, just as the ongoing political bluster from places like Arizona and, of course, Texas do make me wonder about the sanity or probity of a good portion of the USA. But that wouldn't be fair to the Canadians or Mexicans or lucid USA-ians, would it? 

And that's the point, a very relevant one: how today can we still be thinking about a huge land mass with a cultural complexity far surpassing that of any other continent... as one singular entity? And why do travelers and many travel writers and journalists still write or speak of "Africa" as a destination?

I see good common cause between Outbounding's search for travel content excellence and Adedana Ashebir's quest for journalistic accountability. Do you? 

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I couldn't agree more about the health of a people being reflected in the vitality of the stories told about it. I think it says a lot about American fascination with crappy reality TV and overwhelming preponderance of dramatic (and even comedic) police procedurals. 

But which comes first, the febrile storytellers or addled nations? And once caught in the downward spiral, how do we get out?

One of the reasons why I believe so strongly in quality content that showcases responsible travel is because it helps draw out, celebrate and positively reinforce stories about productive and healthy behavior. It's not just about encouraging people to follow the example of role models who are doing the right thing, it's about battling the despondency of a people who can't find their way out of detrimental ruts.   

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

And, in a backhanded sort of way, a surprisinglywonderful endorsement for visiting an unusual place that sits far off most people's radars. Well done.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I was a marathoner back when my knees were more forgiving. As a teenager, I ran the NYC Marathon three times until they set a minimum age requirement that was one year younger than I was and effectively pulled the rug from beneath my feet. Even at a that young age I had aspirations of running it every year; an early broken dream.

Anyway, as a NYer, I don't think any list of inspirational marathons is complete without mentioning New York City's.

Another marathon I wrote about not too long ago and would love to try is the Full Moon Desert Marathon, a midnight run through Wadi Rum, Jordan, that sounds pretty incredible.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

I missed the Twitter furor and can't find it. Matt, can you point us to it... or the original post that inspired this one? In keeping with a subtle undercurrent of this article, I don't think it's doing anyone a disservice to acknowledge the context.
I found Pam's piece to be very, very good. I have a similarly short fuse when it comes to others' (sometimes willful) ignorance about the history upon which they trod. I also have a limited ability to deal with commemorations of tragedy before I give in to greater emotion, as I too did at Tuol Sleng in Cambodia.
However, I have very mixed feelings about the Memorial in Berlin. There's a two-year-old New Yorker article about it that, while terribly imperfect, resonates with me. And the back-and-forth comments are perhaps even more interesting. 
Setting aside some of the important arguments about the relevance and representation of the memorial, what galls me is the impossible-to-reconcile wonderment both that anyone would desecrate such a place and that anyone ever expected it *not* to be abused. Since the popularization of parkour (aka freerunning), I have no sympathy for urban planners who erect an appealing plaza (or anything) and then cry foul when someone uses it as a gym. Some things need to be planned for, and putting up a sign that says "This chair is not for sitting in" is seriously missing the point.
As a long-standing advocate for responsible travel (which includes visiting a place with knowledge about how to respect it and its people), I will never understand the shallow traveler's approach to a place, but I am equally unforgiving about any place's stubborn determination to sell bread and circus but then provide something entirely different. (But don't get me started on the lack of truth in destination marketing.)
As one of the comments in the New Yorker article reminds, throughout Berlin (and now many other European cities) one can find "Stolpersteine" -- small, cobblestone-sized, brassmemorials fitted into the sidewalks and noting (by name) individual victims of Nazism. Is it an insult to step on these mini plaques? Given that many, many people never even take note of them, and those that do forget to stay alert to them, no it is not. It is part of what they are: subtle underfoot reminders that wake us up when we least expect it. Should they be spat upon? Or course not. But if a person idly spits and the phlegm lands on one, should he be chastised? Maybe for spitting in public, yes, but not for desecrating history.
Art, history and memory are tough subjects. We want them to bring out people's best. But "best" is an equally nettlesome concept. There are always bigger things to consider. Urinating on monuments should never be tolerated, but maybe city planners need to think more about the providing better public restrooms. And maybe quick-to-cry-foul people need to rethink the utilitarian value and emotional purpose of a monument that, while sacred for some, looks like a good place to sit for others.

Ethan Gelber Ethan Gelber @thetravelword

As a bicycle tour guide, I lived in Paris, more off than on, for a good part of the 1990s. I helped move a lot of people (and bikes, and luggage) on trains throughout France and was feverishly attentive to the different mainline train stations in the city. Unfortunately, Mike's experiences are hardly isolated. I spent a lot of time in stations, and, always alert to the panic on non-French travelers' faces, I alone am responsible for having sent dozens of hapless travelers hurtling into the Metro on mad scrambles to catch imminent departures from different locations.