Colombia, Getting old, Fried chicken and Serendipity.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice…”

Apt words to begin the plunge into Colombia. Gabriel Garcia Marquez began his famous book with these words. I’m back in the abaco cafe. My favorite in Cartagena. I’ve arrived back after ten days in the mountains, submerging myself into the glory that is Medellin. Unwrapping a few of those mysteries and getting it straightened out in my mind, and even getting some it down on paper. I wrote about the first few days in the Andes, and now that I’ve left back to the heat, it’s time to push it a bit farther.

dragging my sorry ass to the airport yesterday with my beat ass passport had me thinking. The previous days had been an enthralling digestion of the city, neighborhood by neighborhood. Over the three weeks I was averaging 8-9 miles a day walking the valley as well as the mountains. Spectacular views, savage flavors, and incredible people. I fucking love the layers here. I woke up early a few days before departure and noticed my right foot felt extra tender. After showering and leaving my place I had a bit of a limp! What was this? I tried stretching and walking it off, but the heel of my right foot just ached. It throbbed with every step. This proved a true calamity! I hobbled back to the hotel to deduce I had essentially pulled a muscle. I was walking a ton more, and had brought shoes that had been through the shit so to say. I decided that I would take it easy, and head down to the Parque lleras in the evening to edit photos and get some writing in. I find this amazing trendy chic cafe. Surely I will do my best work here. This is the preconceived image. All digital nomads and creative types only work in super cool cafes and on beaches of course. I sat down, ordered a hipster inspired beverage and waited for the greatness to flow.

surely this is where the magic happens…until the rockstar looking barista informs me that they close at 7…which gave me 10 minutes to channel said magic.

Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. I packed my things quickly finished my cafe con something or other and with some difficulty limped out of there.

Where was I going to find the creative muse now? I think we fall for the myth that to do our best work we need some set that looks like it was made for a Harry Potter film. That’s bullshit. This is what you need; good WiFi, a decent seat, and a not too awful vibe. Sit down, shut up, and get it done. Rents due.

So, where do I end up?

Motherfuckin’ KFC. They had excellent WiFi, everyone there was a local, and they had Postobon. My favorite Colombian sugary beverage.

I know, but how could I do that?!

Well, because I had to get over myself. I’m getting older, and I was limping. I was hosted by the the gracious colonel Sanders for about an hour. I did what I had to do, and it was great. Finished my notebook piece, edited photos, plotted some stuff for this site and enjoyed my time. at the end of the day, I’ve realized travel…especially by country number 70, isn’t about insisting to find the top ranked/ most reviewed location. This often leads to epic disappointment. By the time I returned to my place, my friends had also returned, and invited me to sit down to catch up over beers. Perfect timing. Traveling is about the most authentic experience possible. Embrace the unknown, keep a positive outlook and have faith in serendipity.

Even when it involves fried chicken joints.

More soon to come!

 

What do you think? Leave some love!

WOW for Iceland!

Sometimes one must start the telling of grand adventure from the end. Images, words, experiences, all mash together in a stream of consciousness that runs in loop form within the mind. Do you tap this loop and pour it through a writing instrument, or do you let it sort a bit, and go from there?

IMG_2888

Time to talk about Iceland, and the art of spontaneous adventure. Remember the back drop here A Note on Spontaneity  As a  friend and I booked $200 USD round trip tickets to Reykjavik for the weekend.  We did this a bit over a week before departure. Now, Ive been to Iceland before, but I was mainly interested in WOW Air as an option. The Icelandic airline received great fanfare for publishing 99$ one way fares to Europe from the eastern United States a few years ago. If this proved a viable option, what a great addition to the travel toolbox this would be!

IMG_1707

But c’mon. $200 flights? What is this, the international version of Spirit Air dressed in pink? Gross. No thanks.

But wait! I’ve had so many people ask me about WOW, that I decided to investigate for you. (I’m a nice guy like that) Throw in a stop in Reykjavik, a few hot dogs, a waterfall or two, and we have a weekend adventure! WOW now operates out of Chicago Ohare, as well as Detroit (DTW). These fares are cheap, come with limited baggage allowance and random seat assignments. Both ways we flew a moderately new Airbus A321  with a 3 +3 seat configuration. Both times I ended up in the middle. I was prepared for the flight from hell, but I have to say…this wasn’t bad whatsoever. The flight over was a bit warm. The staff proved courteous and efficient. I packed snacks and a water bottle, so I didn’t need to purchase anything on the 6 hour flight to Reykjavik.  (water was priced at $3.25) which is similar to airport prices and not overtly horrendous. My backpack the SwissGear Travel Gear 597 Packed with weekend essentials came in at 14lbs or so.  My bag fit easily, and caused no problems.  We were set to land in Reykjavik just before 5 am.IMG_1723

Landed! and exactly what kind of trial run would it be if potential disaster didn’t strike?! Expectations exceeded for the flight over, and feeling a bit sweaty from the middle row passage over, I eagerly departed the plane and made my way to line for customs. The line is long, its 4:50 am, and i’m ready for a shower. I’m getting my proverbial ducks in a row for passport control and I go cold. Starting from my spine and soon radiating throughout my whole body cold.

 

Where the fuck is my passport??

 

My poor battered, beaten, and glory giving passport….sweet Jesus, I must have left it on the plane! I notify my friend and tear out of line, hoofing it back toward where we had entered the airport. Of course we cant get back there,  So the “service counter” must be located in a panicked rush. (I’m telling this story, so that you know, even frequent travelers encounter snags of their own making…like my forgotten iPad incident from a while back) I find WOW air agents at the service desk, explain my plight, and knowing how cheap my ticket was expect sheer calamity… And I am once again pleasantly surprised! The agents were nice, chatty and understanding. I waited 15 min or so, and I soon had my passport returned, even with enough time to glance the Icelandic sun rise. IMG_1594

what a day of victory!

Shuttle into the city (the airport is 45 min away from the capital of Reykjavik)

IMG_1699

and we are ready to go! Now remember, Iceland is a small country population wise, and are proud of their long Viking tradition. The Icelandic language is fascinating to hear, and is largely unchanged over the previous thousand years. We knew we were going to hit the city, and then soak up the jaw dropping scenery a shortish trek from the capital.

Savage nature abounds for this tiny and amazing nation. This weekend included mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, and even a Continental rift!

IMG_2889 I have long thought of travel as therapy. I expounded more on this here 7 more days…Travel to soothe the soul Putting miles under foot, and absorbing these landscapes did grant me a sense of clarity. This trip was short, but I felt a sense of renewal by the time of the flight home. IMG_2926

How can one not marvel at such a sight? Standing here, experiencing the layers and complexities that exist in the natural world. This moment alone made the entire run “worth it”.

IMG_1651

Words of course simply cannot do these landscapes justice. Just give you a teaser for what is awaiting you. You can even go back a few times, and be stunned each and every one of them.

IMG_1644

A full day of exploring brought us back to the city for Fish n chips and few beers.

IMG_1692

Thinking back over this weekend, There is a sense of accomplishment. I give final exams this week, and wrap up my 7th year in the classroom. I am unsure what lies ahead.  This is  the season of conclusion, and of course then by default also a season of beginning.  You wake up in Chicago, Reykjavik, lose an hour, gain hours, etc etc. I woke up in Iceland, knowing I was leaving that day. That feeling of packing, of thinking over exit logistics. I’ve woken up in countless hotel rooms, apartments, houses, hostels etc, and known that feeling. This particular segment is over. the hope that there will be renewed adventure in the future, but feeling thankful you had at least one more go of it.

Nothing on the road is perfect, and expecting it to be so is rather greedy. Its all in the experience. I was quite impressed in the performance of WOW air, and no longer have a wary feeling about using them. Iceland as always proved thrilling and other worldly.  Thank for coming with me once again.

 

get there anyway you can.

IMG_1577

 

 

A Note on Spontaneity

Just fucking go.

 

Seriously.

IMG_0141.JPG

There will always be a thousand excuses not to. Some more pliable than others.  Is it the perfect time? Probably not. Do you have wads of disposable income with no other designated purpose than making you smile? Probably not. On the flip side, however, do you need to eat out 3~ days a week? Probably not.  Lease and drive a new wanker mobile? Most likely not.  Do you really need that 5$ a day latte habit? Certainly not. Do any of these things actually make your life better?

img_0552

Find a way, buy the ticket, take the ride.  adventure is the one purchase that will always make you richer. Set the goal, embrace the unknown, and love taking the plunge. Love yourself enough to say “Lets do this”!  Even if this means finding yourself post leap, hurdling toward certain disaster, then at the last minute  building your wings on the way down, and coasting into bliss. I’ve never encountered anyone, late in life that said “I wish I didn’t adventure as much” or “I wish I would have spent more time at the office”…because that shit simply does not exist.  This is your life, and its ending one minute at a time. Why are you wasting these precious minutes on shit relationships, craptastic jobs, or toxic friendships?  There is a freaking world out there to discover. Literally billions of people, crazy flavors, insanely great cultures, traditions, and collective experiences.

Temple Street Night Market

I want to help you. In fact, I am dedicated to helping you. In this vein, I want you to maximize those travel dollars and inspire you to get up, get moving, and get into having your mind blown.  I have posted about some crazy airfare deals in the past, its one of the main pillars for cheap travel. In recent years there’s been a monsoon of activity for the LCC (Low Cost Carrier) segment.  What is this all about?

 

Funny you should ask.

 

I will take the plunge for you. I’ve just booked 200$ (USD) roundtrip flights to Iceland…for a weekend…Two weeks from now. This is exam season, and I don’t have a ton of time. Who goes to Iceland for a weekend?! Who books transatlantic travel less than two weeks out!?

The GypsyProfessor, that’s who. I’m going to detail the experience, and let you know how twisted it gets, and how bare bones it can be. Savage plastic lawn chairs aboard an airbus for 6 hours. Will it prove worth it?

This way when the next dirt cheap fare pops, you will have all the info you need to pull the trigger. Just a mini weekend run before we prep for a run through the jungle after the semester finishes!

Reykjavik! Prepare for my triumphant return!

Cityscape-Reykjavík-iStock_000057210438_Large-2

Wish me luck, and leave some love!

The Power of Failure…and Resurrection

Every one falls.

Creative types especially. Nothing great comes easy. Turns out that failure is an absolute necessary component to the equation.

Some Easter Motivation comin at you.

Why Writers Must Practice Resurrection

It’s almost Easter, which is a pretty good time to get reborn, if you ask me. Especially if you’re a writer. What do I mean by that?

Photo of a tree

Every writer as a creative entity “dies.” And every writer, in a manner of speaking, must be resurrected. If you choose to ignore or avoid this fact, it could be mean the end of your art and even, possibly, your life.

Let’s unpack this a little.

Every writer dies

To create is to suffer. Just ask any mother. It is a painful, grueling task of bringing new things into existence. This is why, among many reasons, there is an unmistakable sadness to most creatives, even God.

And this is also why writers commit suicide, why painters cut their ears off, and why actors go through serial divorces. Creativity is a hard business.

There is an inherent frustration to it. And if you don’t know what to do with the inevitable pain, it could be the end of you. (It was for Hemingway.)

Ironically, those who destroy themselves never learn to die — they don’t know how to grieve loss and let go of past seasons. Are you struggling to let go and reinvent yourself as a writer and an artist?

Every writer must be reborn

When you write, you share a piece of you with the world. You put your very soul on display for all to see.

Sometimes, the world doesn’t reward creativity. Sometimes, it stones prophets and crucifies saviors. Sometimes, the world scowls at genius and scoffs at insight.

Every creative has critics, and every critique is an arrow. There is no getting around this. Creating is painful, and every writer gets wounded. In order to move out of wounded-ness (“My God, why have you forsaken me?”), we must face the injustice of unfair criticism, and heal.

We must get reborn and become whole again.

The art of practicing resurrection

This is the season in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Even in non-Christian contexts, the earth is teeming with rebirth. It’s hard to ignore.

Trees are budding. Flowers are sprouting. All of creation is collaborating to share one message: New life is here.

I struggle with these cycles — the ebb and flows of the seasons. My creative self wants to camp out in the wilderness, to to sulk in its travail. It’s been hurt, and it wants to wallow in its pain. It’s scared of trying again.

Currently, I’m coming out of a season of death — of letting go of what once was familiar and beginning to walk in newness of life. But I’m taking these first few steps slowly.

There is grief that needs to happen — losses to be mourned, disappointments to be acknowledged. We must grieve before we can move on. We must acknowledge what was before we can welcome what will be.

Death before life

We writers must acknowledge failure. We must come to grips with death. And we must practice resurrection. There is hope beyond the story of a tragic hero. There is health. There is freedom.

If this describes you (and it might), I hope you can move out of the pain of dwelling of what’s been lost and start creating beautiful art once again. It begins with honesty — with acknowledging the rejection you’ve experienced without excuse or justification.

As an exercise, try writing it all down. Then, if you’re comfortable, give it to God. Receive healing. And welcome a new day. Like I said, this is a great time to get reborn.

img_1798

Normandy Under Foot

Beloved followers, I have fallen behind!

My routine has been rocked a bit, and a few significant changes have surfaced, and my goals for publishing suffered a bit.

normannia_flag_by_skoddefjellet-d59voyk

If we remember from way back when (a few weeks ago) I wrote to you about an epic euro road trip. Here;  Road trip…euro style.  Traveling with dear family friends, Sixt bestowed upon us a new minty champagne gold Jaguar in which to dominate the French countryside.

img_1089

After the spirited slog to Normandy (destination Bayeux), we settled into what I can only describe as coastal French greatness. The small cafes, the cozy atmosphere, the overcast weather, red wine, and a tremendous apartment made for an excellent overall ambiance.  For those dead set on Paris, do take a multi day trip to Normandy, or scrap Paris altogether and swap the bustle for this overlooked slice of authenticity.

Secretly, everyone loves some aspect of France. No matter what they say. The quaint small towns, the endearing landscapes, and especially the food…for the love of all things holy, take a trip to small town France for the food alone. Thank me later. (Most likely when proper cheese drunk)

snapseed-20

Inevitably, coming from the United States, one can simply not separate this  region from it’s prominent role in the Second World War. These beaches hosted the D-Day invasion  on Tuesday, 6 June 1944. These events would eventually free Western Europe from the Nazi Jackboot, and hasten the collapse of the Third Reich.  Allied causalities topped 10,000 troops in this gigantic effort.  The cemeteries and memorials  are somber if not inspiring monuments to those fallen. When you take a day trip there, don’t plan anything significant afterwards. Walk the beaches, be with those close to you, and think about what happened here. IMG_2601

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.

We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

—Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, 6 June 1944.

maxresdefault

Few other experiences force you to gain a certain kind of necessary perspective.  When I initially imagined this run, I crafted it as a kind of therapy. I wrote about that here            7 more days…Travel to soothe the soul . Walking this cemetery, dwelling on the sacrifice, suddenly I wasn’t thinking about office politics back home. I wasn’t thinking about the stock market, our loony president, or grading exams.  I was thinking about the people with me, however, how much they meant to me, and how I would remember this time for decades to come. Perhaps part of that is why I initially shied away from writing about this for a public audience. Felt too real, I had to sit with it for a bit. Delve back into “daily life” and remember that day.

IMG_2596

A day spent on the north coast of France is fraught with feeling and realization. I am a firm believer that we all need this. A reminder that we only have so many “fucks” throughout the course of our day, and how we prioritize these fucks is of key importance. Don’t waste your fucks, because they are finite, and needed for the actually important aspects, people, and passions in your life.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou

 

Next up, Its time for Mt Saint Michelle, and a twisted trip through Champagne country.

Let the good times roll, Amen!

7 more days…Travel to soothe the soul

2018 so far, has packed in some monumental change. The conclusions and insight apparent within the first few months have been astounding. The upheaval, transitions, and even betrayal have left me wounded and a feeling like an old tire. Where to go from here? Clarity is needed, and when dealing with uncertainty, clarity becomes rare.

This post is going to be a personal one, but with a twist. I believe travel can be a kind of therapy. The same vein I wrote about previously, upon discovering the glory of solo travel,  Baltic Success on the Solo Road  Showed me how cathartic and solidifying travel can be. I was scattered and disheveled.  That trip taught me a new dimension to self reliance, and embracing the unknown, and its time for me to re imagine those lessons.

p8cvVmW

Timing is an odd beast. Tricky, yet at times serendipitous. As i’m dealing with personal drastic and radical change, today’s date reminds me that now we are 7 days away from heading back over the pond.  Timing indeed.

This story goes back years. Ill keep it to the condensed version. I have a near and dear family friend, who retired from teaching a few years back. Shortly before retirement, over our customary Friday beverages, I implored him to join me on an excursion. Having taught history for decades, I knew he would marvel at so many destinations. The food, the wine, architecture and history.  I also had an additional angle. I could not travel with my own father, as since his remarriage he apologetically informed me that he simply would never be allowed to go with me. His new wife forbade it. If he was going to travel, it would have to be with her. (and of course, they promptly never went anywhere)  That was a bitter pill to swallow. That dynamic frayed my parental relationship permanently. The politics and savagery of divorce, and the inherent power struggles native to integrating new relationships left me in an odd position. I have always appreciated the “old guy hindsight” the anecdotes, and the comparisons of days gone past. I’ve got years of formal education, a handful of degrees, and a bit of travel experience, but the older I get, I realize how little I know. I’ve come to embrace the fact that I need to talk less, and listen more.

fullsizerender

So, after imploring my family friend for a few years, he finally went and renewed his passport. Now we were getting somewhere! (his last passport expired in 1977). Late last year, a cheap ticket popped up for Amsterdam. This was it. Time to book, to take the plunge and not look back.  His daughter, whom I grew up with decided there was no way she was sitting this one out and joined in on the adventure. We were now a trifecta heading to The Dutch capital.

Our plan?

This year happens to be the 100 year anniversary of the end of WWI. We have decided to rent a car (diesel, and equipped with a 6sp) to rip across the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Hitting The major battle fields en route to Normandy. The Somme in particular. What is it about the road, saltwater and good friends that proves so lethal to the doldrums?  A stop in Champagne, Bayeux, Lille, and possibly Bruge, should thoroughly enthrall the senses. I am hoping that in the end, the time on the road, the chats, the wine, and the journey will grant me the clarity I need in choosing my path forward.  I hope you are looking forward to dispatches from the road! A new episode of the Gypsy Professor is fast approaching.

img_0552

 

Why History isn’t just Bollocks

img_8064

I deal with this on a weekly basis. Why study history? Whats the point? This line of questioning goes so far as to suggest that for the community college level students shouldn’t delve into the social sciences or humanities, solely focusing on the trades instead.

I could not disagree more.

History is far from useless.  In essence, history as a craft, or discipline is the ability to argue. As it turns out, you are going to be arguing for the rest of your life. Arguing with/persuading your significant other, your employer, relatives, friends, and ass hats on the internet. The ability to argue may be one the most critical skills you need to develop in this world.

Can you point to an exact economic impact in raw numbers, like you can with say a welding certificate? No. This not equate with an exact dollar per hour quantification. But you can point to the dividends that this skill will reap over the long term. The traditional argument for the social sciences tend toward  creating “well informed citizenry” out of our students, giving them various lenses from which to engage the world around them. As students are bombarded with information from every corner of their life, it is essential that they develop new key literacies to sift and analyze this cascade of information. To nurture what Hemingway famously called “as shockproof a bullshit meter as possible”.

Take a look at the numbers below, they even include graphs!

History Is Not a Useless Major:

Fighting Myths with Data

Paul B. Sturtevant, April 2017

Over the past 20 years, warnings from a variety of sources—from career counselors to administrators to government officials—have convinced many prospective college students (and their parents) that the only safe path to a well-paying job is through a STEM major. Members of the academy—including STEM faculty themselves—have repeatedly challenged assertions that majoring in the humanities is useless. And employers of STEM graduates say that they value skills cultivated in a wide-ranging curriculum.

But the sense persists that the push toward STEM comes at the direct expense of humanities majors; history enrollments have declined sharply since at least 2011. As Julia Brookins reported in the March 2016 issue of Perspectives on History: “The number of history BAs and BSs completed in the United States fell for the third time in four years, this time by 9.1 percent from the previous year, from 34,360 to 31,233 [in 2014].” According to the most recent data, this steep decline has continued, with only 28,157 history majors graduating in 2015 (a decline of 9.8 percent from 2014).

In advising students, talking to parents, and listening to the priorities articulated by state legislatures, we continue to encounter widespread myths about the lives of people who graduate with history BAs. These myths are largely based on misinformation about the prospective lives of those who major in history. They paint life with a degree in history as a wasteland of unemployment and underemployment—that careful study of Asoka’s conquests or the Industrial Revolution leads to a life of “Would you like fries with that?”

A potent way to combat these myths is with concrete data. Thankfully, a massive repository of data, the American Community Survey (ACS), tells us much about the lives of history majors. Conducted by the US Census Bureau each year since 2000, the ACS is a statistical survey of 3.5 million American households. It includes questions on a wide range of topics, from demographic details like age and race/ethnicity to situational data like housing and employment status. Most usefully for us, it also records individuals’ undergraduate majors. These data are then compiled and aggregated into one-, three-, and five-year estimates.

From the ACS, we know that over the years 2010–14, some 29.7 percent of all American adults over 25 completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of those, 2.21 percent received a bachelor’s in history or US history. The ACS data offer us a snapshot of these history majors across the country and at different phases of life: from recent graduates to those in retirement.

Overall, the ACS data suggest that the picture for history majors is far brighter than critics of the humanities would have you believe, even those who think the sole purpose of a college degree is to achieve a well-paying job.

Myth 1: History Majors Are Underemployed

One fear is that history degrees do not offer a life of gainful employment or the job security that other careers might. The truth is very different. The ACS found that 4.6 percent of history majors between the ages of 25 and 64 were unemployed at the time they were surveyed. The national average, by comparison, was 7.7 percent. Against all holders of a college degree, however, there was a modest difference: degree-holders overall had 4.1 percent unemployment, half a percentage point lower. While history majors do have a slightly higher unemployment rate, the data show that someone interested in the field should not be deterred; the difference is very slight.

Myth 2: A History Major Does Not Prepare You for Gainful Employment

Fig. 1. Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

Fig. 1. Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

Most myths begin with a kernel of truth that is then warped beyond recognition. The idea that a history degree doesn’t lead directly into a profession is true only for students who expect to become professional historians or to work in a closely related occupation. The vast majority of history majors, of course, do not become professional historians; according to the ACS, only 4.5 percent of history majors become educators at a postsecondary level (that is, mostly college professors). The proportion who become museum professionals—0.5 percent of the total—is a very small slice of the overall pie as well.

But the ACS data imply that many history majors do not expect to become historians and that they find meaningful careers in a wide range of fields. A history degree provides a broad skillset that has ensured that history majors are employed in almost every walk of life, with some notable trends (see fig. 1).

Fig. 2. Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

History majors seem particularly well-­prepared for, and attracted to, certain careers. Nearly one in five goes into education—just over half as primary-, middle-, and high-school teachers. Another 15 percent enter management positions in business, and 11 percent go into the legal professions (most becoming lawyers). The “fries” myth is definitely not backed up by the data; only 1.7 percent of history majors work in food preparation, compared to 5 percent of the overall population.

It’s important to note that nearly half of the history majors identified by the ACS went on to graduate school (see fig. 2)—a much higher percentage than the national average (37 percent) and higher than majors in English (45 percent) and the liberal arts (26 percent). This might be because law, management, and education require advanced study. It could also mean that students interested in careers that require graduate training see a history major as a springboard. Likely it is a combination of the two. But knowing this, history departments must understand that it is imperative that they prepare majors for graduate school and offer guidance in educational and career choices.

Myth 3: History Majors Are Underpaid

Fig. 3. Data source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators, table III-4a. Available at http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=287.

Again, we start with a kernel of truth. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators project released an analysis of ACS data showing that those with degrees in the humanities earn less (in terms of median income) than those with degrees in engineering, health care, business, and the sciences (see fig. 3).

Fig. 4. Data source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators, table III-4a. Available at http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=287. Methodological note: The ACS survey records undergraduate major by a free-response text block, with no apparent guidance on how to represent a person’s degree. As a result, the number who reported their major as “history” may also include some who studied US history. The overall number of US history majors reported in the ACS is very low, to such a degree that they may make statistical analyses problematic. It is for these reasons that I combine the US history and history majors in my analysis, though the American Academy of Arts and Sciences does not.

Part of this is based more on field than on level of achievement; the work of engineers and computer programmers is better remunerated than that of, for example, elementary school teachers—even though our society demands good teachers. But history fares well in terms of compensation when compared to other humanities majors. The differences in median income among the humanities disciplines are not significant; the disparity between highest- and lowest-­paid humanities majors in the workforce is only a few thousand dollars (see fig. 4).

Data suggest prospects for potential history majors are good, but history departments must offer guidance in career and graduate school choices.

Because of the diversity of careers that humanities majors—particularly history majors—go into, there is a wider-than-­average distribution of incomes based upon field of work (see fig. 5). As in the general workforce, it is the occupation of college graduates in the humanities, rather than their undergraduate major, that accounts for differences in income. For history majors between the ages of 25 and 64 who are neither unemployed nor out of the workforce, the median income is currently $60,000 per year. But for those in managerial positions, the median is $80,000. For those in the legal occupations, the median is $100,000. But for those in education, it is $47,000, and for those who go into community and social services, the median is $45,000.

Fig. 5. Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

In short, it is not that history majors are underpaid. It is that the diverse range of occupations that a history degree prepares them for includes several important, but vastly undervalued, public service careers. If the only consideration when choosing a major is whether you will be earning six figures by the age of 30, then history may not be the best field. But for students who are inspired by work in which the greatest rewards may not necessarily be financial, a history major remains an excellent option.

The ACS data shed fascinating light on some of the myths about life with a history degree. Majoring in history does not doom a graduate to a life of unemployment or under­employment. In fact, history majors go on to become much better educated than the average person, filling roles in a wider range of careers than holders of many other degrees. The worst that can be said of this situation is that many of those careers are socially undervalued. But that does not mean that a degree in history is any less valuable.

Methodological note: All ACS data cited in this article include only those individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 who were in full-time employment, who achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and who stated that their field of study for their bachelor’s degree was either history or US history. All data were taken from the ACS’s 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Data on the number of history bachelors’ degrees awarded in 2015 were gleaned from the annual National Center for Education Statistics via the NSF’s WebCASPAR system at https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/webcaspar.

Paul B. Sturtevant is a medievalist, social scientist, and public historian. He received a PhD in medieval studies from the University of Leeds and is a social science analyst at the Smithsonian Institution, as well as editor in chief of The Public Medievalisthttp://www.publicmedievalist.com/.

img_8076

Monday Mornin’

Monday Morning comes at you hard some weeks. I’ve noticed that for some of us, immersed in the digital age, the lines between the work week and the weekend have a tendency to blur quite a bit. I wanted to share a slice of motivation, in the form a brief TED talk. Kick Monday motivation square in the pants.

For those who are constantly online and working even on the weekends, stress is an all too common a feeling. But to feel so at the start of a fresh week is not likely to do much for your productivity. However, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, in this talk, shares her findings on how we can (and need to) re-calibrate our minds to view stress contrarily, different than our current notion/belief of it is as a life-threatening disease of sorts. Kelly talks about perspective changes, how one can try to see stress as a sign of action-readiness. About how we can view our stress responses as helpful and not harmful. Her suggestions on how we can befriend-stress are simple and worth giving a try.

IMG_0246

What do you think? Any methods you might recommend? Leave some love.

Baltic Success on the Solo Road

Some things work out quite nice as a trifecta. When I began thinking about the importance of traveling alone, I thought of my first time truly taking the plunge, and sharing that story became a necessity. Divided into three parts, this my mini narrative.

As you might recall the two previous chapters are On the Path to Solo Travel

and here: The Silver Lining/Solo Travel Pt2

So, after a crushing defeat, we find glory. (A proper silver lining) This glory is two fold. One of the first aspects is that when it comes to travel, toss those expectations right out the fuckin’ window. Toss em. I’ve known folks who have the most insane itineraries, allocating absolute minutia, building in “15 min break” slots into their schedules. Control wound that tight…is going to lead to a tense, frustrated mess.  No thanks.  Learn to embrace some element of flow and flexibility for a much improved experience.

10339556_10102051174940995_5067463667882006275_n

I had found my ticket, but it was last minute. My Balkan fantasies would be put on hold for a bit, because my only real option was Vilnius Lithuiania…With a 12 hour stop over in Stockholm, Sweden.  This sounded great to me. I was hell bent on embracing this new sense of enlightened adventure. I had completely  transformed my feelings of disappointment and anxiety into ones of wonder and excitement. I was doing this as a personal journey as well as a European adventure. As I mentioned before, this was a starting point of epic proportion. I booked this ticket last minute, and was set to arrive home the night before the fall semester began.  Logistics be damned, lets get on the road!

1521368_10102051220544605_7140692683595848059_n

I made it to Chicago, and boarded my flight. Watched a few movies, and promptly woke up in Sweden. That morning is mostly a blur. I took an incredibly nice, and incredibly expensive train to the city center. Grabbed a pastry and walked the Swedish capital.  Stockholm is clean, efficient and easy to navigate. Swedes are courteous and a bit cold in an appropriate “Nordic” style. 38894251235_5d6da2898c_b

Stockholm was an appetizer. I was here, and I did it solo. after a day of wandering about, meatballs, and viking heritage, I made my way back to the airport, for the propeller powered jump over to Vilnius.

 

I was only a bit nervous, but mostly excited. I had planned on a few days in Vilnius, then taking a bus to Riga, and then finally onto Tallinn. I had no reservations, no expectations, no damn travelers checks, just my phone and serendipity.

I land, clear customs, and make my way to the ATM for local currency. The person in line ahead of me turns around and says  “Go green”!

I was a bit shocked and tired, so I didn’t immediately grasp his meaning. Pointing to my

t shirt, I realized I was sporting a large Michigan State University Spartan logo.

This guy hailed from Royal Oak, Michigan, and was visiting a friend who had moved to Lithuania. I was stunned.

10615417_10102046333173935_7316687350828337093_n

His local based buddy had a great group of friends and I was soon welcomed with open arms. I found a local boutique hotel in the old town, and  most nights we met for beers and general debauchery.  I absolutely loved it. Vilnius is large enough to have a plethora of activities, and yet small enough to maintain at least a somewhat intimate feeling. I implored  my new comrades to join me for Riga, and we took the party on the road.

10622803_10102041206308215_5562444954248221700_n

Before this trek, I was racked with doubt about logistics, about enjoying that amount of solo time, etc. Mid way through this journey, I had embraced the uncertainty and was never going to look back.

” You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”

This was my moment of awakening. On the long bus trek to Riga, and then onto Tallinn, I had decided. This was the road for me.

984169_10102044981088525_9001491525791223582_n

After Riga my comrades went back to Vilnius, and I went on to Tallinn.  I want to write a more indepth review of these cities, and this post isn’t that. This bit is meant more to discuss the journey.

10603266_10102044975679365_5269915116214462062_n

This ten day journey covering a few thousand miles proved absolutely what I needed. By the time I made it back to Vilnius for the flight home, i was already looking at tickets for winter break. I was going for a long haul month long trek after exams to the Balkans. It was going to a twisted savage affair that would change me again forever after.

1544509_10102034661099865_3943303985046783344_n

Exploring these Baltic streets of the three capitals  in late August has stayed on my mind over the tears. I met so many incredibly friendly and inviting people. I left the region utterly inspired on every level to keep exploring, and never stop wandering this incredible world of ours.

 

 

 

 

Writing tips from Nomadic Matt

If  you ever venture through the world of travel writing, you will run across Nomadic Matt.  I dig his stuff.  I wanted to share a recent post on writing tips that I found super  helpful Find the site here

His site is a kind of institution, and deservedly so. He’s been in the game for quite a while, and is typically ranked as one of the busiest travel blogs on the web. I found this guide a great primer, and wanted to share with the community here.

img_8895

This post is a little inside baseball about travel writing. It’s a follow-up to my semi-ongoing series on travel blogging that started with this post, continued with this one, and will now (probably) end with this post here. To me, the crux of all online endeavors is good writing. With so many blogs out there, if you can’t write engaging stories, you’ll never get anywhere! So today, I want to introduce one of my favorite travel writers, David Farley, who is going to share 11 writing tips for fellow bloggers and writers out there! Here’s David:

I always thought that once I started writing for glossy travel magazines, I could relax a bit because I’d “made it.” Nope! Then I thought that once I began penning pieces for the New York Times, I could say I was successful. Not. At. All. OK, maybe when I had a book out, published by a major publishing house, things would get a bit easier for me. I wish!

Writers, in some way, are a sorry lot. Rarely do they ever look at something and say “perfect!” Maybe for a moment — but give a writer a day and he or she will come back to that same article and find dozens of mistakes. Writing is a craft you never perfect.

We’re always striving to be better. Creatives tend to be perfectionists. Writing requires you to keep learning and improving.

But that’s good, because that drive makes writers improve their work. And only through practice and effort do we end up with the Hemingways, Brysons, Gilberts, and Kings of the world. (Matt says: I once heard that until the day he died, Frost never loved “The Road Not Taken.” He was constantly reworking it!)

If you’re a travel blogger, you probably started off not as a writer with a journalism background but as a traveler looking to share your experience. You probably didn’t have any formal training or someone to peer over your shoulder and give you advice.

So today I wanted to share 11 tips that will help you improve your travel writing or blogging. Because the world always needs good writers — and good writing helps get your story heard more! These tips, if followed, will better your writing and make a huge difference in the reach of your writing!

11 Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing/Blogging

an ope notebook on a desk, photo by @waferboard (flickr)
1. Read. This is number one. because whenever a budding writer asks me how they can improve, it’s my first piece of advice. Read good writing. Absorb it. Let it sink into your soul. Don’t think it’s possible? When I was first starting out, I was sick one weekend, so I spent three days lying in bed reading every page of that year’s Best American Travel Writing anthology. After I finished, I opened up my laptop and started writing for the first time in days. What came out surprised me: it was the highest-quality writing I’d done to date. And it was all because I was absorbed in good writing and it filtered through me back onto the page in my own writing.

(Matt says: Here’s a list of my favorite travel books.)

2. Do it for love. Maya Angelou wrote, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” Don’t get into travel writing for the money — after all, that would be totally unrealistic. And please don’t gravitate to the genre because you want free trips and hotel rooms. “Instead,” Ms. Angelou added, “do [it] so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Or, in other words, strive to become such a good writer that the editors of all the publications you have been dreaming to write for can’t ignore you anymore.

3. Don’t be attached to linear writing. You need not compose a piece from beginning to middle to end. Sometimes that’s not the ideal structure of the story. Sure, maybe you’ve already figured that out. But if not, it’s OK to just get a few scenes and paragraphs of exposition down “on paper.” Then you can step back and take a look at the bigger picture and rearrange what you have, figuring out the best way to tell the story.

4. Tap into your own sense of motivation and drive. The students of mine at New York University who have been most successful were not always the most talented in the class. But they were the most driven. They’d read enough quality writing and thought about it — understanding what made it so wonderful — that there was just something about writing that they got. They weren’t born with that understanding, but ambition drove them to seek out better writing and then to think about it, to analyze what made it good (or not so good). Drive also inspires future successful writers to go out on a limb, to render themselves vulnerable, by reaching out to more accomplished writers to ask for advice, or by introducing themselves to editors at events or conferences. Don’t be shy! Standing in the corner quietly won’t get you as far as putting your hand out to introduce yourself will.

5. Try to figure out what gets your mind and writing flowing. Let me explain: I can sit down at my laptop and stare at a blank Word document for hours, not sure how to start a story or what to write about. Then I’ll respond to an email from a friend who wants to know about the trip I’m trying to write about. I’ll write a long email with cool and interesting anecdotes about my experience and include some analysis about the place and culture. And then I’ll realize: I can just cut and paste this right into the empty Word doc I’ve been staring at for the last three hours! Several of my published articles have blocks of texts that were originally written as parts of emails to friends. The “email trick” might not work for everyone, but there is inevitably some trick for the rest of you — be it talking to a friend or free-associating in your journal.

6. Understand all aspects of storytelling. There are two types of travel writing: commercial and personal essay (or memoir). In commercial travel writing, you should make the various parts of the story an intrinsic aspect of your knowledge: from ways to write a lede to the nut graph, scenes, exposition, and conclusions. For memoir and personal essays, know what narrative arc means like the back of your typing hands. It helps to get an intuitive understanding of these things by paying attention to writing — to reading like a writer — as you read nonfiction (and travel) articles.

7. Don’t stress if your first draft is shit. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And he wasn’t kidding. I find this true when I’m writing a personal essay or travel memoir. I write and I write and I write, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m putting down on paper. What’s the point of this? I ask myself. Why am I even doing this? But here is where patience comes in: eventually, the clouds part, the proverbial sunbeam from the heavens shines down on our computer monitors, and we see the point of it all: we finally figure out what it is we’re writing and how to best tell that story. It just happens like magic sometimes. And not all at once: sometimes it’s bit by bit, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But as I mentioned, patience is key, because we never know when that divine magic is going to be activated. But sit around long enough and it will happen, I promise you. (Just be cautious when taking Hemingway’s other writing advice: “Write drunk, edit sober.”)

8. Write what you know. “Start telling the stories that only you can tell,” said writer Neil Gaiman, “because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.”

9. When you’re finished with a draft, read it out loud. Preferably, print it out and read it out loud. This will allow you to better hear how the piece sounds, and unacceptable segues and clunky sentences or turns of phrases will jump out at you in a more obvious way.

10. Always get another set of eyes on your writing. While all writers make mistakes, it’s harder to spot them without an editor. Editors are very important, but they don’t necessarily have to be someone with formal training. While hiring a copyeditor is always great, if you can just get a friend to read your blog or story, that might be good enough.

It’s even better if you have someone who doesn’t know about travel. I have a friend who doesn’t travel much; she reads all my blog posts because she helps me make sure I include the important details I might have skipped. See, when you’re an expert on something, you often fill in the blanks in your mind. You go from A to C automatically; step B becomes subconscious. And when you write, you skip step B because it seems so obvious. Getting someone who doesn’t know the steps will help ensure you include explain everything in your post and don’t leave your readers going, “Huh?”

11. Finally, learn to self-edit. This is where many people go wrong. They write, they read it over, they post. And then feel embarrassed as they say, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I missed that typo.” You don’t need to be master editor, but if you follow a few principles, it will go a long way: First, write something and let it sit for a few days before editing. After your first round of edits, repeat the process. Get another set of eyes on it. Print out a checklist of grammar rules to go through as you edit. (Note: Matt created one here for you.) As you review your work, say to yourself, “Did I do this? Did I do that?” If you follow the cheat sheet, you’ll catch most of your mistakes and end up with a much better final product!

Writing is an art form. It takes a lot of practice. When you’re a blogger out on your own, it can be harder to improve your work, because you don’t have an experienced voice giving you tips and advice and pushing you to be better. If you don’t take it upon yourself to be better, you never will be. However, even if you aren’t blessed to work under an editor, these 11 tips can help you improve your writing today and become a much better blogger, writing stories people want to read!

David Farley has been writing about travel, food, and culture for over twenty years. His work has appeared in AFAR magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and World Hum, among other publications. In 2006 and 2013, he won the Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers for magazine articles he wrote. He has lived in Prague, Paris, and Rome and now New York City. He is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity and was a host for National Geographic. He teaches writing at Columbia University and New York University.