Best Blogs of the Week
I read a lot of travel blogs every week. Every day, even. Since I’m constantly coming across good reads, I’ve decided to highlight some of the best and most interesting posts, photos, videos and general blogging gems from all over the web that I’ve discovered in the past week.
Though I try to read a diverse sampling of things, there’s no way that I can possibly get to it all. So, if you have an interesting post that you’d like me to check out and consider for next week, please let me know in the comments! Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with it. At the very least, I’ll leave you my two cents in a comment.
What I'm Reading
This is one adventure that Kate never intended (or hoped) to experience — being shipwrecked off the coast of Komodo Island, where giant, poisonous lizards prowl. But it happened to her, and now she's trying to get the word out about boat safety in Indonesia (hint: there's not much of it). This post not only tells her personal story (which is a pretty amazing one), but highlights many of the things that went wrong. Even though she lost all her possessions and had some frustrations in the aftermath, Kate still tells a compelling, non-hysterical story of the ideal. This is possibly Kate's best post to date, and is definitely worth your time.
Normally, I only profile single posts in this section. But Torre over at Fearful Adventurer had a great idea over the past week or so, and posted a series of stories by guest writers about some of their scariest travel moments (Kate's story would fit right in!). All of these stories were great, and well-worth a read. Some were funny (like “Saved by Hulk Hogan”), while others were pretty terrifying (like “Wave Goodbye”). Check them out.
This post is part of Blog4Japan, and describes the well-known Japanese activity of viewing and celebrating the cherry blossoms that bloom this time of year. While Todd predicts that the festivities will be subdued this year in light of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, he urges people to still go out to celebrate the life and beauty that the blossoms represent.
Here, Matt tackles that often-taboo subject: travel isn't always great. It's true that travel can be wonderful and eye-opening and life-changing. But it can't always be puppies and rainbows. Things go wrong. Sometimes VERY wrong. And, as Matt points out, it's important to go into travel with this knowledge and be on your guard.
This post is just plain fun, and takes a look at some well-known movie characters and personalities that probably wouldn't make for ideal travel companions. The fact that Gollum is listed here really made me laugh. Check it out and see if you agree with Sofia.
What in the World?
The situation in Libya is still essentially at a stalemate, with the rebels and Gadhafi loyalists still vying for an advantage. In the week since my last update, not a whole lot more has developed. NATO is still providing airstrikes, but no country has yet to actually pledge to supply the rebels with weapons. But, Italy, France and Qatar are now all recognizing the opposition as the rulers of Libya, and Italy is already discussing resuming oil business with them. On the Gadhafi front, there were reports over the weekend that an envoy had been sent to Europe on the leader's behalf to try and secure a safe place for him to escape to.
Even though it has been eclipsed as of late by news coming out of Libya and Japan, things are still violent in Ivory Coast, too. Former leader Laurent Gbagbo, who lost a national election in November to Alassane Ouattara, still refuses to step down and cede power, even after urging from the U.N. The country has essentially been on the brink of all-out civil war for weeks. Hundreds have been killed, and at least 1 million have fled. The tide may finally be turning now, however, as Ouattara forces — backed by the U.N. and France — took nearly the entire countryside in 3 days last week, and were pushing toward the presidential palace in Abidjan on Monday. The U.N. and French forces have been authorized to use force in order to protect civilians, and opened fire on Gbagbo's arsenal on Monday.
The Japan tragedy continues, with focus now on the nuclear crisis the country is frantically trying to prevent from escalating. While the death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is likely to surpass 25,000, the media is no longer focusing as much on recovery efforts. Instead, the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has taken center stage. The plant workers have prevented complete meltdown of all the reactors by pumping in gallons and gallons of seawater to keep them cool. This, in turn, means that there's now a lot of contaminated seawater to dispose of. On Monday, the government gave the plant permission to start dumping some of the “less-radioactive” water (and by this, I mean the water still has radioactivity levels 500 times the legal limit) into the Pacific Ocean in order to make room for more highly-radioactive water. While scientists insist the radiation levels will quickly dissipate in the ocean and won't harm local marine life or the people that might eventually eat it, it's unclear how the wastewater will affect the area if it keeps being dumped in large amounts. And, according to officials at the plant, the nuclear crisis is far from over — it could be months before things are under control.
Preliminary results are in from Haiti‘s run-off presidential election that was held last month. Results are showing that musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly pulled off a come-from-behind victory, defeating a former Haitian first lady to nab 68 percent of the votes in the March 20 runoff. Final results from the vote are due April 16.
You want fries with that? Better start practicing. McDonald's will hold its first “national hiring day” on April 19, and is aiming to fill 50,000 openings at its restaurants nationwide.
Southwest Airlines is in a bit of a pickle right now, after a plane that made an emergency landing Friday in Arizona because a large hole had been ripped in its roof was found to have had similar structural issues in the past. Small cracks in the plane's covering had been found during previous inspections (and reportedly were fixed). These cracks (or similar ones) eventually lead to the explosion that ripped a 5-foot hole in the aircraft at 34,000 feet on Friday. Southwest then decided to ground 79 of its Boeing 737 planes for more rigorous inspection over the weekend, causing a slew of flight cancellations. By Monday, the company said 64 of the planes had passed inspection and were back in service, while the rest will have to undergo repairs after tiny cracks were detected using electromagnetic tests.
Also airline-related, a study was released Monday on annual airline quality rankings, which are based on Department of Transportation data. AirTran had the best overall performance on the 16 largest U.S. carriers last year, while carrier American Eagle ranked last. Overall, the study said, airlines improved their performance last year (fewer lost bags, less overbooked flights, more on-time arrivals), even though the Transportation Department reported that complaints about airline performance went up a whopping 28 percent in 2010. Perhaps ironically, Southwest maintained its ranking as the airline with the lowest consumer complaint rate. Delta received the highest complaint rate.
Just For Fun
Saturday was International Pillow Fight Day. Did you know? People in 130 cities across the globe took part in mass pillow fights organized by The Urban Playground Movement, which wants to encourage people to make use of public spaces. In London‘s Trafalgar Square, people dressed in pajamas, dressing gowns and costumes came armed with feather pillows that exploded as they fought. What fun!