Tag Archives: nomad

Ebook news digest: peer support for writers, how traveling professionals avoid loneliness, free ebooks

2017-04-13

News on ebooks, writing, photography, copyright on April 13, 2017

bricks-and-mortar, book shop in Gothenburg

5 Reasons Fellow Writers Are Essential to Your Writing Life
Writer’s Digest

Peer support, sharing experiences and information can help every writer at some point of a writing life. Writers are not always extroverts who are happy to chat with anyone, but finding colleagues is definitely worth the effort.

Travel Photography Tips
National Geographic

A long article worth reading that doesn’t explain the techniques of travel photography, but, for instance, the importance of research. So, read a travel guidebook for your destination first.

3 Benefits Ebooks Activate For Your Business
Atomic reach

The author arguments that ebooks work particularly well for companies that operate in business-to-business markets.

Six Digital Nomads Share Tips For Tackling Loneliness On The Road
Forbes

I would add the most important tip: Learn as many languages as you can. Usually, however, it is too late because you are already in Bucharest or Lisbon and realize no one speaks English. At least, then you should learn the basic local greetings and shopping terminology.

Read 700 Free eBooks Made Available by the University of California Press
Open Culture

Free ebooks are mostly one way or the other related to North America, but they are adding new titles all the time.

Copyright expansion plans would kill EU startups
Julia Reda

Important copyright laws are being prepared in the EU. Consequences are far reaching and potentially restrictive if you are not a big publisher arguments EU MEP Julia Reda.

Do You Trust the NYT Bestseller List?
Lindberg Books

It is strange that every organization that collects and publishes bestseller lists show different ranking. The writer may want to have a look at Author Earnings reports as well.

Julian Assange: WikiLeaks has the same mission as The Post and the Times
The Washington Post

This is why digital nomads, remote workers and everyone who travels must rely on offline tools

2017-03-02

Traveling professionals, digital nomads and remote workers rely on their computing devices to get the work done. One key thing workers take for granted in an office – Internet access – is not always available on the road. Once a nomadic worker realizes what it really means to be disconnected for a few critical hours or even for days, it becomes clear that the whole computer setup must be prepared for travel. It is a setup that relies on offline tools.
laptop on office desk, woman reads newspaper
If you stop for a moment and review all the applications and online services you are using, you may discover that being without an Internet connection makes up to 90% of your tools redundant. A vital application to get a job done becomes completely useless if you can’t access the Internet. This is a common situation for everyone who is traveling, settling into a new place, or is having problems with telecommunication connections.

I learned all this the hard way. I can still remember how it felt to land in a city where I had never been before, hire a car (without a navigator), and drive to a nearby city where a hotel room was waiting for us. Finding the right direction on the highway was easy by following the street signs, but when it was time to open the navigation application on the smartphone and get detailed instructions for finding the hotel, it didn’t work. The smartphone navigation app didn’t work because it required Internet connection. It was night already, and we were completely lost. In the end, helpful police officers showed us the way to the hotel.

Another painful lesson was during a customer project that I had started before traveling to another country. I had saved the project documents in Google Drive because I had used Google Docs for taking notes and drafting the material. I had reserved two days for finishing the project. I had the time, the tools, but no documents. Internet connection in the place I had rented for a month didn’t work. I contacted the agent who hired the place to me, but because it was weekend, she was off duty. No help. Those two days were lost in frantic search for cafés with Internet connection and prepaid SIM cards. In the end, I managed to buy a prepaid SIM card. Two days were completely lost, but the acquired SIM card proved valuable: it saved me from the same problem later.

So, perhaps contrary to the popular opinion, I am arguing that digital nomads, remote workers and anyone who needs to travel must give up Google Docs, Office 365 and similar cloud services if they are using those services for work. People on the move must rely on offline tools.

Essential offline apps

Here is a brief list of common apps that you must be able to run without Internet connection.

Word processor (for instance, Libreoffice Writer, Word or Pages)
Spreadsheet (for instance, Libreoffice Calc, Excel, or Numbers)
Notes / Journal / Editor application
Maps (Maps.me which runs on tablets and smartphones, but not on PCs is a good choice)
Navigation (Maps.me has been designed to run offline, which is why it is far more reliable and faster than running an online navigation app, like Google Maps in offline mode)
Password manager
Contacts
Calendar
Ereading software and ebook library (for instance, Bluefire Reader or Fbreader)
Photo editor
Dictionary

How to test that your key applications run without an Internet connection?

1. Disable Wi-Fi and mobile data on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
2. Start every application, one app at a time, that you absolutely need on the road, and try out if you can use it without hindrances.

Using a smartphone for communications even when there is no Internet access

compose text message on Android smartphone
Just a reminder that even when you are offline, you probably have a smartphone that can connect to a mobile network. You should activate roaming for phone calls before leaving your home country. If you don’t’ answer phone calls or make phone calls yourself, you don’t have to pay any extra (to be sure, check with your telco). When roaming for phone calls is activated, you can also send and receive text messages (SMS) that are a low-cost way to communicate even overseas.

Do not activate overseas data roaming for your smartphone, unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. Usually, it means that either you have a special overseas data package, or you have a EU mobile subscription and you are roaming in the EU region.

Minimum set of cloud services

Once you have secured Internet access, it is time to connect with the employer, clients, audiences, friends and family. The minimum set of online services a traveling professional needs:

Email
Cloud Backup
Social media
Skype or other teleconferencing and messaging service

What does the sharp separation of offline and online tools mean in practice?

Having a large selection of offline tools always available means that it has been possible for you to be productive during those periods without Internet connection. Once you manage to get your computing devices online, you have text documents, messages, photos, spreadsheets and presentations ready to be shared with your employer, clients or audiences.

Which online services are the best for a traveling professional?

The best ones are those cloud services that let you have full control over the access and access rights of your account. It may mean you have to pay for your email service and backup space in the cloud to ensure you truly own full control over the account and the data you have stored into the account.

Popular free services, like Gmail and other Google and Yahoo services are extremely risky for travelers. These services have full control over your account and data. It is their decision if they let you access your data or not. A login attempt – even with the correct credentials – from a new place is a red flag for the services, and they may lock you out from your account. Read more about the risks of Google and Yahoo services for nomadic workers in the article Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling.

Being offline isn’t the end of the world for a traveling professional who relies on computers and the Internet to get the work done. When you are prepared, you can keep working offline until you manage to secure access to the Internet. The fruits of those productive offline hours – or even days – can then be shared with the world.

Ebooks news digest: writer-editor relationship, travel stories from tourist perspective, changing role of agents

2017-02-04

Ebook news digest February 4, 2017

photographer taking a photo in flower field
A Storyteller’s Guide to Travel and Photography
(Wandering Educators)

Perhaps it is every professional travel photographer’s dream to be able to publish a book full of beautiful photos from exotic places. Travel photographer and writer David Noyes had another idea: he wanted to create a book that features photographs taken only in places where tourist sightseeing buses take travelers. His book is titled The Photographing Tourist – A Storyteller’s Guide to Travel and Photography, but it is only available as a paperback. Klaava Media is happy to produce an ebook from the manuscript so that travelers can save a little weight and space in their bags.

4 Truths That Will Change Your Perspective on the Writer/Editor Relationship
(Women Writers)

Good book editors can turn mediocre manuscripts into great, successful books, but only if the working relationship between the author and the editor is seamless. Jessica Strawser is the Editorial Director for Writer’s Digest, and she highlights four key elements that make or break the relationship. It is worth mentioning that writers who are planning to self-publish should give some serious consideration to finding someone who can help to finalize the manuscript. Applies both to fiction and non-fiction.

6 Insights into the Changing Role of Agents in 2017
(DBW)

Digital Book World 2017 conference was organized in the end of January. One of the expert panels comprised literary agents who discussed the state of the book business and its future. It is quite surprising how little the agents believe their world is changing despite the rise of digital media, independent publishers and self publishing. They acknowledge the presence of social media, at least.

10 Undervalued Up & Coming Digital Nomad Locations for 2017
(Maqtoop)

Of ten locations listed in the article I would pick Malaysia, and a place in mainland Malaysia (not Borneo as the article recommends). Excellent Internet (depends on the location, of course), fabulous food, nice people, English spoken widely, low living costs, and good transport connections to the rest of the world. A place in the Kuala Lumpur region could easily serve as a base for exploring the rest of Asia. The top choice in the article for digital nomads is Algarve, Portugal, but can it really match Spain or France as a safe, affordable and civilized destination for remote work can be subject of a heated debate.

5 Things You Can Do to Bring Your Writing Ideas (and Career) to Life
(Writer’s Digest)

Many books have been published on the techniques and details of writing a book, but not so many about the mental challenges a long project sets on aspiring authors. Nina Amir has written a book Creative Visualization for Writers that gives advice on having a right kind of mindset and doing mental exercises that help along in the long and complex process of writing.

woman thinking what to write

Ebook news digest: the unbreakable rule in writing, YouTube stars as authors, learning about privacy

2016-09-29

Ebook news digest September 29, 2016

woman leaning on pile of books
The One Unbreakable Rule in Business Writing (Harvard Business Review)

You’ll have to read the article to find the answer, because the reason we wanted to feature this story is that it presents three valuable questions that every nonfiction author must be able to answer. If you are planning to write a nonfiction book, can you answer these simple questions: Why are you writing this? What audience do you want to reach? Why will they care? If you can, and you are planning a book on travel, culture, history, technology or business, we publish books in these genres.

Top Tips From 5 Digital Nomads (Fox News)

Realistic tips from nomads who seem to have experience and knowledge of what they are talking about. Nomad life is for people who know what they are doing and have the willpower and skills to do it.

The age of self: the strange story of how YouTubers saved publishing (New Statesman)

The generation that grew up watching YouTube regards it perfectly normal and even exciting to to follow someone else play videogames on YouTube. That’s only one popular video genre, others are, for instance makeup tips, pranks or fashion talk. Some book publishers have leveraged the brand power of the most popular YouTube stars and produced books that, at least, have names of YouTubers under the titles. Some publishing experts believe YouTube will save books, but we must wonder: if the brand value of YouTube stars is so great, why haven’t Hollywood or music industry endorsed them?

We Asked Our Favorite Travel Photographers How To Take Better Pictures On The Road (Uproxx)

This article gives plenty of valuable tips for travel photographers and writers who take photos for their own books. First, you should master the mechanics and basic techniques for framing images, since most of these tips are inspirational and travel- or people-related.

Why I am publishing all my private emails, messages and phone calls to the internet in real time (The Telegraph)

A journalist worried about the disappearance of privay is conducting a fascinating experiment. First, he gave away his password to all online services to anyone who wanted them (there is still someone using his original Twitter account). Then, he tried to stay anonymous by using encryption technologies, pre-paid phones and avoiding revealing his location. Both methods had serious shortcomings to his personal and professional life, so he tried yet another approach: he publishes everything he does to the Internet.

Ebook news digest: publisher follows TV business model, reading apps, startups for nomads

2016-09-22

Ebook news digest September 22, 2016

North Portugal, office of a digital nomad on kitchen table
Best ebook reader apps (Which)

Downloading and reading ebooks on a tablet or on a smartphone is easy once you have discovered the right reading app for your needs. Do you only search for books on the Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Google Play, or Kobo store? If the answer is yes to any of the previous alternatives, it is best to stick to the store’s own reading application. If you shop around for ebooks, you should also try independent reading apps, such as Bluefire or FBreader.

This Ebook Publisher Doesn’t Have Authors. It Has Writers’ Rooms (Wired)

We have been expecting new business models and innovation to book publishing ever since ebooks started to become popular. Wired magazine introduces an ebook publishing startup ReMade that has drawn inspiration from TV industry. A lead writer writes a pilot book (episode) that defines the style and characters for the series. A group of writers collaborate to write the rest of the books for the whole season after that.

How the startup world is bringing digital nomadism closer to reality (TechCrunch)

Life and work of a digital nomad is not all about song and dance and beautiful tropical beaches, but hard work without a place most people would call home. A digital nomad must trust his or her skills and capability to survive to make the nomad life worthwhile. Fortunately, there are startup businesses that can take some of the load off the shoulders of busy nomads. TechCrunch introduces a few startups that provide services for digital nomads.

Tracy Chevalier: ‘Writing is a magic trick that still surprises me when I perform it’ (The Guardian)

“Research is easy. It’s sitting down to write that’s hard.” This encapsulates the essence of writing: it is pretty hard work. Seasoned author Tracy Chevalier shares her tips for writers. She writes historical novels which means her research is mostly done in libraries, and only occasionally in the field. Travel writers may disagree with her view, though. In the business of travel writing, research tends to be hard, and writing can offer a welcomed period of relaxation and calming down after an exhaustive journey.

Amazon has cornered the future of book publishing (Quartz)

Amazon is the pioneer of online shopping, ebook business, online computing services for enterprises, and many other things. It also happens to be the market leader in the mentioned businesses. Quartz boldly argues that Amazon would already have taken the lead in the whole book publishing business in the US. The reason would be the rapid rise of self-publishing along with ebooks that Amazon has carried over to printed books with its CreateSpace service.

Want to publish a nonfiction ebook that gets distributed via all major sales channels? Read this.

Ebook news digest: two types of digital nomads, low-cost ereader, drone photography for everyone

2016-08-16

Ebook news digest August 16, 2016

digital nomad dorothy by duncan rawlinson

Digital nomad Dorothy by Duncan Rawlinson


Mashable: My life as a remote year guinea pig

Stephanie Walden participated in a year-long packaged tour around world. It wasn’t a vacation, but a package for digital nomads who worked the whole time (well, depending on each nomad’s own motivation). They stayed in one place for one month, experiencing 12 destinations during the year. The organizer, Remote Year, took care of travel and accommodation costs and logistics. The idea was to have a community of 70 nomads who would stay together for the whole year. Many exciting and interesting things happened during the year – an intriguing story which is a must read for everyone even remotely thinking of nomad life.

Amateur Photographer: Drone the World holidays promise travel photography with a twist

Everyone knows that there are lots of ways to take better travel photos than the usual selfies in front of statues. Black Tomato has made it extremely easy for anyone to become a master in rather difficult special field of photography: snapping images from a drone. The company organizes travel packages where professional drone photographers follow the travel group. The professionals take aerial images of travelers and they can also teach individual tourists to control a drone and its camera.

The Ebook Reader: New Onyx Boox C67s ereader now available for $73

Even though the Amazon Kindle totally dominates the ereader market, a few companies are actively developing new products for ebook lovers. Onyx has introduced a new product, the Onyx Boox C67s, which looks like a reasonably good value for the money. Six-inch E ink screen with 1024×758 resolution, but no Wi-Fi, touch screen or frontlight. Price at the moment: $73.

Law Fuel: Leading Blogger Becomes Digital Nomad on World Cruise

Active travel bloggers and photographers may give the impression that every digital nomads is a relatively young, trendy person. Personally, I have always suspected it, because it is the over-50s and over-60s who tend to have resources to live a nomad life if they wish. Jo Castro, a social media consultant, is one of these seasoned digital nomads who has embarked on a trip around the world. She is doing it in style on a cruise ship that visits 39 destinations in 27 countries over 104 nights. The upfront cost is about the same as the digital nomad who traveled for one year on a packaged around the world nomad tour.

Resource Travel: Top 9 landscape photography locations in Northern Spain

Christian Hoiberg lived one year in Santander, a coastal town in northwest Spain. The story features good tips if you are considering traveling in this part of not-so-well-travelled Spain, and even better tips for photo locations and pictures from the northwest region’s rugged coast.

More travel stories here.

Travel safely: here are the safest countries in the world

2016-07-28

If you are planning to travel to Europe, but are concerned about the recent news on violence conducted by a radical group in some countries, an extensive study on the safety status of the world’s countries convinces that Europe still is the safest continent to travel. The thing with Europe is that although it is not as large as North America or Australia, it is divided into many countries that have different cultures, economic situations, politics and external relations. All this affects to the stability, and internal and external threats.

iceland scenery by moyan brenn on flickr

Iceland scenery by Moyan Brenn on flickr.

The Institute for Economics and Peace has published an annual report: the Global Peace Index. The Index is a measure of global peacefulness. It gauges on-going domestic and international conflict, safety and security in society, and the degree of militarisation in 163 countries and territories. The report takes into account 23 indicators in order to tally the Index. You can download the whole extensive report here. Here a the highlights from the report.

Europe was once again ranked the most peaceful region in the world. The largest improvement in safety since last year occurred in Central America and the Caribbean, while South America also made progress in its levels of peacefulness. Middle East and Africa had the largest safety decline, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Asia Pacific respectively.

Top 40: the safest countries in the world according to the tenth edition of the Global Peace Index (the number after each country is its calculated safety index):

1 Iceland 1.192
2 Denmark 1.246
3 Austria 1.278
4 New Zealand 1.287
5 Portugal 1.356
6 Czech Republic 1.360
7 Switzerland 1.370
8 Canada 1.388
9 Japan 1.395
10 Slovenia 1.408
11 Finland 1.429
12 Ireland 1.433
13 Bhutan 1.445
14 Sweden 1.461
15 Australia 1.465
16 Germany 1.486
17 Norway 1.500
18 Belgium 1.528
19 Hungary 1.534
20 Singapore 1.535
21 Netherlands 1.541
22 Poland 1.557
23 Mauritius 1.559
24 Slovakia 1.603
25 Spain 1.604
26 Croatia 1.633
27 Chile 1.635
28 Botswana 1.639
29 Bulgaria 1.646
30 Malaysia 1.648
31 Romania 1.649
32 Latvia 1.680
33 Costa Rica 1.699
34 Qatar 1.716
35 Uruguay 1.726
36 Estonia 1.732
37 Lithuania 1.735
38 Madagascar 1.763
39 Italy 1.774
40 Zambia 1.783

A map shows the peaceful regions of the world for vacation-goers and digital nomads who are planning their next destination.

peace index map by Institute for Economics and Peace

Peace Index map by Institute for Economics and Peace. Dark green: very high state of peace, turquoise: high, sand: medium, red: very low.

The best European cities for digital nomads

2016-05-06

People who are unfamiliar with realities of the lifestyle of modern workers who live a mobile life, may think that these digital nomads roam the world staying where they like to stay, doing what they like to do. In reality, the modern nomads tend to carefully plan ahead where they stay for the next work period and where they get work to support their roaming life.
berlin, branderburger gateBerlin, Germany.

Which place is the best to live and work naturally depends on personal preferences. Someone appreciates safety, another wants to have the great outdoors nearby, someone wants to be near surfing opportunities, and low living costs is a must for someone else. Choosing a right place to stay and work for a few weeks or for a months is not easy, but there are many people out there who already have experienced it. Why not ask their opinion?

These cities digital nomads have ranked the best to live and work in Europe in May 2016 (by Nomad List, a dynamic ranking that changes according to votes cast by members):

1. Berlin, Germany
2. Lille, France
3. Gothenburg, Sweden. Download a travel guide to Gothenburg and Sweden’s West Coast here.
4. Bristol, UK
5. Nice, France. Here is a travel guide to Nice and the French Riviera.
6. Munich, Germany
7. Leiden, Netherlands
8. Leicester, UK
9. Leeds, UK
10. Aveiro, Portugal

gothenburg, sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden.

The ranking is based on quality of life, fun stuff to do, cost of living, safety and air quality. It was published at Nomad List that doesn’t specify how many votes have been cast for the cities, so we are not sure how representative the ranking is, but it surely gives pointers to anyone planning for the next destination.

In many other quality of living rankings and the best European cities to live in reports, places like Copenhagen (Denmark), Lisbon (Portugal), Zurich (Switzerland), Barcelona (Spain), Dublin (Ireland), and Bordeaux (France) have been ranked high. Many of these rankings have been produced by sitting behind a desk in an office somewhere in London or New York and applying statistics data to calculate the results. The ranking by Nomad List is produced by people who live the mobile life, so it is not surprising that the results are different.

A remarkable thing in this top 10 list is that there are small and medium-size cities in the list. For instance, Aveiro and Lille are rather small cities compared to truly big cities like Barcelona or Berlin that often rank high.

If you are looking for a place to stay in your next destination, here are tips and services that can help you.

Nice, France.

Nice, France.


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Modern Gold Rush in Mongolia Is Transforming Nomads to Ninjas

2015-06-05

For hundreds of years, people of rural Mongolia went about their daily business the same way they had always done: herding goats and living a nomad life. As Stephen Parliament described in his book The Herder’s Boots, nomad lifestyle was under threat already twenty years ago when mining companies started to pay attention to minerals buried in Mongolia’s soil. Now, mining companies have moved in and opened huge mines where nomads have started digging gold and other valuable materials.

The Herder's Boots

Alvaro Laiz has published a fascinating visual report on the situation in rural Mongolia after mining companies started digging huge holes in the ground. He writes that almost 20% of Mongolia’s rural workforce  (people who used to be herders)  have joined mining industry in the past five years.

“Today, Mongolia is in the midst of an epic gold rush. Rich in natural resources, the country’s rugged and often remote landscapes hold vast deposits of coal, copper, gold and other metals. Near the town of Zaamar, 350 kilometers west of Ulaanbataar, I saw how industrial mining has sown the hills with so many gaping holes that they may collapse at any moment.”

Mine workers have earned their nickname Ninjas from green pans that they carry along in bags.
Goats in the Gobi desert, from book Herder's Boots
When mining companies conclude that a mine has been exploited, it is simply abandoned as it is. There is no way for workers to return goat herding because there is no land for grazing. View the photos in Alvaro Laiz’s report and read The Herder’s Boots – Traveling and Working with Nomads for getting the background and big picture on Mongolia’s situation and how nomads live.

Unique Stories from Mongolia in the Book The Herder’s Boots

2015-01-14

Ten years ago, Stephen Parliament traveled and worked in Mongolia, but only recently, he had the time to write a book about his experiences in remote nomad settlements, in Gobi desert and life in the capital Ulaanbaatar.
download book: The Herder's Boots - travel stories of Mongolia
The Herder’s Boots – Traveling and Working with Nomads for the Future of Mongolia includes fascinating stories about life, culture, nature and work in Mongolia. Here is an interview with the author where he highlights his strongest memories of Mongolia and the biggest development steps taken in the country during the last few years.

You have authored a book about a country that rarely makes it to the world news today, but used to rule a large part of the known world hundreds of years ago. What are the unique features of Mongolia today?

People, land and animals as a whole. Mongolia is a unity. I think of them with love and admiration for their understanding of the land, and for their connection with their animals. As one animal dies – and millions have died since I have become familiar with Mongolia – a bit of each person dies also. As one is born, so is a herder.

Mongolia is the largest piece of land in the world that is owned communally. It should be a model for our future. No one owns the earth. We all do.

You tell many enchanting stories about trips you made to herder settlements in remote places. Which one of these travels you can still hear, see and taste?

I can’t answer that without crying. I can smell camel dung burning in the stove at the center of the ger on a morning so cold that piss freezes before it hits the ground. The sound of the wind at night flapping the hides on the outside of the ger is a rhythm that both keeps you awake and puts you to sleep at the same time. Looking at the Gobi Desert with a horizon so far away that the curve of the earth prevents you from seeing it.

And the taste of fermented horse milk, which at first I could not keep down, is a delicacy that will never be forgotten.

The Herder's Boots
Image from the book The Herder’s Boots

What is the biggest culture shock for a Western person visiting Mongolia?

Of course the food, landscape, living quarters, dress and customs are different, but I expected that. The shock is how totally and completely modern, knowledgeable, and on top of their game are the people. My favorite story in the book and the story about which the book is titled is the delivery of my handmade herder’s boots. I can put them on, but I can never wear them nor even fill them.

My story is about an ancient people who, as you say, once ruled the entire known world, and who have since receded into oblivion. My shock is that they have an absolutely clear sense of themselves, their power, resources, and what they need to do in the world. Sure, I and the people I worked with introduced some ideas about cooperative markets and veterinary medicines, but what I learned was about how much they know about their own culture and how it will fit into the modern world.

To put it more simply: Mongolian culture is as strong as ever.

Have the living conditions of Mongolia’s nomadic population improved since you collected material for your book?

Yes. Many herders are forming cooperative associations to more positively control the use of the land, and to obtain a better price for their goods. When I first started working there, fiber and other products of the nomads were often sold far below their inherent value. That has changed.

The herders are looking to indigenous processers in UB to purchase their fiber, but the markets are still manipulated to their disadvantage. What is needed is described in Part II of the book: more cooperative enterprises among the herders, and technological incubators throughout the country to stimulate local businesses. As one of the people interviewed in Part II says, language education is the foundation of progress for both herders and new entrepreneurs.

So, things are improving for the herders, but a new level of technology and education is the next step.

The Herder's Boots
Image from the book The Herder’s Boots

What are your favorite non-fiction books?

It is easier to talk about writers than individual books, but I do have favorites. For exquisite language, cultural observation, danger and romance, I am captivated by the third installment of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s trek across Europe beginning in 1933 through WWII: The Broken Road: From the Iron Gate to Mount Athos, John Murray Publishers, a Hachette UK Company and subsequently by The New York Review of Books, 2013. He took notes as he walked, but did not start writing until 40 years later when he published A Time of Gifts in 1977 and Between the Woods and the Water in 1986. The last volume was not finished in his lifetime, so it is a credit to the ingenuity and respect for accurate representation of the editors.

A book of extraordinary inspiration for the beauty of desolation is Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. Set in the outback of Central Australia, this story of wandering and not knowing where you are, but not feeling lost, because your partner has a sense of place, is the direct inspiration for the first chapter of my book on travelling in the Gobi Desert. I could also select his In Patagonia. Chatwin’s vocabulary and knowledge is profound.

Peter Matthiessen’s philosophical and solemn ode to The Tree Where Man Was Born, 1972 by The New Yorker and 1983 by E. P. Dutton finds both the origins of life in the Serengeti Plain and a resignation that we may be witnessing the obliteration of man by our own hand.

At the opening of his great book, Matthiessen says, “The tree where man was born, according to the Nuer, still stood within man’s memory in the west part of the south Sudan, and I imagine a great baobab thrust up like an old root of life…and a wild man in naked silhouette against the first blue sky. That bodeful man of silence and the past is everywhere in Africa. One hears the silence, hears one’s step, and stops…and he is there.” At the end he says, “Today young baobab are killed by fires, set by strangers who clear the country for their herds and gardens, and the tree where man was born is dying out.” Matthiessen’s work is a description of the balance of humans living in nature. In 1970 he began to see the end coming.

Elizabeth Kolbert gently and then forcefully tells us that we are in fact killing ourselves with our own hand. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Henry Holt and Co., 2014, is the account of our actions that are causing the greatest extinction of life that the earth has experienced. Humans, she says, can be destructive, but they also can be “forward-thinking and altruistic.” Which course shall we take, or is it already too late?

These writers have all influenced by appreciation for the tension among human life, animal life and the future of our land and water. I hope that I have captured some of that appreciation in my book.

As a teacher and an instructor to future teachers I read Paulo Freire because he believes that teaching is fundamentally a political act. His reputation began with Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1968, 1970 and 2000 and continues with many titles thereafter. His brief and critically important statement that Teachers are Cultural Workers: Letters to those who dare teach, Westview, 1998, is a synopsis of his belief that education is a political act, and that freedom comes through pedagogy of liberation that teachers must not fear.

Do these writers share a common genre?

I find these writers share a restlessness about our world. It is more than curiosity. A scientist can be brilliantly curious while confined to a lab or sitting in front of a computer, but these writers must move around, see the world, and experience it. Me too. That is what I like about them.