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News Media and Travel

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The News Media and Travel

There is still an entire unknown world out there. And I feel as if there always will be, no matter how much I travel. The world is changing far faster than I am able to traverse it: the speed of a jet plane means nothing to the onward roll of time.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Brooklyn, New York City- December 5, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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I was avoiding the completion of my university thesis as I was browsing through the Hobotraveler’s Wayfinding maps. I was just dreaming a little into a world shown in the singular – shown as an all-encompassing, non-dual whole (which is perhaps the hallmark of Hobotraveler.com) – when I came across this map of world currency divisions:

World Currency Map taken from Hobotraveler.com Wayfinding Maps

What the hell is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization? Why does it stretch all the way across Central Asia and Russia?

In a moment I realized that I still know nothing about the world and that my cranky manner of obtaining information may be a little flawed:

I do not read newspapers, don’t often watch TV, and, until recently, seldom read anything by anyone who has not yet croaked. My access to information is antiquated, but, before now, I never really cared. I suppose I figured that if news has the staying power to be written about twenty years later then it has the pertinence for me to read about it. I very ignorantly – though probably correctly – have written off the news reporting media as being fastidious, hype driven, status-quo mongering, and, in a very real sense, stupefying. I never wanted to read the news because I felt that it would dull my senses – that it could have the potential of making me THINK that I know what I am talking about. The reading of written words perhaps has the tendency of making someone smart, and perhaps smartness is the great purveyor of ignorance. It is my impression that people who know have a difficult time learning. I am never more stupid than when I think I know about something.

Image taken from Shanghai Cooperation Organization

So I have avoided the news in favor of cultivating a manner of pure and innocent ignorance. I wanted to learn about the world through direct impression rather than preemptive study. For I never want to have to charge myself with viewing a place or a people through a pre-set lens of another’s creation. I want to view the world through my own lens, however wrong, incorrect, and imprecise it is. I know that I am wrong and often times completely baseless (just read these recent travelogue entries) and I don’t care because I know that I am wrong on my own terms.

But living this way – in my own self-made bubble of innocence – makes for more than occasional bouts of incomprehension and many flights of fancy, it makes me shallow. Until this morning I did not know what the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was. So I learned.

This made me realize how much I miss everyday. This made me realize how shallow my view of the world can be.

The Shanghai Cooperative Organization is big. It is something that I should know about. Perhaps I need to open up to the present and stop ignoring the inconsistency of Now. I study culture and history – always using my own exposure as the starting and ending points, and, when provoked with the opportunity, view current events through this lens. I think this is a good way, but it is not the only way.

Reading the agenda riddled words of the press can be a guide, a gentle compass from which I can dig deeper into the world I am surrounded by – JUST SO I DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT I READ.

Just so I use the words of the media as a base for questioning: is this really happening? What is really going on? What do the people on the ground really think of this? What do I think? How is this article manipulated to fit the status-quo of its readers? What do I observe?

To take the words of the news media and utilize them to my own ends would take Vagabond Journey.com into a new direction. To blend my usual haphazzard approach with a knowledge of current events could make for a deeper observation, a more thorough approach, perhaps a slightly better product, and a complete, all-out mess.

In the words of the anthropologist Kathleen Modrowski:

“You have to read and research everything you can about a place and a people, because even if you don’t directly write anything about what you read, it will still give your writing depth.”

Perhaps a new direction is needed.

Realted Pages:
Way Finding Maps
NYC- Editor Eats Article
NYC- Another Concept of Journalism
Honduras-Writing for Magazines and Newspapers
Ethnography, Journalism, and Travel Writing
Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Links to previous travelogue entries:
Office Pranks
Rites of Passage in Richmond Virginia
Jet Blue Airline Makes Me

The News Media and Travel

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Filed under: Journalism, Travel Philosophy, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap

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