A Taxi Adventure Gone Right

Taxi Adventure

This post kicks off a brand new series of youtube videos which I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.  In them I delve into my trove of travel adventures, dig out some of my favorite stories, and share them. The goal?  To keep the stories short and to tell them in a fashion similar to how I’d tell them if you and I were sitting in a small traveler’s pub enjoying a pint after a long day of exploring an exciting new city.

First up?  My Guatemalan introduction to colectivos (communal taxis).  It features incredibly awkward moments, breast feeding, culture shock and a wealth of other fun experiences. So, without further elaboration, I’ll let you dive straight into the video!  If you enjoy it, make sure to subscribe to my youtube channel so you don’t miss future updates!

An Open Letter To YouTube From The Travel Community

To the YouTube Team,

You’ve created a spectacular service and continued to expand YouTube to include powerful editing tools, music archives, and much more. You have shown a strong desire to enrich the user experience, while simultaneously improving the overall quality of videos on the site, as well as what we are able to offer as producers. More recently, you’ve continued to tweak how sub-categories are organized and displayed within the site’s 12 main topics.  These have helped improve the usefulness of the Travel and Events category significantly.   Unfortunately, the impact of these changes has been largely blunted by one fundamental issue: that Travel and Events are together in one category, when they truly need to be two separate categories.

I realize that on the surface, Travel and Events seem like interrelated categories.  When you travel, you spend time at events. Right? The challenge, however, is that the type of content which people consider to be Travel content and what people consider to fall under the Events category is fundamentally different. Travel and Events categories are not just different in the content itself, but also  in what the consumer is interested in and seeking out.  When I hear “Events” I think news footage, concert videos, and conference panel videos.

As I write this I’m looking at Travel & Event’s “Popular Videos”. The top video at the moment is titled, “Blowing Sh!t Up” and is an incoherent video from what appears to be VidCon which includes a guy walking around pointing at things with fake explosions. The user’s other videos include titles like “Groupies Gone Wild”, “Dancing Around Naked”, “Look at our Melons!!!” and “Beat Up In A Locker”.  The second most popular video depicts footage of a group of people singing drunkenly, apparently also at VidCon. This user’s other recent videos include “Audience Sings Dramatic Song”, “Tobuscus Dance Party”, “World’s Deadliest Drug”, and “Best Buy Prank”. The third video is a bungee jump– not bad, as that’s pretty travel oriented.  Video number four? VidCon again. Number five? A Visit Las Vegas ad. Other videos include “Katy Perry ‘Part of me’ movie premier!” and a lifeblogger talking about her weekly nail appointment and the day’s sunbathing trip to the pool. Not unlike iJustine who dominated the “Travel” section for more than a year.

Our issue as a community isn’t that these videos aren’t an acceptable and vibrant part of YouTube. Many are quite popular and there is obviously an eager audience for them. Most are also somewhat relevant for the Events/Catch-all part of the category. The problem, however, is that they really don’t have much to do with the Travel part of the tag and that they are a type of content that I really don’t want to wade through when searching for a video about food in Guatemala. When most people think “Travel” they think Travel Channel, National Geographic, beautiful time-lapses, exotic food, and similar events. Right now, these videos are being completely lost or forced into other categories. In many cases, it has also driven many travel vloggers and video consumers to move away from YouTube to other sites all together. In effect the Events/Travel category makes it so frustrating and unpleasant to find and discover new, quality travel related content/channels that it is actively discouraging viewers from using the site.

So, we’re asking for one small change which would make a world of difference: Split Travel and Events into two separate categories. You’ve already started to move down this path by creating the auto-generated lists, such as YouTube – Bali. Unfortunately, even these lists are limited and based on a very basic set of locations and categories. A dedicated Travel category would help aggregate these videos and give viewers much greater access to the type of travel content they want. There are a lot of incredible independent/hobbyist film and video makers generating travel content right now and they would love to add their material to YouTube. The “Where the Hell is Matt? 2012” video with 2.5 million views since June 20th is a prime example of this. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of these videos get lost and buried underneath a 50 second clip of Justin Bieber being spotted at a concert.

Thank you for your consideration.

Alex Berger, YouTube user Glamdering.

I invite other members of the travel and travel video community to add their voices to mine by way of a comment on this post. Feel free to share why you believe that “Travel and Events” needs to be split into two separate categories, and please leave your YouTube channel and website.

*A special thank you to fellow travel bloggers Lillie, Rebecca, and Dylan for their feedback on this letter.

I Gave In – I’m Now On flickr

Glencoe Valley in the Scottish Highlands

After years of pressure from friends I’ve finally upgraded to flickr pro and begun uploading select photographs from my trips. So far there are a few shots from Ireland and the Scottish Highlands up. More to come soon.

If you’re an avid fan of my photography on Facebook or my main gallery you’ve probably seen most of these. However, for the casual viewer, they’ll probably be new to you. Also worth checking out if you want a quick review of some of the better shots from my trips.

My flickr gallery is located at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualwayfarer/

For those of you who prefer moving pictures – don’t forget to check out my youtube channel.

So far I’ve put up shots from what I feel was the gorgeous but far less captivating leg of my July Ireland/Scotland trip…so keep an eye on the photostream for some of the incredible shots I snapped while meandering Scotland’s north coast and exploring the Orkney Islands. I’ll also have shots up from Northern Ireland and the Giants Causeway soon.

As always your thoughts, comments and requests are appreciated!

Quick Tip: Save An Extra $20-$150 A Month

While significantly improved, gas prices are still extremely high.  The stock market and economy as a whole are MIA, and people everywhere are looking at ways to save money.  My suggestion? Cancel your cable/satellite TV subscription and switch to watching all of your favorite shows and movies over the web. It’s a much better option than you might think.

If you just can’t give up your TV, you don’t have to.  Many of today’s computers can be connected directly to your TV allowing you to watch streaming web-based content in your living room.  All with minimal, unnoticeable quality loss…for free.

If you’re a die-hard sports fan, just laid out a few thousand dollars for a TV, or have a slow internet connection this tip probably isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy getting home from work/class, kicking off your shoes, and settling in to watch your favorite TV series, the news or a movie, start watching a few of your favorite episodes online.  Give it a month, and if you think you’re ok with the switch, cancel your cable.

It’s a relatively new option.  If you wanted to watch your favorite TV shows online a year ago you would have had to be fairly tech savvy, have a lot of patience, and be willing to invest a fair amount of effort and energy locating and downloading the latest and greatest episodes. Luckily for you and me these trailblazers set a precedent which major media has started to adopt in a big way. With advances in video compression and broadband streams you can now watch full screen video in high resolution…all for free.  Not only is it free, it’s on-demand.  You can pause it, load it, and stop it at will AND all the while you’re only exposed to periodic brief 30 second advertising spots instead of 15 minutes of advertising an hour.

I haven’t subscribed to cable TV in a year which has saved me nearly $600 in subscription costs (based on Cox’s pricing). I still watch Dancing with the Stars, House, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, the John Stewart Show, Stargate Atlantis, Eureka and others on a weekly basis (when new episodes are airing).  More of a movie person? New websites like Hulu and Joost are constantly adding new movies and episodes to their already sizable collections. If that’s still not enough…a $8.99 monthly subscription to Netflix includes unlimited access to their database of more than 12,000 movies all of which can be streamed online.


Hulu.com – Relatively new but by far one of the best online movie and TV episode sites around. It is backed by NBC & Newscorp.

Veoh.com – Also relatively new, but with a pretty decent selection of movies and TV episodes.

Joost.com – Just launched a new web-based flash version of their player and while still fairly limited, it is making a major push to add a lot of additional content.

YouTube.com – Has just launched a full episode/movie platform.  However, it’s still very early stage/low quality.

You can also go straight to the horses mouth:

ABC.com – Offers most if not all of their shows online.  They even offer most of them in HD.  Just select ‘Full Episodes”.

Fox.com – Not to be outdone Fox offers a wide variety – some of which is duplicated on their partner site Hulu.com

NBC.com – They’re right there with the rest of the pack.  Get your Conan, Heroes, etc. here.

SciFi.com – Far more stingy with their content, SciFi has been experimenting with streaming episodes.  Expect more from them soon.

HistoryChannel.com – Yep, they’re online too.

Discovery/TLC/Animal Planet – All three offer streaming episodes.

PBS.org – Full length episodes available.

C-Span.com – Watch it live.

Concerned about news?  All of the major news providers offer streaming video. However, instead of watching it, I’d suggest reading it. You’ll get access to a lot more newsworthy information than the 3 news stories the major news outlets repeat every 15 minutes.

One word of caution.  A number of major ISPs have begun metering bandwidth. While most of the caps far exceed what average/heavy users will be using, it is advisable that you double check that your monthly bandwidth allotment is over 20gb download a month.

The list above is assembled off the top of my head.  Have a favorite streaming episode or movie site?  Please share it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

*EDIT* – 11/3/2008 – Todd Spangler, Tech Editor for Multichannel News -a part of the Reed Business Network – contacted me a bit over a week ago with an interest in setting up an interview after reading this post. I agreed, and have been featured as one of the interviews in this edition’s cover story “Breaking Free”. You can view the complete article online here.