Notes from the Road
is my personal project in
experimental travel writing.
By road, by kayak, by seaplane and most of all on foot, I tackle the themes of city and country in the modern world. Travel writing sometimes gets a bad rap, because of 'The azure sea was undulating and the hotel was fabulous.' But travel writing can be funny, powerful and personal.
Every non-fiction writer has that capacity to exaggerate; his experiences happen far away from the reader. But travel writing implies honesty and research. And that's why Notes from the Road is my project in the unvarnished, messy truth of travel, told by a regular guy.
I named Notes from the Road as a reference to my love for improvised music, and the way that travel, as well as travel writing, are often best improvised.
I started Notes from the Road in 1999 in my early twenties, and today it is one of the longest-lasting travel blogs on the web.
Back then, as a reader of travel writing classics, the prospects of turning travel writing into a multi-media experience was new and exciting. and I've been able to watch as travel blogging has developed over time. There are many exciting places to read good travel writing online these days, but the travel industry has also left a sour mark on this niche, as travel bloggers are lured to accepting money in exchange for writing good reviews of hotels and destinations.
At Notes from the Road, I try to stay grounded in my original vision for what travel blogging can be: independent, visual, personal. Travel writing has never been about hotels and reviews. It is, and always has been, about ideas, people and faraway places.
I keep a list of animal and plant life lists in this section of the site. These lists help me learn taxonomy, which in turn becomes a powerful tool to learn habitat and geography and to sharpen my skills as a travel photographer. You can find my bird life list and butterfly life list well maintained with photos and identifications. I am also making a list for dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians and spiders.
Fast-paced, intelligent travel writing written with you in mind.
I am a self-employed father based in the Pacific Northwest. I sketch Notes from the Road stories on the road, with only one or two edits afterwords. I travel on tight budgets, often to what I call ordinary places. We can fly ourselves off to exotic destinations, but one of my hopes is to show you that the pleasures of travel exists even with a stroll through your neighborhood.
I started this project in December 1999 to humor and entertain my friends. Since I have moved about from place to place throughout my life, I needed a way to keep in touch with my friends. I grew up with a few unusual and useless hobbies - underwater photography, plant and animal identification, and an interest in history, archaeology and maps. This site puts those useless skills to work.
I believe that travel writing is the most wide open non-fiction template on Earth - and affords its readers and writers the chance to dance through an amazing breadth of subjects. I don't choose my subjects; I just travel, and the subject matter finds me.
Although the photographs I use are mostly blank landscape canvasses, travel is always about people, and I try to capture real people in their environment; their stories tell travel the best. I write this website to humor, entertain, and come up with a set of ideas about the places I visit for my readers to think about. I believe that my readers are the coolest people in the world. I'd like you to be one of my readers to. Write me a note, and join me on my Facebook page or my RSS feed.
What kind of equipment and
blogging platform am I on?
I code Notes from the Road by hand. For this reason, Notes from the Road doesn't always look like a blog. My brother Hans Paul Gauger assists with the responsive code base.
I photograph the site primarily with two cameras:
A large-format field camera, built by Toyo. This is an old-style traditional print film camera, which can be compared to photographing with a 500 megapixel digital camera. Because of the expense of the lenses associated with this format, I have only two lenses.
Large format photography continues to yield superior results and control than their digital counterparts. My lenses consist of a 75mm Schneider and a Nikkor 120mm. I meter with a handheld spot meter and always photograph with low-speed, low-grain film. My system is housed in a water resistant dry sack in a day pack.
I also photograph with a Digital Canon SLR. I use this camera for telephoto photos, macro photos, and super-wide angle images.
I use a variety of backpacks to hold my equipment, and discuss my packing strategies in the Roam Online Travel Journal section of the site.
I use a lightweight mountaineer tripod by Gitzo with a very stable tripod head, made by Manfrotto.
What are those drawings that I am seeing on some of your travel stories?
Those are my travel illustrations, which I usually create with copic sketch markers, watercolors and gouache. Unlike my moleskine sketches, which are quick drawings I make on the road, I make these after I travel, with the aid of my photographs.
What's the Guana Cay Blog?
That's not really travel writing, is it?
The Guana Cay Blog is where I write about an ongoing fight between a foreign golf course megadevelopment, and the residents of a small Bahamian Island. The Guana Cay Blog also looks at similar issues in the West Indies and beyond, and how locals fail or succeed in defending their culture and environment.
My travel blogging friend, the Happy Hotelier, once noted that Notes from the Road wasn't a travel blog, but rather an anti-development blog, because it included information about the Guana Cay conflict.
This is a new kind of thinking on the web and in travel writing. In the history of travel writing, the genre has been wildly independent. Travel bloggers did not exist to serve the travel industry, but rather to write about the world from their own perspective. Travel writers and travel bloggers should, rather, feel compelled to look at the far-flung destinations they visit as having little voice outside of through the travel writers who visit them.
Shouldn't there be more
pictures of people?
Probably. But since I shoot with a large format camera, which takes about 15 minutes of work for each image, I don't get too many people images. But also, remember this. I write about people, and Notes from the Road is primarily a site about travel writing. I want you to imagine the people I write about. Landscape travel images are empty palettes; they should lend better to philosophical travel writing than the more immediate and specific imagery of human activity.