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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Travel writer urges Convocation audience to break out of comfort zone

<avel expert Doug Lansky hails from what he calls, “the arctic tundra of Minnesota” and was high school classmates with Julie Thornton, Carleton’s Associate Dean of Students. Now, with ten years of travel experience under his belt, Lansky spoke of his funny travel escapades and misadventures to challenge the way we think about travel.

While most travelers are tempted to plan trips based on the “must-see” destinations, Lansky sings a different tune and urged the audience to allow themselves to skip a few of these tourist sites. Instead, the single best thing travelers can do is to let their own interests serve as the skeleton key to unlocking a new culture. As a starting point, he suggested picking up a new sport or taking a cooking class. Even seemingly mundane activities, such as getting a haircut in India or an ear-cleaning in Japan, can become part of the adventure. He joked, “if you go to China and don’t go see The Great Wall, you might feel like you have cursed your family. However it is really about customizing a journey and making your own trip.”

In addition, a traveler’s choice of food, accommodations, and transport all become part of the adventure as well. Though we often hear warnings not to eat or drink the local food and the rhetoric on travel advisory sites can frighten people into staying home, Lansky prefers to take these cautionary messages with a grain of salt. “As long as you keep your wits about you, you should put yourself out there and try something new,” he said. And yes, this may include using the dreaded squat-toilet. To help the audience in their future travels, Lansky’s speech also included a crash course on how to properly squat.

Ultimately, “travel is about your own unique misadventures along the way,” Lansky said. In doing so, “you pick up quirky new perspectives and it makes you look at your own country differently. ”

His own travels began in 1992, after quitting his job working the copy machines at The Letterman Show and The New Yorker. In the following two years of hitchhiking, he worked any odd job from banana picker in Israel to snowmobile guide in the Alps. Although a car accident in Thailand temporarily put a halt to his travels, Lansky came out of the recovery period with a book deal and a nationally syndicated travel column. His writing would eventually reach over 10 million readers in 40 major newspapers and he has now published several award winning books.

On top of it all, he has also hosted travel shows for both the Discovery and Travel Channel, taught journalism at his alma mater, Colorado College, and appeared on National Public Radio’s The Saavy Traveler.

“The hardest thing about travel is that mouse click to buy the ticket. It’s intimidating at first but once you get going, it’s not that hard,” said Lansky. “It’s like driving a car. It may take a month to get your travel legs under you but eventually it will become second nature.”

In closing, Lansky said, “The adventures are out there waiting for you to find them and live them, and in the process, find yourself.” To help one lucky student jumpstart this process, Lansky ended convocation by awarding the raffle winner a free Euro rail pass.

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