The Write to Roam

The Personal Blog of Ethan Brooks

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 4)

A Taste of Patagonia

Patagonica is a visual love note, created by Joe “Dapp” Foster during an intense month-long trip to Patagonia in 2015.

A four-week blur of hiking, filming, and driving, the team spent more than twenty days on foot exploring the jungles, fjords, and glaciers of Patagonia, capturing hundreds of hours of footage, and navigating more than six-thousand kilometers of twisting mountain roads in a rented van they called Condorito.

With such a heavy workload, fancy meals were mostly off the menu.

“Wonderful culinary experiences? I wouldn’t say my trips lend themselves to them…” he said as we talked just a few days after the film debuted. “We had our goals, we had to get shots. So if a granola bar is what allows you to get the shot and keep moving, then, well… Cooking’s considered a luxury.”

When timing and fortune allowed, they hungrily availed themselves of piping hot empanadas, made in the local way. But for much of the trip cooking was limited to simple stir-fries done up over a camp stove, or freeze-dried meals quickly re-hydrated with boiling water.

That was fine for the team of five, all of whom were experienced adventurers used to the rigors of life off the beaten track. But it made it that much more special when they connected with Ervin, their local guide in Futaleufú, for a homemade meal and a round of Pisco Sours.

You know Ervin, he’s the guy at the 1:22 mark who’s drinking wine from a traditional bota in slow motion. The meal— chicken and vegetables roasted over a wood fire, and hand-made gnocchi — features prominently with at least three shots starting at the 0:24 mark. Three or four shots may not seem like a lot. But when you consider that the movie is just three minutes long, and how carefully each shot had to be chosen from the hundreds of hours of footage, you get a sense for how special the night really was.

“I’ve never put eating food in a film before,” Foster said, “But that was big for us. It was really a moment.”

Why Cook When You Travel?

There are few things that put you as intimately in touch with a place and its people as cooking. Every step, from deciding what to make to hunting through shops, markets, and nearby farm-stands for ingredients can be an exercise in discovery.

Take this simple lentil curry as an example.

A bag of lentils will hardly cost you a dollar or two. Combine with a few dollars worth of carrots, potatoes, and ginger, then simmer in chicken broth with a dash of garlic and curry powder and you have hearty, healthy lunches for a week. In that way, cooking is an excellent way to stretch a travel budget.

 

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Make a curry in England (where I was when I first tried this one) and you’ll make new friends quickly.

For more than two-hundred years the British have had a proper fascination with the stuff, ever since first encountering India, and by extension food with real flavor. They took to it like, well, like the British took to anything back in those days (colonizing little buggers), and have been obsessed ever since. Or at least, that’s what I gathered during wine-fueled conversations during the long autumn nights of my stay in Wiltshire. Food (or maybe it was the wine) has a way of bringing people together.

Mention the word curry, or a word that sounds like it might be curry — currentcarafe, corral — and watch as the eyes of the nearest Brit light up with joy and anticipation. It is the pizza of the UK.

Of course if you want to cook, you first need a kitchen, and that means you need to get creative about where you choose to stay.

AirBNB has made it easy for people to rent apartments and even houses in more than 190 countries most of which come with fully-stocked kitchens. For travelers on a more restricted budget there are affordable hostels, and options like CouchSurfing, WorkAway and WWOOF. In addition to giving you a place to cook, these accommodations put you in direct contact with the people in-country. They give you a more authentic, local experience than could ever be had holed away in a one-size-fits-all room at the Marriott.

Once you have your kitchen, the real adventure begins. Butchers must be found and consulted, farmers visited and vetted. If you’re without a car this can mean long walks through exciting city-streets. It can also mean hours spent navigating through dense forests, using old maps and dead reckoning.

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It’s true that you have to travel a bit slower if you want to explore a place this way. But once you try it the slower speed feels right. It feels better. It tastes better. Just like home-made pasta, hand-rolled and hung to dry as garden-fresh tomatoes simmer down on the stove tastes better than microwaved Chef Boyardee.

Cooking is a transformative art. A process by which a few basic things are taken and turned into more than the sum of their parts, bolstered with pinches of this and dashes of that, irrefutably improved through the careful use of energy (in this case, heat) and time.

When you think about it, the very same can be said about travel.

Travels with a Seiko

I’ll be honest, when I first unwrapped the shining silver spectacle that was my Seiko Chronograph, I didn’t like it. I appreciated it — a gift from my parents given on the day I finally earned Eagle Scout — but I didn’t like it.

It was beautiful; sleek midnight-blue face-plate punctuated every twenty degrees with golden slivers that glittered in the sun. A shimmering clasp-closed stainless steel wrist-band and hands that were visible by day or night. No alarm, no beeps or boops, just twelve hours and the date laid out in a way that was elegant, but functional. It was a man’s watch, and it was given to me as a symbol of my having reached adulthood.

But of course, it was only a symbol, for a boy has not become a man until he’s able to recognize the wisdom of his parents, and sitting there in the early morning light I thought there’d surely been a mistake.

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A Case for Short Term Goals and Un-Planning

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Today’s December 2nd, which means today marks exactly three months since I put my business on hold, and set off on the Appalachian Trail.

My, how things have changed.

In August, I lived in my parents’ basement in Connecticut. Today, I live in a finished attic on a rural English estate with a walled garden and an indoor pool (and in a week I’ll live somewhere else entirely). Could I have seen any of this coming? Could I have planned it?

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In his interview with Derek Halpern, three-time best-selling author Tim Ferriss says that the key to his shocking success hasn’t been strategic planning, as many might first think. Instead, he lives by a series of three to six month goals and micro experiments. There are at least two major benefits for doing this.

First, he says, it lets him

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The Write to Roam TV: Episode 2

For those of you who may have just stumbled across this, this is an experiment I’m doing where — in order to get away from my desk for a little while each day — I drop on down to the kitchen, cook a tasty meal, and discuss facets of travel, entrepreneurship, and small business that are on my mind from the day. In this episode, I whip up a quick favorite from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef .

Here is a link to episode 1 are links to any of the resources I talked about:

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