Category Archives: writing

International Travel Tips, Tales from Wandering Justin


World traveler Justin Schmidt makes a grand source or international travel tips and tales. The exceptional blogger takes the airline industry to task, advises on where to find Hipster-free bars and cafes throughout the Phoenix Valley, and takes us along for rather unusual travel activities. After being blog buddies for several months, I was fortunate to meet him earlier this year when visiting Tempe where his blog came in handy.

Let’s see what makes this quirky traveler tick and dig deeper into the mentality of yet another world traveler.


What’s your travel theme?

Getting there is half the fun. “Relaxation” doesn’t always mean a lazy day on beach. Boiled silkworm larvae are not tasty, but it’s fun to tell people you ate them. 


What travel stickers are on your suitcase?

Australia, Belize, Costa Rica, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea. These days, I’m getting about 16 days out of each major foreign trip. I manage a few 5-day jaunts around the States. Portland, Ore., was the last one — what a cool city!


Images Courtesy of Justin Schmid


How much do you plan?
We leave some room for spontaneity. One of the cool things about outdoorsy countries is that you can, if you must, sleep in a tent. The Scandinavian/Nordic countries (and some in the UK) have this concept of “freedom to roam” that is just so … civilized, so right. In essence, put your tent up anywhere that’s not fenced off or where it would hurt the environment.

Generally, I am the transportation planner. Sarah, my wife, specializes in hotels and activities. The spontaneity is critical because there are so many cool things that guide books don’t convey with enough power. South Korea, for example, has these spas that are mind-blowing. There’s a place in Busan called Spa Land that absolutely blows my mind. If I had anything like it here, it would increase my quality of life threefold.


Follow Wandering Justin on Twitter


Experienced travelers know to travel according to activities they like. For instance, I seek out architecture, textiles, art galleries and museums, and spending hours observing people at cafes. You do unusual things when you travel– marathons, guitar shopping, searching out uniquely flavored beers and coffee. How do you work that into your travels?

My game plan is to figure out a few “signature” activities– usually a hike or a run (though in the case of my upcoming trip to Finland, a concert is one of the main events). Then we plan around those destinations and fill in gaps based on what’s geographically feasible. Volcanoes and glaciers are huge on my list! The Iceland trip, for example, revolved around a hike in Landmannalaugar, a glacier hike at Skaftafell, and a visit to Dimmu Borgir. We left a hole for the Iceland Phallological Museum.

South Korea and Japan were very urban countries, so the activity game plan was much more skeletal. With Tokyo, though, it was an absolute must to have a reunion with my high school buddy who lives there and married a Japanese woman. God, did we have fun catching up!

Tell us about the Norwegian run. Was that was cinched the deal in terms of determining that’s where to go next?

It was almost an afterthought. Sarah (who roped me into running about 10 years ago) found it after I booked flights to and from Sweden. She had me at “run above the Arctic Circle.” We didn’t even know about it when we started thinking about Scandinavia. To be honest, I have a soft spot for female-fronted heavy metal bands: I wanted to see Nightwish in their natural habitat. That’s what got the Scandinavia ball rolling.


You love planes and write often about the airline industry. How much of that plane-ophilia played a role in your wanderlust?
I went for a long spell without any major travel. When I graduated from college, I was practically living like an animal: Work, eat, sleep, repeat. It was really my then-wife-to-be who got me to look up and around. And I remember being at a major intercontinental hub as an adult for the first time, and just feeling the electricity in the air of people going all over the world. I saw a certain beauty in the aircraft, too. There’s a grandeur about them … and just think for a moment how far they travel, and to how many different places. The plane-ophilia plays a role in picking routes and destinations, for sure. I love flying foreign airlines since it’s often my first introduction to a foreign culture. And it’s fun to fly aircraft types I haven’t been on before. I can’t wait to fly in a 787.


Get some international travel tips


How do you think wanderlust originates: nature or nurture? Did you parents travel a lot when you were growing up?
Such a good question! I think it varies– I’m not from a real traveling family at all. My first trip abroad was to Germany at age 5. I still remind my brothers– who are 8 and 12 years older– of things we did on the trip. But I didn’t go abroad again until I was 27. My family years were mostly just domestic trips.

Every person is one life-changing experience away from being a traveler. It just takes one “I can’t believe where I am” moment to feel that travel is essential to the human experience. I’ve had friends who don’t travel harp on about the obstacles of travel and how everything they want is in the U.S. I can tell you, they’d feel foolish for saying that if they just experienced something new with an open mind.

A lot of parents fret too much to encourage kids (like late teens) to travel solo. I had a few ideas for what airlines could do to encourage the next generation of travelers. I’d love to see any of them happen!


Check out Wandering Justin’s blog

Find Justin chasing the promise of glaciers and volcanoes … or a good sauna. Get inside his head – and his backpack – by visiting his blog. It’s always a bevvy of international travel tips and tales.


The Mind of the Writer: Is It Messy?


Part of my entertainment is Western podcasts from all over the English-speaking world. All in the Mind is a psychology and neuroscience show from ABC Radio National in Australia. I’ve listened to for several years, and a recent episode on the mind of the writer caught my attention. In today’s post are a few excerpts that I hope will put the world to right for you– or at least someone who is convinced you’re just plain mad.


Is This the Mind of the Writer? Image Credit


World renowned psychiatrist and doctor of English Renaissance literature Dr. Nancy Andreasen studies the creative brain. What emerges from personality testing and interviews with creatives, she says, is “Creative people tend to be very curious about all kinds of things. They tend to be adventuresome. They tend to be a little bit iconoclastic, which is related to being original, of course. They perceive things in a totally new and different way that other people are simply not able to see…. They’re a little prone to getting in trouble because they’re original and seem rebellious.”

 ”Do creative people actually think differently (from) people who aren’t highly creative?”

“At least sometimes yes,” Andreasen said.

Check out the podcast to learn more about the writers mindset

In fact, she said, in her study of writers at Iowa University’s Writers Workshop , she discovered an “astonishing” 70 to 80% of them had mood disorders such as depression and manic depression.

When I find myself envious of someone’s education or writerly experiences, especially because I wasn’t allowed to attend Ohio University to study writing in undergrad, I remind myself that Da Vinci and Michelangelo both came from somewhat modest upbringings.

How do my fellow creative readers see themselves in relation to this?

Listen to the episode and another one with V.S. Ramachandran, the Marco Polo of neuroscience in creatives.


Jenny Holzer Combines Art & Architecture


Since her start in the 1980s, American artist Jenny Holzer has put a stamp of art in architecture. Her medium is language– cultural, political, sexual, autobiographical. though. Form and content “are at odds with one another in many of Holzer’s works,” as the documentary About Jenny Holzer says. “Architecture, text, and rhythm merge, creating perfect symbiosis.”


Around the world Jenny Holzer has shown art in architecture in a multitude of ways. Image courtesy of Eugene Yoo


“I’m always grateful when I have good architecture to work in or work against. Part of the content is carried by the text… other information has to do with what the particular installation has to do with the building,” Holzer says in the doc about her installation at the New National Museum of Art in Berlin: “After I made many, many trips I finally realized that the roof is really all there is here. The glass walls are simply protection against the elements. The roof and the columns that support it are really the only structural things.”

In short she had the installations removed from the square building made seemingly entirely of glass. She programmed onto the ceiling what she calls “truisms” into LED machines like those you’d find at your local bank’s tellers. From the inside and outside then viewers could enjoy the installation.


Photo courtesy of Sprueth Magers London gallery , where Holzer is showing through 12 August.


“I don’t protect myself when I write because I’m not a professional writer. However, my texts aren’t entirely or in many cases…autobiographical, so on purpose because I want them to be as much as possible generally accessible and somewhat universal. But of course…I show much of myself, and that’s how it should be,” she says.


Some of what she writes seems so universal that people might mistake them for “Anonymous” aphorisms or adages. In truth, she wrote most of the content for some 20 years, then started adding poetry, and has also used redacted military documents (available freely on the public domain). Here are some of her aphorisms/truisms that resonate for me:

“Protect me from what I want”

“It is man’s fate to outsmart himself”

“You are a victim of the rules you live by”
“Knowing yourself lets you understand others.”



Image from


She has projected her truisms into marquees in Times Square or Las Vegas, on parking meters, on plaques above water fountains, in sports arenas— even on park benches in cemeteries. In the mid-1990s she started working with xenon. From there she could project her words onto building facades and cruise boats and museum interiors, sort of like how we might project a family film onto our living room wall.


“She has this formalist way of thinking about space, almost like an architect,” says her friend, poet Henri Cole, whose work Holzer has also used in her installations.



Another note of interest: Holzer had a pavilion of her own, the only solo artist ever to represent her country at the 1990 Venice Biennale. She was the first woman ever to have such an honor.


Follow Holzer in cyberspace, at least until her next show where you can see her art in architecture. A thank you goes out to Holzer’s communications rep Briana Halpin for sending this info on forthcoming exhibitions.

Solo Exhibitions:
Sprüth Magers London, through 28 July
L&M gallery, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. through 27 Oct.

Group Exhibitions:
VAN HAERENTS ART COLLECTION, Brüssel. Sympathy for the Devil, 30. through 30 Nov. 2013
Hayward Gallery, London. 22 January through 28 April 2013

Temporary & Permanent Installations:
GWANGJU BIENNALE, Seoul. 7 Sept. through 11 Nov.
U.S. GOVERNMENT FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION CAMPUS, Silver Spring, MD, completion Fall 2012
EKEBERG SCULPTURE PARK, Oslo. Prospective inauguration date Fall 2013