Categories
Photography Technology Travels

London Part 1

On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that would define me for the following months; that of a backpacker. My goal was to explore the world, learn about other cultures, and meet new people solely through mobile applications and social networks. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes, I made my way around based on the recommendations of friends and followers.


Traveling from Brighton to London seemed like it would be easy enough. However, when I arrived at the train station, I found that service to London had been canceled due to some sort of security issue. All was not lost however, as one of the friendly train attendants were able to help me figure out a route into the city using a variety of transfers.

I eventually arrived in East London and specifically to Cheshire Street, where my friend Blair and her husband Patrick live. Although she’s originally from South Carolina, I know Blair from Chicago, where she lived briefly to attend the School of the Art Institute’s graduate program in painting. At some point, Blair left to study abroad for a semester where she met Patrick. Fast forward a few years, and they are now married and living together in London.

My visit to London just happened to coincide with the Bermondsey Street Festival, where Blair was showing some of her artwork. Unfortunately, it also coincided with Patrick being out of town for a friend’s bachelor weekend.

After resting a bit at Blair’s flat, we made our way over to the gallery for an opening cocktail reception. There I met several of her friends and other artists who were participating in the show. I had a thrilling discussion with one gentleman, Alex, on the artistic merits of digital tools for artwork and the case for, and against, and the brilliant Japanese animation film Akira.

The next day I set out with Blair and several of her friends to the actual Street Festival. After an hour or two, I decided to split off from the group to venture out and explore London. I figured I would take the time to get to know Gowalla‘s newly revised iPhone app and its ‘Gowalla Guides’ feature. For those unfamiliar with Gowalla, it is a location-based social network that previously was built around “checking-in” to a venue similar to Foursquare (which I wrote about when it debuted at SXSW ’09.)

Recently Gowalla decided to concede the check-in war and revamp their app in a different direction. Their approach was to feature ‘city guides’ and recommendations of things to do. I was a big fan of the old app, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the new one a go.

First things first, I head off to find the Apple Store Regent Street

Yes, I’m a nerd, I know. But Apple Stores are a godsend to travelers in all seriousness. The stores feature free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms, water fountains, and usually (but not always) a place to sit down for a while. Apple is also very particular about where they build their stores and the design of them. So if you can find a city’s Apple Store, not only will it generally assure that you’ll see some beautiful architecture, but you’ll also find a lively shopping district with good (albeit expensive) places to eat.

Once I’d caught up with everything I needed to, I popped open Gowalla to look at what was nearby. When I saw that London’s famous Picadilly Circus was a short walk away, I decided to head off in that direction. From there, I made my way to Green Park and eventually Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is a sight to behold that, unfortunately, was closed when I arrived at 6pm. Thankfully, I was still able to see the guards from the gate and talk to some of the assigned police officers. I also got a bunch of great shots from the monument across from it.

I wandered on further through the Palace parks and noticed that I could see the famous ‘London Eye’ from the park. So I decided to walk towards it, where I eventually discovered Big Ben and the bridge between them. The area around Big Ben was very alive with street performers and tourists, and I got a good laugh watching them. From there, I decided to take the advice of Jim Binder via Twitter and caught a cab over to ‘The Old Red Cow’ for a bite and a drink. Sure enough, Jim’s suggestion was spot on, and ‘The Old Red Cow’ was a cozy bar with a great atmosphere, a friendly bartender, and a heck of a burger. Shortly after that, I headed back to Blair’s via the Underground and called it a night.

Photoset now posted here.

Categories
General Photography Technology Travels

Grid Meets Road – World Travel in the Digital Age

On the 19th of September I will embark on an adventure that will almost certainly change my life. I am heading overseas to Europe to travel full time until February of next year.

Along my way I will use digital devices and social media tools to explore and find what to do in each respective city. I will document my experience on this blog, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, FourSquare, GowallaTumblr & and maybe even YouTube. I will attempt to find places to say either with friends from these services or using sites like CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

The idea is to “crowd source” my adventure, asking for you, the reader, to supply me with input as to where to go, what to see etc.

My end goal will be not just to explore the world but to really test the limits of our global communications network, the so-called “global community”. Can we, “the internet”, actually supply what one person needs to know on such an adventure? How connected are we really through these services and how easy (or hard) is it to maintain the relationships with your loved ones while traveling full time?

I have also submit a panel to next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival and hope to be able to share the results of my trip with you there as well as eventually publish a book on the experience.

I will share more details about the trip as we get closer to leaving but for now I could use your help.

Please do me a favor and vote for my panel to be accepted to SXSW… the voting period ends tonight Friday the 2nd at midnight. You can do that here.

And if you’re so interested you can donate to my experiment as well here.

Anyone who donates me any money (doesn’t matter how much or little) will have their name on a slide at our SXSW presentation should it be accepted. Thanks!

Categories
Photography Travels

Chicago to Louisville (and Indianapolis for lunch)

Windmills

About 11 o’clock this morning we set off from Chicago, south towards Louisville.  James brought along some playlists of funk music and snacks for the road and our good friend Lee had decided to join us for this leg. Coincidentally Lee’s girlfriend Rebecca is going to be in Louisville this weekend so it made sense for him to join us. The three of us relaxed and joked around on the road and it wasn’t long before we were stopping to photograph windmills and “Hell Is Real” signs indicating we were definitely deep into the great state of Indiana.

We posed the question of where we should stop for lunch to our Twitter followers and  the awesome @JennFree suggested Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indianapolis. Her pitch was compelling and seeing as how I’m on a never-ending quest to try as many different beers as possible, any place with “Brewhouse” in the title immediately appeals to me. Luckily the guys were happy with it too.

When we arrived in Indianapolis we were struck by the beauty of the city. With it’s many beautiful monuments and circles, the downtown area is simply gorgeous. We wandered around a bit, checking out a smoke shop and a vintage styled Dunkin’ Donuts. We stopped off at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument and were instantly taken aback by it’s beauty and size. The entry on Gowalla for it mentions it being comparable to anything in DC and I’d say it’s formidable by my memory. Sadly the structure is under restoration but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying it nonetheless.

Scotty’s was a very large sports bar / pub with outdoor seating and a fairly typical menu but a reasonably sized beer selection. Lee and I each tried a local brew and chat a bit before hitting the road again. Lee proposed that the city would be suitable for another visit sometime. I definitely agree. It didn’t hurt our impression though that we arrived there to our first real taste of summer weather (a refreshing change from chilly Chicago.)

From there, it was straight on through to Louisville without stopping. Upon our arrival we hit up local music shop EarX-tacy and then went for some BBQ at Mark’s Feed Store on the suggestion of the wonderful Ms. Amy Guth. The atmosphere was friendly, and the food was okay. The three of us were mostly happy to have arrived.

Tonight we are staying with a friend of Lee and Rebecca’s and tomorrow James and I will bid them adieu and head to Nashville hopefully in time for the East Nashville Beer Festival.

For now, we’re going to hit the local bar scene. Good night folks enjoy the photos!

Categories
Photography Travels

Into the great wide open.

Open on FlickrA week ago I had my final day at Apple Inc.

As much as I deeply love Apple it was one of those things where it was just time for me to move on. The constraints of working a retail job have been a challenge to my personal creative pursuits for some time so after six and a half year I’ve decided to move on (for now at least).

Today marks the beginning of something else entirely. Today I am leaving on what I hope to be the first of many road trips across the United States, during which my goal will be to write and publish a photo set daily from the road.

On this trip I will be accompanied by the always awesome and always funky fresh James Vest. The two of us will be exploring our way down to New Orleans and back over the course of 8 days.

We’ll be reaching out on Twitter to crowd-source the things we do in each city and others are welcome to meet up with us if they so choose.

I have to cut this short as I still have a few things to take care of before hitting the road. Expect another blog later today but in the meantime here is how you can follow us:

John
Twitter | Flickr | FourSquare | Gowalla

James
Twitter