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  • Why I Travel

     

    “We shall not cease from exploration

    And the end of all our exploring

    Will be to arrive where we started

    And know the place for the first time.”

    TS Eliot, Little Gidding

     

    The world is vast and it’s for us to explore. “Because it’s there” was George Mallory’s response as to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. I was in Nepal in March, just before I had to return home to the UK and lock-down started. I wasn’t trying to climb Mount Everest, but I was trying to see and do at lot else that was there.  Prior to that I’d been in Sri Lanka and India.  Unlike Gertrude Stein’s famous and somewhat rude description of her home town, Oakland in California, “There is no there there”*, there’s an awful lot of there in the Indian sub-continent. 

    I travelled around India by train for 10 weeks or so, from Kerala in the south to Amritsar in the north, west to Rajasthan and east to Kolkata and Darjeeling. Fantastic and varied scenery, amazing buildings, a whole new history to get my previously-Eurocentric head around, some stunning wildlife, a remarkable range of foods, experiences such as autorickshaws and sleeping berths in huge train carriages, teeming cities, and, in many places, new friends.  I could happily have carried on – the only limit was the duration of my travel insurance policy. With my tablet instead of a PC I could run my life quite effectively from a cheap hotel room. Occasionally I signed up for very touristy experiences – the zip-line ride in Jodhpur, the tour of an informal settlement in Mumbai, the canoe ride along the canals in Kerala – but many other times I sought to head off away from the beaten tourist track to find out a little of how people lived. Sometimes I discovered something really worthwhile, other times I just got hot and footsore and tired, once or twice I came a bit of a cropper. But without the risk of bad times you can’t get the good times to enjoy. 

     Since then I’ve been under lock-down in London, though in more recent months gradually enjoying more freedom and scope for travel.  Soon I hope to be properly under way again, off to Italy and Greece by train and ferry.  But life in lock-down has also offered the opportunity of exploration more locally to my home base. At first I walked – to Limehouse, to Alexandra Palace, to Hyde Park Corner. Then I got a bike and headed slightly further afield – to Barnet and Barking and Teddington.  TS Eliot may have meant something deep and metaphysical by the lines from his poem at the top of this blog, but I like to think of it as I discover a park or attractive street or distinguished building within a few kilometres or so of my home that I’ve never seen before.

     

    Whether you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future and can only dream of travel, or whether you’re actively planning your next trip, C4Urselves.com can be a useful resource to find out about the world, stimulating ideas, and providing information by way of other travellers’ impressions of a place. The site relies on its contributors, so, staying within a short distance of where you live or exploring the wider world, do shoot and upload some videos for the site. It couldn’t be easier.

    I shall not cease from exploration – to do so would be a kind of death of the mind.  And I’d like to think that everyone else would want to do so as well. Whether the travel is local or far from home, somewhere that’s entirely new to you or somewhere with which you think you’re familiar but which may well still have unexpected corners, it’s always worth the effort.

     Martin Lunnon

     Check out Martin's videos here: https://c4urselves.com/user/MartinLunnon/

     

     * Gertrude Stein was being unnecessarily rude about Oakland, I feel, if the quote is interpreted as it usually is. I’ve visited the city a few times, even living there for a few weeks one summer over 30 years ago, and there’s quite a lot there. I mean, for celebrating a local hero, a socialist author who loved wilderness, with a shopping mall and a parking lot, the place deserves at least second prize in a world irony contest.’

     

     

     

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  • An Interview with... Alan Chua, seasoned traveller and YouTuber

    Photo by Alan Chua in Hongcun 宏村 with @supermins. Image may contain: one or more people, people walking and outdoor

     

    So many people are already taking great videos of so many places all over the world. Today we’re talking to Alan Chua a seasoned traveller and YouTuber from Singapore who’s already got lots of videos of walks to his name.

     

    Alan, when did you start taking videos of places you've been to?

    I started my video recordings in late January 2019.  

    What inspired to start recording your experiences? 

    It started with a travel problem I faced. In December of 2018, I had arranged to make a trip to Harbin in China and was keen to see what the place was like. Harbin is located in Northeast China and is one of the coldest places, with a minus-20 degree temperature at that time. I had never been to a sub-zero location before, and was keen on understanding how life is like over there. When I did my Youtube research on Harbin, I realised that there was a real lack of videos on how the place is like. Most of the searches that turned up were on the tourist attractions in the region, which was useful, but not what I was looking for. I just wanted to see "what it is like, without any sort of filter or video editing on the location". 

    After my trip, when I went back to Singapore I started to research if such videos existed about my country, and I realised that it faced the same issue. There were highly-edited videos about Singapore and its tourist attractions, but nothing to show what it really is like. So I decided to start recording.

    Why do you think it is important to share an authentic experience through your videos?

    I think it is about letting a person make a decision for themselves regarding the location. I can describe how a location looks like, or how I felt about the place, but I think what is important is how the viewer feels themselves. So I choose to eliminate all commentary and captions, and letting the viewer decide for themselves how they feel about the place.

    What do you want people to experience through your videos?

    I want my viewers to feel authenticity when they see the footage. When they look at it they will know that it is real. There are no gimmicks or attempts to sway their opinions by video editing. What you see is what you get.    

    Do you have any favourite videos?

    I think one of my favourite walking videos is by Rambalac who did a video of Tokyo Shibuya at night. It was a real inspiration to me, and a validation that such walking videos can attract a niche audience, yet reach a mainstream audience as well.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qGiXY1SB68&t=1971s  

    As well as taking videos, do you like to see what other people are posting as well?

    Even though I make such videos, I myself rarely watch other creators' footage. I occasionally watch the bigger players in the walktuber scene to get inspiration and ideas regarding their film style, camera movement, choice of YouTube thumbnail etc. But I rarely watch them as entertainment.

    What places would you love to "experience" virtually, if not in person?

    Probably harsh environment locations which makes filming rather challenging (sub-zero temperatures, extreme wet weather etc).

    What do you like most about C4Urselves?

    That there is a group of people who are motivated about sharing the world with others.

    Would you recommend our website to other people? 

    Yes  

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  • Facebook, Cambridge Analytica… and Hippocrates

    Pixar’s Wall-E is one of the most prescient films you’ll ever see. Having literally trashed Planet Earth, humanity’s home is now a private company spaceship run by a HAL-like computer whose occupants have become so hooked on their comfortable, technology-dominated life that they’ve physically evolved to become practically incapable of even standing up.

    Digital technology has fundamentally, irreversibly changed the nature of our society.

    We instinctively know this to be true. But we also instinctively ignore the implications, because digital technology is just so… well, normal. Alexa is now just part of the family.

    More and more of our lives today is lived online, and shared with people across the globe. We use the web for information, for work, for curiosity, for escapism. We belong to virtual communities, and we share our experiences, our memories and our lives with people we’ve never met.

    This is in many ways a great thing. But it also raises a number of concerns, from how our personal data is used, to how algorithms do a lot more than just feed us targeted ads, to social media’s social impact - including shortening our attention-span and creating an “always on” culture of instant gratification.

    Much has already been written about how technology is dominating our lives, affecting our quality of life, eroding our privacy and changing our behaviour in ways we don’t fully understand, and this has come into sharp relief following the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal in particular.

    But technology can and should be very much a force for good.

    A reaction has already begun. We have learnt to appreciate the perils of the digital revolution. Communities of socially-conscious digital professionals and entrepreneurs are starting to get together under the banner of “humane tech”. The Centre for Humane Technology is a very exciting project, and I’m personally looking forward to reading Roger McNamee’s new book, Zucked.

    But this isn’t just something for digital geeks or entrepreneurs.

    Online communities like C4Urselves too have a role in ensuring that digital technology is both ethical and actually enhances our lives, instead of controlling them. Indeed, it is central to our entire ethos.

    We’re doing this in two steps:

    • First, do no harm. For us, that means avoiding the things which have started to take digital technology down a dark path, chief of which is an algorithm-driven model of increasingly insidious, targeted advertising. So we decided to break the mould, and rely entirely on partnerships and sponsorship from like-minded organisations which share our values. No algorithms, no targeted advertising.  
    • Second, actually do good. We want to encourage people to pause, slow down, look around - and notice things. Explore the world through someone else’s eyes. Rediscover things. Find beauty. Not amidst a jumble of clickbait, but through a single, ethical community dedicated to enhancing our experience of the world.

    We’re not destined to become a population of digital lotus-eaters. A different way is possible, one that puts technology back at the service of people, and the real world.

    But we’ve got to step up. Whether or not the digital world needs its own version of the Hippocratic Oath, what’s clear is that a Wild West approach to digital technology will no longer do. Digital technology today wields great power – and in the words of a famous celebrity, with great power comes great responsibility.

    It’s up to us, the digital generation, to recognise and embrace the many opportunities that technology affords us, and use them wisely.

    Today, technology risks dividing us. Let’s help people reconnect instead - with the world around us, and with each other.  

     

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