This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).
In terms of extraordinary vagabonds, it’s hard to imagine someone who fits the bill more than Harry Franck. This literary vagabond traveled the world and wrote more than thirty books about his adventures during the early 1900’s.
As you can see by his titles, this guy got around and was most certainly a pioneer of the modern vagabond spirit. What makes him special is that he was at that point when mass travel was just becoming an option for getting from place to place. As you can see from the picture above, Franck was a backpacker in an age when there really weren’t any backpackers. Certainly he had to make his own gear and figure out things that would make most modern backpackers quiver with nervousness. Franck’s first journey was after his freshman year of college when he decided to see Europe with just $3.18. Not a lot of money even in the 1900’s. He did it. The next year, on a bet, he managed to work his way not only across the Atlantic but around the world with no money at all to start and then published Vagabond Journey Around the World in 1910.
Harry Franck’s willingness to travel with no money, his keen eye for the details of his journey and the societies he recorded (some of which soon disappeared) make him a welcome addition to our list of Extraordinary Vagabonds.
This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” about the great vagabonds. It’s available as an ebook for kindle on Amazon for just $3.99. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of those characters from the past (and present).
Jack London – Prince of the Tramps
For many, all they know about Jack London is that he wrote dog stories. In fact, he did much more than that. Jack London was born January 12, 1876 and his life reads like an adventure novel.
Jack London was a passionate socialist, sometimes drunk and sometimes a prohibitionist, a sailor, a pirate, a gold prospector, a tramp, and of course, all of that makes him a vagabond.
London started out as a poor kid doing wage slavery in San Francisco but borrowed money to buy a boat and became the ‘Prince of the Oyster Pirates” before his boat sank. From there he joined the ‘Fish Patrol’ and then signed onto a schooner which took him to Japan.
Returning to the USA he again became a wage slave and then quit to become a tramp and marched across the country with unionists before getting arrested and thrown in jail for vagrancy.
To me, one of his best books is ‘The Road’ which details this period of his life. It’s also one of the hardest of his books to find.
London returned to San Francisco and attended Berkley before splitting for the gold fields of the Yukon. One would think that he spent a long time there, but six months of suffering was enough and he returned to California where he wrote his most famous books “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”
London was one of the original members of the Bohemian Club which met in the redwoods and included such figures as Ambrose Bierce and John Muir.
London started making money at writing and bought a ranch in California which became a vagabond camp of sorts from which he became a vehement socialist. (John Barleycorn).
London spent most off his life fighting against wage slavery and lived in London amongst the poorest of the poor. His book The Iron Heel, details some of what he learned and saw in this period.
Later he sank most of his fortune into building a ship called “The Snark” which he and his second wife sailed to Hawaii. When they tried to go further, the ship sank. This part of his life is detailed in Martin Eden.
On his ranch, London became an advocate of sustainable agriculture before most people ever knew what the term meant. He also began to drink more and more, which led to his sinking into awful depressions and ultimately probably to an early death.
London made many trips to Hawaii and was one of the first Californians to take up surfing. He learned the sport from the legendary Duke Kahanamoku! (Incidentally, I once met London’s grandson and great grandson on Kauai and they were typical California surfer dudes.)
Unfortunately, like many of the men of his day, Jack London had some ignorant racial views. He is often cited as a racist and the truth is that he was, but so was every other white man living at the time. London just happened to write his views and so is often singled out. He wrote some science fiction which is interesting, one is about China taking over the world by population and a war coming as a result. It seems to be a future that is coming to exist.
London died at the young age of forty years old of a morphine overdose. Some say it was suicide, but what is certain is that he was in extreme pain from illness which is why he had the morphine to begin with.
Jack London was an extraordinary vagabond.
If you’d like to write about an extraordinary vagabond, living or dead, past or present just use the contact form to let me know. You can either send me your completed article and I will publish it or you can ask me questions. Here is what I am looking for:
500 + words
An extraordinary vagabond
picture (at least one)
website (if they have one)
about the author (that’s you!)
link to your website (if you have one – but no commercial links, just personal sites please)
Exploring the world’s strangest hotels is certainly a fun thing to do, given the extremes hotels have gone to, just in the name of being “strange”. And strange they are, too, by the looks of them. Ask anyone who’s been to a hotel from the list below, and he’ll tell you first-hand the experience that comes in staying there. Here is a list of the top 5 strangest hotels in the world. There are lots more, but only these five have made it to this list, based largely on popularity, service, and my own personal experiences.
5. The UFO Capsule Hotel, Tokyo Japan Certainly one of the strangest concepts ever for a hotel, The UFO Capsule Hotel is a chain of “capsule hotels” across Japan that has been around for quite some time and has gained immense popularity as well. The concept of the capsule hotel may as well have been derived from the Japanese mind, given the way it uses space so efficiently. The Capsule Hotel consists of small “capsules”, which in turn have two sections: one, a public lounge space, and the second, a private sleeping space. Less space doesn’t mean throwing away amenities: TV, adjustable lighting, radio, all are present. A must-stay for those seeking the “strange”!
4. IceHotel, Sweden
Do not get surprised: the name of this hotel is exactly what the hotel is made of: ice. Open only in the winter, Ice Hotel is unique: it stands as a hotel in the winter, and melts to become a free-flowing river after the cold is gone. So that means the hotel is essentially built every year, and then it melts away after the sun comes out, only to be rebuilt the next year. Located just 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle, IceHotel is built by artists who come from all around the world, and by using only frozen water (ice) from the Torne River. Furniture made of ice is present, and beds are made of ice too, and covered in reindeer skins.
3. Hotel Fox, Denmark
Hotel Fox is one of a kind, and you certainly have not seen anything like it, that’s for sure. The hotel has 61 rooms, and each room is an exquisite piece of art. Combining the brilliance of 21 artists drawn from all over the world, and after studying close to a thousand different ideas, Hotel Fox was transformed with themes in each room as unique as possible, ranging from flowered themes to friendly monster themes to fairytale themes! The food at Hotel Fox is always being innovated, by inviting the best students from the best European cooking schools to prepare food under the supervision of experienced chefs.
2. StayOrange Hotel, Malaysia I know, the name sounds strange, but then this is a list of the strangest hotels in the world! StayOrange.com Hotel is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is inspired from the capsule hotels from Japan. The Hotel features three kinds of rooms – Double EnSuite, Single EnSuite and 2-Bed Bunk Rooms. The Hotel aims to provide functionality in terms of both facilities and prices. The pricing is very affordable, and the facilities are not compromised upon. All facilities like free Wi-Fi internet access, hot water showers, exclusive mattresses from Dreamland, LCD TVs are provided, with branded toiletries and DVD players being optional.
1. Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin, Germany
This hotel makes it to the top position with ease, just with the variety of rooms it providesJust picture: flying beds, upside-down rooms, circular beds, prison-style rooms – this hotel has got them all. And more. With 35 rooms of pure artistic indulgence, . the hotel will certainly make you come back for more. Certainly one of the most creative hotels of all time, the Propeller Island City Lodge has extremely courteous staff, which takes care of the minutest details. The hotel is very clean, and is a must visit.
4. Don’t Read
To me, reading is an essential part of travel. As far as I’m concerned, if you are one of those people who ‘doesn’t like to read’ than you are one of those people who should stay home and not travel.
Don’t read anything about the country of place you are going to. That way you won’t understand the culture, the traditions, the history, the climate, or anything else. You will be able to have a completely one dimensional experience. If you should read, for example, about how it is rude to point the bottoms of your feet at someone in Thailand, then you’ll miss out on the ass kicking that results when the kick-boxer tells you to stop pointing your feet at him and you continue to do it. You wouldn’t want to miss that.
Or if you read, you might feel compelled to go fifteen kilometers out of your way on the way between Seattle, Washingon and Vancouver, British Columbia and visit the remote and gorgeous Scenic Hot Springs. Wouldn’t that suck?
Don’t read on your trip. Don’t discover that Mark Twain stayed in the same hotel you are visiting in Honolulu (The Moana Surfrider) or that the lovely looking picnic spot in Cebu, Philippines is where Lapu Lapu ate a famous explorer. Who needs to know details like that?
Don’t read when you are stuck at the airport. It’s much better to just sit and get angry at the workers or eat overpriced food. Don’t read at the beach because it’s much better to sit there wondering what to do now that you are done swimming.
Yes, if you don’t want to enjoy world travel, it is essential that you not read.
5) Don’t talk to anyone unless you have to
If you want to have horrible and meaningless travels, don’t talk to anyone unless you have to. Don’t talk to the man next to you on the airplane or bus, he might be a Chinese businessman who would invite you to visit his home and stay with his family.
Don’t talk to the guy who works at the hotel unless you need towels or directions. If he thinks “Hey, this is a nice person” he might actually tell you someplace that he doesn’t recommend to every other rude tourist. You might end up going to a tiny temple in Penang, Malaysia instead of going to the big one that has eighteen tourist buses outside it.
Don’t talk to people in the street. They might try to sell you something. They might want to practice English with you. They might want to share a bit of their culture or learn something about yours. Wow, wouldn’t it be a bummer if that Indonesian guy learned that the USA is not just like Bay Watch and Jerry Springer? Don’t talk to him.
If you want to NOT enjoy your travels, do not talk unless you need something.
6) Don’t learn any of the local language
Finally, if you want to be absolutely certain that you don’t enjoy your world travel, pretend your a British Colonist and refuse to speak the local language.
Don’t say Tarima Kasih in Indonesia, don’t ask where to get the gonggongcheecha in China, don’t say Yvet in Turkey, don’t show the grocer in Barcelona you can understand the uno, dos, tres, don’t speak French in Paris (I found Parisians to be very gracious about my bad French), don’t say shukran in Morocco, kapcun kap in Thailand, daijobu in Japan, bollacks in England, dude in California, wienerschnitzel in Germany, or Mahalo in Hawaii.
Speaking the language encourages people to learn about you, to teach about their culture, to make friends, to have relationships, to even fall in love. There is nothing miserable about any of that. So if you want to Not enjoy the world of travel…don’t speak the local language.
Got more tips about how to NOT enjoy world travel, why not leave a comment below or send your tips to me using the contact form.
The world has changed a lot since I originally wrote this article back in 2011. Almost a decade later – populations have shifted significantly along with everything else. I’ve got this idea in my head these days that I want to visit all of the largest cities in the world. I’ve been to some of them – but not all – so this might be a good focus for my travel plans in the near future. The hard part is finding a list that is accurate – this is the best I could come up with but I found at least five very different lists all based on the same criteria! New York City, Jakarta, Manila, Chengdu, and a few other cities made it to different lists fo the Top 10 largest, but the cities below were the ones that seemed to be the most consistent in terms of reported population.
The world is growing at an alarming rate. There are a huge number of estimates on the number of cities in the world, but it certainly would be safe to say that there are more than 300,000 cities in the world currently. Of course, this depends on what one defines a city. In most cases, a city is considered to be a place that is large and well-populated, and assumes more importance than a village or town. Now assuming more importance leads to several things, like better living conditions, more choice in all respects of life, and so on. These are what lure people to cities, and make cities experience population growth. Because of the large population, cities are generally managed by an authority, which in most cases is the municipal corporation of the particular city, and this body looks into all the things that make up the city. A typical city consists of further sub-areas, called districts or precincts in most places. This division of a city into smaller parts helps in better administration and ultimately leads to providing better living conditions.
For the traveler, the largest cities in the world can be an intense experience as the sights, smells, sounds, and sometimes the feel of the population can be exhilarating.
World’s Largest City by Population – Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is still the largest city in the world with a population of approximately 37.5 million people. Formerly named Edo, the Tokyo Metropolis formed from the merger of Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is referred to as a metropolitan prefecture or a MegaCity.
On 1 July 1943, the twenty-three special wards of Tokyo merged with Tokyo Prefecture to become the Tokyo Metropolis. The residential area of Tokyo proper has 13,617,445 residents. The rest of the population lives in the Tokyo ‘burbs’.
World’s Second Largest City Delhi, India
Back in 2011, this rapidly growing city was fourth but today it has jumped the que to second. Delhi is one of the oldest cities of India, and is home to the Parliament and Supreme Court of India.Delhi rose from the fourth largest city in the world, to the second! The population of this city went up by more than five million people. With a population of about 29.3 million. Delhi’s NCT boundaries include Faridabad, Noida, Sonipat, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad known as Central National Capital Region which is the third-largest urban area according to the United Nations. Delhi is also the wealthiest city in India after Mumbai. It is home to several billionaires.
World’s Third Largest City – Shanghai, China
Back in 2011, Shanghai was the second largest city, but today it has dropped to third with an estimated population of 26.5 million people.
Shanghai has been the largest city in China for quite some time. Once just a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew quickly because of its port, and it is the world’s largest cargo port since 2005. Shanghai attracts millions of tourists every year, who flock to the city, which has got many attractions, with the City God Temple, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and many more. It is a major transport hub, with the busiest container port in the world. Shanghai gained recognition worldwide due to its trade and strong economic potential. During the First Opium War, a victory of the British over China forced China to open its foreign trade. The subsequent treaty of Nanking and the treaty of Whampoa allowed Shanghai to spread its trade all over the world. Shanghai is home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the largest stock exchanges in the world by Market Capitalization. Additionally, Shanghai has numerous Industrial, Economic, and Technological zones.
World’s Fourth Largest City – Sao Paolo, Brazil
Sao Paolo grew from the seventh largest population in 2011 to the 4th largest today. Sao Paulo is also known as Alpha City. It is the largest city in Brazil. The city has a strong influence in arts, finance, commerce and entertainment. Current population is about 21.9 million residents. It is the largest city in Brazil, and is named to honor Saint Paul. It has one of the largest helicopter fleets in the world. Sao Paulo is famous for its majestic skyscrapers.
World’s Fifth Largest City – Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is home to around 21.7 million people and they live over 2,137Km square area. The rate of population growth is lower compared to New Delhi at 0.6% annually. Mexico City is the fifth largest city in the world.
World’s Sixth Largest City – Cairo, Egypt
Cairo has a population of about 20.5 million residents.
World’s Seventh Largest City – Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dhaka is the seventh largest city in the world. It has been a commercial center since the 17th century. With a population of 20.2 million (from 13.5 a decade ago!). Dhaka is considered one of the most important cities of South Asia.
World’s Eighth Largest City – Mumbai, India
Mumbai has 20.1 million residents. It is the wealthiest city in India with more billionaires and millionaires than all the other cities of India combined. Mumbai is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Elephanta Caves, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the city’s distinctive ensemble of Victory and Art Deco Buildings. Mumbai is the commercial, financial and entertainment capital of India and has several financial institutions such as RBI, the Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange, And SEBI. Mumbai used to be known as Bombay.It is the entertainment capital of India, home to Bollywood and many architectural wonders.
World’s Ninth Largest City – Beijing, China
Back in 2011, Beijing was the 3rd largest city. Today in 2019 with a population of approximately 20 million it has dropped to the 9th largest cities in the world. Beijing is an important city in terms of business, politics, education, finance, economy, culture. Beijing is a megacity. It is home to the headquarters of China’s state-owned companies. It is also a major hub for the national highway, expressway, and high-speed rail networks. Beijing International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world. Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites – Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Great Canal, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian.
World’s Tenth Largest City – Osaka, Japan
Osaka is home to around 19.2 million people in 2019. That number is growing by about 0.04 percent yearly, The total area of Osaka is mere 2,720 Km square and that means the city is pretty crowded. Osaka is 10th in the list of largest cities in the world.
My first trip to Japan was too short but wonderful. I visited Osaka and Hiroshima. On my last day, I woke up and had Japanese breakfast before walking to Osaka Castle and visiting the temple which honors the patron of the city on the way. The castle was stunning and huge – much more than I expected – mostly though, I was impressed by the moat. After this I took the subway back to my hotel and checked out. Then I walked to Namba Parks, a building with a forest built on it and bought a hard to find toy for Sophia at Japanese Toys R Us. Then I shopped in various malls and ate a nice tempura and sashimi lunch before I caught the electric train towards the airport. I had far too much time before my flight, so I got off the train early in a small looking town and had a coffee, walked through some shopping centers and went to a grocery store. I may have been the only foreigner to visit that town on that day…no one spoke any English at all. It was nice. Then to the airport, still feeling I had too much time but actually, with customs and check in and other stuff – I only had about an hour waiting past the check in and customs. I made a friend in line and we chatted at various times through the travel process. On the flight, I slept and then arrived back home in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s always nice to come back to Oahu, but I’ll miss Japan.
I cried at Hiroshima. 140,000 men, women, and children killed by a bomb from my country. Awful. Absolutely awful. I paid $200 to take the bullet train to Hiroshima and back to Osaka. I would have regretted not going. I think Japanese people are better than American people – it’s why they don’t have to lock up their bikes and they don’t have to be scared to walk around on the streets. At the very least, their society is better than ours. The truth is, we are assholes.
Arriving in Osaka – I admit, I found myself confused. The Japanese I thought I had learned just went away instantly, but luckily workers at the airport seemed used to speaking English and I was able to rent a wifi unit which powered my phone for the two days I was there. I changed $100 USD for about 11000 Yen and with the help of Google, found my way to the Dotonburi neighborhood using the train.
Japanese people are simply fun for me to watch. I try not to stare. The cute kids playing on the train, the exhausted workmen, the hipster youth, the giggling work girls. I love the diversity within the Japanese themselves – I think they are a beautiful people, in general. And yes, I find Japanese women to almost universally be attractive – and slightly bizarre at the same time. From the dignified mother watching her kids on the train to the elf-like girls in the ramen shop to the grandmother type who made the crazy beaker coffee yesterday – not a romantic attraction, although certainly there are beauties that inspire me, but more of a simple liking of them – I simply like Japanese women. Japanese men are also pleasant to meet and talk with – the young barman last night ( I got a beer in an Irish pub owned by a cool Osaka guy, father of four young kids, never takes a day off, has a nice place). I was led there by the night manager of the hotel when I simply asked where there was a pub – he decided I wanted an Irish pub and after much looking at maps and having the desk girl (she was lovely) explain things to me – which I understood quite well – he decided to walk me there.
I had the best bowl of ramen in my life in one of the privacy slurping places – and ordered a side of green onions with peanuts which were like heaven. At the aforementioned coffee in beakers bar, I met a very nice older Aussie couple.
As I walked through the neon lit streets of Dotonbori. I was exhausted, but exhilarated and filled with a sense of happiness. The canals and the lights and the shops and the delighted people watching puppies in the window of a pet shop. And the entire time, I felt safe. No vague sense of being followed or being worried about getting mugged or getting my pocket picked. The tiny slightly smoke-stinky hotel room is fun in it’s difference from a western hotel.This is simply a first taste of a country that I hope I can come back to again and again and again.