Readuponit: Travel and voracious reading

Max Hartshorne, travel website editor, sharing some of the stuff I read, hear and see with you. Updated every day. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

China’s Dirtiest City’s Biggest Polluter

by Max Hartshorne on September 18, 2014

In China, there’s a revolution brewing, and it has nothing to do with the Communist party.  It’s about the foul air that more and more is causing the Chinese to wheeze and causing Western executives to either turn down assignments to work in Beijing or demand huge amounts of hazard pay.  In a story in  yesterday’s WSJ, titled “The Biggest Polluter in China’s Dirtiest City,” one of the country’s top coal companies faces a dilemma, because they’re also the top employer in Xingtai as well.

A photo showed commuters riding their bikes and motorbikes in a thick haze of coal dust and ozone pollution, in the city where Jizhong Energy Resources has 50,800 workers. Many of them wash dirt and grit out of big piles of coal, and many said they haven’t been given bonuses in many months because of the pressure the company faces to lower its terrible soot output.

Gardens that people plant are layered with coal ash, and they complain that nobody wants to buy their crops. Jizhong operates six large coal mines that together with the dozens of related facilities give Xingtai the dubious honor of China’s worst air. To compare, in the US, Fresno, California has an average fine particulate matter of PM2.5 a level of 18 micrograms per cubic meter.  In Xingtai that number is 150. But the government is working hard to change this, to their credit. In October they began rewarding citizens who report environmental violations. The Jizhong company has installed desulfurization equipment in all its power plants in 2008 and 2009 and when two of the plants still failed air quality tests the company has said they would shut them down in 2016.

The company has taken a big hit with the lower price of coal and for having to lower emissions–their profit shrank 93% from last year to today. With so many local people depending on the polluting company for their paychecks, it’s a constant battle, but in the end everyone realizes that things have to change drastically or no one will be able to breath.

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Isla Holbox, the Lovely Opposite of Cancun

by Max Hartshorne on September 14, 2014

We spent a few days mostly inside the Moon Palace convention center just below the Hotel Zone in Cancun, and after all of the work of our TBEX meeting, it was time for a change of pace. So we packed in to a van and drove two hours to the northwest to a ferry that took us out to an island with no cars, very few televisions, and the sea surrounding us all around.

It’s one of the shallowest seas I’ve ever seen…people were hundreds of yards off shore walking in light blue water up to their ankles! This small island is only 16 x 1 kilometers, a narrow strip located in a sandy basin. Most of what people do here is lie around and relax, besides the 28 hotels’ wifi, there isn’t a lot of media to entertain us.

My friend Tim lives in Mexico and told us last night about how loud everything is there, it’s a constant cachaphony, a symphony of sounds, from loud radios, to blaring car horns to trucks with speakers mounted in top blaring out news of an upcoming concert or a plea to vote for someone.

Isla Holbox is simple. A place to chill out.  Scandinavians love coming here and in February they are one of the top visitor nationalities. More than six thousand people can show up here, but most of the time it’s only the 1000 or so locals. Tomorrow we are going to swim with giant whale sharks in a protected environmental sanctuary.  One of our hosts has been involved with helping to restore and preserve flamingoes. Barbara, who owns a hotel here, told us that five years ago there were only 10,000 of the birds, today there are 50,000.

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TBEX Excitement Is Contagious Here in Cancun

by Max Hartshorne on September 13, 2014

I’m with my peeps, my tribe, my travel buddies from all over the world, who are assembled here in Cancun to share their success, their tribulations, their glamorous stories of exotic travel and their frustrations  as they navigate new channels.  It’s always an exciting time and I am always glad I made the effort to come and be a part of it.  It’s the TBEX time of year!

Last night it was sultry  and humid at the Moon Palace’s oceanfront patio, where Expedia sponsored a party and we were greeted with margaritas by smiling staff.  I noshed on some tacos and joined Tim Leffel and Lee Abbamonte, two big time travelers, in conversation and laughter.  Tim and I are business associates, so we’re always on the look out for opportunities to increase our business, and Lee is here as the keynote speaker. His claim to fame is his epic travels–he’s visited every country in the world, and he’s not even 35 yet!

Johnny Jet was at the party and he shot a selfie with me, a tradition of his that he’s done with presidents, popes and movie stars. His lovely wife Natalie DiScala was also at the party, and in the afternoon she led a talk about how to do better things on Pinterest. That’s the kind of nuggets I’m happy to come away with, tips on how to create ‘rich pins’  and ‘place pins’ that have an exponentially higher effect than regular Pinterest pins.  Sorry for all the inside baseball, but hey, it’s what I do.

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I flew to Cancun this morning, and when I arrived I was in the thick of TBEX, the Travel Bloggers Exchange that brings more than 1000 travel writers and bloggers under one giant roof.  I was glad to feel my knee pretty much return to normal after my fall the other day.  Lots of long passages to navigate, would have been tough on crutches!

It’s an exciting chance to be a speaker—helping to create the program that all of these bloggers flew down here to experience.  I attended the TBEX in 2012 in Keystone Colorado, and now I’m back for a second stint, this time I’ll be making a presentation to advanced bloggers.

My topic is called “Getting Help” and it’s about how small publishers can use various means to help them get their work done and to get their publication more visibility.  My three avenues that I’ll talk about are hiring virtual assistants, bringing on student interns, and hiring outside salespeople.

Admittedly, each of these avenues is not a traditional route, not what many businesses would rely on. But each of these types of workers can provide exactly what a web publisher needs to get all of these repetitious tasks complete. They are all right for today’s publishing climate.

Virtual Assistants are familiar to Beth Whitman, my colleague and business associate who publishes a suite of women’s travel blogs. “ I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to get all of this stuff done without my two VA’s she told me.  Both of her assistants live in the Philippines, and she said that one is better than the other at writing. So she parcels out the work accordingly.

Interns have always been a part of GoNOMAD’s DNA, going back to 2004, when we hired our first intern from UMass. It has evolved over the years to be a well-oiled machine, now we set up the internships far ahead of time, and we bring on two each semester.

One thing we’ve done to make it easier is to have the interns work as a team. They come into the office at the same time and work together. They write lots of stories and help with other tasks like contacting people who have been mentioned in stories and helping to update our database.

Our outside sales person has also proved to be an important part of our business. We use Teresa to do all of the follow-ups when someone emails requesting information about advertising. She also gets back in touch later to make sure we didn’t leave any business on the table.

I’ll speak about the various ways to get the most out of all of these three types of workers at TBEX. Tomorrow at noon I go up to the podium in these cavernous exhibit rooms…I just hope I get a decent crowd!

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The Knee Goes Out and a Man is Down

September 11, 2014

Tweet Man down!  That’s what I thought last night as I approached my friend Joe’s deck, carrying a bag with my little drum and some beers inside. It was an awkward step up, too high, and just before I made it up I felt my knee buckle.  Joe was walking over and saw my leg [...]

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Twelve Years Publishing a Website Has Brought Lessons

September 5, 2014

Tweet I have been publishing GoNOMAD since 2002, twelve years, and I continue to find new intriguing programs and new media to explore and to use to disseminate our travel stories around the web.  The articles that are  submitted have never been better, the quality of the writers who send in their stories is tremendous. [...]

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