Emily Miller is an off-road racer who believes that “life is a tremendous
adventure.” With previous podium wins behind her belt, she recently
placed second in the race “Rallye Aicha des Gazelles” located in
France and Morocco, which was held over March 19 to April 2, 2011. The
carbon-neutral race is far from traditional: without the help of GPS,
binoculars or cell phones, navigators must rely on only a compass and
a scale map. The stages are won not by best time but by the driver who
finishes in the shortest driven distance.
What was the road that led you into this profession?
It was really a dream I had since I was a kid, so it was amazing honor
when Rod asked me to drive for Rod Hall Racing.
I was actually selected by Rod Hall to race for his GM Factory team.
He is a legend in the sport and trained me through the process. He
said it was easier to take someone who has some of the right skills
and attitude and train them to be a driver, as opposed to taking an
existing driver and breaking them out of their bad habits.
What skill set is involved?
Many skill sets are involved: strategy development, goal setting,
listening and communicating, motivating your teammate when necessary,
the ability to make quick decisions and take responsibility for those
decisions, physical and mental endurance, and organizational skills.
Racing really forces you to take a look at your real strengths and
weaknesses, as it magnifies each one.
What races have you participated in?
Many races including several Baja 1000s, Vegas to Reno(s), Primm,
Terrible’s 250, Parker 425, XO 250, 3 Gazelle Rallies, etc.
What was this race like in particular? What were your thoughts going into it?
This race was particularly challenging because it is so long. Each day
was very long – sunrise to sunset or later, every day. It was also
different because it is all about strategy and decision making.
Sometimes I had to go slow, sometimes very fast, and encountered every
different type of terrain imaginable. The race forced me to think
straight despite fatigue. I had to manage my vehicle to ensure it held
up over nine days - without the kind of nightly prep that you would in
a normal race.
I had to determine what the vehicle could handle and then manage the
vehicle for the duration of the race through good navigation strategy.
We had a completely stock truck with no modifications, so I knew this
would be very important. I also didn’t know what to expect with a new
navigator that I really didn’t know. It turned out that she was
incredibly talented at her job, we got along perfectly.
What is your favorite part about racing?
The team aspect for one. As a driver, you are just a piece of the
whole team. You realize in off-road racing that your crew is
absolutely critical to performance. The thing I like about racing is
the amount of focus and concentration you have to put into it over a
long period of time. You literally try to find that edge and stay
there for hours on end. Plus, you often have to deal with some type
of challenge which pushes you to really problem solve.
How supportive are family and friends?
I am very fortunate to have very supportive friends and family.
Everyone is positive. My husband is especially supportive and
tolerant of what is a crazy schedule between work and racing.
What suggestions do you have for those who want to start racing?
One, be patient, it takes time to learn and apply the lessons you
learn. Two, run your own race and don’t worry about the others.
Three, it isn’t easy or inexpensive, so if you want it don’t get
What life-lessons have come out of your career?
I’ve learned to stay calm and focused. There’s a lot of problem
solving to get to the finish. Also, I’ve learned the importance of
preparation so problems are kept to a minimum. Nothing beats great
teamwork, preparation and a good attitude.
That feeling - like a punch to your gut. You know it. When you think
you’re something, a big fish in a small pond - you can rest on your
laurels - and then you stumble on something that sucks out the air in
For those who think they’re well-traveled, the balloon is about to deflate.
The prick: an interesting website dedicated to the world‘s most
traveled people: www.MostTraveledPeople.com.
It is run by Charles A Veley, who currently holds the title as the
“World’s Most Traveled Man.”
According to its members the world is made up of 872 countries,
territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated
island groups, and major states and provinces.
Veley has visited 822, and has only 50 remaining places to visit.
Next on the list is a Bill Altaffer, who has visited 815 places, and
has a purported 57 remaining places to visit.
And so on.
Compared to my previously laudable 30 countries...
The previous holder of the Guiness Book of World Records’ “Most
Traveled Man” was John Clouse - who had 7 wives and visited 315 of the
world’s 316 countries, regions, and islands. (I know you’re wondering
- it was Bouvet Island near South Africa.)
Or is the most “traveled” man Fred Finn? Mr. Finn does not boast the
highest number of places visited but has logged 15 million miles on
airplanes. He’s crossed the Atlantic over 2,000 times and been to
Africa on 600 visits. He’s flown the Concorde three times in a day.
In my lifetime - assuming I have flown 500,000 miles - I have
accumulated at maximum, .03 percent of Mr. Finn's.
What does all this say about travel - when taken to the extreme?
For anyone else who’s suddenly feeling less accomplished, consider
this: Veley was a self-made millionaire in his thirties and retired at
35. Finn’s travel has been paid by the companies he’s worked for. Most
travelers make less and see the world on their own dime.
According to Pico Iyer, travel writer, and author of the
quintessential essay “Why We Travel” - we travel to lose ourselves and
find ourselves, to open our hearts and minds, and to become young
fools again. He reminds us that the most significant travel we do is
“Most traveled” - checking off destinations - going to a place to say
you've been there - does not equal meaningful travel. Unless you
strike up fascinating conversations each time, or there’s a stirring
documentary playing, sitting on an airplane doesn’t teach you much.
So the punch to the gut - only lasting a second - is gone. The air is back.
(If you haven’t read Pico Iyer’s stunning article - my favorite - you
can read it here:
Veley’s site makes an interesting claim: To visit all 872 places would
be “to go everywhere.” You can sign up on his site and check off the
places as you go.
Veley has an interesting life story, which you can read here:
Recently I’ve been visiting top 10 lists - and changing my views about countries. Taken from the websitewww.aneki.com/lists, here are things you may not know about that are going on borders - including your own.
The US is still the richest country in the world, if you go by a GDP of $14,580,000,000,000. Half that and you get China’s, half that again and you get Japan’s.
Swaziland is the country with the highest level of HIV infection (38.8% adult prevalence rate).
Yet France is the world’s most sexually active country: the average French person has sex 137 times per year. Greece follows with 133 days, Hungary with 131, then Macedonia and Bulgaria with 129 and 128, respectively.
Norway tops the list of countries with the “highest quality of life,” followed by Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and the US.
Andorrans live the longest - Andorra’s life expectancy is the highest with an average of 82.67 years.
Meanwhile Lithuania has the highest annual suicide rate per 100,000 people: 42. Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Estonia come next on the list.
Venezuela and India share the honor of having most of the most beautiful women in the world -- if you go by the Miss World title. They have both had five Miss World each, followed by the UK with 4 Miss Worlds and Sweden, Jamaica and the Netherlands with 3 each.
The US dominates the number of Miss Universe titles at 7, leaving Venezuela and Puerto Rico behind with their respective 4 Miss Universes.
The US also boasts the most Nobel Prize Winners, its number of Laureates being 270. The UK (101), Germany (76) and France (49) are catching up.
The US has won a cumulative 2,112 Olympic medals, four times more than the UK.
Luxembourg and Singapore share the more recent title of being the top most googled countries, sharing a search volume index of 88. India, Mexico and Japan are typed next.
Malaysia, with its power distance index of 104, and Slovakia with the same number, are the countries with the most unequal societies. Also having high power distance indexes are Guatemala, Panama and the Philippines.
Ecuador is the country with the most endangered species (2,151) followed by the US (1,143), Malaysia (892), Indonesia (833) and China (773).
Australia, with its 11.06 tonnes of CO2 per capita, based on its national power sector emissions, is the world’s worst greenhouse country. The US is next, then Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.
Libya has the hottest place in the world: Al’Aziziyah, followed by United State’s Death Valley. In Libya extreme temperature (F) reaches 136.4 degrees; in Nevada, 134.
According to the Transparency International Corruption index (2006), Haiti, Myanmar and Iraq are the world’s most corrupt nations. The US was among the 20 least corrupt nations; Finland, Iceland and New Zealand lead the pack.
According to another list by Transparency International (2009), the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures “the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians,” New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore and Sweden have the lowest perceived corruption; of the 180 countries polled, Somalia has the most.
Sweden is the country with the best gender equality.
United Arab Emirates is the fastest growing tourist destination in the world, with a growth rate of 30%, followed by South Africa with its growth rate of 10%.
And lastly, India has the world’s biggest readers; its citizens spend 10.7 weekly hours reading. It’s followed by Thailand, China, Philippines and Egypt. I suppose if you’re in these countries, you’re my most likely reader.
The Best (and Cheapest) Response to Traveler’s Diarrhea
You’re crouched over a squat toilet (if you’ve made it that far) and your Snicker’s bar suddenly looks like Hershey’s chocolate milk.
Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge… here in Varanasi we call it Banaras Belly. And to the casual traveler in India or on other off-beaten paths, it’s likely to happen. The good news: Your body probably won’t react to the same agent in the same way again. Yes, you’re getting stronger. But in the meantime, what to do?
If you said “drink more water” - you’d be mistaken.
The best response to a net loss of body fluid is three little letters:
O - R - S.
And they stand for Oral Rehydration Salts. (Alternatively: ORT, Oral Rehydration Treatment).
(It’s also, apparently, a good cure for a hangover and jet lag - read on.)
Recently I learned some interesting facts about this magic mixture, from the site www.rehydrate.org. In a diarrheal state, the healthy intestinal wall is impaired and water isn’t absorbed. So the result of just drinking more water is increased secretion of water. Diarrhea worsens.
And that’s not all. 98% of the body’s potassium, for instance, is held within cells, or is intra-cellular. But the body’s store of sodium is almost entirely extra-cellular - i.e., in body fluids and blood plasma.
Salt water isn’t absorbed well when you’re sick. O-R-S to the rescue! ORS contains sodium and glucose. The glucose molecules are absorbed into the intestines; the sodium in turn is carried through with the glucose. Then, the increased relative concentration of Na+ across the intestinal wall pulls the water through after it.
And, voila! Sip it slowly and your body will thank you for it.
An ORS packet is cheap (Unicef provides them to children in developing countries at a cost of 10 cents a pack) and is added to a liter of water.
They’re light and they’re packable, which makes us wonder, why aren’t they a part of every traveler’s tool kit?
Oh yeah - the mix to most tastes pretty gnarly.
But consider bringing these or picking some up for your travels. You may need it when you get a Hershey’s milk surprise.
Beep! Beep! That’s my alarm clock. It’s 5:30 am.
I’m a morning person.
Unfortunately most people I know seem to be night owls.
When the sun lowers my eyelids follow suit, and by 9 or 10 pm I’m ready to sleep. I’ve been called “lazy” and “lame.”
But there’s something about getting up with the sun, or before it, and watching the day and the neighborhood come to life, as the natural lighting gradually increases, as though someone is turning it up on a dimmer.
Yesterday I visited an ashram in Varnasi, India (an ashram is a place for worship and spiritual study) and had a chance to meet Baba-ji, the ashram’s guru. Asked to talk about his life, Baba-ji told us about his winding story, from a village in India to Berkeley, California, where he built a house that uses renewable energy. Despite his accomplishments, he still felt empty. When one day he met an enlightened man who had arrived from India, Baba-ji took the advice given and left his posessions and house behind. He meditated for years alone in the forest. He attracted pupils who wanted to learn meditation and yoga, and together they built an ashram in Sonoma. They have built another ashram in Varanasi, India.
His most important advice to us: Find time for stillness.
To our eager ears, Baba-ji talked about his former village and the stillness that reigns there. Yet with the introduction of the TV and the mobile phone in the past decade, village life has changed.
“Technology distances us from nature,” said Baba-ji.
“The more technology we have, the further away from nature we get. Animals are deeply in tune with the nature around them. Animals go to sleep with the sun. The birds. They awake early at 4:30 and sing their song, and then with the daylight they hunt their food and bring it back to their nests.”
His words gave me reassurance. The next time someone calls me “lame,” I’ll silently smile and think I’m attuned to nature.
But Baba-ji’s words give us something to think about as travelers.
How much technology should we bring with us when we travel?
One benefit of authentic travel is the opportunity to experience, not just see, another way of life. We can experience a new rhythm of life.
I see travelers fidgetting with their ipods, with their portable video games, and portable DVD players on long train rides.
Why not use that time to experience stillness?
Can you eschew the television in the hotel room? Un-stick your eyes from your computer screen? Pocket the i-pod, and let the clunk-clunk-clunk of the Indian train be your soundtrack. Hand-wash clothes in your bathroom, rather than toss them into a washing machine, and feel your soapy hands.
Giving up technology is a hard sell in our daily lives. It’s much more possible when we travel for a period of time. Do we want our travel to be just like our day-to-day, or do we want it know something different?
What if you set your “out of office reply” to “Traveling - out of contact. Embracing stillness!” You’d undoubtedly inspire someone else to do the same, if only for a moment.
Stillness is difficult. Help it out.
What would you do if you could do anything -- for a year?
Forsake something from your life, add something new? Resurrect a hero’s footsteps…create an adventure all your own?
And who would you be when it’s all over?
These adventurers can tell you. They temporarily committed to what might be for most of us a passing thought - and then they wrote about it.
For instance, would it be possible to eschew all forms of automobiles for a year? Adam Greenfield can tell you about it - a 29-year-old filmmaker born in England and now residing in San Francisco, decided that for an entire year, he would not get into any sort of automobile. (www.thegubbinsexperiment.blogspot.com)
Have you thought about living locally? As in, staying put? Check out Kurt Hoelting’s book, The Circumference of Home: One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life. Based in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest, Hoelting set out on an experiment to travel no further than 60 miles for a year.
What would happen if you actually took that good advice you heard – all of it? Actress and writer Robyn Okrant decided that for one full year she would follow the advice of Oprah Winfrey to see if it genuinely improved her life. The book: Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk.
A.J. Jacobs has now two year-long experiments under his belt. The Know-It-All tells us about his year of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica over the course of twelve months. He followed it with The Year of Living Biblically, in which Jacobs lived by all the rules of the Bible for one year – as literally as possible.
You’ve heard of One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller best known as Eat pray love. The author divided a year equally among three countries to write about culinary pleasure, ascetic rigor, and a love affair. You might not have heard of its irreverent off-shoot, Drink, Play, F@#k – the chronicle of Bob Sullivan’s similar stride to Ireland, Las Vegas and Thailand.
Is this year-long zaniness mixing experimentation (and oftentimes travel) a new trend? Not if we consider the example of Henry David Thoreau (who extended his experiment to two years). In a patch of woodland owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, he built himself a log cabin and lived simply and self-sufficiently – in hopes that isolating himself from society he would gain a more objective understanding of it, and of life. Walden or Life in the Woods set the example back in 1854.
So what if you want to “suck the marrow out of life” but you don’t have a full year? Go for it anyway. You’ve probably heard of the documentary, Supersize Me, in which Morgan Spurlock subjects himself to a steady diet of McDonald's cuisine for 30 days just to see what happens.
There’s no limit to the list of social experiments when ignited by imagination.
What is the point of these specialized sojourns? For one thing, to prove that we can do it – to ourselves and to others. For another, to see what we might learn from the experience. And perhaps we enter into them with the hopes that others might be able to follow our lead, in ways big and small.
What would YOU take a year off to do?
What great experiment is lurking behind the folds of your brain, hoping for the chance to be explored?
Lord Strathcarron, a British author and world traveler, writes travel books of the in-the-footsteps-of genre, touring the world on his sailing boat: a cat-rigged ketch that looks like "two mating windsurfers." He is currently traveling in the footsteps of Mark Twain and working on his new book, The Indian Equator: Mark Twain’s India Grand Tour, Re-toured.
How did you start writing travel books?
“In the footsteps of…” is a sub-genre of travel writing, which throws in a bit of history and adventure.
I first came here (to India) as a hippie in the 60’s. We would sleep on the river on houseboats - and get bitten to death for a half a dollar a week. I ran out of money and fell into journalism: as a reporter for restaurant reviews in What’s On In Hong Kong. Then I went to Japan and got a job through Reuters at the bottom of the pile for Time and Life in Tokyo.
There was a massive demand in print media for stories about China and Japan. I started a company selling “soft” stories about fashion and gossip. I sold that, had a year or two off, and thought I’d start writing books. I really liked traveling and so I thought I’d write travel books.
The first attempt was sort of a disaster. It was about Vasco de Gama’s journey.
Why did you choose Vasco de Gama?
For what Vasco de Gama did - he was a dreadful man, a complete pig of a man, a mass-murderer - he was a pirate, really - but in those days some people were. What he did that was so remarkable was he opened the first sea-borne trade route between India and Europe and cut out all the middle men on the silk route through Africa. Spices at the time, 1497, were incredibly expensive, and European food was completely bland. He went around the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and went almost as far as Brazil, on the most amazing hunch - that in the southern Hemisphere, wind moved anti-clockwise around high-pressure areas. In those days, most of the crew thought the world was flat - a superstitious, ignorant bunch. The more he went on, the more convinced he was right. He did it three times and ended up viceroy of Portuguese India.
I just admired him enormously as a navigator. Columbus discovered America completely by mistake. Columbus thought he was going the other way.
But when you’re going through the Atlantic you really have to pick your seasons, you’ve just got to go with the trade winds and time it right. We didn’t do the trip ‘round Africa… but I had a contract to do Lord Byron’s 1809-1811 grand tour of the Mediterranean and took it in his footsteps. That became the book, Joy Unconfined! Lord Byron’s Grand Tour Re-Toured.
What compelled you to follow Mark Twain?
Mark Twain went from San Francisco, to New Zealand, Australia, somewhere in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and then he arrived in India: Puna, Baroda, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Calcutta, up to Darjeeling, over to Agra and Delhi, and into what is now Pakistan.
When I was in Athens doing the Byron research I came across some writing by Mark Twain. Well, I didn’t even know Mark Twain had been to Athens. It was about Greece in the 19th century. The language was so different - it was pithy and witty, as you might expect - but it wasn’t pompous. I found his book “The Innocence Abroad” - his bestselling book in his lifetime and his first travel book.
Then, Twain was an atheist, and got a commission to cover 120 Protestant Evangelicals, who were traveling to a Muslim country with little regard for Christians. It was matter from heaven for his book. I had a word with the publisher and asked why not, for the next one, we follow Mark Twain in the Holy Land. That became my last book, Innocence and War: Mark Twain’s Holy Land Tour Re-Toured.
I also love India. So I cheekily said, Did you know Mark Twain visited India? My publisher said, “Did he?” After writing, I started this one. I want to do three Mark Twain books - and start next winter in New Orleans and go up the Mississippi.
Twain had a job on a steam boat as a pilot on side-wheel paddle steamers. He was in his early twenties and grew up in the Mississippi, and said he’d be happy to do this for his whole life: going up and down the Mississippi, when it was the golden age of paddle steamers and they were floating palaces. It’ll be a Heart of Darkness in a way but a Heart of Lightness.
Who else would be ideal to follow?
The one I’d really like to do is the British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermore. But I’m coming around to the idea that there’s quite a good book to be had about American artists, actors and writers living in the Caribbean: obviously there’s Hemingway, and an English author Ian Flemming, who wrote James Bond, Errol Flynn, and Humphrey Bogart. Rather than write about one person, I would make the place the star, and write about what happened to all of them.
What is it like to follow the trail of famous navigators and authors?
It takes a long time doing this footsteps stuff. It takes five times as long in one place to find out where someone has been, because the names have changed, and the places don’t exist. It really gives the traveling a focus and a purpose: you wouldn’t go to a place otherwise. I wouldn’t have been to Palestine if Mark Twain didn’t go there. I mean, it’s not tourism. Because Mark Twain saw the consulate in Beirut, I go to see the consulate in Beirut.
The disadvantage is, you miss places that aren’t on the route. I’m pretty focused on following the same route.
The advantages are, you meet a lot of people you wouldn’t meet ordinarily as a tourist. I seek out professors and check in with the embassy and have lunch with the ambassador. Sometimes meeting businessmen, politicians, the sort of posts you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. I’ve found Americans to be particularly helpful when talking about Mark Twain.
What advice do you have for budding authors who want to record their own “Tour Re-Toured”?
It’s hard to make a living on books - even get an advance these days - it used to be real easy. It used to be quite a good way to make a living. Writers in general tell you, it takes a third of a year to do the research, a third of a year to write a first draft, and then a third of a year to rewrite, edit, and polish it. I’ve been lucky because I’ve spent so much time as an editor - you have to be ruthless. Everything has got to move the story forward - not too many asides, unless the asides are very interesting.
That said, the advice is, just do it. That’s it. What I do know about Hinduism, is that it’s a question of doing it. There’s no point in studying it - just do it. Saraswati is the goddess of writing, so I’ve started to worship the goddess of writing. And I think it’s the same in writing - just do it. Just get on the plane, borrow the money from mum - it doesn’t have to be much - travel second class, you can do it cheaply. Go to Argentina, follow Bill Clinton’s footsteps there, or in Oxford, then come back with something in reasonable form, then go see a publisher.
What’s it like living on a boat?
Well that’s wonderful for lots of reasons. You’re completely at one with nature and you’re out-of-doors all the time. I’m often fast asleep at 9 o’clock most evenings - you live according to the sunlight and your sleeping pattern is with the light and dark. There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction of moving a boat properly - a poetic sense of moving along. There’s a poetic movement of bouncing in the wind, and making passage. It’s a wonderful way to travel. It’s tempting to say it’s free - but you have to buy the boat, paint the boat, fix the boat. You can actually live on less money on a boat than you can live any other way. Once a year you have to fix stuff. But you can really live a very simple life, also a life full of knowledge. It’s wonderful for writing, because there’s no distractions at all. My wife, a photographer, writes cookbooks, she below and I up above. It’s a lovely way to sleep because the boat’s never still, you’re rocked to sleep.
For more information on Lord Strathcarron and pictures of his boat, visit his website, www.strathcarrons-ahoy.com.
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