The World is Not Flat

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

Thomas Friedman, author of the best seller The World Is Flat, argues that information technology has leveled the world’s competitive markets and made access to finance and products more dependent on understanding that technology and its opportunities. Technology had made the world “flat.” However, anyone who has traveled twelve time zones away from home elsewhere in the world knows that the world is not flat, not even in the sense that Friedman suggests. Among other things infrastructure, policies (public and private) and cultural differences ensure that while we may indeed be globally connected, the world is definitely not flat. Though my experience in traveling over the past six months may only provide anecdotal evidence, I think I can illustrate that using information technology—your smart phone, your iPad and/or your laptop—while abroad may not be as simple or as inexpensive as one would hope. That is staying “connected,” essential in the type of travel I was doing, was challenging to say the least. Continue reading

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The Secrets of Florence—Or Following in the Steps of Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

I apologize in advance to my good friends and scholars of Florence for any mistakes I have inadvertently made in describing their wonderful city and history—PM

 

9780385537858_p0_v11_s260x420I am just wrapping up nine weeks in Florence, Italy where I tried to see if my grey cells could accept the idea of learning a new language (Italian) and maybe unleash some long dormant art skills.  In the process of wandering the streets and checking out the sights of the city while not otherwise occupied conjugating verbs like “essere” (to be) or splashing paint on canvas (and my clothes—I finally got smart and bought one of those tourist aprons) I learned a bit about Florence and it’s “secrets.”  For those of you who are aficionados of Dan Brown you know his latest book “Inferno” mostly takes place in Florence where his main character, Dr. Robert Langdon, races through various secret passages among some of the more famous landmarks of the city.  The Italian tourist industry being very astute has developed an entire new series of tours which retrace Langdon’s fictional steps through the city.  I managed to get on some of those tours as well as a few private ones that I describe here and where I also try to add a little “fact” to the “fiction” of “Inferno.” Continue reading

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By the Numbers–Off the Beaten Track in Europe

Since arriving in Europe in mid-May, I have traveled just over 16,000 kms, visited ten countries and stayed in some thirty-odd cities, some more than once.  The following gives not only some of the costs broken out in terms of travel, lodging, food and “other” (the odd piece of clothing or added unexpected expense) but some of the other “issues” to be considered by anyone who might consider a similar journey. The overall goal was to keep the costs at roughly 150 Euros or $200 per day to try to maintain a reasonable budget for such a trip. In the end it is more than just costs that determine what is or is not a successful venture in traveling to Europe or elsewhere for that matter. Continue reading

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Running with the Bulls—Trying to Understand the Culture

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

The small town of Pamplona, Spain is famous for its annual Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as the “Running with the Bulls” festival. Ernest Hemingway first brought international attention to Pamplona and the running of the bulls festival in his book “The Sun Also Rises.”   The plot of the book is not about the festival itself but he does describe it in great detail. Since I was in the neighborhood (nearby France) during the week long festival I decided to take time and spend a few days observing it and see if fiction fit with fact.  I stayed in the nearby town of Puente la Reina, close enough to check out the action but far enough away to have some peace and quiet. The following describes my own experience at the festival—what I saw, what I felt and, maybe, what can be concluded in a broader cultural sense or not. Continue reading

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