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Trailblazers Q&A: Flory Leow Takes Readers Inside Japanese Culture

Trailblazers checks in with creatives from around the world to share their story. On this edition, we welcome Flory Leow of Adventures of Furochan.

Flory Leow, Adventures of Furochan

Flory Leow is a Malaysian living in Tokyo. She loves books, food, and has a special fondness for wordplay and fried eggs. Her writing and photography have appeared in outlets such as Boutique Japan, Inside Osaka, Roads & Kingdoms, and Kyoto Journal. At present, she writes, leads tours, and occasionally does some travel consulting for a living. Her newsletter is the adventures of furochan.

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2 In Africa/ Asia/ Middle East/ Travel

Top 8 Off the Tourist Trek Destinations for 2017

We’ve all heard about what a crummy year 2016 was from Zika to Brexit and Trump to celebrities gone too soon. It got so bad, people were looking back to 2006’s Children of Men as some kind of peek into the future. (Happy New Year! Humanity is sterile.)

Methinks we could all use something to look forward to. Something to get the imagination running and potentially even build a little excitement in our respective lives.

Nothing takes my mind off things more than travel, whether it’s the actual act of travel, planning a trip or simply reading of another’s travels. This works exponentially well if said destination is someplace a bit off the tourist trek. After all, Without A Path is primarily interested in getting to those lesser-traveled corners of the world to hear more stories and expand our worldview. As Alexander von Humboldt said, “The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”

I think the idea behind that quote is more important now than perhaps ever before. With that in mind, we’re offering for the first time a look at the coming year’s top off the tourist trek destinations as decided by travel writers. For this first edition I solicited inquiries from “The Road Less Traveled” Facebook group, which is made up of travelers who participate in the weekly #TRLT twitter chat. These travelers have shown an exceptional interest in expanding their worldview by traveling to and writing about destinations not typically at the top of a tourist’s wish list.

Below are 8 destinations followed by the traveler’s case for following in their footsteps in 2017. Continue Reading →

In Asia/ Europe/ Podcast/ Travel

Elizabeth Becker, Author of Overbooked, Talks Tourism and its Impact

Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, joins Without A Path to talk about the industry’s impact around the world, from lessons to follow in Bordeaux, France to overcrowded destinations like Venice that could learn a thing or two from the French. She also discusses environmental concerns that come out of the tourism industry, namely the large carbon footprint left by the cruise industry culprits, such as Royal Caribbean International. Finally, we discuss how the travel writer fits into all of this and what the average traveler can do to ensure they’re traveling responsibly.

Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism is now available in paperback.

Subscribe to Without A Path. Continue Reading →

In Asia/ Travel

The Gaman Spirit: Why Cycling Works in Tokyo

The Gaman Spirit: Why cycling works in Tokyo started with a simple email to Streetfilms‘ Director of Video Production, Clarence Eckerson Jr.

“I’m going to be in Japan for a couple of weeks. Need anything from Tokyo?” was the gist.

Turns out they did need something from Tokyo because it’s a city that actively discourages driving and they have a 14 percent mode share of bicyclists. That means 14 percent of all trips in Tokyo are done by bike, every single day. To put that in perspective, New York City hovers around one percent.

Yet Tokyo does not have the cycling infrastructure of an Amsterdam or even Hamburg, which is something most western minds believe to be a necessity for encouraging cycling. Not that wider cycling lanes wouldn’t help boost the 14 percent mode share, but Japanese folks in Tokyo have shown they will cycle regardless. If there’s no bike lane, they’ll just hop on the sidewalk or wherever they feel safe.

Still, it was easy to see some of the same problems persist in Tokyo that I’ve seen in my own cycling from Cleveland to throughout the United States. That is, motorists will take that space back when it so pleases them.

For instance, while cycling on a beautiful blue lane into downtown Tokyo, my hosts and I stopped at an intersection to get some shots of cyclists passing by. Across the street, there was an unloading truck pulled over into the bike lane. Ahead of us, there was a car pulled over in the bike lane that forced cyclists to either hop onto the sidewalk or move further into the vehicle lane. Unsurprisingly, oncoming drivers did not seem keen to make space for the merging cyclists or to slow down.

The other peculiarity was the fact that the responsibility of designing cycling infrastructure falls onto the shoulders of the individual districts within Tokyo. Byron Kidd of Tokyo By Bike equated it with New York City boroughs coming up with their own cycling infrastructure, irrespective of one another. The result is, indeed, confusing — comically so at times.

However, cycling continues to work beautifully in Tokyo. I was surprised by just how young the kids were cycling around the city. I was told that kids start in the back of their parent’s bike, then they move up to a handlebars seat when the second child comes along before hopping onto their own bike when they’re too heavy. This all makes sense when you consider that it’s very common for Japanese children to be sent off on their own at an age many North Americans would consider too young.

Above all, everyone I spoke with agreed that there’s at least one thing the rest of the world can take from cycling in Tokyo. That is, the “Gaman Spirit.” Literally, it means “to endure.” But when applied to cycling in Tokyo, it refers to everybody getting along.

Whether you’re a cyclist, pedestrian or the rare driver, it doesn’t matter. We all have a job to get done, so as Kidd put it, “get it done.”