Baffling Banff: Welcome to Canada’s STD Capital!

 

I came to Banff in November 2013, knowing I would be spending two years there. Before I get to a place, I never look up any information about it. After all, expectations can only disappoint, and being clueless is, in a way, being on an adventure. I did know that it was in a national park within the Rocky Mountains, I did know that I was going to be a night receptionist at a hotel, and so my expectations were based on the following two basic elements: I wanted to go hiking every morning (weather permitting), and I wanted to use the nights to write travel books. That’s it! Doorgaan met het lezen van “Baffling Banff: Welcome to Canada’s STD Capital!”

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Why you should travel overland

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
-Aldous Huxley

Imagine the following.

You are a travel reporter sent to Brazil to pen a detailed story about the existence of an Amazonian tribe, and the tribe has given you permission to spend three days with them, no more. Their location is, as it happens, on a wide section along the Amazon river. The last journalist to write about the tribe also had been given three days and he’d flown in on a seaplane. His story was as good as it gets when you only have three days to observe the lives of people. Doorgaan met het lezen van “Why you should travel overland”

Dutch culture: How to check in at your hotel in Amsterdam

Many people bring their own culture abroad, not knowing that their mannerisms could be considered rude elsewhere. This could lead to awkward situations where both sides are trying to cope with the other. But of course, when you visit another country, you can’t expect the other person, who is at home and de facto hosting you, to adjust to you. I can’t speak for any other culture but the Dutch, so here’s how to check in at your hotel in Amsterdam without making the Dutch front desk agent wish you were elsewhere, like at home. Doorgaan met het lezen van “Dutch culture: How to check in at your hotel in Amsterdam”

Out now and available worldwide: “American Safari”

It’s a long way down from the top of the world,
but somebody had to take the plunge.

AMERICAN SAFARI
Overland From The
Polar Bears To The Penguins

After two years in Canada, Jeroen Vogel decides to travel down to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city on the weather-beaten island of Tierra del Fuego – overland, taking trains and buses from the polar bears all the way to the penguins, and beyond. His grand adventure takes him through fifteen countries – Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina – and gorgeous landscapes. Always trying to improve his basic level of Spanish, he chats with local people, goes off the beaten path, and describes each place without the sugar-coating often found in other travel books.

The bus was fantastic: it had stained seats, the ceiling was cracked and taped, there were holes in the floor, cracks in the back window, the open roof hatch was the air-conditioning, and I was the only foreigner on board.

American Safari combines an adventurous and long journey in the spirit of Paul Theroux with the wit and kind of humour of Bill Bryson, making for great reading for (aspiring) backpackers and armchair travellers alike.

The whore manoeuvred to the door and stood there waiting. The Smuggler pointed at her in a belittling manner; she was his toy, his purchased item, his inferior. He was the man, she was the woman. And was she just chubby, or actually pregnant?
‘She’s a fine girl,’ he said. ‘You can now have sex. I go outside.’

Here is what the editor had to say upon finishing American Safari:

This was an amazingly awesome book! You kept my attention throughout it, which is remarkable for a travel book. I enjoyed that it wasn’t your typical travel book, where authors only go to the touristy places. You went to places that were off the beaten path and that really made it interesting. Your conversations with others that you met enriched your content, making the book more interesting and more enjoyable to read. I enjoyed, too, that you kept it real and down-to-earth. I don’t like travel books where the authors sugar-coat the information. This book was nothing like that and I really appreciated that. You gave a realistic and upbeat description of each place. You enthusiastically said what you loved and candidly pointed out the not-so-great features, often with a spin of humor.

Partially retracing The Old Patagonian Express‘ route of Paul Theroux, Jeroen Vogel met the most remarkable characters, went off the beaten path, travelled from the polar bears to the penguins on public transport, and discovered that adventure is still very much a part of travel in spite of all technology. 

This is a travel book that will inspire all travellers, whether they’re on the road, at home in an armchair, planning their own next escapade, or are simply a traveller in spirit. American Safari is destined to become the next classic in the travel writing genre. 

In a black-and-white world, the train station’s waiting room was in use. A beggar slept on a wooden seat, unknowing of the train that had just arrived. Outside, the steam, dispensed by the brakes of the carriages, let up, and passengers – peasants, vendors, the poor – hurried through the doors into the waiting room, toward a crowd of hopeful taxi drivers. One man, discernibly bigger than the Colombians around him, wearing glasses and carrying a small suitcase, suddenly, alarmed, turned around and hurried back on board the train. Less than thirty seconds later, he stepped onto the platform once again, pushed his glasses higher up on his nose, and wiped the sweat off his forehead while he carried the leather jacket under his arm he’d just forgotten on the train. Near the wooden door to the waiting room, he overheard a porter and an older man carrying a bag of oranges starting an argument, upon which he placed his shoe on a bench and pretended to tie it while he eavesdropped on their conversation. His name was Paul Theroux, and he was here to write a book…

But when the colour returned, I stood with my nose pressed against the window, envisioning this scene out of The Old Patagonian Express. There was no bespectacled man with a leather jacket. The rail carriages no longer had glass windows, just holes; they were derelict, and had merely been abandoned at the station on the day that the plug was pulled. The waiting room was in use because it was now the local public transit authority’s ticket shop, but the guard wouldn’t let me in when I told him I wanted to go to the trains.

‘The bus,’ he said. ‘Only the bus.’

Take the plunge.
Get your own copy today.

A new book, a new blog

The last 1.5 years I’ve been home in the Netherlands and hardly been traveling. There are two reasons for that.

The first reason I went home was a financial one: I had invested all my money in a trip of 27,000 kilometers, traveling overland from the polar bears in Canada to the penguins in southern Chile. It was a grand adventure, and I undertook the trip deliberately to write about it.

When I came home, I moved back in with my parents. I’m still living there. The first few months I had a truly hard time figuring out what to do next. Yes, I had a book to write, and I worked hard on it, but the financial situation required my getting a job.

It’s hard to go back to a working life after having lived a life of self-sufficiency that comes with so many lessons, epiphanies, and freedom. You feel like doing a step back. I’d been telling myself I was a travel writer now. I was traveling, taking notes, chatting with people. But you go home and it all feels so… I don’t know, like you took a break while the rest of the world has moved on.

Oh, yes. The weddings and mortgages and babies were everywhere! And there I was – jobless, living with the folks, always reminding myself that I’d been on the road.

But I took a job, kept working on the book, got a Dutch health insurance, went to the dentist, and built up an emergency fund that I’m not to touch – just in case I run out of money again.

The second reason was the book, and then all the other books. I’d self-published several books, throwing English-written books on-line to be bought on Amazon and other on-line bookstores without even thinking of hiring an editor. I suppose I was groping in the dark, taking things too lightly. I even photoshopped my own covers.

I reached a point where I thought: if you want to be taken serious, you got to take things seriously. And so all the books went off-line. My old blog stalled. I went back to square one, deliberately, and started work on a number of projects, which are now one-by-one materializing, slowly but surely.

The book on the Americas came back from the editor two days ago; I’ve just created a Kindle version and it’s now “in review” – the last step for a book before becoming available on Amazon. This means that American Safari, the book that combines a grand and adventurous journey in the spirit of Paul Theroux with the wit and kind of humor of Bill Bryson, should be available tomorrow.

UPDATE: It’s available! Check it out here!

As a writer, I’m ambitious enough to try and write a story (but preferably a book) about every country in the world. And because I’m in the Netherlands now, I decided to take on my home country. Normally in travelogues, the writer/traveler is an alien walking around like Alice in Wonderland, getting into situations that would never occur back home. But as a Dutchman in the Netherlands, I’m not mesmerized by strange things – everything is familiar.

And therefore I had to come up with a different approach: I decided to go in-depth, recording personal stories, interviewing famous Dutch people, visiting places that are significant in Dutch history, and in doing so create not so much a travelogue as a national portrait, if you will, of the Netherlands.

But remember that I’d taken everything off-line? Well, imagine a museum director getting an email from one Jeroen Vogel, who says he’s writing a book but has nothing to show for it. How could I expect him to take me seriously?

And so I decided to translate my books In Australia and In Vietnam into Dutch. With these two titles behind my name, I could rightly say that In Holland is the third title in the series. And it has worked in my favor so far: the book on the Netherlands is now a work in progress, and the project is going really well.

And in between I reworked a smaller book, Baffling Banff, which was edited and published in August.

In short, there are four titles on the market now. Two English-written titles, and the Dutch versions of In Australia and In Vietnam. The English versions of the latter two will be available by the end of this year, but I did so much improving as I was translating, that especially the book on Australia needs a lot of rewriting. With these two titles back on the shelves, there will be six professionally edited books available.

A new blog
Because I was working full-time and did the books in my spare time, I did not have much time for blogging. But here we are. I cut down my working hours in order to work harder on all the writing. Including a Dutch-written and an English-written blog. Two new blogs!

What can you expect on this blog? Anything related to travel, with an emphasis on travel advice and travel stories.

Normally, people start out with a blog, and then write books they can sell to their blog readers. Well, I do it the other way around. I’m starting from scratch, but with four books under my belt. Everything takes time, but I’m confident that this is the start of something great and beautiful.