Turner is a travel and running blogger who recently went to Japan to participate in the All Hands project. Here is a link to his website:
Q: What made you interested in starting a travel /running blog?
A: I didn’t get started on travel blogging until I decided to move to Japan, where nearly every newbie starts a blog (mainly to rant) on teaching English. Being a runner, I wanted to explore some of the differences in training and races in Japan… you still have jr. high school bands playing “Eye of the Tiger” along the course.
Q: What is so appealing about movement?
A: Eat less, move more. Being capable of running or any kind of physical activity isn’t a luxury reserved for those with leisure time; it’s essential to our health, and puts all of us in touch with our primal nature.
Q: What is the most under-appreciated travel destination?
A: I think the US is under appreciated the most by Americans. We have the great American road trip, but if we want something exotic, there’s a strong tendency to want to leave the country rather than just explore a different region. I advocate holding a passport and using it, but if you can learn to be a traveler at home first, the mentality will follow you abroad.
Q: What is the most overrated travel destination?
A: Take your pick. Every major city and tourist destination will have aspects to them that don’t really meet our high expectations: cable cars in San Francisco; eating sushi in Tokyo; trying to achieve perfect clarity during a weekend temple stay. In this sense, I don’t really believe any place on Earth is too touristy or overrated, but certain activities in those places are in the guidebook because everyone has gotten into the habit of doing them, rather than questioning why they’re supposed to be fun and memorable.
Q: What is All Hands?
A: All Hands is an American-run disaster relief organization that helps bring in supplies, support, and volunteers around the world. They’ve operated in the US, Haiti, Thailand, and most recently the Philippines. I was living in South Korea when the earthquake and tsunami struck eastern Japan. All Hands gave me the opportunity to help clean up a small part of the affected area.
Q: What is the media not telling us about Japan?
A: Anything and everything. The international media is still, by and large, completely ignorant about the events following 3/11. The Japanese media has improved, but many citizens believe there’s more to the story. Although I can’t be 100% certain, I believe the radiation scare from Fukushima was completely blown out of proportion. A lot of viewers just weren’t willing to accept the fact Japan has the infrastructure to take of this disaster almost completely on their own (not that assistance wasn’t accepted, i.e. All Hands); the people didn’t need random religious groups enthusiastically offering to adopt orphaned Japanese children; the major roads were clear and public buses were running within weeks of the tsunami. The area is recovering, but cleanup will take some time.
Q: What is your weirdest travel story?
A: Take your pick. I was climbing down a mountain towards the beach near Kagoshima and decided to hitchhike back to the train station. The first man who picked me up happened to be a master in the martial art of cutting off heads. I survived.
Q: What separates good travel writing from bad travel writing?
A: There’s a lot of both, that’s for sure. You may recall a parable about a king who sent two representatives to two distant lands. One of the men was spoiled, bitter, and lacking empathy. The other was virtuous, kind, and open to new ideas. Upon returning to the king and reporting what they had seen, the former said: “People in this land are the worst humanity has to offer; they are thieves, murderers, scoundrels all.” The latter smiled and spoke to the king: “The people I met were beautiful souls, kind, caring, and friendly.” The king then laughed, because he knew he had sent them to the same land.
As travel writers, our attitudes, backgrounds, everything about us goes into our impressions of the places we visit and the people we meet. For every story talking about being scammed in Vietnam, I hear another detailing one of the best trips of one’s life. But attitude will only take you so far. In general, a travel writer who can bring you into his mind with his words and make you want to visit someplace is more effective than one who merely says what happened in chronological order on his trip.
Q: Which blogs do you follow?
A: Too many to count. Seriously. I mostly follow blogs from teachers in Japan and South Korea, but I have my share of vagabonds across the globe I enjoy reading about too.
Q: Travels With Charlie or On the Road?
A: “I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.”
Kerouac, all the way. I guess I just found myself relating to his situation better than that Steinbeck described. A man on his own, seeing why some might choose to stay in one place but always hearing the call of the road. By today’s standards, it’s a great travel narrative, but in the 1950s, such talk had the power to shape a generation.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)