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Stories of travel culture are found everywhere. Why are we only telling 1%?

FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: this is not a submission call. Matador isn’t endorsing or condoning the actual production of, or requisite behavior involved in producing the following stories, some of which are potentially dangerous, others illegal, and others probably impossible.

This is more just a series of article ideas that occurred to me while driving from Asheville North Carolina to Sarasota Florida, with the nagging sense that if we have work to do in 2012, it’s killing off the disconnect between the way people experience things and the way we’ve been acculturated to reading about them. The list is admittedly US-centric. Let’s hear your ideas in the comments below.

Happy New Year’s everyone.

50 article ideas for 2012

A conversation with the Obama Administration’s chief speechwriter Jon Favreau on “language, psychology, and solidarity” orchestrated over a game of beer pong.

A “gonzo” narrative of TBEX written by someone present as part of the custodial staff.

A review of the 2012 Van Halen (w/David Lee Roth) Reunion shows written by a recently arrived immigrant to the US.

A personal essay from a Canadian on the evolution / cultural relevance of the “fireplace channel.”

A photo essay of abandoned roads in the US.

A narrative from anyone taking a canoe, raft, kayak, inflatable pool toy and putting on at the closest point of the watershed to where they live and attempting to go as far downstream as possible.

A narrative essay on employment at Disneyland, preferably from the POV of an actress who plays Cinderella.

Documentary short based on the lives of fixers who organize everything behind the scenes at Discovery / Travel Channel shows.

A travel narrative / documentary short based on renting an RV and just driving around the country, staying at different Wal-Mart parking lots.

A linguistic study of subdivision names and place names such as “Indian Hills” written by a Native American student, aged 16.

A first person narrative about a new form of “adventure travel” called “dry-bag swimming” which involves essentially packing camping gear into a dry-bag, utilizing wetsuits / extra-flotation devices / GPS, and then just swimming from one area to the next.

An account of being on tour with ___________ (Deerhunter, Flying Lotus, Outkast, etc.)


A first person narrative about attempting to cross the entire US on a Segway.

A podcast about the evolution of Chiptune music.

A profile / documentary short on the subculture of people who sell things at gun shows.

A first person account of being a TSA worker.

A first person narrative of sneaking into Yellowstone Canyon and paddling it, possibly at night.

A first person narrative of traveling to a casting call for models, actors, voice talent in Southern California.

A profile on the subculture / lifestyle of truckers.

Helmet cam footage of being in a New Orleans funeral march.

A documentary short of being embedded with the Yes Men, ideally involving some part of the Republican National convention.

Investigative report of botanists and wildlife biologists whose job it is to track the range of flora and fauna in the US.

A travel narrative written from the point of view of a pair of Nike shoes, starting with the extraction of resources, through manufacturing process in ________, to shipment across ocean, to stocking, selling, and then purchasing in say Tallahassee Florida.

A first person narrative of being embedded / traveling to contests with a top collegiate ultimate Frisbee team.

A profile on the subculture of people who stay / live at Black Rock city after Burning Man is over.

A personal essay on tailgate markets.

A video documentary (preferably with headcam footage) of the first paddlers running sections of the Elwha river post dam-removal.

A historical account of a squatter’s house in Berlin told from the point of view of the house.

An essay on the subculture of hikers’ “trail names” on long distance trails in the US.

A memoir from an IDF soldier, preferably female, about traveling around Israel and always having to carry her weapon.

A linguistic study that looks at as many languages as possible in the context of words and expressions that describe a person’s relationship to place.

A documentary short on SUP (stand up paddleboarding) from Malibu past movie stars’ private beach homes, preferably with surfing footage that takes place in front of their houses.

A narrative account of a trip based on illegal stealth camping in beaches “closed after dark” around the US.

An investigative report on the shifting demographics in US suburbs from middle class to poverty.

A podcast that traces the life of a Cuban “tres” or other stringed instrument from its creation by a luthier through its being played by a musician.

A documentary short called something like “Refugieros” that interviews people who live / work in mountain shelters / huts in Patagonia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Canada.

Interview with a veteran Greyhound bus driver.

A photo essay of chess played by homeless people in public spaces around the US.

An etymological study of the word “stoke.”

A sociological study of “tribal elements” in the context of men in the US who drive vans.

An interview with the marketing and advertising executives at Taco Bell administered by a panel of Mexican migrants.

A documenting short (with “thumping soundtrack”) on local San Diego kids who travel down to Tijuana on weekends to party.

A profile on the surf culture of Jersey Shore as written by someone who has never seen the show “Jersey Shore.”

A “taste test shootout” for “top coffee on the interstate”: am/pm, Pilot, Flying J, Race-trac, BP, Dunkin Donuts, etc.

A nonlinear narrative based around a local neighborhood cafe in San Francisco or Seattle or wherever, told only in dialogue.

A study of new argot / terminology that’s come out of the Occupy Movement.

A timeline of the last cities in the US to receive electrical power, telephone, internet service.

A historical account of the American South over the last 200 years written from the perspective of an American Chestnut tree.

A video that shows how to make venison stew where every ingredient in the stew is either hunted, foraged, or harvested from the video-maker’s garden, and all steps (such as animal slaughtering) are documented, intercut with a similar video that shows production cycle of a McRib.

A political essay calling for the formation of a new “travel party” in the US.

A list of towns left in the US where open container is still legal.



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • EHA

    I met a Palestinian journalist in Ramallah a few months back who has to apply for a “permit” to enter Israel to attend events and conferences with her Israeli contemporaries. She’s only allowed to enter on a month by month basis.  She described being in Tel Aviv for the first time when she was in her early twenties, and the feeling of being hit on my an off-duty IDF soldier the variety of which she had only encountered at checkpoints until that day. Her story’s been rattling around in my head ever since.
    Enjoyed this post. Congrats on writing one of the top 25 Thought Catalog articles of 2011 :)

    Happy New Year!

  • david miller

    happy new year emily.

    thanks for the TC mention.

    would be interested in hearing from your contact in palestine.

    can you work on that?

  • EHA

    Hey David,

    I passed along your contact information. She will contact you directly if she’s interested in contributing!

    • david miller

      sweet. thanks emily.

  • Christina Lavinia Lidstone

    “A personal essay from a Canadian on the evolution / cultural relevance of the “fireplace channel.”  -
    I will take this one. The fireplace channel has become a constant of canadian christmas culture. I can speak for a majority in saying this december long feature should be kept going for generations to come. I would love to see it made ‘live’ instead of just a repeat version every day. Never the less it is SOOOO exciting seeing the guy poke the log and having 30 relatives cheering him on while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking on christmas day. We usually have a real fire in the fireplace with the fire channel on at the same time (I know that doesn’t make sense to you but it’s way better with both) I’ve had the pleasure of explaining this tradition to several foreigners since my family hosts exchange students from all over the world.

    • david miller

      for a second i thought the ‘guy pok[ing] the log and having 30 relatives cheering him on’ was actually part of the fireplace channel, some variant of ‘regularly scheduled fireplace broadcast.’

      thx for elaborating a bit on this. happy new year.

    • Guest

      Yes it’s definitely a Canadian tradition. I gotta say this year it’s a bit sad because the fireplace channel (at least where I live) doesn’t have a continuous loop. So at the end of the hour the screen goes to black for a few seconds and then the loop starts again. It’s become to predictable, and trying to predict when the guy when would poke the fire was always the best part.

      • david miller

        wait a second, so the guy stoking the fire IS an actual part of the loop?

        i thought it was just a continuous loop of flames.

        can someone please elaborate?

        • Jill Browne

          We watch. We wait. We try to read the patterns of the flames. We make bets on whether the poker is coming in the next 3 seconds. And when finally it does come (we only see the poker, not the guy), we cheer.

          We then retire to our igloos, chow down some cod tongues (Hi, Candice!), play another period of hockey, swap toques with each other, swig some maple syrup and beer, wander down to Tim Horton’s for a double double, and walk back home for another round of the fireplace channel, eh?

          We love tradition.

          I think in Quebec it’s called “La Channel de Fireplace”, btw.

          • Candice Walsh


  • Carlo Alcos

    David, these are brilliant. Particularly the Taco Bell one. 

    • david miller

      make a run for the border.

  • david miller


  • Candice Walsh

    Oh, the fireplace channel. 

    • david miller

      would love a 262-word narrative on this picture taken from the POV of the person who took it.

  • Jason Wire

    open container is still legal in NashVegas, Tennessee. 

    • david miller

      sweet. still good to go in savannah, georgia.

  • A S

    The nonlinear narrative told only in dialogue is brilliant. We’ll see how it works…

    If you’re interested in narratives of the cafe variety, check out the work of Joe Van Cleave. He’s pretty awesome.


    • david miller

      sweet. thanks for link. haven’t seen this before.

  • Guest

    I used to work for CATSA (the Canadian version of the TSA). It was an awful job, worst of my life. I can’t even think of specific incidents or stories to tell. I just remember it was a job full of miscommunication, red-tape bullshit, early mornings, long hours, bitchy passengers, bitchy coworkers, being watched and judged all the time by everyone, big brother was everywhere. The only redeeming factor was that I got to work with some great people. Of course not everyone I worked with was great, but the ones who were made the job bearable. 

  • Anne

    some really cool ideas,…  i think the segway story has already been done at least in a documentary, i remember remotely that there was a film called 10 mph by an indie production in the US and these guys made trip from Seattle to New York on a segway…;)

  • Sara Clarke

    “A profile on the surf culture of Jersey Shore as written by someone who has never seen the show “Jersey Shore.””

    Omigod you’re talking about me!

  • Chrysser

    “Historical account of the American South over the last 200 years from the perspective of an American Chestnut tree.”
     Great idea,  but one question: where is this tree that survived the devastating blight that wiped the species out in the American South? THAT would be helpful!

    • Matador Network

      would be a giant stump

  • Abhijit Gupta

    I was a bit amused to see this one on the list – “An etymological study of the word “stoke.””

Here in this hillside cemetery, Frame escaped from her dingy lodgings to write poetry.
It was from here that Janet Frame had drawn a lifetime of inspiration.
The poet gave us not just her mountain, but her flares.
I check my watch. We’ve been writing for ten minutes. “I’m not ready to stop,”...
I tried to tone down on the themes and narrative arcs and just make some sex.
Afterward you’ll be left with something more substantial and rewarding than a hangover.
The portrait Frame drew of Seacliff in her writing is unmistakably horrific.
We can’t expect translations to be both fluid and culturally neutral.
The bathrooms were stocked with all toiletries the Nes website had expounded.
Moments in the life of a writer in 21 gifs.
You'll learn some valuable things about people in this line of work.
When the yurt does not have wifi