With the U.S. currently gaffe-ing about matters both diplomatic and domestic, it’s little wonder the sentiment outside of the States is so wary—especially when it comes to booking travel. But count on California to do something to change that. I love this colorful, bright-eyed ad from LA Tourism, that both says and shows that #everyoneiswelcome. And to be honest—since we’ve acknowledged the population is so varied, I’d love to see such a diverse cast in a “normal” ad too. #goals
Nope, not Carmen San Diego. The correct answer this time is the Google Street View. The BBC’s new Geoguesser game challenges you to look at scenes from Google Maps and try to orient yourself on the map. The closer you are to the actual location pictured, the more points you get—and it’s really interesting to try to suss out all the clues from each map situation. Are there signs you can read to get a sense of language? Are the cars driving on the right- or left-hand side? Are the buildings new or old? What are the people wearing? Have a go of it here!
When Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See was released in 2014, I remember doing a quick Goodreads search to see the reviews. Everyone loved it, they said, but the ending was a let-down. I placed it on my “to-read” list with no particular priority, and figured I’d get to it when I got to it. Last week, I finally got to it, and I couldn’t put it down.
Books have a special resonance depending on when you read them, and I don’t doubt that living in Germany and reading this book added to my experience of it. Set alternately in France (Paris and Saint-Malo) and Germany during the Second World War, it tells parallel stories of teenagers Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a blind girl living with her father when they are forced to flee Paris during the occupation. She is unknowingly given something to protect for the duration of the occupation—and the tensions and suspense of her storyline are made more tangible and terrifying by the knowledge that whatever is happening around her, she cannot see. Her narrative arc was fascinating and chilling, made more so by the author’s deft devices—he writes her so that she was born with sight, but later lost it, and is just learning how to be blind when they flee their city. You sense her defenseless and confusion as she is forced to navigate not just the new waters of her blindness, but of an entire world that no longer makes sense.
Werner’s story is also nuanced; while the portrait it paints is not a sympathetic one of a young Nazi, it is an empathetic one. Werner’s story begins as an orphan in a poverty-stricken town—as a ward of the state, he will be forced to work in the coal mines starting at age 15, where like his father and thousands of other men in his town, he will likely die an early death. But Werner has an incredible gift for science and engineering. When he repairs the radio of a Nazi commanding officer, he is given the chance to leave the coal-mines and attend a prestigious school— a choice that, as you read it, seems as obvious to the reader as it does to Werner. And so begins Werner’s career as a budding Nazi engineer. As he progresses through his schooling and training, the reader watches him vacillate between initial acceptance of the status quo (it was, after all, the thing that rescued him), to the more complicated moral dilemma—what should I do when something everyone else says is right is something I know in my heart to be wrong?
Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories eventually intersect, and Werner is given a chance to do the right thing. This plot point, for me, is what makes such an interesting parallel to the status of modern-day Germany as a country: can actions of evil be redeemed or atoned for by actions of goodness? Or is the black mark one that will never be absolved?
[To further complicate the question—I always find it interesting that some Americans refuse to go to Germany because of it’s Nazi past, and yet America has equally heavy strikes in our racial past that are somehow redressed because “slavery/racism is over.” (And slavery, though a huge strike, doesn’t even begin to wholly encompass America’s complicated relationship with “otherness”). A German woman I met once posed the question, “How are we held responsible for 12 years while others exonerate themselves for centuries of abuse?” The issue is loaded, complex, and above all, thought-provoking—a description that fits the story as well.]
Like other readers, I’ll note that the novel’s finish is a bit of a let-down. It reminded me of a wave pulling back out to sea—the heft and grandeur of it has already crashed, and the ending lingers on the beach a little longer than it should. But focus on the rest of the story—the questions it asks and the beautiful lines (some chapters could certainly be standalone stories), and you’ll find yourself willing to forgive the end on behalf of the means.
I don’t usually do the Daily Prompt, but when I clicked on it today, it made me remember an essay I wrote a few years back. Recent musings have brought that essay back to mind more than once in the past few weeks, and it dovetails perfectly with the theme of the prompt—diversity.
Atlanta, Georgia — May 2013
I’ve been mistaken for Latina in Cancun, Brazilian in Rio de Janeiro, Thai in Bangkok, and Middle Eastern in Kuwait. On different occasions people have asked me if I am Eskimo, or Native American, or Italian, or Hawaiian. When traveling, I am more often spoken to in the land’s mother tongue than in English. I’m half Filipino, half Caucasian, and while my ethnicity and my looks make chameleonic to many varied ethnic groups I grew up never seeing a family that looked like mine in the many advertisements that blared in the breaks between television shows that never featured brown-complexioned characters.
I did my undergraduate studies at Emerson College. Experiencing Emerson, and the city of Boston itself, was a hearty dose of culture shock for a girl who’d grown up in the melting-pot of California’s Bay Area. There were few mixed students on campus. There were few students of color at all on campus. For some students, I was the first Filipino they had ever met—this led to a feeling that anything I said or did was representative of my race, something I struggled mightily with.
It was in these first years on my own, in this entirely new place, that I began to notice the roles race played, or didn’t play, in the media around me. As the child of an interracial marriage, I always noticed the lack of mixed race couples in television and movie plots, novels, commercials. When they were featured, it was more for shock value than as an honest representation of the couple or the environment. Years before #OscarssoWhite, it enraged me when they cast white actors or actresses to play roles that should have been played by Asians, Pacific Islanders, or Native Americans. But I didn’t know yet what to do with that frustration.
When I was considering graduate school, I examined multiple areas of study. I pondered programs ranging from Post-Colonial Studies to Dance Ethnography to Anthropology to East Asian Studies. I decided, ultimately, that I didn’t want to foray into academia. I wanted a program that was practical, creative—a program where I could contribute my perspective, experiences, and voice to actually make a difference. I decided I want to go into advertising. To create materials for the public that are not only reflective of the public and their uniqueness, but celebratory of it as well. To challenge those who think that the only time a Latina woman should about T-Mobile should be on Telemundo, or that commercials feature African-American families are just for BET.
I’m sure in the light of the efforts of others, this goal may seem trivial. But to me it is important that my children see that they are not alone—that others that look like them exist. That it is normal to be part of that rich and varied spectrum that falls between black and white. That our voices are just as important, our people just as beautiful, our stories just as relevant.
Hamburg, Germany — May 2016
In the time since I finished this essay, I’ve worked for four different agencies on a wide range of clients. I’ve read the ad blogs, followed the Twitter rampages, and seen both huge leaps forward, and cringeworthy setbacks. I’ve struggled with representation and sexism first-hand—a client who scoffed at the idea of showing a woman driving a sport-performance car, for example. Today, there’s a lot of pushback against the idea of “diverse”. I’ve struggled with how to balance my desire for change and my quick tongue and my career goals. I’ve come back, again and again, to the adage: “Don’t win a battle and lose the war.” Winning the war requires fighting a lot of battles. But fighting a lot of battles might knock you out of the career path. The NYTImes had a great article on women in advertising trying to find the line between making it in the industry and sticking up for their rights. It’s a shitty brief that would easily sap the resources of a whole string of strategists. But right now, if you’re anything other than a white guy in advertising, that’s the sphere we work in.
There have certainly been moments that made me proud of American culture and our brands. In advertising it’s common to say, “Make brave work” or “That’s a brave idea”, and we kind of universally acknowledge that most of the stuff we do daily isn’t any form of bravery in the traditional sense. But ads like the recent Old Navy and the Cheerios commercial from a few years ago, both of which feature an interracial family, or HoneyMaid‘s “This is Wholesome” campaign, which focus on the range of family types, make me hopeful. There are clients willing to take risks. There are brands willing to sacrifice customers who aren’t willing to look into the future with them. And there are creatives willing to envision those stories and show us something real.
I’ve since moved abroad to work for a German ad agency. When people think of Germany, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to imagine the first thought crossing everyone’s mind has to do with the Nazis and the lack of diversity. And this while this is a very homogenous country, it’s getting more diverse by the day as refugees arrive and settle in. I’m excited to help chart the “new normal” in German advertising, and I’m excited to learn more about the culture through the way it advertises to its people.
The weather is getting warm (in everywhere but San Francisco it feels like!) and for those of you heading to, or living in, London this summer, here are 10 of the best beer gardens in the city. (via Visit London)
I love these vintage travel posters from the Golden Age of Travel…gorgeous illustrations that I haven’t seen before!
Traveling solo and ready to meet new friends? A post from Wanderful recommends using Tinder.
In desperate need of a quick escape? Google’s offering a free scuba trip…virtually that is! Explore the reefs and “swim” with dolphins in honor of World Oceans Day.
Check out this awesome interactive map of LA through the years.
Loved National Geographic’s photo essay of the Camino de Santiago—a friend of mine did the pilgrimmage after she finished grad school and it sounded like an incredible trip.
When I get tired of a desk job, I want to be this guy—a copywriter who is freelancing his way around Europe in exchange for gas money and beer.
For those not craving the freedom of the open road, maybe this list of the world’s 10 Most Heavily Guarded Locations will tickle your fancy.
Road Warrior Voices shows you neat hacks to finding the cheapest flights (and sticking it to the big airlines).
Travel and Leisure’s got a rundown on things we should expect in the hotels of the future…
In honor of Earth Day, here’s a list of 10 travel sites that are in danger of extinction—an important reminder to be humble when travelling and respectful of our planet. (via Budget Travel)
Before you leave for your summer trips, check out this NYTimes article about avoiding unnecessary bank and currency fees abroad.
Also from the NYTimes, this gem featuring photos of readers’ favorite streets in Europe.
Cities not your thing? Check out this collection of stunning Kiwi landscapes from Matador Network.
Travelling for business and pleasure just got easier if you’re into surfing—check out Quiksilver’s new business suits that double as wetsuits. That’s #badass. (via Adweek)
Royals aren’t the only ones flying commercial. Travel and Leisure has an adorable story of the latest Australian cultural ambassadors buckling in for their flights—a quartet of koalas!
Want some off-the-beaten-path Caribbean fun? For those who’d prefer to leave the cruise ship behind, Prestige Vacations has prepped a list of Aruba’s hidden gems—no “fun” director required.
Just in time for spring, Travel Zoo has a list of the world’s most swoon-worthy flower fields.
It happens to all of us—you’ve filled your phone with travel pictures but have no clue how to share them. Wanderlust Travel has some tips for getting your photos formatted and printed into photobooks.
What’s better than beer? Free beer. What’s better than free beer? Beer that comes from a billboard.
Okay, I don’t know if that last claim is true, but it sure is rad. (Of course, you all know I have a weak spot for innovative beer dispensaries). Carlsberg is making a load of Londoners happy with what they tout as, “Probably the best poster in the world”—a billboard that pours perfect pints of cold draught beer.
“We want to get the Carlsberg brand in front of as many beer drinkers as possible,” says Dharmesh Rana, senior brand manager at Carlsberg U.K. “To do this, we have to think differently with our approach and can’t just rely on great TV advertising.”
Can’t beat that strategy. Cheers!
The view is always better from above—Travel and Leisure shares the world’s coolest tram rides.
BBC throws Atlanta some props as a city deeper than Coca-Cola and the world’s busiest airport.
The Dutch make art come alive with a brilliant staging of Rembrandt’s “Nightwatch” (in a mall, no less). The fact that it’s an ad makes it that much better.
Attention Wes Anderson fans—NYTimes has a story on a real life Grand Budapest Hotel.
I’m never one to shy away from a comprehensive list of useful travel resources. Claimair does a great job curating a tried-and-true list here.