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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

A Farang In Paradise

November 24, 2010 4 comments

Here’s an old one from way back in mid-2003, when I was first attempting to get my freelance foreign correspondence career off the ground. This story was reported during my first-ever trip to Bangkok, and at the time I didn’t even realize how obsessed I was by creative entrepreneurial types. But when I discovered Farang magazine and Cameron Cooper, the expat publisher responsible for it, I knew I had to write about both. Jesse Oxfeld edited this one, by the way. He left Mediabistro.com about a year later for Editor & Publisher before moving over to New York magazine. He’s now executive editor of Tablet, an online Jewish culture publication. (Not to be confused with the now-defunct alt-biweekly newspaper from Seattle.)

 

A FARANG IN PARADISE

Bangkok’s Farang magazine–a snarky and useful montly aimed at backpacking kids–and Cameron Cooper, the swashbuckling expat publisher who created it.

By Dan Eldridge – September 8, 2003 | Mediabistro.com

It may be the desk-jockey journalist’s most popular fantasy: pack a suitcase in the dead of night, call a cab to the airport at the break of dawn, and upon arrival in a previously fantasized about exotic locale, commence romantic reinvention from bored newspaper hack to swashbuckling foreign correspondent.

Admittedly, Cameron Cooper’s own transformation from daily scribe to editor-in-chief of Bangkok’s Farang magazine–a monthly travel title aimed at the thousands of world-wizened backpackers who pass through Southeast Asia on gap years or round-the-world treks–didn’t happen quite like that. The story of his introduction to the world of expatriate publishing, in fact, is even more colorful, and filled with over-the-top anecdotes and a string of traveler’s tall tales that he was all too happy to share with me over cups of instant coffee and an endless stream of cigarettes when I recently visited Farang headquarters, a tidy, three-story office overlooking a sweatshop on an almost hidden side street in Bangkok’s sensory-overloaded Banglampoo district.

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Incidentally, I have no idea what Cameron Cooper is up to now, although I suspect he’s still living and working in Bangkok. The last time I saw him was maybe three summers ago, when I was in Thailand to research a guidebook for Lonely Planet. Cameron had since changed the name of his magazine from Farang to Untamed Travel, and he mentioned that the publication was up for sale, and that he had another creative entrepreneurial venture in the works.

Unfortunately, he didn’t share any details of his new business plan with me, and I don’t know if it was a publishing effort or something entirely different. If you’re out there, Cameron, I’d love to hear from you. And if anyone reading this happens to know if Cameron is running a new business in Bangkok, please get in touch–or even better, tell us about it in the comments section below.

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New Thailand article in the Houston Chronicle

March 9, 2008 Leave a comment

lp.jpgA few months ago, after wrapping up my ten-week reporting trip in Thailand, where I was doing research for the 14th edition of Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring guide, I filed my very first article for LP’s syndicated column service. Officially known as Travels with Lonely Planet, the column is edited at LP’s Oakland office by Jay Cooke. Jay then passes the edited articles off to King Features Syndicate, which is the very same organization responsible for distributing newspaper columns like “Hints from Heloise” and “Ask Dr Ruth”, and comic strips like “Dennis the Menace” and “Beetle Bailey”.

As far as Travels with Lonely Planet is concerned, however, there are maybe three- or four-dozen daily papers that subscribe. And yet as is the case with dailies that subscribe to mainstream newswire services like the Associated Press and Reuters, not every subscribing paper runs every available Travels with LP column. According to Jay, my piece just went out on the wire sometime today, although somehow the Salt Lake Tribune has already managed to pick it up. My guess is that a handful of other dailies will pick the column up throughout the week, and that others will wait to run it in next Sunday’s travel section. Keep your eye on this space, where I’ll be adding the names of any newspapers that choose to run the article, which, by the way, is about the Southeast Asian New Year celebration known as Songkran.

Return of the Labor Party

December 31, 2007 1 comment

If you happen to be one of the Labor Party’s regular readers, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been posting at all over the last two weeks. There are a few reasons why, but to be perfectly honest, I was starting to get bored with my relatively recent all-entrepreneurship-all-the-time format. After all, when I first launched this blog back in March, I was traveling through central Thailand while on assignment for Lonely Planet, and so of course I had more than my fair share of interesting things to write about. But as one of my all-time favorite travel writers once said, “The thing about being a travel writer is that you’ve got to stop traveling when it comes time to write.” Too true. It’s also true that there’s nothing particularly exciting about sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day and staring at a laptop, which is essentially what I’ve been doing for the past six or seven months.

And so aside from the fact that I’m only a couple months away from launching a magazine about creative entrepreneurs (I like describing it as a punk-rock business magazine), and therefore need to pre-market it as much as possible, I suppose that’s more or less why I stopped writing about my own life, and started writing about unusual small-business owners. That’s not the only reason, though. I’ve always loved self-improvement literature, and so when how-to books about becoming a better blogger started showing up in bookstores, I started reading them. And then I started reading blogs about becoming a better blogger, and whenever I noticed a magazine article about small-business owners, for instance, who were also particularly successful bloggers, I paid close attention to those as well.

Here’s the first big tip I picked up: 

Almost every successful blogger seems to agree that posting on a daily basis is an integral part of their success. For some reason, though, that was a Blogging Law I never took too seriously until I read a short profile in a business magazine about Fred Wilson, a New York-based venture capitalist who claims to earn roughly $30-40,000 a year from the advertisements on his blog alone. Wilson says he donates every last cent of his blog’s profits to charity, so this is clearly a guy who knows a thing or two about small business and entrepreneurship. And what does he claim as the secret of his blogging success? Posting every single day.

And what about out-of-town holidays, when computer terminals and wireless networks might not be so easily accessible? Wilson said he always makes a habit of writing additional posts before going on vacation or leaving the country. He then uses a feature of his blogging software that allows a post to go online at any given time in the future. When I first read that interview, I was still something of a blogging newbie, and I didn’t even know it was possible to set blog posts to appear in the future, so that was big news as far as I was concerned.

And by the way, I don’t know if the future-post feature is available yet to those of you who host your blogs at Blogger.com, but it is available on WordPress hosted blogs. I’ll be honest: WordPress software is definitely more complicated to wrangle than Blogger software. But I don’t know much at all about computers, and I was able to master just about every WordPress feature in a week or two. As a former Blogger user and a recent WordPress convert myself, you can believe me when I tell you that the huge number of benefits are well worth the learning curve, which really isn’t all that steep in the first place.

Anyway, my own posting-every-single-day practice didn’t last much longer than a week or two when I first tried, but because I’m a big believer in the power of persistence, I’m planning on giving it another go, starting today. My life is relatively complicated these days, however — I just moved to a new city, I’m halfway through the process of buying my first home, I recently got engaged, and I’m starting my first business — so I don’t suspect I’ll have quite enough time to bang out posts as long as this one on a regular basis. Of course, that’s another Blogging Law I can’t help breaking from time to time: Successful posts are supposed to be brief. But that’s another reason I haven’t updated the Labor Party in the last two weeks — short blog posts seem to lack soul and personality, and I find that I often feel renewed and cleansed after I bang out a particularly long post, even if it’s not about anything particularly relevant to small-business or entrepreneurship.

In fact, when I was living in San Francisco, I filled probably dozens of those 99-cent spiral notebooks with ridiculously long, rambling journal entries. Occasionally I would go back and read old entries a month or two after I’d written them, and sometimes they didn’t even make sense. That was almost ten years ago, and I was having a pretty tough time adjusting to the real world, which I very quickly discovered was nothing at all like the life I’d led in college. But when I first started taking all those jumbled and disjointed thoughts that were bumping around in my brain, and then transferred them to paper, I found that the process did wonders for my anxiety. I can still remember the ritual: I would sit down on the floor with a notebook and my favorite pen, and then I would read three or four pages from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, completely at random. It never mattered which three or four pages I read, because every single sentence in that book is so imbued with magic and grace that it’s almost beyond belief. Seriously, anyone who writes, whether for a living or as a hobby, should own a copy and read it regularly.

Anyway, after I read a page or two from the book, the urge to stop reading and to start writing would be almost unbearable, and so I’d simply pick up a pen and start scribbling. Sometimes it would go on for hours, literally. I generally felt better once I was done, but sometimes, when the stars were aligning just right, the actual writing process itself would put me in something like a trance, and I remember it feeling as if my writing hand was moving all by itself, and that I wasn’t even using my brain to choose the individual words, but rather that the words were coming out without any effort of my own. Strange, I know.

I can’t say I’ve ever had an experience like that while blogging. The process is so similar to journaling, and yet so different at the same time, because it’s nearly impossible for a conscious person not to second-guess themselves when they’re writing something that anyone on earth could technically read. But nonetheless, I’m fascinated by blogs — writing them, reading them, whatever. I’m fascinated by publishing in general. I have been for almost my entire life. So naturally, the idea of blogging is irresistible — the idea of being able to give birth to a particular thought, and to then be able to see that thought in print minutes later. Which is essentially a long-winded way of saying that I honestly do have plans to post here on a regular basis in 2008, and that I hope you’ll all log on regularly. I’ve got all sorts of plans for the upcoming year, much of it having to do with the upcoming launch of Young Pioneers Media, and I’ll be sharing the vast majority of the news and updates right here.

At any rate, have a safe New Year’s Eve and a healthy New Year. I’ll see you soon.