Book Review: Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island

Lonely Planet New Zealand's South Island Travel Guide4 out of 5 stars

I’ve never used a guidebook to plan a trip.

Granted, I haven’t done a multi-destination international trip since high school, where every step was already plotted out for me. My first instinct was to go to the internet.

Before barely any time at all, I was paralyzed.

There were too many sites. Too many options. Too many different perspectives. I spent days poking around without making any real decisions.

A few days later, I had lunch with a friend who had just visited New Zealand for two-weeks. She introduced me to several guidebooks she and her sister used to plan something that was the envy of everyone she knew on social media.

I decided to narrow my sources down to three things. The Lonely Planet Travel Guides, NZFree Guides, and a Lord of the Rings resource for movie locations.

First up: The Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island Travel Guide. It’s over 600 pages filled with tips on activities, places to stay, and things to eat. This book has a little bit of everything for all the major regions and cities of note in New Zealand, with short 3-4 line write-ups of each. You won’t really get a good sense of the place from this limited info, and there are precious few pictures. It still left me with way too many options, but at least I had narrowed it down to a few dozen points of interest.

Each region has a quick visualization of the 8-10 highlights it has to offer. The book makes it easy to quickly get a feel for what each one is about (Queensland: Adventure. Fiordlands: Jaw-dropping Mountains.).

I didn’t use any of the recommendations on places to stay and eat (I’m planning on using Air BnB), but there were hundreds. The back half of the book was a super helpful logistical guide – what outlets they use, what time of year to visit, how to avoid causing an international incident on the island, etc.

With my list of “maybes”, I can dig in further on the internet and the other books. The ZNFree South Island book will help me make sure I don’t miss any “off the beaten” path sights.

My end goal is to plot everything on a map, see where my clusters of ideas are, and then plan my 5-6 days on the South Island around that.

Buy Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island

Book Review: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko4 out of 5 stars

And now, for something completely different.

I’ve been bingeing on Tim Ferriss’ podcast for a few months now (Seth Godin and Scorpion founder Walter O’Brien will straight up blow your mind). Every episode he asks his guests which books have been most influential to them, and which one they give most often as gifts.

The result – I’ve got a huge backlog of non-fiction books to pore through. This one isn’t your standard NYT-bestseller-with-esoteric-title-and-person-in-mid-power-move cover.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need reads like a manga, but without the backwards panels and page turns. It’s a quick read. For folks about to start their careers, it’s invaluable reading. Though without context, it may be hard for some of the situations and lessons to resonate.

This book is perfect for mid-level to senior professionals, who are probably hitting that 7-year-itch and asking themselves – why the hell am I doing all this?

For these nine-to-five warriors, the story arcs and illustrative examples Diana, a magical Asian genie of sorts, helps Johnny work through will seem pulled straight out of corporate America. The lessons are stripped down to their most essential parts. There is little waste and all the analogies are crystal clear.

For those who already have a healthy perspective on work and work-life balance, this book might feel superficial. But a refresher can never hurt. There may be something in the book that reinvigorates and inspires you. Or, you may only take one of the lessons away as valuable. Given how fundamental these notions are to happiness and career, just one lesson would be well-worth the price of admission.

Buy The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need

Voices of the Middle West Lit Fest

It’s almost here!

This weekend Midwestern Gothic will be co-hosting an incredible free event with University of Michigan’s Residential College, the 3rd annual Voices of the Middle West Literary Festival.

There’s plenty to see and do all day, between panels featuring a diverse selection of acclaimed writers, poets, editors, and publishers talking about everything from publishing unheard voices, exploring Midwestern character, storytelling and community, and blurring the lines between memoir and fiction.

Pick your favorite panels and spend the rest of the day wandering around the bookfair. Unlike other conferences, Voices Lit Fest is a place to spend one-on-one time talking directly with some of the Midwest’s finest publications. It’s much more intimate and conducive to building the lasting relationships that matter to those who make things.

The whole day ends with a keynote by National Book Award Finalist Ross Gay, who is a force to experience live. If you’re free, come out to Literati bookstore for our Friday kick-off reading and hear him read his work – it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Hope to see you there!

Hiking Mt. Sopris: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Look north down the canyon in Glenwood Springs and one thing dominates the horizon.

Mt. Sopris.

Spend any amount of time hiking in the Western United States and you’ll quickly realize mountains are not a single summit. They are layers of elevation, undulating up and down. Masking each other with their peaks and angles. What sets Mt. Sopris apart is how alone it is. The nearly 5,000 feet of slope exposure isn’t a common sight, making for a dramatic centerpiece of the area.

The Last Hike

It was one of our last days in Colorado, and I was looking for a trail I could knock out some mileage on. The kids and Sandi were looking forward to relaxing back in the treehouse. So I set out to find Mt. Sopris.

This mountain is not easy to get to. The directions took me down winding roads, onto gravel, and then finally onto something that vaguely resembled a road. My car was bounced and jostled every which way until I finally came to a full parking lot just off the trailhead.

Shifting Landscapes

Right off the bat I knew this hike would be special. Looking back toward Glenwood Springs, a pop-up afternoon thunderstorm hung like an angry giant over the valley. It was big and gray and moody. Everywhere else, sunshine and mountain meadows.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado - Glenwood Springs

The hike up to the shoulders of the mountain was no less dynamic. The trail begins in covered forests with lots of small wildlife rustling under leaves. After a mile or so, there’s a cattle gate to pass through that gives way to open mountain meadows filled with flowers. Bees and insects hum around the foliage, giving it life.

I didn’t make it to the summit, but I tasted the edge of the final approach. Thomas Lakes, surrounded by rocks. Past where I stopped, all vegetation ceased, and barren rock and snow began.

Thomas Lakes - Mt. Sopris, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

I made the trek in the afternoon, so I had the trail to myself. Most summiteers start in the morning to make it all the way up and down before dark. I didn’t reach the top, but I was able to lounge by the lakeside. Sunlight glinting off the rippling water.

I couldn’t imagine a better way to end our time in Glenwood Springs.