Thoughts on the Boston Globe Travel Expo

As a Globe Correspondent, I was invited to attend the 10th Annual Boston Globe Travel Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center last weekend. Cruises dominated the areas nearest the entrance and Aruba had a huge presence. All I could think was "Norovirus" and "Natalee Holloway". I moved quickly past both.

I wanted to see what companies might be offering different travel experiences - who would be using technology in interesting ways? Who would be talking about reducing the carbon footprint or eco-tourism? Who would speak to the traveler not looking for a family cruise bargain or an adventure trip for millenials?

Who indeed?

Tech disconnect

Nearly every booth I stopped at required you to fill out a form to enter a giveaway. By hand. Usually on one of many paper pads attached to a many clipboards.

And yet, the badge/registration was done electronically so EACH attendee has an electronic confirmation, a QR code designed to be scannable with any smart phone and a free scanning app. No paper. No handwriting. No clipboards. No manual entry later of all the probably illegible entries. I can't read my own handwriting these days, can you?

When practically everyone I know is concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, why completely ignore the technology in the palm of nearly every person's hand and waste all that paper? The cost and hassle of packing and carrying the paper and junk with it, the manual labor of data entry could all be avoided completely? Complete misfire.


Food Connects us to each other, memories

I had another two goals for the show: connect with any travel editors there (would Afar? Travel & Leisure? or any publications be there?) No and no.

Would I get to see Chef Pierre Thiam there to demonstrate a Senegalese dish with fonio - saw him but didn't get to actually say hello, sadly. He and I met at IACP years back when his beautiful book Yolele! was nominated for an award. Chef Thiam introduced the Travel Expo crowd to fonio, "the new quinoa", and described waking up in the Sahel to the rhythmic pounding of grain in large mortar and pestles. Immediately I could hear the gentle, bird-like singing of the women in this photo I took in Mali.



As we turned a corner in Tombouctou I saw what I'd heard in the distance: two women, gently pounding millet and singing gently, rhythmically as they processed the grain. Everywhere we went women carried large pots or bundles on their heads, babies wrapped around their midsection (heads bouncing unsupported) walking, carrying, pounding, fetching water from wells.

Pierre described fonio as the new quinoa, but better, because it is drought resistant and must be grown organically as it withers and dies under pesticides. Must find some of this fonio!

Connecting with your city, new cities

Walking to the seaport area, I crossed the icy channel. It was an interesting contrast to the salsa dancing, the beachy murals and the reminder of warmer places.

One of the great things was connecting "IRL" (in real life) with Max Grinnel AKA The Urbanologist. Max teaches, writes, and speaks on walking through urban environments. I'm a huge fan of this and of Max now, too. I love a walkable city (sorry, L.A. you leave me cold) and share Max's enthusiasm for looking up more overlooked gems in any city; in meeting locals and asking what THEY love, where THEY eat. Check out Max's site.

He share four tips for visiting a new city:

1. Slow down & look up. (I thought I invented the hashtag #lookup - turns out some Architects beat me to it...)

2. Ask Questions. (I love asking cab drivers and people at the bar, on the street.)

3. Do your homework. (Go beyond Yelp! Ever heard of

4. There's always next time. (When I fall in love with a new place this is my mantra: "it's just reconnaissance for next time!")

Travel Expo Collage


Well, thanks to the Boston Globe for hosting. JetBlue, for getting how to use tech and Pierre and Max for inspiring me. It was worth that snowy schlep.