Travel Must-Read of 2011: The Expeditioner’s Guide to the WorldTravel Books & Movies — By Lost Girls on December 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Matt: Word on the street was that the book received some good publicity in your home state of Montana. Can you tell us about the reception there and what promotion took place?
Jon: It’s funny, people think the process of writing a book is the difficult part, when in fact that’s just the start.Through a few of the local trail guides I publish, I had connections to get The Expeditioner’s Guide to the World in a few local bookstores. Of course, sitting on a distant shelf next to a gazillion others doesn’t necessarily sell books, so I scheduled a few signings and talked to a couple friends that work for the local paper. It turns out, the press was incredible. There was a wonderful article penned in the Montana Standard titled, “Butte Author Makes Writing an Adventure” that got picked up by newpapers in Helena and Billings.
The people have been amazingly supportive. Montana is damn big state and I knew what it took for people to come chat about the book from out-of-town. There is a camaraderie here I’ve never seen elsewhere. People are proud of what others have accomplished and aren’t afraid to spread the love.
The signings went well considering there’s no Montana story in this edition. The marketing efforts really pay off when you get to talk travel and to share The Expeditioner philosophy with people. In fact, we actually became a staff favorite at Montana Book and Toy Company in Helena. I hope it all doesn’t take too much time away from my 15 minutes, there’s still some other plans floating around my head.
Luke: You’ve called Montana home for quite some time, where I’m also from. When I tell people while abroad I’m from there, a typical reaction I get is, “You’re the first person I’ve met from Montana!” To which I usually respond in an incredulous voice, “You don’t know Jon Wick? Why don’t they know you? Why are you withholding yourself from literally billions of people?”
Jon: It’s interesting you say that, I’ve had some related experiences. Just last night, I was looking for a cup of coffee in uptown Butte and was approached by a group of 30. They stopped me, giggling, and one girl asked if I could sign her bra. Of course, it’s like three degrees outside so I attempted some ill-fated humor about having a short name. This was met with an inquisitive look until they read my name scribbled over the lace.
“Wait, you’re not Luke Armstrong? I thought your beard looked a little weak.”
But in all seriousness, there is something about Montana that has lured me here since finishing college. It’s an amazingly beautiful place with truly genuine and down-to-earth people. I recently heard a quote in a Montana ski film about the lack of boasting that happens here: “You just swap stories, like, yeah, I skied that. Wasn’t it gnarly? And that’s it. It’s not like other places.” Compared to everywhere I’ve been, and everywhere I’ve written about, Montana is still one of my favorites, and I’m lucky to call it home.
Matt: As mentioned, you are the director of a very large charitable organization. Wouldn’t your extra time have been better served helping others more in need than you? Did you ever feel remorse about your shameful self-promotion working with the book when you could have been using that extra time raising more money and putting more work in, or are Jon and I such heartless bastards that our selfishness began rubbing off on you? Explain this lapse of moral judgment.
Luke: I’m going to do the political thing and give you an answer that doesn’t really address the question. Sometimes, when people ask me what I do, they respond by deriding what they do. I’m grateful that life has led me to the line of work it has, but you don’t need to have a day job like that to make a difference.
Everyday we come in contact with tons of people. As in travel, our daily lives are filled inevitable interactions with others. I don’t believe in neutral interactions. Each one is going to either build someone else up or tear them down. Sometimes we see this in obvious ways, such as giving a starving infant the care it needs to survive. But mostly it’s subtle: A smile to someone with tired eyes, holding the door open for someone, sensing a friend needs kind words and offering those freely, etc . . .
This realization is what attracted me to charitable work in the first place, not the other way around. I know I might be sounding Hallmarkish here, but for reals, the world is filled with a lot of disheartening things, but all of us have the tools to find a little corner of darkness and shed some light on it. Life is too short for it not to be wonderful. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to find the bliss in it, and once we do we’ll naturally want to spread the love around.
And getting back to the question, any job that makes you sacrifice your passions is not the job for you. I love to write — need to write. Since the first grade it has been this way and I suspect will always be and I’m glad that my day job hasn’t disallowed me to “moonlight” as a writer. If it had, I don’t know if I would have made it past the first few months.
Jon: In the piece you published in the book, “To Cuba, With Love,” you traveled to Cuba, but it was more than just a trip. How was it different than your other travels?
Luke: I had a mission in Cuba: to say goodbye to my grandma. Losing her was difficult, and going to Cuba was where I said goodbye to her. Of all the trips I’ve taken, this is the one where I remember things most vividly. I remember the smells, the sounds, the colors — every nuance. The trip wasn’t about me, it was about her and going there and doing what I did (leaving her poetry books on the shelves of bookstores) for her.
And as way leads to way in life, I don’t know if you’d be asking me this question if I hadn’t made that trip. That was really the first travel writing piece that made me realize I wanted to focus more on travel writing, and was how I became aware of TheExpeditioner.com when I was looking for a place to publish it.
Luke: What’s the difference between traveling and addiction to nicotine? Both seem to share similarities. You start with just a few trips here and there, but then you want more, pretty soon it becomes part of your lifestyle, you hang out with other travelers and you start making it a regular thing that you do any year. It sounds a lot like addiction. Are you a travel addict? What advice would you recommend to other travel addicts who are trying to quit?
Matt: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people equate travel with having a drug addiction. Both cost a lot of money. Both have been known to cause great strain on friends and family relationships. Both provide a huge much pleasure in a short amount of time. And both are really hard to give up. I’d argue that in the long run, travel provides far more by way of life experiences, knowledge, new friendships, perspective, and enjoyment. But I’ve never done heroin, so who knows?
What advice do I give to travel addicts who are trying to quit? Try very hard to become close-minded, uninterested in life, and give up any curiosity about the world. Do this and I guarantee you’ll have no interest in travel any more.
Jon: The book has an incredible line-up of authors from all over the world. Is it safe to say that your most difficult job was trying to prevent any contact between the authors and Luke for fear the book would lose all credibility?
Matt: Actually, there were other reasons that I tried to prevent contact, but those reasons are strictly between Luke and the Attorney’s General Office of the State of North Dakota.
In all honestly, without Luke there would have been no book. It was Luke that off-handedly asked in an e-mail some time back in 2010, “Why don’t we self-publish a book we’d actually want to read?” It was Luke who, through his huge network of travel friends and his enormous immediate family, helped recruit writers whose work ended up becoming a large chunk of the book. And it was Luke who did the nitty-gritty work in putting the book together in book-form. This, all while running an organization employing 80+ people. It took a lot of hard work on his end, and I regret threatening physical harm to him and his family at certain fractured points during the book’s construction.
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