I was late to find Mike Sowden’s stuff on the interwebs, but I am certainly glad that I finally did a few months ago. He has had his work published on EcoSalon, WebUrbanist, Brave New Traveler and various other locations, but it is the voice that he expresses on this blog, Feverered Mutterings that I regularly appreciate the most. He has that dry sense of British humor that I love…. and aspire to on most days.
In addition to his excellent writing, good sense of humor and all around English pasty-white niceness, he’s been an unbelievably helpful internet friend to me and many other travel bloggers. I don’t want to somehow get him inundated with requests for tips, advice and assistance (especially if it means his answering my emails more slowly), but there are few more helpful and knowledgeable people you are going to find in the travel blogging world on everything from SEO tips, to where to try to get your work published, to how to make something go mini-viral.
Simply put, he’s one of my favorites, and no, not because he sponsored this post. Damn cheapskate.
So, go check out his blog and follow him on Twitter here: Mike’s Twitter profile. In the meantime, enjoy his answers to the Lucky 13:
1 — What is your dream car?
It’s a car that makes no noise whatsoever and runs on water, that other people drive. The noise thing is the biggie. I don’t drive, and my day-job is the other side of town, so I amble my merry way across it every day, trying to make good use of my walking time by learning modern Greek through an audio course (free at kypros.net). And I’m getting it all wrong because the words get drowned out by noisy traffic. I’m going to be calling Greek women “sir” and spouting nonsenseto shopkeepers. If I’m ever punched by a Greek, I’m suing the car industry.
2 — You, unfortunately, have been condemned to die, but fortunately, you get to have any meal in the world before you go. What is your menu?
My menu is a specially-tailored piece of reinforced cardboard with a hidden compartment containing a handgun and $10,000 in used notes. Nobody condemns *me* to die without a fight or a substantial bribe. Also there’s a packets of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fighting requires calories.
3 — Your biggest pet peeve is? (and by pet peeve, I mean something so insignificant that it is embarassing to admit it bothers you)
I hate how they shed hair everywhere. My aunt had a cat, and I was always picking fur off my…..oh. *That* kind of pet. Well….
Being an Englishmen, I hold Strong Opinions on the making of tea. Because there are two types of people in the world when it comes to making a cup of tea. There are the Soakers, and there are the Batterers. The Soakers know that you leave your tea to infuse for a good while, letting the majesty of Nature work her chemical magic on your brew, and after the required time – please see BS 6008:1980, you remove said teabag that should be pendulous and of a rich loamy hue, and you give it a little shake, and you pop it in the bin.
But there are the Batterers. These impatient beggers can’t be doing with waiting for good things – they have to hurry. In goes the spoon to slap and squash the tea-juice out against the sides of the mug, pummeling the shit out of it because hey, life’s too short to wait 3 bastard minutes for a cup of tea. Now, I understand that yes, many people *are* in this much of a hurry, and I sometimes do it myself when I’m rushed, but I’m still going to have all these people shot when the time comes. Including myself, if necessary.
4 — Most overrated country to visit?
I’ve yet to find one. In fact, places regarded as overrated are the most interesting. I reckon it’s daft to label anywhere “bad” (or “good”, for that matter). It’s also something travel-writers should be really wary of. It’s fun to rant (that Ayngelina is a master at it, for example) and it’s important to react emotionally to travel, or else why do it?
But saying, for example, “the British city of Hull has no redeeming features whatsoever” with a straight face is a complete injustice. It’s also example of sloppy thinking. Never do this. It’s unfair and wrong.
5 — Fill in the blank: the world would be a much better place without ____________.
Hull. Good god, what a dreadful city. A symphony in concrete where nobody can play their instruments. It’s almost worth visiting it for the semi-orgasmic adrenaline rush of leaving it. Never go there unless you have to, and even then don’t go there.
6 — What is the superpower you most want?
The United States. It’s a key part of my world domination plans. Once I have that baby, I’m on a winning streak. I know this from playing “Risk”. Yes, the U.S.: that’s the big country underneath Europe, isn’t it? (I always hated Geography at school, I was too busy drawing tanks and rockets and jackbooted troops in the back of my exercise book).
7 — If you could travel with one person for one week, then never see or hear from them ever again, who would you choose?
As narcissistic as it sounds….it’d be myself, 20 years ago. I can barely understand why he made the choices he did. The mistakes he made, the sensible risks not taken. I’d like to understand why, since I’m so very much more comfortable being the me that is me today.
Failing all that, Glenn Beck. I’d give him all the heaviest gear to carry, until he did his whining, crying thing.
8 — Best single piece of technical advice (other than “provide good content”) you can give to get eyeballs to other people’s websites?
Care. Simple as that.
I know this isn’t a technical skill as such – but it’s even more important. You can have all the Mad SEO Skillz in the world and write a website filled with exquisitely-crafted content that sucks eyeballs onto every page, and yet if there’s no life in what you’re writing, if you’re disengaged enough for it to be written on autopilot, you’re in the wrong business. Instant traffic is easy. Staying writing is the hard part. And staying writing is the way you get anywhere. The big websites are big because they’ve endured, because the writers get a real kick from writing for them. You have to care, because that truly underpins everything. Without caring, you’ll give up in a few months, because nobody is that dedicated. Write things that you need to say, that you love to explore, that thrill you during the writing and afterwards, when you read back and think “yes, *that’s* what I meant to say”. Care first, learn everything else second. It’s the only way to get anywhere.
9 — Book I should go out and buy tomorrow?
Just read Chris Guillebeau’s “The Art Of Non-Conformity” and he’s a deeply sane bloke. In terms of travel, though, Jonathan Raban’s “Passage To Juneau” is an incredible piece of work. Gorgeous, thrilling, lyrical, and heartbreakingly sad.
10 — Fill in the blanks: I would pay good money to see _______ and ________ get into a good rough and tumble fight.
Jack Bauer vs. Batman. Or yourself vs. irritating hostellers who make loads of noise when you’re trying to sleep. Or Jack Bauer & you vs. Batman and hostellers. THAT would be awesomesauce.
11 — What is a game that you can beat almost all your friends at?
“Who Has The Least Money”. I can completely kick their pampered, moneyed asses. BAM BAM BAM.
12 — Worst current actor or actress?
I’d like the Nicholas Cage that starred in The Wicker Man to stop making films immediately. I’d also like the Nicholas Cage that stared in Kick Ass to make more movies. (Some people tell me it’s the same guy, but come on, I’m not that stupid).
13 — One last fill in the blank: I have no idea how __________ got so rich and/or famous with no appreciable talent at all.
Everyone within 50 feet of Simon Cowell, on an exponential scale where Simon Cowell is 100% unjustifiably rich and famous. Simon Cowell’s success is the core of my argument for packing up the human race and devolving back into single-celled bliss. His marketing machine is a kind of cultural doomsday device. It’s going to take us with it, and like Slim Pickens waving his hat and Yee-hawing on the back of the Bomb in “Dr Strangelove”, we’re actually cheering him on. Modern life. Eee.