Ten years ago today, the United States began perhaps its costliest and most destructive foreign policy blunder. And as for many young journalists, it also allowed me to jump-start my career as a foreign correspondent. There’s a direct line between the decision to invade Iraq and me being in New Zealand as a burgeoning travel writer.

But I’d like to just highlight some of the early days of blogging that I did about and from Iraq at my old blog, back-to-Iraq.com. Things were moving pretty fast in those early hours, so there’s probably a lot in here that has been proven to not be entirely accurate. But that’s the case when you conduct a blitzkrieg on a country these days. Read More

Hi, all. I gave a talk yesterday at the University of Otago on journalism and the war on terror. The Otago Daily Times was kind enough to send a reporter to the seminar. Too bad the photo makes me look a little weird.

Also, I’ll be on Radio New Zealand chatting with Jim Mora today at 2:10 p.m. Auckland time (+13 GMT), discussing journalism, conflict and travel. Not sure if it will be made available online, but I assume it will at some point.

Update Here’s the program:

farewell australiaPart I
There’s an old adage that one should write drunk and edit sober. This is my attempt at slightly tipsy. Why? Because I’m saying farewell to Australia, and there’s no good way to depart such a big (and big-hearted) country without a bit of tipple to send me on my way.

Where to begin? When last we left off, I was speaking on Australia’s forgotten Aborigines and I was halfway to Adelaide. Since then, we — me and a couple of CouchSurfing friends from Germany —  completed the crossing of the  southern continent from Perth to Sydney, a distance of at least 5,100 km based on the southern route we took. It’s an accomplishment that, frankly, many Australians still don’t manage to do. But what a journey. I honestly haven’t even begun to fully process the whole trip, but the landscape and the people who I’ve met on the way have been indelibly stamped on my soul. Read More

MELBOURNE—Taking a break in a Melbourne Thai restaurant, I idly glanced at the TV which held my fellow diners’ attention so raptly. A bearded Richard Chamberlain and a gracefully aging Karen Allen were puttering about with some tribal decorations from the American Pacific northwest. The Australians seemed positively fascinated by the colorful masks of the Native Americans. And it was at that moment that one of those coincidences happened that you think don’t mean anything, but upon reflection you realize they signify everything.

Shuffling by outside the window was a crushingly indigent Aboriginal woman, her tattered and soiled singlet, which must once have been purple, hanging off her beefy shoulders. Her hair was a tangle and her eyes swollen shut. She moved her lips as if talking to herself or chewing something. Her flip-flops were bright pink, but one of the straps had come loose and she had to drag her left foot to keep her shoes on her feet. Read More

The numbing flatness of southern Australia and its Eyre Peninsula is beginning to get to me, not to mention the endless driving and huge distance between, well, everything. I find myself growing both more irritable and anxious to move on as I think of the mountains of New Zealand that await me in a … God, it’s sill a month away. And then I envision the mist-draped peaks of South America that are still two months (at least) away. I want mystery, wonder and a challenge to my my interior landscape. I am missing this in the settled parts of Australia.

We spent last the last two nights in Port Lincoln and Port Augusta, respectively. Nice enough small towns, but Australia Day was a complete letdown in Port Augusta. There was a brief breakfast and some awards handed out early this morning, but we unfortunately missed all that. No parades, no special events, nothing.

And so later today or tomorrow, we’ll head north into the outback. More than 500 km away lies Coober Pedy, the opal mining capital of the world. It’s an interesting-sounding place, with 40 percent of its people living underground to escape the heat.