Stap Vinnig Oor: Round the world during the Web’s infancy

Stap Vinnig Oor: Jason Cochran's World Tour

The logo for one of the original travel blogs

“One day, not very long ago, I noticed I’d never been to the Pyramids. So I quit my job, left my apartment, and made a list of places I’d always wanted to go. And here’s the proof.”

That was how I kicked off the webpage documenting the round-the-world trip I took years ago. It was 1998. People were still paying for Netscape. Few of us used the Web regularly, and all of us had dialup, but I was determined to try it: I documented my journey online as I went. I’m ashamed to admit I began by using Courier.

Everyone logs their trips online now, but no one was doing it then. I was a pioneer. It took real effort. Flashpacking didn’t exist. I had to seek out Internet cafés and without WordPress or Blogspot to rely upon, I had to hand-code everything in basic HTML, and I was forced to seek out crude FTP programs (Fetch!) to get my writing online.

I didn’t put my travels online for Web fame or to garner a following, the way so many backpackers do now. There were no affiliates or appeals for free lodging, and I was years away from collecting my first paycheck for travel writing. Then, it was simply so my family and friends could follow along and know I wasn’t lying dead in some South African ditch. It also saved money at the STD ISD in India if I could simply upload some writing and pictures for everyone to follow. (I also tacked on a first-person account of 9/11 two years later because I didn’t know where else to post it at the time. That’s republished here.)

Technology and I have progressed somewhat, to say the least, but for all these years I have left my online diary online, quietly stashed in a corner of the Internet as a sort of museum of myself and of travel blogging.

I invite you to peer into the past to see how I did my online Web journal. There is some stuff that could really get me in trouble here, but just remember how young I was. Read about hippo attacks, angry mobs in Jordan, and false positives for syphilis. Learn about the traumatic event that made me call my RTW journey Stap Vinnig Oor.

Here’s the link, for as long as it lasts. Go:

Stap Vinnig Oor: Jason Cochran’s World Tour

It’s as much a journey into the Web’s past as it is a trip around our planet.

Jason Cochran at the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur, India

Me at the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur, India

8 Responses to “Stap Vinnig Oor: Round the world during the Web’s infancy”

  1. Mary Waring

    Ha, when I started my site in 2001, I was hand-coding it in Notepad! Seriously, for at least a year. And it looked every bit of it…

  2. Jeffrey Williams

    Hey, I’m in there! I never read that before. And I still have all our Lovegety cards too. I stumble across them about once a year, and it’s like finding hidden treasure.

  3. Sean

    Thanks for sharing this, Jason. I’m assuming you’ve saved this writing in another format besides this blog on the server. (It’s priceless!) As you’ve written elsewhere on your blog, people have a false sense of the Web as a permanent database. Trying to store and retrieve files from the past can be a pain, or at times impossible. Good to offload copies into other formats and redundant storage spots.

    I especially liked the “weblog entry” on Hong Kong (Hip as Heck). Being offered pigeon to eat made you knock over your Coke! You went to a photo booth every day to print out trading-cards-type prints of yourself.

    The writer Alain de Botton once tweeted something like, “One way to keep feeling young is to keep discovering new layers of immaturity.” When I look back on my own journal entries from the late 90s, I notice several traits, not all of them flattering: (perhaps I was a bit too self involved, too judgmental, etc.) But I also notice positive ones, such as my super-enthusiasm and gratitude for the improbable friendships and serendipitous experiences that travel can bring. Both the negative and positive traits could be interpreted as immaturity, but there’s a lot to be said for staying a bit naive as a way to approach the world with fresh eyes.

    Anyway, thanks for the 4×4 ride down memory range. 🙂

    • Jason Cochran

      Thanks, Sean. Your comment is the coolest. I hesitated to publish this post because there are some “new layers of immaturity” in some of my overly exuberant travel journalling, but it’s good to see that you understand the spirit in which it was written. Just as visitors observe flaws in their destinations that may not always be flattering, this old website records a snapshot of me as I no longer am. When I read this old blog, I am a tourist of myself.