Updates

January 11, 2003

The launch of the first Backpack Nation ambassador now seems not only possible but inevitable. Everything is proceeding pretty much along the timeline I originally envisioned. The funding is more than one-third complete, applications are arriving, and the ambassador selection committee stands poised to do its job. Some people have asked me whether or not the launch is dependent on there being $20,000 in the bank. No, it is not. I'm absolutely confident that the full amount will come along as needed. The first ambassador will be selected by and notified on April 1 (no fooling). He or she will depart later this year. Others will follow. Stories will ripple outward. Our world will change, unimaginably, for the better.

Thank you so much for spreading the word, for sending money, for sending applications—for giving this project the attention that has moved it closer to reality. Every single nudge you give is deeply felt, and deeply appreciated.

Topics:

DONATIONS HIT $7,500
APPLICATION DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15
LIMITED OFFER
LEGAL STATUS
WILD WRITING WOMEN
UPCOMING APPEARANCES
LOVE NOTE TO MY BRITISH READERSHIP


DONATIONS HIT $7,500
All month long money has arrived in a consistent trickle (with the occasional welcomed gusher). People I went to college with sent some of it, the adult daughter of an old girlfriend sent some more, much of it came from the parents of friends of mine, some from the mother of a young backpacker just returned from three months in South America, some from people I met on my book tour, some from a man I met on his book tour, some from people who have sent in applications, and some from readers of my book who I have never met. The bank account has roughly $6,700 in it—we've passed the one-third mark. $810 more is in the mail (I haven't checked the PO box in a couple of days). Several people have made solid promises of more in the near future. And there is lots of room for the unexpected. (How to contribute)

APPLICATION DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15
I have received five applications so far, but have heard from dozens of people who say they are polishing their essays. It has been really humbling to read these early ones-some seriously accomplished people take this project seriously. I find myself wishing that Backpack Nation was already at the stage of maturity where the director could pick up the phone and ask an applicant, "When can you leave?" I'm glad the first ambassador will be selected by committee, and not by me—it will be an excruciating choice. If you are thinking of applying, or know someone you think ought to apply, please act on the thought. (How to Apply.) I recently completed an application for a grant that would allow me to quit cab driving to work on Backpack Nation full time (it's a long shot, of course), and I found the process to be absolutely useful in clarifying what it is I'm up to.

LIMITED OFFER
A friend told me he "would feel silly donating ten or twenty bucks." That day I ordered 50 copies of my book from Bantam (my cost $7.70/each). If you mail me a check for $20, I will put $10 into the Backpack Nation account and use the rest to mail a signed copy of "Take Me With You" to you (or a friend) anywhere in the US. Details here.

LEGAL STATUS
I have received advice from multiple professional sources telling me that the current structure of Backpack Nation is perfectly appropriate for its present stage. Obtaining independent nonprofit status will probably be an eventual necessity, but not just yet. For now I've been advised to concentrate my efforts on raising the $20,000 to launch the first ambassador, and to keep an eye toward what might be the most practical structure for the project's future. In the meantime, people who need to can make their donation tax-deductible through the "fiscal sponsorship" arrangement described in the How to Contribute section. This arrangement is sanctioned by the Internal Revenue Service.

WILD WRITING WOMEN
There is a large and vibrant community of travel writers in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have long felt that this scattered group would benefit from a physical center, so I was ecstatic last year when the Wild Writing Women began hosting a wildly popular salon at the Monticello Inn in San Francisco on the first Wednesday of each month. These are twelve smart female travel writers who recently self-published a delightful volume containing two stories written by each of them. When the first printing quickly sold out, they were chased after by established publishing houses and signed by one of them. They are not only talented writers and fun people to hang out with, they are savvy about the business end of travel writing. They are conducting their own inaugural travel-writing conference in San Francisco later this month, and I highly recommend it. Read about the conference here.

MY UPCOMING APPEARANCES
Jan 28: American Youth Hostels conference, San Francisco 6:30 pm
Feb 27: Rockridge Library, Oakland, California 7 pm
March 12: Redwood Day School 8:45 a.m.
April 17: Lafayette Library, Lafayette, California 7 pm
(Need a speaker? I'm available)

LOVE NOTE TO MY BRITISH READERSHIP
I simply don't have the words to express adequately how much you mean to me. You are a force, an inspiration in my every moment. Subtract you from my life and—and I don't care how corny this sounds—I do not think I would have the nerve to carry on with things. Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone at a foundation, and, when we got to talking about the $1 billion per year that Backpack Nation will eventually cost, we were both, I later realized, talking about it as though it were a viable possibility. He actually saw that it might work the way I'd described in my application. And that's because of you. I could not have had that conversation on the strength of the reception "Take Me With You" has received here in my own country. But you have forced our matchmaker, blessed Bantam, into multiple printings. I doubt you can quite fully imagine what that means to someone who has for nearly thirty years defined the phrase "struggling writer." I forwarded Bantam the emails you wrote, inquiring as to where you might find my first book, and now they're going to republish it in the fall of 2003—that simply would not have happened without you. Sometimes you apologize for taking up my valuable time—you have no clue! You have given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to my humble and expiring body of work, and I am breathless to return the favor. If "Take Me With You" should be named the WH Smith Travel Book of the Year, Bantam will perhaps be forced to bring me to England to meet you. I am told that the shortlist will be announced this week, and if my book should be on it—and why wouldn't it be?—please do me one more small favor, my love: go in and vote for it. Indeed, stuff the ballot box—it's a newish tradition here in the States. I sincerely believe this long-distance relationship of ours can work. I can not wait to lay my eyes on you. God Save the Queen! Love, Brad


 
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