cover art for S2E11: Travel for Good? with Shafik Meghji

One Step Beyond

S2E11: Travel for Good? with Shafik Meghji

Season 2, Ep. 11

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Is Travel Good For The Planet?

This question is tackled by our return guest, the environmentally-focused, award-winning travel writer Shafik Meghji. In a conversation that includes the subject of Shafik's recent book, Crossed Off The Map: Travels in Bolivia, and host Tony Fletcher's upcoming journey to Costa Rica, the pair discuss:

  • The difference between travel and tourism
  • The "brownfield rainforest" at Canvey Wick outside London, and the "temperate rainforests" of Wales
  • Why Bolivia is "on the frontline of so many defining issues that will shape all of our lives wherever we are in the world in the years to come."
  • How Lake Pupil, a lake the size of Luxembourg, dried up in barely two years.
  • How the Amazon rainforest comprises 1/3 of Bolivia and traveling through it can help indigenous communities
  • The natural beauty of Bolivia's rural landscapes and its fascinating cities
  • How the migrant indigenous city of El Alto overtook the population of neighboring La Paz in just two decades.
  • Costa Rica's remarkable biodiversity, its eco-tourism, and its 'unparalleled' wildlife.
  • Shafik's recommendation for the perfect travel spot

You can find Shafik at and at

Read his article on the brownfield rainforest of Canvey Wick

and his piece on the Lost Rainforests of Britain

More info on his book is at

The newspaper articles Tony references in the outro are:

On Lithium Mining

On Deep Sea Mining

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Theme song is 'Delaymania' by Noel Fletcher.

Logo by Mark Lerner. Photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.

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  • 13. S2E13: Pura Vida in Costa Rica?

    Turtles! Volcanoes! Caiman! Monkeys! Museums! Fumaroles! Scuba Diving! Swimming Holes! And Sunsets! Paula is back as co-host for the first time since the Season 1 finale as she and Tony discuss their recent travel to Costa Rica, not only from an environmental and cultural perspective, but also from their uniquely different personal perspectives. Paula had not traveled outside the USA in 35 years, whereas Tony spent almost a whole year backpacking round the globe only back in 2016. Similarly, Tony is something of an (ageing) adrenalin hound who went scuba diving and running the volcanos, while Paula had reasons to want to take it just a little less hectic.Some of the topics discussed in this episode:All the great reasons to visit Costa Rica in the first place: is just 0.04% of the earth's land surface but contains 5% of its species; 33% of it is protected land; Atlantic and Pacific Coasts both readily accessible; no standing Army.How much advance planning should go into a foreign trip and how much should be left to finalize "on the ground".Choosing to travel by public transport with occasional taxi/Uber/Didi rather than being like most North Americans and renting a car.Opting to stay primarily in Air BnBs.Advantages of traveling in the rainy seasonChoosing to avoid the main tourist destinations of Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Park, going instead for:San José: not the world's loveliest capital city but a veritable gold mine of museumsTraveling to Tortuguero on the northern Caribbean coast and what to do when you miss your connecting busThe 6am canoe trip into the waters of the Tortuguero National Park and the multiple fauna and flora seen on that tripThe turtles of Tortuguero: the cosmic experience of watching green sea turtles lay their eggs and return to the ocean, all while (Tony and Paula were) stumbling round the beach at night holding hands with strangers. (More on sea turtles here)Alajuela, Costa Rica's second biggest city, and its hero Juan Santamaria, who helped achieve victory over William Walker's pro-slavery Filibusteros in 1856, and for whom the local museum (a former army barracks) and nearby international airport is named.The cloud forest of Poás VolcanoThe beautiful "white city" of Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste in the north-west.The vast and vastly under-visited Rincón de la Vieja National Park outside of Liberia, with its active volcano and multiple hiking trails. These include Las Pailas which has close-ups of fumaroles and hot springs, and the steep exposed hike to the Hidden Waterfall, which Tony was the only one to take that day.How Costa Rica is using geothermal energy from its (six) active volcanos to supply 15% of the country's energy.The charming and peaceful Playa HermosaScuba diving from nearby Playa CocoFood and drinkThe national expression of "Pura Vida"ConclusionsMusic in this episode: "A Word That Doesn't Rhyme" by The Dear BoysSubscribe to for updates on this and Tony's other podcast, plus news of events, new releases, recommendations and a weekly long-form article.
  • 12. S2E12: Rock-A-Holic: How Climbing Saved My Life

    In the late 1990s, Michael Dorame was a house music fanatic living in San Francisco, who became addicted to the drugs that kept him dancing all night long in the clubs. After OD'ing twice in three weekends, he found release, relief and redemption in the sport of rock climbing. Now, with producer Aaron Fong and celebrated outdoor sports cinematographer Chris Alstrin, Michael has made a film, Rock-A-Holic, about his story and that of two other former addicts, Ben Polanco and Maureen O'Reilly.On this episode of One Step Beyond, Michael joins host Tony Fletcher to discuss his life story, those of Ben and Maureen, the allure of drugs and alcohol, the addictive personality and whether it's genetic, and their ultimately much safer addiction to rock climbing. He is joined by director Chris who talks more about the technical aspect of the sport, and the making of the movie. If you are like Tony - interested in rock climbing but never tried it - consider this a perfect primer.Additionally, if you've ever been to the far side of drugs or alcohol in what you initially thought was pursuit of a good cause - especially something initially wholesome, like dancing in clubs - this will possibly strike a (musical) chord, and show that there can always be light at the end of the tunnel. And if you just enjoy a story with a happy(ish) ending, you'll get it from Michael (and Maureen and Ben).Warning: Drugs are discussed during the conversation, in detail. But so is dancing. And climbing. And other outdoor pursuits.Rock-A-Holic Official Trailer - Youtube - page - Dorame Instagram: Alstrin's Professional Reel - One Step Beyond:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherTony's other podcast, the [Jamming!] Fanzine Podcast is available via song is 'Yes Men'' by The Dear Boys: by Mark Lerner. Photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.If you like the show, please subscribe, rate, review.And please sign up for free weekly articles by Tony Fletcher, along with news of podcast bonuses, Tony's other writing, broadcasting, events, books and more:
  • 10. S2E10: Driving the Blues Highway and Riding the Soul Train, from Chicago to New Orleans

    On this Episode, host Tony Fletcher is in conversation with his old London friend Richard Heard about the latter's recent Great American Road Trip from Chicago to New Orleans, setting out to trace the Story of the American Blues. Covering 1300 miles in 10 days, Richard and his American road partner also visited the Stax Museum of American Soul in Memphis, took in revered Country revue show the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, attended Jazz Fest in New Orleans, traveled through the Robert Johnson Crossroads in Clarksdale, and saw the destruction wrought by a recent tornado in Rolling Rock, Mississippi. As Richard says, "Once I lifted the bonnet [translation: the hood] on the road trip, I thought, 'This is not just about music, this is a really really interesting part of American culture and social history which I didn't really know a lot about.'"Subjects include:Planning an American Road Trip around musicChoosing the right travel partnerFocusing on four cities: Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, New OrleansLearning about The Great MigrationThe Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, with Isaac Haye's gold-plated Cadillac, the Soul Train disco ball, the recreated sloping studio - and a history of Black American Music from Gospel on through.The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the Stax songwriters wrote many of their hits.Seeing Buddy Guy jump on stage to jam at his Buddy Guy's Legends Club in Chicago - on the first night of their road trip.Why doing the Tourist Trail in these cities is no bad thingThe best live music of the whole journeyFrenchman Street in New Orleans, with a live music bar every 20 yardsThe Johnny Cash Museum in NashvilleThe magic of Sun Studio in MemphisDriving Highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans, via the Blues capital of Clarksdale.Planning a return journey: Detroit, Cleveland and so much moreShort videos from Richard's trip can be seen at: Fletcher's books on:Wilson PickettEddie FloydMusic from the Streets of New York, 1927-77One Step Beyond Socials:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherE-mail us at's other podcast, the [Jamming!] Fanzine Podcast is available via (Richard was a guest on the first episode)
  • 9. S2E9: The Rough Guide to Travel Writing with Shafik Meghji

    If you have ever traveled, and if you have ever been able to string a sentence or two together in writing, you have probably thought of becoming a travel writer. After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel? On this episode of One Step Beyond, Shafik Meghji, co-author of 40 travel guidebooks, sole author of the acclaimed new book Crossed Off the Map: Travels in Bolivia, and a prolific freelance travel writer for many esteemed print and web publications, pulls the cover off the Guide Book business and tells us how he managed to make a career out of writing about travel. It took patience, persistence, rejection, circumstance, luck, serendipity, a lot of hard work and no shortage of talent.We talk about Shafik’s background in sports journalism, the lingua franca that is football, and about getting robbed at the Macarana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (Tony, not Shafik); we discuss Shafik’s belated gap year to South America and India that made him reevaluate his life choices, and we discuss how the well-worn paths that were his Guide Book work gradually transitioned into a road much less traveled, as Shafik’s reputation now allows him to choose more and more of his own subjects. We discuss the famed travel experiences everyone should enjoy – Macchu Picchu, Goa, Carnival in Rio, but also the one-of-a-kind experiences that can’t be put into words for a guide book, like finding a great place for yoghurt behind a table in Kathmandu (or a hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint in Mangalore). We visit Tierra del Fuego, the islands at the end of the earth, and we discuss how Shafik has increased turned his attention into writing about this intersection of globalization, travel, and the environment, focusing on the climate emergency and how travel can impact negatively and enlighten us positively regarding the fragile future of our planetThere was lots we did not get talk about, however, and so we will have Shafik back on One Step Beyond in the near future, to talk about Bolivia, Costa Rica, the rainforests of Wales, the biodiversity of the Essex Estuary, and the state of travel journalism in a world of social influencers and affiliate bloggers. At least I hope we will. In the meantime, please visit Shafik at his web site and be sure to follow through to the Articles section to read some of his superb journalism. You can also find Shafik on IG at us: onestepbeyond@tonyfletcher.netSocials:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherTony's other podcast, the [Jamming!] Fanzine Podcast is available via Theme songs are 'Yes Men' by the Dear Boys. (That’s the loud one.) And Delaysmania by Noel Fletcher. (The quiet one.)Logo by Mark Lerner. Photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.If you like the show, please subscribe, rate, review, and feel free to follow the acast.supporter link below to buy us a coffee!  
  • 8. S2E8: What is Fell Running and Why is it Punk Rock?

    Boff Whalley is an author and musician (you may remember his old band Chumbawamba and their global hit "Tubthumping"),who put "Fell Runner" as occupation on his daughter's birth certificate. Gary Devine is his mate from the Leeds punk scene of the 1980s, who is a former British champion fell runner. "Faster! Louder!" is Boff's new book, all about Gary, and fell running, and punk rock. It is a damn good book, because Boff is a damn good author.Beaming in from the Yorkshire Dales (Boff) and the Swiss Alps (where Gary now lives) to the base of the Catskill Mountains (where host Tony Fletcher resides), they answer the question on every non fell-runner's lips:What is Fell Running?They also answer the question:Why Is It Punk Rock?And over the course of a fun-filled conversation, they also discussWhy fell running does not follow designated trails.Why the shortest way to the bottom of a hill is not always the quickest.Why the shortest way to the top of a hill is not always the quickest.Why the best way to get to the pub early is to finish the race early.Why Brits join running clubs and whether that is truly punk.Whether to sniff glue or not sniff glue.Whether Gary Devine is a force of nature, was genetically predestined to be a champion, trained as hard as he partied, or whether it was a combination of all three that made him national champion.Why everyone should listen to the One Step Beyond episode with Damian Hall.The importance of women runners in fell running.The importance of protecting the environment.And the importance of getting out in nature so as to relate to that environment.Throughout, Tony resists asking Boff what a fell runner should do if he gets knocked down."Faster! Louder! How a punk rocker from Yorkshire became British Champion Fell Runner" is available through Great Northern Books.Boff Whalley can be found at if you ask nicelyGary Devine can be found running up the French Alps, if you can catch him.Tony Fletcher will be found running again, if he recovers from his fractured knee. His website is tonyfletcher.netFollow One Step Beyond:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherTony's other podcast, the [Jamming!] Fanzine Podcast is available via song is 'Yes Men' by the Dear Boys. by Mark Lerner. Photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.If you like the show, please subscribe, rate, review, and feel free to follow the acast.supporter link below to buy us a coffee!
  • 7. S2E7: Building an Intentional Community

    For this episode, we reconnect with Ric Dragon, originally featured way back on Episode 7 of Season 1, in July 2020, shortly after he had opened Arte Sumapaz, a Centre for the Arts outside of Bogotá, Colombia. That episode focused on Ric’s middle-aged reset, in which he migrated to a new country with a troubled history and had just started this ambitious project. Now that I have been to Arte Sumapaz for an incredible residency myself, it’s time to check back and see how things are progressing.Specifically, what is going on ith the plan to create an Intentional Community amidst the 280 acres of land? In fact, what is an Intentional Community and can we all be part of one? How do we re-integrate our lives to better share communal values without living in a commune? How does Arte Sumapaz integrate itself into its own community of rural Colombians? What is sociocracy as a form of Government? How is the country faring under the new leftist Presidency? What are the plans for reforestation of the land – and how does that gel with plans to build more accommodations and open up trails? And, specifically, when can I personally go back for a longer stay?Ric Dragon describes himself as a painter, percussionist and writer. He has been an art teacher, and a reluctant entrepreneur who founded Dragon Search in the Catskills, a company that led him into the world of social media marketing and even to author a book on the subject. He is a relaxed and engaged commentator and an excellent interviewee. The points we hit on in our discussion are relevant to our lives far beyond the vast and varied land of Colombia and the visual arts.Arte Suamapaz is at www.artesumapaz.orgAnd on socials at and Dragon posts more personally, including his own art, at: episode with artist Clare Yandell, who I met at Arte Sumapaz and who subsequently painted murals all around Colombia to help finance her constant travels, is here.One Step Beyond on socials:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherTwitter is OneStepBeyondP1The [Jamming!] Fanzine Podcast is available on your preferred streaming platform from song is 'Delaymania' by Noel Fletcher. Logo by Mark Lerner. Logo photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.If you like the show, please subscribe, rate, review, and always feel free to follow the acast.supporter link to show your appreciation and buy us a coffee! They make it good in Colombia! 
  • 6. S2E6: The Write Way out of PTSD

    Michael Anthony is the 36-year-old author of the new graphic memoir JUST ANOTHER MEAT-EATING DIRTBAG, published by Street Noise with art by Chai Simone. While Michael describes his new book as essentially a ‘love story’ between two seemingly distinct characters with different outlooks on life and death in the human and animal kingdoms, it draws in part – as did the entirety of his first two books, Mass Casualties and Civilianized – from his experiences serving in the US Army in Iraq in the 2000s and the PTSD he suffered upon release from duty. After penning his way out of his troubles, which included additional substance and drug abuse, Anthony became a writing mentor to other Army veterans so that they too, can learn to live with their experiences by putting them on paper. In this discussion with host/fellow author Tony Fletcher, the pair tackle all manner of subjects: the merits of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bloody field hospital operations that Anthony assisted in, the sense of failure knowing that Iraqi lives saved in surgery were likely lost once the Americans left, the cowardice and deception of certain military ‘leaders’, the prevalence of PTSD and suicide among veterans, how writing can help, how writing directly from experience can help even more, how Anthony came to pen a graphic memoir, and the all-important role of the illustrator. Especially, he discusses the relationship, detailed in Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag, with the love of his life, ‘Coconut’, a vegetarian and animal rights campaigner who Anthony describes as having a soul like ‘exposed nerve endings’. As their relationship develops, the memoir follows Anthony’s attempts to go ‘under cover’ by becoming a vegetarian in the hope of converting Coco, who had been fat-shamed by her mother as a child, back to meat. The conversation wraps up with a discussion about slaughterhouses in the food industry and on the battlefield, the surprising prevalence of vegetarianism among 'bad-ass army dudes', the movie The Game Changers, and the difficulties of giving up life-long habits, from meat to cigarettes. It is, believe it or not, an upbeat conversation!More info about Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag, including links for purchase: Anthony is at He can also be contacted directly through his website.Street Noise is at Simone is at Step Beyond on socials:Instagram is OneStepBeyondPodcastFacebook is One Step Beyond with Tony FletcherTwitter is OneStepBeyondP1Theme song is 'Yes Men' by The Dear Boys. Listen in full here.Logo by Mark Lerner. Logo photo taken at Arte Sumapaz in Cundinimarca, Colombia.
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro: The 4-part Documentary

    What it's like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Your host Tony Fletcher documented his own experiences climbing to the Roof of Africa, as narrated in real time, alongside interviews with fellow climbers and guides, and on-the-mountain 'field' recordings; these were then combined with detailed historical and contextual studio narrative to form a four-part documentary with which One Step Beyond was originally launched. On this special episode, those four parts are edited together for the first time, their repetitive introductions and credits eliminated, and presented as one lengthy but complete documentary that you will hopefully find educational, entertaining, informative and, who knows, maybe inspirational. Here's what I wrote back at the launch:In August 2019, I set off from Kingston, New York, with four friends and a Tanzanian-born guide, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. At 19,341 ft, or 5895 meters above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa, and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. About 50,000 people a year attempt the summit; not all of them make it. The intense demands on the body in ever-thinning air cause many people to give up before they can reach the peak.I’m a writer and broadcaster by trade, so I brought my recording devices along with me for the journey up the mountain. Over the course of this mini-series, it’s my hope that you’ll be able to experience a little bit of what it’s like to go on an adventure like this, and that by the time we are all done, you’ll be ready to embark on one of your own.The starting time for each episode is given in the summary below. Feel free to pause and come back. And if you want to join us on a trip some time, make contact: details at the bottom of the show notes! EPISODE 1 (3:30): Meeting, planning, getting to know each other - Tony, Tim, Gwen, Steve and Marie, plus tour guide Protus - and heading out from Arusha to Mawenzi and the base of Kili itself.EPISODE 2 (33:30): Phallic trees, a first sighting of Kibo, an encounter with the Spice Girls, and a serious attack of altitude sickness.EPISODE 3 (1:01:30): Shrinking glaciers, blistering winds, sudden snow, and a two-hour nap at extreme elevation before an attempt on the Kilimanjaro summit.EPISODE 4 (1:30:10): Our team wrestles with a seemingly endless overnight slog up the side of a volcano, serious attacks of altitude sickness, and a long and desperate slog on the last stretch to the roof of Africa. Do we all make it to the summit? Let's put it this way: there are celebratory dinners and dances at the end of it all.E-mail the show with questions or comments.Subscribe to the newsletter.Find us on social media:InstagramFacebookTwitterUse of 'One Step Beyond' by Madness with permission. Logo by Mark Lerner of Rag & Bone Shop.And your host can be found