The Tourism Project: What are your thoughts?

What is the tourism project?

Recently, I have conceptualized a new writing project that, for now, is intended to be an objective, research-driven essay about tourism and life in small- and medium-sized towns.  I’d like to gather as many perspectives as possible. I’ve put together a brief survey for you to provide yours.

The survey won’t take you more than five minutes to complete.

Other than asking you for your general stance on tourism and the economy, the survey has a few basic questions to help steer the course of the project.

What is it like to live in a tourist town?

What is it like to work in a tourist town?

What is it like to raise kids in a tourist town?

What is it like to retire in a tourist town?

Please help me spread the word about this project, and please do share the link with folks you think would be interested in having their say.  Here’s a QR code anyone can scan to access the survey on a smartphone.

QR code for tourism form

Feel free to fill out the survey if you feel so inclined, and feel free to contact me directly or comment on this article if you’ve got questions about the project and my intentions.

Depending on the direction this project takes, there may be much more here than just the initial essay that gets published in a magazine or journal (and eventually on my blog).  I hope it gets bigger.  I’d like to move it toward a book about tourism, with in-depth examples and case studies from various municipalities around the United States, or perhaps even the world.

Initially, though, I’m hoping to focus on municipalities in the western part of North Carolina, and the southwestern section of Virginia, since those are the areas that are most readily accessible to me from my home base in Glade Valley, North Carolina.

Here’s a printable PDF flyer you can download and share, and print then hang on a wall anywhere you’d like: community center, place of worship, town hall, school, coffee shop.  Tourism Project Flyer

Finally, if you’re interested in collaborating on this project, I’m definitely interested in hearing from you.  I’ll need some help conducting research and interviews for this project.

Thank you!

Erlandson For Alleghany County Commissioner

My name is Ben Erlandson, and I am running as an independent write-in candidate for Alleghany County Commissioner in the 2018 general election.  I believe we can build a reasonable future for Alleghany County and its citizens as part of the Appalachian Mountains and the New River Basin.

Let’s Respect the Past and Consider the Future.

As the first step in this process, I need to gather signatures to submit to the Alleghany County Board of Elections to ensure that my write-in candidacy is officially recognized—so all votes cast for me in the general election will be officially counted.

But first, let me introduce myself and tell you a little bit about why I want to be an Alleghany County Commissioner.

I was born in 1979 and grew up in Elkin, NC, just down the road from Sparta.  I spent most of my childhood and teenage years walking and camping in the forests and mountains of Alleghany County, from Stone Mountain to Doughton Park.  We are so lucky to have these wilderness areas in our backyard.

In the mid-1990s, my father and I finished out a modular home at the base of Bullhead Mountain, in Glade Valley, NC, where I now live.

I am quite proud to be a product of the North Carolina public school system: Elkin Primary School, North Elkin Middle School, and Elkin High School.  Even for college, I went to a public university: UNC-Asheville.

I am a photographer, a brewer, a gardener, a naturalist, a writer, and a professional educator living in this beautiful land we all call home.  Over the course of my life experiences, I have come to realize that I am passionate about supporting the following issues in my local and regional communities:

Healthy Communities

Education and Lifelong Learning

Arts, Craftsmanship, and Creativity

Local Economies

Sustainable Agriculture

Social Justice

Environmental Stewardship

Natural Wonder

I will write more about each of these things in future posts.

SO!  You may be wondering…

Why am I running for a seat on the Board of Commissioners?

Well, as an Alleghany County Commissioner, I would like to achieve three major goals with our communities during and beyond a four-year term:

Reasoned progress

Evidence-based problem solutions

Open communication and participation

For each major issue the county faces, I believe we can work together for reasoned progress by establishing measurable outcomes to define and track the successes and failures of any program funded by the county.  If we don’t have data to know how well a program is working over time, then how do we know if it is working or not—and if that county money was well spent?

If we use measurable outcomes, we can begin to implement evidence-based problem solutions for all of the critical issues facing our communities.  We can evaluate and assess these outcomes over time to know which direction to take with the solutions we establish.

Do we keep funding the solution from one year to the next?  Do we change the solution? Do we throw it out altogether?  Do we work with the organization implementing the solution to help them find additional sources of funding?

Finally, as an educator and technology systems designer, I firmly believe in communication and participation.  Open communication and collaborative participation across our communities is a requirement if we are to have any chance of building and maintaining a reasonable future for the current and future citizens of Alleghany County.

Can any one of us predict or define what that reasonable future looks like?

Absolutely not. We’ve got to work together to build it, and we’ve got to continue working together to keep it.

Should I be elected, here is what I will bring to the table of the Alleghany County Board of Commissioners:

Local effort and elbow grease

Critical thinking and common sense

A “big picture” perspective

Global experience and expertise

A passion for life and simplicity

Concern for all of our communities

As I mentioned, the first step is to collect enough signatures from registered Alleghany County voters and submit them to the Alleghany County Board of Elections before the deadline.  As we get down to the wire, I’ll keep you posted.

Please connect with me via email or send me a message through the Erlandson for Alleghany Facebook page, and I will find a way to ensure that you can sign the official petition form.  We can meet at the Blue Ridge Business Development Center (next to the Alleghany County Library) or I can meet you in a place that is convenient for you.

Also, petition forms are available to sign at two other locations in downtown Sparta:

Becca’s Backwoods Bean – 21 N Main St, Sparta, NC 28675 (map)

Journey Wellness Studio – 81 W Doughton Street, Sparta, NC 28675 (web)

Thank you for taking the time to read my introduction to my platform for reasoned progress in Alleghany County.

I look forward to the opportunity to serve you as a public official!

Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns.

Let’s work together to build a reasoned future for Alleghany County!

Stay tuned for updates. 🙂

Timespace: Early December Snow

Early December snow fell on Alleghany County, North Carolina.  We got about six or eight inches, with deeper drifts in the usual spots.  Of course, as a photographer, as the flakes start to fall, and it becomes apparent that we’re going to get some serious accumulation that will stick around for a while, I start thinking about the best spots to shoot, and how to get there before they’re disturbed, especially by other humans.

And I start checking the weather forecast to figure out when and where the light and snowscapes are going to be best, thanks to clouds, wind, and all those intricately interwoven variables we just can’t know.

December 9th, 02017

My father and I started on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the gate near Mahogany Rock Road, at the base of Bullhead Mountain.  Technically, I can easily hike here from the house, but I wanted to save some time and get to some good spots while the conditions were good — and potentially before anyone else got there.

Continue reading Timespace: Early December Snow

Creative Concepts: Ecological Experiential Documentation

As I continue to travel the world—and spend more time exploring my own big backyard right here in North Carolina—I’ve come to realize that I can apply my academic training, professional experience, intelligence, and creative abilities in a combined effort over the next few decades to produce what I think and believe will be experiential documents worth consuming as materials for lifelong learning and understanding.  I am conceptualizing an ongoing series of experiential documentation, taking appropriate form over time as ebooks, print books, magazines, interactive apps, websites, and perhaps even videos.

This concept first came to me when I was looking at a map of the United States and thinking about the difference between national parks and national monuments.  Based on my personal experience onsite at various national monuments, coupled with my research and perusal of the maps of these monuments and the surrounding areas, I realized that I would love to commit to exploring and documenting a sense of place in each of these areas—demonstrating their importance as sacred spaces for maintaining the natural order of our relationship with the environment and all other species with which we share it.

So, to put a stake in the ground, I created a map of all the US National Monuments.  (Yes, there is at least one that does not appear in the image.)

Map of United States National Monuments
Map of United States National Monuments

Inspired by my recent trip to Helsinki, which included a stay at the hostel on Suomenlinna, I decided to add UNESCO World Heritage sites to the map.  I figured it would be interesting to see how many UNESCO sites in North America are within reasonable proximity to US National Monuments, thus allowing me to combine several locations into exploratory experiential documentation journeys of 1-3 months in duration.

Continue reading Creative Concepts: Ecological Experiential Documentation

Starting Up 2017 – Digital Technology Startup

As 2016 came to a close, I stepped away from my previous role as CTO of McKinsey Social Initiative, and now it’s time to move forward as one of the founders of Knedia, a digital media technology startup based in my home state of North Carolina.

Knedia is an idea that has been percolating for a couple years, based on some conversations between myself and my co-founder, John Wiles.  It’s one of those ideas that goes back and forth between the front and back of your mind, and you never really stop thinking about it.  I firmly believe that the best ideas are the ones you can’t forget. Continue reading Starting Up 2017 – Digital Technology Startup

Preparing for Launch: Winter South 02014

My book Winter South 02014 was published in March, and apparently an email from the marketing team slipped through the cracks, so we are just now getting around to forming a press release to launch my book into the stratosphere.

I took some time to fill out a formulaic series of “interview” questions for the Lulu marketing team (their “Press Release Questionnaire”), and as I continued down the list, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the questions felt quite absurd.  As such, I’ve decided to publish the questions — and my actual answers — here on my blog.  Just for fun. Continue reading Preparing for Launch: Winter South 02014

Hybrid Learning: Get Soaked

On Sunday, July 5, we went for a hike in one of my favorite places on this planet (Stone Mountain State Park) on a section of what is becoming one of my favorite trails, the MST.  One of the many reasons I love Stone Mountain is that it is such a photogenic rock:

But on this day, we skirted around the rock and headed for the base of the escarpment, just past Widows Creek.

I’ve used Strava for quite some time to track my bicycling efforts, and recently I’ve discovered that it is also pretty good for tracking hikes.  So, I thought I’d track my Sunday “stroll” up the escarpment.  Results below, and here.

Strava Log of Stone Mtn MST hike
Strava Log of Stone Mtn MST hike

With my father, I had done the hike before in reverse, one way — from the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Stone Mountain backpackers’ parking lot.  On the 5th I wanted to go up and back, hoping to turn around at the ruins of an old mountain shack. Continue reading Hybrid Learning: Get Soaked

Learning Systems Design

As a way to get back into the swing of things with my blog, I thought I’d write a quick post on what I’ve been thinking about most lately as I’ve taken my new position as CTO of McKinsey Social Initiative: learning systems design.

Of course, I’ve been thinking about learning systems design for many years, but our goals for where we’d like to be with the Generation Initiative by 2020 have given me a new pragmatic perspective on the topic.  I want to keep this post (and most future posts) brief, so let me quickly explain my own framework for learning systems design. Continue reading Learning Systems Design