Q&A with David S. Miller: Editor of 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die

A night out is one of the best ways to get to know the locals and culture when traveling. Finally, there’s a guidebook to best parties around the globe. 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die is a collection of honest first-hand accounts in typical party sites, like Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day or New York, along with places you would never think to party hard, like Antarctica or backcountry raves. I spoke to David S. Miller, the editor of the world party guidebook, about the book and his thoughts on meeting people when traveling.  

How did you get into travel writing and start working at Matador Network?David: I started a career in journalism in 2003. I wrote for local papers and alternative weeklies like the Boulder Weekly. My passion has always been people’s relationships with place. When Matador was founded in 2006 and I saw it as a place where similar-minded conversations were taking places, I stepped up. I became a leading contributor and eventually was named editor in 2007. From there I worked really hard with early contributors Ross and Ben, the co-founders, to build out the network.

How did the idea of 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die come about?David: We were actually solicited by an agent with the idea. I thought it was lame to be honest. How can a title like that possible align with anything but cologne-wearing douche bags on spring break? But after talking with the agent and getting assurance that we’d have full editorial and creative control I looked at it differently. I thought of it as a “Trojan horse,” which is how I look at a lot of the content at Matador in general. You can pull in readers with a sensational title, but the narratives themselves can be deeply emotive, personal, instructive, polemic. A personal example is an article I wrote called “How to get laid in Mexico.” Nobody really shared that piece, but interestingly over 12K people clicked on it. It’s just a strategy to gain readership. What you do with that readership is then up to you as a writer or editor – what story you want to tell.

Can you tell us about what kind of stores we can find in the book?David: There are both guide sections and in many instances narrative pieces as well. There are plenty of body fluids and drugs and sex and alcohol, but all of it is filtered in a way that's self-deprecating – in some ways almost cautionary. It isn't just licentiousness – beer bongs and keg stands – the stories always center on connecting with local people. For example, in Antarctica at McMurdo station. Who would ever think of this place as a “party destination”? I wouldn’t and honestly I don't really care. What moved me was the way the author portrayed the culture down there and how different nationalities and factions mix it up. Above all, it always comes down to what I call “windows” – little windows of place and culture. The book is meant to inspire people to want to get out and explore for themselves wherever it might be. Maybe it’s just the other side of your town –an area you never go.

What kind of people do think would enjoy this book?David: Right now it's selling well at Urban Outfitters, so basically that's the demo. I fully expect many older writers and travelers to be alienated by the title and never consider having a book like that on their shelves. But the irony is I think that anyone who enjoys travel storytelling in a voice that's really honest and transparent that isn't trying to sell a destination but just report how life transpires at ground level would find relevant writing here.

It’s often difficult to meet local people when going to different country or place. Do you have any tips on how to party and meet locals when you're traveling?David: I’m not sure about tips, but what always worked for me is to just ask questions and to be curious and respectful. It's so strange now to think back to when I started traveling pre-smartphone – pre-wifi really. If you wanted to use the Internet you had to go to a cyber café and for days and weeks at a time you were just disconnected which for me always meant I was connected to the local place. Often there was a terrain objective. You were there to surf, to snowboard, paddle climb, whatever, so you were constantly talking to people, seeking out the local crews and just asking questions. There’s always this “onda” as you say in Spanish of approaching people with respect versus traipsing through a place as if you’re tuck in your own personal movie, oblivious and disconnected. That’s how many of us are now, especially when we're heads down in our devices. Basically it's just being heads up.

More information: 101places.comFollow David S. Miller on Twitter @dahveed_miller