A journalist travels the world and ends up in New Orleans


Photo by Annie Spratt on UnSplash

Journalist Adam Karlin spent a large portion of his international career in India, pictured here, and has fond memories of the country.

Demi Guillory, Reporter

Adam Karlin has traveled to many countries around the world, and on Feb. 28, he spoke to a group of UNO students and faculty about his experiences as a travel author and foreign affairs journalist with Lonely Planet.

A UNO MFA student, Karlin filled a room with a captivated audience in the International Center and began his career talk with a backstory that began at the University of Washington. There, Karlin studied student journalism and studied abroad in places like South Africa and the Czech Republic. “I was interested in international studies, along with journalism, and I took and passed the foreign service exam,” he said. A passing grade on the exam allowed him to do work internationally. Karlin explained that the process of getting cleared usually takes around two years. He completed his bachelor’s degree during the first year of the two-year wait.

In the period between graduating and waiting for security clearance from the state department, Karlin figured he would “mess around in Asia” until he received the clearance call and used the $2,000 he had in savings to fund a trip to Bangkok. Karlin said that “in retrospect, that was a really great decision, because I wasn’t focused on getting a job immediately after school” — he assumed the job was already in place for him. The spontaneous trip allowed him to be more experimental and creative in his work.

Karlin worked as an editor for English-language newspapers while stationed in Bangkok to fund the rest of his trip. He described the reporters’ native English as “usually good but not great,” so Karlin was essentially working as someone who would “clean up their English.” Karlin revealed that the job “actually paid decently well” and that the money he made allowed him to fund a new trip to India.

Karlin credits his time in India as the catalyst to his international career. He was a reporter with The Christian Science Monitor when a criminal Karlin described as the “Al Capone of India” was caught in a village near where Karlin was staying. The sting by the Indian police “kicked the door open for international journalism,” he said.

Before he officially joined the Lonely Planet team, Karlin traveled to Sri Lanka during their civil war where he spent some time in an integration shack.  “I really enjoyed my time there,” he said. “I was surrounded by international students in an international setting.”

The experience was “invaluable” for Karlin, who also said, “I don’t think you can overemphasize how important it is for the practice of international studies, or anything in that wheelhouse, of having simple long-term exposure to people from other places.”

His initial work with Lonely Planet was based in the U.S. but eventually led him back to India and new places like Kenya, Malaysia and Cameroon. Karlin shared an anecdote from his time in Kenya with a man at the equator. “We were literally at the equator, and he’s trying to prove to me that when you pour water into a funnel, it swirls one way when you go through the equator and the other way when you stop at the equator,” he recalled.

When his work led him back to the U.S. in 2010, Karlin found himself in New Orleans and “immediately fell in love,” he said. Last year, he won the Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers’ graduation fiction award. Karlin still works with Lonely Planet but most of his work these days is focused on freelance work in pursuit of more time with his young family.

Karlin has also contributed to media outlets like the BBC, NPR and Jane’s Defence Weekly in addition to his work with Lonely Planet and The Christian Science Monitor over the years.

His advice to prospective journalists is to “get real world experience and learn how to bend the rules while you do. Be true to your own values and not be afraid to make ideological judgments when you need to,” he later added.

Karlin’s talk was part of the Going Global series hosted by the International Studies Program. There are three more scheduled this semester, including one with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s director of international relations.