Browsing Posts in Perceptive Travel

Italy travel Carrara

Sometimes editor types joke about the “three I’s of travel” that grace so many magazine covers: Italy, Ireland, and India. They’re photogenic, look exotic, and have nice luxury hotels with ad money to spend. You’ll rarely find a travel magazine that goes a whole 12 months without one of the three on a cover.

In the current issue of Perceptive Travel, we subbed in Iceland for Ireland. (Don’t worry, you can still find the latter plenty of places on our blog.) Iceland is also photogenic, can look exotic, and has some nice hotels. As usual though, we don’t tick off places you’ve already seen a hundred times before. We like to take the road less traveled. In this case we’re literally on the road with Luke Armstrong as he tries to learn how to drive a stick shift on the fly. In a van. Going across Iceland in the “crazy season.” See Learning to Drive a Dinosaur in Iceland.

We also have a story about Italy, but toss out your expectations because Debi Goodwin is not going to check anything off your bucket list. This place was on hers though: the Italian marble quarries of Carrara.

Old Delhi

We had a story in the past on how the “Incredible India” portrayed in ads and glossy travel stories is like an alternate universe to the Slumdog Millionaire reality that non-luxury travelers see every day. Being sheltered from the grinding poverty is next to impossible if you go for a walk though, as Jim Johnston finds out in Hunger and Privilege: Dinner in Old Delhi.

As always we run down some world music worth listening to, from a globalFEST compilation to classical music with a Turkish twinge, through the ears of Laurence Mitchell.

Susan Griffith reviews three new travel books: one from a legend, one from a shipping industry reporter, and one from…well, you decide.

Need some new travel shoes?

We give away something cool to one of our loyal Perceptive Travel readers each month and last time Jack P. from Florida scored a nice $139 daypack from Granite Gear. In April we’re setting someone from the USA up with a nice $90 pair summer travel shoes: the H2O Escape Bungee Sneaker from Sperry Topsiders.

To win, you could follow PT on Facebook and pay close attention. The better bet is to sign up for the monthly e-mail newsletter.


I think I can say with confidence that if an executive editor of Travel + Leisure or Afar tried to put this month’s batch of Perceptive Travel stories on the cover of their magazine, said editor would soon be looking for a new job.

We don’t like to play it safe though, so we’re going with our odd batch of travel tales from places that won’t make the trend-chasing travelers sit up and take notice.

Well, we do have Brazil in there, which is getting tons of press in 2014, but there will not be any World Cup matches where this article takes place. Volker Poelzl and his girlfriend take off on a canoe to paddle down a remote section of the Amazon River where there are more pink dolphins and caimans than people. See The River of Solitude in Brazil.

Ukraine travelJudith Fein corresponds with a pen pal in Ukraine for 20 years before finally paying him a visit. She’s there to research a new book (The Spoon From Minkovitz) and dive into the origins of her mother’s home cooking in Jewish Brooklyn back in the day. See Kishka and Kasha in the Ukranian Countryside.

I think I know a lot about the world and as a kid I was fairly obsessed with all the unsolved mystery stuff that was all the rage in the 70s—from UFOs to the Loch Ness Monster. I’ve never heard of this strange Nan Madol site in Micronesia though that Brad Olsen profiles. It’s a citadel of ancient kings, built with giant basalt “logs” that can weigh a couple hundred tons, and it defies all logical explanation as to why it’s there and how it was built. See Micronesia’s Mysterious Nan Madol.

Graham Reid cranks up some new world music albums, including the new Rough Guides collection Arabic Cafe and a new one from the legendary Gipsy Kings.

Bill Caverlee reviews some new and noteworthy travel books hitting the shelves, from yet another Lonely Planet coffee table book to the 80th anniversary edition of a beloved Footprint guide. See the latest travel book reviews.

Granite Gear packWe give away something cool for free each month to one of our newsletter subscribers. For February, an Australian reader named Hannah scored a free pair of new Vasque shoes. This time we’ve got a $130 daypack from Granite Gear that can work for hiking or just hauling around your stuff when you’re sightseeing. You’re on the newsletter list, right? If not, get on it quick to enter this month and every month.

I’ve saved the bragging for last, but if you’ve read this far, we’ve done very well in some award announcements lately. Perceptive Travel got a Silver for “best online travel magazine” from the North American Travel Journalists Association, as well as some individual awards. Then the Solas Awards came out and we took home even more in that one. See the home page of Perceptive Travel for more: best travel writing awards.

best-travel-writertravel writing award

I won some more travel writing awards this month, thus the badges to kick this off, but I’ll save the braggadocio for last. First here are some articles I’ve written in other places.

When’s the last time you read a travel article about Guadalajara? If you answered zero or one, I think you’re pretty normal. I’ve done a few over the years though and this is one of the most useful ones you’ll find if I may say so myself. My latest on the Viator travel blog: From Tequila to Tlaquepaque in Guadalajara. (With some fun photos.)

One of my other semi-regular gigs is to dish out value travel advice on the personal finance blog of H&R Block. Here’s my latest for them: Going on Vacation Without Breaking the Bank.

I didn’t write this piece for, but I got quoted in it a lot and the article is useful, so go check it out: Affordable Tips for Your Travel Bucket List.

I wrote about New Orleans restaurants for the Trivago blog.

Leffel in Nicaragua

Of course I’m reviewing travel gear each week. Like Field Notes, a new sun hat I’m digging, and something everyone who wants to pack light should have: ExOfficio travel underwear.

I just set up a pretty portfolio on this site called Contently if you want to check out some of my life outside this blog: Tim Leffel portfolio. .

So about those awards. Perceptive Travel won a Silver from the North American Travel Journalists Association for “best online travel magazine.” Two of my individual stories won prizes too, ones on Miami and Portugal.

Next time we return to our regularly scheduled programming.


arctic hiking story

After a hiatus publishing our first most popular travel stories issue, we’re back with a batch of new travel stories from Panama, western China, and Arctic Canada. Plus reviews of new travel books and world music.

This issue marks the debut of Canadian writer Jerry Kobalenko, a many who thinks its fun to hike across snow-blown plains in sub-zero weather with an expedition partner he just recently met. See his story here: Crossing Labrador by Foot with Noah.

western China travelLuke Armstrong is back with a tale of getting roped into hiking Panama’s highest mountain at sunrise and seeing a killer with a knife at the top. Then having no ride when he got to the bottom. See The Horror Movie Atop Panama’s Volcán Barú

Can travelers make a positive difference in the local cultural attitudes? James Dorsey and his traveling partner find a way to do their small part with one ancient vendor in an Ughur area of China. See Giving Face in China.

Susan Griffith is back with a batch of interesting new travel books, including the latest on Africa from Paul Theroux. Laurence Mitchell reviews new world music albums that are all a mash-up of one culture and another.

Perceptive Travel newsletter subscribers get a shot every month at scoring a new travel gear item. Last month reader Kim from Pennsylvania won a cool Bluetooth portable speaker from NYNE. This time someone will get a pair of great $130 shoes from Vasque that are so new they’re not even out yet. Here’s where you can get on the list. You’ll get an e-mail only once a month when we put out a new issue.

New England

Please come inside…

Perceptive Travel Webzine launched on January 1, 2006, which means we have been cranking out great travel stories for eight years now. Just saying that makes me tired, so this month instead of putting out a batch of new material, we’re looking back, highlighting the most popular articles and some of the notable award winners.


Always a bit off-kilter…

For the first few issues eight years ago I basically called or e-mailed travel authors I knew and said, “Will you help me launch?” Thankfully I knew some people with a following—before there was much of anything called social media. The first few issues included authors like Rolf Potts, Bruce Northam, Jen Leo, David Farley, Peter Moore, and Jeff Greenwald.

On the issue page I’ve highlighted the most popular stories since we launched way back then, after some 2/3 of a million readers have checked in to check us out. Not surprisingly, the top two articles have the word “sex” in the title, including a story from that very first issue in 2006: Rolf Potts’ Tantric Sex for Dilettantes. The other, from 2009, had that word and Burning Man, which is apparently an irresistible combination for many web searchers. (Unfortunately, some didn’t stick around to read the articles as they were not quite what the searchers had in mind…)

The other 8 most popular Perceptive Travel stories run the gamut by geography and subject matter though, from a burning devil effigy in Guatemala to a musing on whether Sedona is a big hoax to Burma’s purpose-built capital city of Naypyidaw. Others are from Mexico City, Thailand, Jordan, New England, and Hawaii.

We’ve won dozens of “best travel writing” awards since we started and gotten a bunch of stories into anthologies of great writing. So I also highlighted a few of the most decorated articles. Maybe not the most clicks, but the most kudos from the judges. These are from Benin, Mexico, France, El Salvador, and the USA. See them all here.

Are you on the list?

nullIf you’re on the Perceptive Travel e-mail newsletter list, you only bugged by us once a month, but you have a good-odds shot at winning something cool to take along on your journeys.

This month one winner will snag a portable null. It even comes with clips to secure it to a bike, a stroller, or a pole. Watch your inbox for how to enter, or if you’ve missed the boat on signing up in time, you can follow Perceptive Travel on Facebook and watch for the contest announcement.

Thanks to all of you interested in more than shallow top-10 lists and best beaches slideshows who have supported good narrative writing over the years. Tell a friend!