The year of 2011 was a fun and varied one for us over at Perceptive Travel, with lots of great narrative stories from book authors on the move.
We kicked things off with stories from Wyoming, New York City, and Bhutan, with a unique slant on these destinations. So go check out the tales from Rachel Dickinson (Falconer on the Edge), Ayun Halliday (No Touch Monkey!), and Beth Whitman (Wanderlust and Lipstick).
In February we started with one from Emily Mathar, a Lonely Planet guidebook author whose free trip to Israel came with more than a few strings and a dose of Jewish guilt attached. Laurie Gough returned with a tale about one of the last wild refuges on Earth: Guyana’s rainforests. Tibet guidebook author Michael Buckley returned with a tale of trying to track down a Nomads’ Horse-racing Festival somewhere on the open plains.
In the March issue, Tom Koppel traveled around Fiji feeling disconnected as he ate curry and wandered through sari shops. Stephen Markley lived on a ship for a while exploring the Gulf of Mexico, seeing how the whales wee faring post-BP-oil spill. Richard Arghiris wrote what is possibly the darkest story we’ve ever published—but one you definitely won’t want to stop reading—about an opportunistic serial killer in the Caribbean islands of Panama.
Laurence Mitchell brought us world music reviews and Gillian Kendall was back with some travel book reviews. It was also a notable month as we won a Gold and a Silver in the recent “best travel writing” awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association. Nice!
In April we wondered, “What is paradise?” In Gillian Kendall’s story about Waikiki, Oahu, she’s conflicted because she loves and hates the place every time she returns. When Michael Shapiro travels to a little corner of Ireland that the “Celtic tiger” of rapid development has not touched, it feels downright magical, especially when some of his most-admired writers are there as well. Luke Armstrong meets a fishing family on a remote bay in Columbia and ponders what it would be like to chuck it all and live a simple life of sand and shore.
May flowered with Hidden Falls in Alaska, from Rachel Dickinson. Darrin DuFord returned with a tale of finding his perfect Thai massage in a very unexpected location: I Was a Thai Travel Trinket. Roger Housden appeared with an excerpt from his just-released book, Saved by Beauty, about looking for beauty and history in the much-maligned country of Iran.
June brought us a new travel story from Tony Perrottet, who set out to see Venice through history’s most legendary lover in The Covert Casanova Tour. Amy Rosen has written before about building igloos, gorging on croissants, and living a fairy tale in Vienna, but this time she stayed home. She reflected on her evolved childhood memory of Toronto’s iconic skyscraper and the beacon it is every time she returns: My Life and Times with the CN Tower. Chris Epting took his son on a camping trip to Death Valley and wondered if it isn’t time for a name change in Into the Valley of Life.
I stepped out from behind the desk to spin some world music reviews. It was an interesting lot, with Karsh Kale, France’s Watcha Clan, and a collection of 1970s funk from…Iran. Who knew?
In July, guidebook author Jessica Lee is in the Middle East to witness the fall of a government during the Arab Spring in Notes from a Revolution in Egypt. Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer ponders what it means to be a Jewish woman returning to her ancestral home in Turkey, in an ancient land that was thriving long before the Muslims arrived: Out of Smyrna. Then I visit Las Pozas in Xilitla. The strange name itself should be enough to make you raise an eyebrow, but believe me when I say this trip is unlike any other: The Dreams of Man in Stone and Concrete.
The August issue featured Michael Buckley kayaking in Palau, exploring a postcard-perfect spot that’s now a far cry from when Captain Henry Wilson’s crew got marooned there in 1783. Edward Readicker-Henderson returned with a story on Nome, Alaska, a slip of the pen on the map, a finger of land extending toward the North Pole. Megan Eaves spent a year teaching English in China—and still has her fingers and earlobes. See The Great Divide of China.
As usual, we also took a look at some new and noteworthy travel books. William Caverlee reviewed new releases on crossing Africa, exploring the Deep South of the U.S., and the paradox known as Iran. Graham Reed was back with some world music CDs/downloads worth checking out, with some Indian dance-fusion stars, a child of Fela Kuti, a Malian singer in his 70s, and a look back at a star from Colombia.
In September, Lisa TE Sonne made her debut recalling the voices inside her head fighting over whether she should take to the air and go hang gliding off Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Richard McColl, author of a guidebook on Colombia, took a true adventure journey through an area that was not too long ago known more for coke production and where rebels held kidnap victims—not tourism. Graham Reid bumped along remote parts of the Outback in North Queensland, Australia, where you can still manage to find a pub.
October’s issue started off with Tim Brookes’ travel tale from one of the wettest places on land: Dhaka. See 104 Percent Humidity in Bangladesh. Tony Robinson-Smith went on a hike so treacherous and hard to navigate that Parks Canada makes you take a test first before you can proceed. See Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland, Canada. Luke Armstrong has published several stories on Guatemala, but this is the first one that required rabies shots: Surviving Loco.
In November, Michael Buckley went snorkeling with the biggest fish on the planet—whale sharks—off the shore of Donsol in the Philippines. Beebe Bahrami returned to the land she covers in her books, Spain, but when lost in the countryside she recalls advice from her Persian grandfather. Down a Stream in Iran and Up a Creek in Spain. David Drotar went on a bear-watching trip in British Columbia, Canada, but saw it through the eyes of a family of bears and the salmon.
I reviewed some new music, including a snoozer of an album from Iceland’s Bjork and a 20-piece spectacle band from Portland I got to see live soon after: MarchFourth. William Caverlee handled the travel book reviews, including one on the infamous container of rubber duckies that spilled in the Pacific, the duckies then riding the currents to places far and wide.
In December, Shelley Seale made her debut with a story on the people of the Atacama Desert in Chile, living in what is reportedly the driest place on Earth. Laurie Gough, author of Kiss the Sunset Pig, was back with a piece on what some studies have found to be the happiest place on Earth: Bhutan. Which makes her wonder: Can a country using happiness as a guiding principle really deliver—despite intrusions from the outside world?
Bruce Northam, author of Globetrotter Dogma, returned with a story on Rio in Brazil, but not the Rio you see in all the glossy tourism brochures. But it’s really about a happy dog. Laurence Mitchell reviewed a batch of new world music releases, including one that chronicles the music of Byzantium, I mean Constantinople, I mean Istanbul. Susan Griffith checked out some notable new travel books, on Paris and Central America.
There you have it, some of the best travel stories from 2011 in the award-winning Perceptive Travel online magazine!
A reminder: if you get on the newsletter list, you have a shot at winning free travel gear that we give away each month. What are you waiting for?