The Greatest Travel Stories From 2012

We published a lot of terrific material over at Perceptive Travel in 2012 and added a dozen more travel writing awards to the virtual shelf. We affirmed that we are home to the best travel stories from book authors on the move.

Bulgaria cheap Europe travel


We kicked off the year by celebrating our 5th birthday. I was so happy about this milestone that I got my butt in gear and contributed a feature of my own. It’s about an organized guided tour in Mexico that was neither guided nor organized: My Chiapas Misadventure.

Jessica Lee, author of many guidebooks on places everyone has been scared to visit, gets out of the Middle East to tell us a story about religion, acronyms, and bus preachers in Kenya: Not the One in the Bible.

Plus we had world music reviews from Graham Reid and a story about Tikal in the year of the end of the Mayan calendar.

For February, Bruce Northam took us traveling around the Yukon Territory, a place the size of California that has 35,000 people. Want to reinvent yourself or start over? Leave your iPhone in busyland and head north to stake a claim.

Camille Cusumano visited the seedy side of Buenos Aires at Feria la Salada, otherwise known as the Thieves Market. She won’t be going back…

Becky Garrison, author of Jesus Died for This? tried a pilgrimage to Glendalough in Ireland and found that it’s going to take some effort to get away from the tourist hordes.

I cued up a worthwhile trio of world music from Brazil and central Africa, while Susan Griffith handled the travel book reviews: two on expatriate experiences in Europe, one with a travel quote for every day of the year +1.

In March, we traveled to Norway with Chris Epting to see if the place painted in The Scream actually exists.

Luke Armstrong took us to a festival in Guatemala around Day of the Dead where people try to get giant handmade kites aloft. Michael Buckley tried parahawking in Nepal. Plus more book reviews and world music albums. 

Las Vegas glitters

April brought us the debut of Jillian Dickens with a tale about her own olive tree in Italy. Becky Garrison contrasted two sides of the Jordan River in Israel and Jordan. And I traveled to Las Vegas to find out if a cheapskate from the 99 percent can still find joy in a place increasingly marketing to the remaining 1 percent. Plus we reviewed some more cool music and travel books. 

In May’s issue, we looked at perceptions and impermanence in three destinations. 

Michael Buckley was back with a timely story on a travel destination that may finally be getting its act together to stop being a pariah state: Myanmar. See Slipping Through Gates and Doors in Burma.

Tom Koppel returned with a tale of picking a bad week to visit Hawaii: when some of the world’s most powerful politicians came to the island where he was staying. See Locked Down in Waikiki.

James Dorsey, a former director of the Adventurers Club, met a Maasai warrior in the U.S., where he was getting a doctorate degree. The author then went to visit his new friend in the bush. See The Warrior Scholar from Kenya.

William Caverlee highlighted two new and noteworthy travel books, from the practical to the eye candy. I took on the world music reviews, including Rodrigo y Gabriela’s latest and an especially solid reggae album.

The June issue had a story from me (From Red to Green in Bulgaria), Luke Armstrong’s A Clear and Prescient Danger in Morocco, and Michael Shapiro’s piece Frank Lloyd Wright’s Humble Desert Palace.

As usual, we also highlighted some interesting travel books and world music. Susan Griffith handled the former, Laurence Mitchell the latter.

Myanmar monks

In July, new contributor Debi Goodwin decided that after many years of travel with no disasters, she could afford to take on what seems like an insurmountable challenge: riding a motor scooter on the streets of Vietnam.

Bruce Northam took his mother to Ireland for her 80th birthday. They breakfasted in castles, walk old paths, and reflected on the past that happened after she ignored initial plans to become a nun. See The Undercover Nun in Ireland.

James Michael Dorsey explored St. Petersburg from the view of a Russian woman who lived through the worst of both communism and the Putin reign while exploring the city. See A Russian Life.

William Caverlee covered new and noteworthy travel books, including Lonely Planet’s new mouthwatering street food book and Edward Hoagland’s Alaska memoir. New Zealander Graham Reid was back to spin some new world music albums.

August brought us a story on The Bush People of Hadzabe. some of Africa’s most isolated people, still hunting and living nomadically the way they always have. Shelley Seale got a rare look at a day in the life.

A few months back I visited one of my favorite small cities, joining 20,000 people for a series of horse races, learning about stud fees, and sampling some fine bourbon. I’ll Have Another in Lexington, KY.

Regular contributor Amy Rosen was back with a train ride in Alaska, from Anchorage to Denali: Alaska on the Rails.

Susan Griffith covered some fine travel books on England and India, while Laurence Mitchell reviews a batch of new music from or influenced by other cultures.

dancer in Benin

September kicked off with a strange tale of a strange religion. When you attend a black voodoo session in Benin, watch out for the Egun. See more here: Dancing with the Dead in Benin.

In The Threat of the Mariachi, regular contributor Luke Armstrong finds his home for years, Guatemala, can indeed be “the land of possibilities.” 

Was there once something like a Great Wall in Vietnam? Ben Keene set off to find out. See Stories in Stone: Walking Vietnam’s Long Wall.

Bill Caverlee checked out three new travel books getting a lot of attention: Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day, Visit Sunny Chernobyl, and The New Granta Book of Travel. We also tossed in some good travel music from around the world. Graham Reid spun some Malawi roadside gospel, some mash-up flamenco music, and Sierra Leone psychedelia by way of Brooklyn.

In October, New Yorker Becky Garrison has mixed feelings when she picks up a book from Lonely Planet called Secret New York. Will her favorite escapes be called out? Will she ruin the other secret spots people like her have cherished? See Keeping Secret Spots in New York City.

I travel to another iconic city, Budapest, and see the horrible history in the House of Terror museum juxtaposed with a happy Hungary finally emerging from the darkness. See Bouncing Back From Terror in Budapest.

Tom Koppel returns with an adapted excerpt from his new book, Mystery Islands. He looks at the lost, then found, art of hand-carving canoes that can whip across the waters between small atolls in the South Pacific. See Racing Hand-carved Canoes in Micronesia.

Laurence Mitchell covered four albums from two continents. One of our regular book reviewers, Susan Griffith, highlighted three interesting new travel books on a mostly ignored area of South America, the walking paths of Britain, and a $10 bill’s path across the USA.

Miami travel story

For November, Bruce Northam found the essence of Grenada, a Caribbean island of cinnamon and nutmeg that is a far cry from most glorified cruise ship ports and honeymoon escape capsules in that part of the world. See A Spiced Up Caribbean in Grenada.

On a trip back from South America, I stopped off in Miami for a while to soak up the South Beach scene like the celebrities and fashionistas who have preceded me. In a city so hot the basketball team is the heat, No One’s Too Sexy for Miami.

Judith Fein made her debut in Perceptive Travel this month with a piece that we obviously did not publish to pump up our page views. She looked back on her visit three years ago to a very different Syria than what we are watching now on the news. See Syria in My Heart.

As usual, we brought you some new and noteworthy travel books worth checking out, this time including the new version of Road Trip USA and one on a different kind of road: the Appian Way. Graham Reid was back to highlight some interesting world music from around the globe, including Cuba and Bulgaria, plus the latest from Balkan Beat Box

The December 2012 issue of Perceptive Travel was an Americas issue on the features, with a few trips to Europe and elsewhere in the books and music.

Niall McCrae did what not many British visitors have probably done: he visited the faded rust belt town of Gary, Indiana. He ponders the future of manufacturing centers built for automobiles in What’s Wrong Gary?

Chris Epting knows a thing or two about obscure landmarks and claims to fame. This time he took us on a road trip across America, visiting the world capitals of items like fire hydrants, bedding plants, and cow chips. See We’re the Greatest! World Capitals of…

travel superlatives

We were happy to see the return of former contributor Darrin DuFord, with a piece about the opening of Panama’s top observatory to tourists. See The Astrotourists of Panama.

Susan Griffith returned to highlight new and noteworthy travel books on obscure islands, voluntourism, and Naples. Laurence Mitchell was back to spin some new world music albums from South America, Europe, and yoga studios of the world.

We hope you enjoyed this collection of some of the greatest travel stories from 2012. Along the way, 12 lucky readers scored 12 pieces of travel gear, from luggage to shoes to outdoor adventure items. How did they score these prizes? Simple: they just signed up for the monthly newsletter and paid attention. 

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