Finding the 11 best travel stories of 2011 is harder than you’d think. Or harder than I thought it would be, anyway. Some travel writing, while helpful and fun, is not necessarily deeply moving or soul-touching. There’s nothing wrong with that; often, we’re looking for some quick tips (on how to travel with kids, for example) or we want to take a make-believe spin on someone else’s travel carousel. For this World Tour of the Web, however, I was looking for stories that transport the reader to another place and another mindset. Stories that move the reader to look at the world in a whole new way. Stories that make the hair stand up on your limbs, or push a tear or two from your eyes, or force a laugh from your lungs.
I read A LOT of stories for this blog post and narrowed it down to these 11. It would have helped if I had been gathering up travel tales in some electronic or paper folder throughout the year, but noooo…I just came up with this post idea last week. I read a few of these stories at some point in 2011 and bookmarked them, or I spent gobs of time digging them up. For others, I asked my favorite travel writers to send me a link to their very best story of the year. Some were submitted in response to requests I made on Twitter. In no particular order, here are the 11 best travel stories of 2011.
by Pam Mandel, Nerds Eye View
These reflections from a self-proclaimed nerd on the significance, and insignificance, of her travels to seven continents sums up why so many of us travel…to feel connected to the planet and all the life upon it. As Pam says, “I could picture the whole great planet in my mind, for just a moment, I thought I could sense the weight of us all, floating in space.”
Lead Us Into Temptation
by Daisann McLane, National Geographic Traveler
In this celebration of over-indulgences, Daisann ponders what it is about travel that brings out the Cookie Monster in all of us. She says, “When we travel, we embark on an intense, highly concentrated version of life itself; and as with life, we want to grab and hold on to as much of it as we can. While we can. So we give in to temptations.”
Finding Myself in the Alaskan Wilds
by Debi Huang, Tree.com Travel
This post appeared on Tree.com when the site was still alive and kicking (it still exists, but it certainly is not kicking). I have met Debi in real-life and she is the creator of one of my favorite blogs, Go Explore Nature. She once told me about her experience seeing wolves in the wild in Alaska and how it profoundly changed her. When I became the editor of the Tree.com Travel Blog, I asked her to become a site contributor, and eventually, I asked her to write about her transformational Alaska experience.
Sea Turtle Conservation in Action
by Jennifer Miner, The Vacation Gals
Like the author, I have also taken part in a sea turtle conservation effort while traveling. Mine took place in Mexico, with two very young and overly tired children upon whom the meaning and magic of the baby creatures crawling out into the deep treacherous world of the sea, was surely somewhat lost. Jennifer beautifully describes the momentousness of such a small act of releasing a baby sea turtle in terms of its impact on herself as a mother witnessing and reflecting on the tiny turtle’s effect on her tween daughter.
It’s a Party Now!
by Jennifer Miller, Edventure Project
This story about a “chicken bus” ride in Mexico will make you simultaneously cringe and smile. Somehow Jennifer paints a repulsive, yet nostalgic picture for us. (Brilliant!) I must admit, I have never taken a ride aboard a “chicken bus.” And I don’t think I ever will.
First Nations Culture on Vancouver Canoe Trip
by Jill K. Robinson, The Washington Times Communities
When I sent out a Twitter request to travel writers for their very best writing of the year, Jill actually sent me a different story. It was a very good story. But it reminded me of another of hers that I had read earlier in the year. I chose to include this story instead because it resonated more deeply for me. That is partially true because I experienced this canoe trip with her as part of a press fam (short for “familiarization”) tour. You can see me in the picture; I’m in the second row on the right donning my green cap, which I lost that day. I wanted to write a whole post about this canoe experience, but instead wrote a small blurb about it in another story. I had a hard time capturing just how incredible this experience was without sounding like a travel brochure. After I read Jill’s piece, I thought, “Wow. Why didn’t I write that?”
What Traveling with My Kid Has Taught Me About People
by Sara V., Wandering Off
With so many stories about creating separate seating areas for children on airplanes and reported disgust from people who think parents need to manage their children better while in the air, I love this story’s hopeful ending. It’s a lovely reminder that you can make the world a better place simply by showing patience and kindness to those around you.
Congrats, Internet, for Making Me Never Want to Take My Baby on an Airplane
by Tracy Moore, Jezebel
Here’s an acidic (and hilarious) view on passengers who hate flying within the same fuselage as children.
Searching the BAM for Russia’s Lost Moustache
by Robert Reid, Perceptive Travel
If you are a travel junkie like me, you may have heard of Robert Reid. He’s Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor and has written 24 Lonely Planet guidebooks, plus articles for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and ESPN. When I asked him to send me his favorite story of the year, he sent something very well-written and interesting and LONG. I know you blog readers have little time for indulging in these great travel bonbons I am presenting upon this metaphoric silver platter. Plus, I wanted to include something that demonstrates Robert’s true genius–a meticulous eye for the avant-garde and a love of hand-drawn graphs.
5 Travel Mistakes I Make Over and Over Again
by Sally, Unbrave Girl
It’s hard to pick just one story by Sally, a.k.a. Unbrave Girl, because they’re all pretty dang funny and relatable. While she claims to be unbrave, this expat currently living in China, is quite the opposite. I chose this post because I have made all five of these travel mistakes and I probably will continue to do so. See? Relatable.
Seeking a Sense of Right Place
by Cheryl-Anne Millsap, The Spokesman Review
This story is about finding that place in the world that strikes something deep within you and brings a great sense of joy or peace. Cheryl feels we all have this place within us, but must venture out to discover where it is.
Photo by fedegrafo. (Creative Commons)
Should I have included your story in this World Tour of the Web? Share a link to your best travel story of 2011 using the Linky below. (Enter the title of the story as “Your Name” and include http:// in the web address.) I read every post that is linked (and make a comment on your site)! Come back every Wednesday for a new World Tour of the Web.