News & Opinion (updated March 10, 2014)
Eighth Annual Solas Awards Winners Announced
The TT editors announced the winners of the Eighth Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year on March 1. Congratulations go to Grand Prize winner Bill Giebler, who collected $1,000 for "The Tea in Me," his compelling story about travels in India where he sees his life revealed through the processing of tea. Lisa Alpine won the silver award and $750 for "Fish Trader Ray," her quirky tale of Amazon adventure and the characters she met there. James Michael Dorsey and Keith Skinner shared the bronze and won $250 each, James for "From the Ashes," his haunting tale of a Cambodian Buddhist monk who survived the Pol Pot genocide, Keith for "Inside the Tower," his moving account of a visit to the home of the late poet Robinson Jeffers. Read "Fish Trader Ray" and "The Tea in Me" below or at BestTravelWriting.com. Look for the other stories on both websites soon. Visit BestTravelWriting.com for more about the awards and a complete list of winners.
“Sitten ze down!” The German’s livid face was as red as an equatorial sun setting through the pollution haze of a Third World metropolis.
Flora and I looked at each other. She winked and we wobbled the canoe back and forth with our newly acquired hip-shaking samba dance moves. Again. It was too delicious to be exacting revenge on the pissy photographer, who was tightly gripping both sides of the pencil-thin canoe. Murky, chocolate-brown river water splashed into the hull. This sent him into full-throttle hysteria.
Should we tip him overboard? I could tell Flora was thinking the same thing. No one would know. We were in the heart of the Upper Amazon Basin on a remote, flooded tributary.
He had shown up the day before. Ray had sent him. A photographer on assignment for a travel magazine. He had a lot of expensive camera gear with him.
It looks like a dance floor, a 30-foot-square section of smooth wood among the rough planks that make up most of the flooring, all surrounded by giant locomotive-like drying machines. I’ve been waiting at the cool, dark packing station just inside the front door of the tea factory, and alternately in the warm April Sunday morning sun just outside, for my packing shift. Packing represents the final step handled here at the factory, completing my education in the processing of my favorite tea.
At 4,600 feet above sea level in the Himalayan foothills of India’s Darjeeling region, I’m at the 150-year-old Makaibari tea factory perched on a slope just below the town of Kurseong. I’m just over a week into my physical travels across northern India, but a dozen weeks into the personal journey that began with giving notice on a 20 year career, and planning my solo wander across a land that has existed in my mind as a magical and challenging destination, no more or less real than Narnia or Brigadoon.
It was midnight in a nearly deserted bus station on the outskirts of Marrakesh, and my fiancee and I had one-way tickets to the edge of nowhere. We knew we wanted to see the great Sahara–after all, that was why we had come to Morocco–but plans? Provisions? We hoped the Universe would take care of us. We never know how, but it usually does.
“Is this the right place for the bus?” asked an exuberant young man in his early twenties, sporting dreadlocks and wearing a long white robe. Since it was a bus station, this seemed fairly obvious, but we nodded “yes” and he settled in next to us and introduced himself as Ali. He asked where we were headed. I said “M’Hamid,” and his grin widened even farther.
“I live there! I am happy to see you safely to the desert!” he exclaimed. We then watched as our new friend cautiously approached a vending machine and seemed genuinely amazed at its ability to dispense a cold soda.Read on...
On the morning of my sixth birthday, before I stepped off the airplane in Mumbai, India, then known as Bombay, my mother gave me a present, a Tammy doll. Tammy, more wholesome and sweet than a Barbie doll, had blonde hair, a comb and several outfits. Even more exciting was the carrying case – bright green, patent leather with a clear panel to show off Tammy and a lime green plastic handle… perfect for India’s color palette. The carrying case may have been the draw for my mother to purchase it, since now I could carry my toy for the rest of our trip through India, Thailand, Japan, Hawaii and back home to Pennsylvania.
Although an excursion to India in the 1960s by a young family from the U.S.A. may conjure images of hippies and ashrams, my parents could not have been further from that mindset. Yet, despite being Depression-raised and coming of age in the 50s, both had a yearning for adventure. My father, although he was never abroad before, was an avid Eagle Scout, while my mother had taken a 10-month trip through Europe with a college friend right after World War II. My mother’s sister and her family were stationed at a naval base in Japan, so it seemed like a great plan to visit.Read on...
NINE-YEAR OLD Misha thinks no one is watching. His unusually large, round blue eyes scan the kitchen. His papery, quasi-translucent hand reaches out to steal fruit from atop a plastic table. The muscles of his tiny hand tremble as he jerks a banana from its bunch.
He sticks it down his pants, then reaches for a bottle of coke, which quickly joins the banana. Misha’s eyes dart around as he latches his belt even tighter around his absurdly tiny waist. The belt’s tattered brown leather is riddled with homemade-punched holes that span the long length of his belt so far along that the unused portion dangles, curling upward into a swinging capital J. With his booty securely stashed, Misha slips through the kitchen door into the sunshine. Score.Read on...
Kermit, my devoted partner and laptop, was sick. His screen was cracked, he wouldn’t charge, and he’d cannibalized most of his battery life. We were in Beijing for a month and actually I hadn’t been so healthy myself. My first week was marked by a nasty cold, a migraine, and constipation—who knows, maybe a dash of black lung.
I was pushing 30 and had been laid off from my marketing job in New York seven months ago, so I was in Beijing escaping my unemployment. The recession was lingering and after 120 job applications, I decided I would sublet my studio apartment and use the money to skip town. I’d been to Beijing once before and loved it, and though I didn’t want to move to China, I did want to visit while I applied for New York-based jobs using the same avenues I would at home: internet job boards, email, Skype, LinkedIn, and my online portfolio. Of course I needed Kermit for all this, and what’s more, we’d been through a lot together over the years. He’d been all over New York and spent a year with me in Argentina; I really hoped this wasn’t the end of the line.Read on...
Our Friends from BootsnAll
BootsnAll has been helping Indie travelers plan their RTW trips since 1998. Plan your next multi-stop trip with their RTW planning guide, book your RTW tickets online via the Indie trip planner, or compare which type of ticket is best suited to your trip in the regularly updated RTW Ticket Report.
Deer Hunting in Paris is an unexpectedly funny exploration of a vanishing way of life in a complex, cosmopolitan world. Sneezing madly from hay fever, a Korean-American preacher’s daughter refuses to get married, travels the world, and ends up learning how to hunt from her boyfriend’s conservative family. As she navigates the perils of an unlikely romantic relationship from Paris, France, to Paris, Maine, Paula Young Lee skewers human foibles while she celebrates hunting, DIY food culture, and what it means to be a carnivore. She finds herself trying to keep from being “mistaken” for a deer and getting shot at the clothesline, while also avoiding becoming dinner for bears. Along the way, this former vegetarian finds lessons about life, love, and loss in a hacksaw and a haunch of venison. Read the Prologue or a sample chapter.
The Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 9 invites readers to ride shotgun alongside intrepid female nomads as they travel the globe to discover new places, people, and facets of themselves. The stories in this edition are as diverse as the destinations, the common thread being fresh, compelling storytelling that will make you laugh, weep, wish you were there, or be glad you weren’t. You'll tangle with snakes and alligators in Bangladesh, experience life under niqab in Egypt, find love in a tree house in Laos, and much more. Read Lavinia Spalding's Introduction or a sample chapter.
Ghost Dance in Berlin is an unlikely declaration of love by the American-born son of German-speaking Jewish refugees. From a temporary perch in a villa on Berlin’s biggest lake, Wortsman imagines the parallel celebratory haunting of two sets of ghosts, those of the exiled erstwhile owners, a Jewish banker and his family, and those of the Führer’s Minister of Finance and his entourage, who took over title, while in another villa across the lake another gaggle of ghosts is busy planning the Final Solution.
Where the Wall once stood dividing East and West the city remains bisected by invisible borderlines, across which the author hops with an eye for telling detail and an ear for memorable conversations with street musicians, winos, lawyers, bankers, politicians, a taxi driver, a hooker, and a Michelin star chef, with cameo appearances by Henry Kissinger and the shade of Marlene Dietrich. Read the Foreword or a sample chapter.
Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana is the 9th book in the best-selling Travelers' Tales humor series, which began with There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled and blossomed into a classic "underwear" women's humor series, including Sand in My Bra and The Thong Also Rises. This laugh-out-loud collection will resonate with experienced travelers and novices alike and includes hilarious misadventures with packing, border crossings, travel fashion, language faux pas, weird food encounters, and romantic overtures abroad. Read Marcy Gordon's Introduction or a sample chapter.
The Best Travel Writing, Volume 9 is the latest book in the annual Travelers’ Tales series launched in 2004 to celebrate the world’s best travel writing—from Nobel Prize winners to emerging new writers. These 27 stories cover the globe, from finding peace with a father's spirit in Mexico to getting caught off guard by a mad dog in Bhutan to crossing the Sahara in a convoy. The points of view and perspectives are global, and themes encompass high adventure, spiritual growth, romance, hilarity and misadventure, service to humanity, and encounters with exotic cuisine. Read the Introduction by Tim Cahill and a sample chapter, "The Offer that Refused Me" by Marcia DeSanctis.
“Makes me want to pack my bag and follow Van Allen’s alluring suggestions for traveling in Italy. Her knowledge reveals an intimacy with the country and a honed sense of adventure. Andiamo!”
—Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
Imagine creating your Italian dream vacation with a fun-loving savvy traveler girlfriend whispering in your ear. Go along with writer Susan Van Allen on a femme-friendly ride up and down the boot, to explore this extraordinarily enchanting country where Venus (Vixen Goddess of Love and Beauty) and The Madonna (Nurturing Mother of Compassion) reign side-by-side. With humor, passion, and practical details, this uniquely anecdotal guidebook will enrich your Italian days. Read the Introduction, and also this superb review.
“A most diverting and picaresque tale, one that reads like a sentimental journey of a hundred years ago.”
—the late Norman Cousins
In the early 1960s, a young, self-taught musician set out to travel the world with no money, equipped only with his guitar, his voice, and his belief in the goodness of people. Along the way, blown by the winds of fortune, guided by instinct, he played for kings and paupers, soldiers and servants, artists and terrorists. His name is Moro Buddy Bohn, and his unlikely and powerful story will uplift you and inspire you to live the life you want.
His audiences have included Queen Elizabeth II of England, King Frederick IX of Denmark, Pablo Picasso, Rita Hayworth, Patty Duke, Lee Marvin, Howard Hughes, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, and he was the first musician to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam. Read the Preface or a sample chapter.
“This book is very sick. Highly recommended.”
—J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Travelers' Tales/Solas House proudly presents its first work of fiction, Gary Buslik's wacky satire on power-mongers of all stripes. In this rollicking story, Iranian president Akhmed teams up with the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba and their American intelligence agents to smuggle radioactive matzo balls into Miami Beach. But intelligence being as slippery a concept to these nincompoops as chicken fat on linoleum, when each member of the gang decides to ladle out his own personal nuke soup, holy terror Akhmed is left steaming. Will his plan to destroy America float like a fly or sink like a lead dumpling?
Star-crossed lovers, conniving academics, and blustery social climbers collide with ravenous termites, international do-badders, and multi-level marketing in a plot as fast-paced and hilarious as a runaway mountain bus. Radioactivity has never been so much fun.
“Lavinia Spalding has given travelers a witty, profound, and accessible exploration of the hows and whys of keeping a journal. Novices and veterans alike will find inspiration and fresh ideas on every page, along with practical suggestions to bring out the best writer in anyone.” —Anthony Weller, author of Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road
Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler, inspires budding memoirists and jetsetting scribes alike. But Writing Away doesn’t stop there—author Lavinia Spalding spins the romantic tradition of keeping a travelogue into a modern, witty adventure in awareness, introducing the traditional handwritten journal as a profoundly valuable tool for self-discovery, artistic expression, and spiritual growth. Read the Introduction.
Cruise Confidential: a hit below the waterline
“Part Love Boat, part Mutiny on the Bounty, Cruise Confidential does for cruising what Animal House did for higher education.” —J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Cruise Confidential is a delightfully funny, wild, and romantic adventure that reveals what it's really like working on a cruise ship. Brian David Bruns worked for a year in the ships' restaurants and his account will astonish you as you are assaulted with circumstances ranging from the absurd to the bizarre. Did you know that waiters are required to steal cutlery and even food from each other for their own guests? Can you imagine what the crew thinks of the passengers? And sex, don't forget the sex. Read Chapter 1 here.