Featured Stories

Lines of Duty


By Lauren Napier

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Family Travel category

A chain-link fence topped with barbed wire guards a collection of crumbling adobe buildings. Scrawled graffiti warns “DANGER” through splintered wooden beams. On the other wall, “home” and “daddy” can be made out — the spray paint faded. I cannot step any closer to read the graffiti in its entirety. Cowboy boots cover my ankles and protect against snake bites, but the brambles and burs collected in the dry ditch between the unpaved road and the base of the fence, roughly six feet away, prove treacherous. No car has passed since my travel companion, Vic, and I pulled over at this forgotten site in Arizona. Driven by a never-waning desire to seek the less seen, we had followed roads that looked like pencil sketches on the map. On this day, my journey here is not yet personal. Read more
Lines of Duty2023-07-06T16:40:12-07:00

The Cauldron of Calamities


By Masha Nordbye

                                 Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Bad Trip category

On an unseasonably cold January evening in Los Angeles, I excitedly boarded my flight to Barbados. After several years of unpredictable travel due to the pandemic, I had signed on for a small Caribbean cruise (with only 60 guests). With COVID cases declining and being triple vaccinated (and everyone onboard required to wear face masks), I surmised that my risk was fairly minimal. The voyage would depart from Bridgetown, the capital, and sail on to St Lucia, the Grenadines, and Grenada, with final stops at the Dutch ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Having just completed an intense work project, I looked forward to tranquil sailings amidst the tropical islands. But after landing, security informed me that I had taken an incorrect PCR test, and thus needed to repeat one at the airport.

...little did I know then the dramatic fate that awaited me in the weeks ahead. Read more
The Cauldron of Calamities2023-07-03T13:57:37-07:00

A Magic Itinerary from a Stranger in Morocco


By Tim Leffel

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Kindness of Strangers category

(this essay originally appeared in Perceptive Travel)

It was an eerie kind of quiet as we walked along the huge dunes at dawn, the only sound being the crunching of the sand under our feet. From this spot on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, it was nothing but dunes as far as we could see, extending beyond the horizon to Algeria, though borders seem rather meaningless in this landscape. "I'm so glad we made it here," I said as we stopped to take a photo. If it hadn't been for a random stranger we met when we arrived in Morocco, it probably never would have happened. Read more
A Magic Itinerary from a Stranger in Morocco2023-07-02T00:01:02-07:00

Time Passage


By Alenka Vrecek

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Destination Story category

(this essay was originally published on AlenkaVrecek.com)

I am standing on the starboard side of the ferry, just behind the bridge, stretching my neck and entire upper half of my body as far over the railing as possible. On the verge of plummeting into the emerald-green sea below, I am scanning the shore for my parents. Returning to the island of Šipan in Croatia, where I spent endless summers in my youth, simultaneously fills me with excitement and trepidation. Over thirty years have passed since I moved to California. I have tried to return to the island as often as my work and family life permitted, but the pandemic has delayed my current visit by nearly two years, which for my parents, who are nearly ninety years old, must have seemed like an eternity. Read more
Time Passage2023-06-24T10:06:12-07:00

Pteropods in the Balance


By Laine Gonzales

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Animal Encounter category

(a version of this essay first appeared in Hidden Compass)
Clad in three layers of thermal underwear, insulated bib overalls, a parka, and waders, my range of motion is seriously impaired. I cautiously step into the Antarctic waters of McMurdo Sound — inching my bulbous “bunny boots" forward, carefully securing one foot before taking the next step. I am undeniably out of my element. This Southern California science teacher lives a routine existence, my days dictated by a 5:30 a.m. alarm and the structure of a high-school bell schedule. That’s not to say I don’t navigate tough terrain in the classroom, ever pivoting between the biological wonders of our world and the stark facts of a changing planet. My students, who are inheriting both the awe and the urgency, hang in the balance.  Read more.
Pteropods in the Balance2023-07-01T15:56:24-07:00