Flying Carpet

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

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

Encounter at Hadrian’s Wall  


By Connard Hogan

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Bronze Winner in the Travel & Sports category

The early hour, along with the jet lag which gripped me like a vise, muddied my senses and conspired to mute my enthusiasm. But I re-stuffed my day pack, and with Hadrian’s Wall Path guidebook in hand, legged it the quarter mile under gray overcast to the ruins of Segedunum Fort, the eastern terminus of Hadrian’s Wall. I could’ve hired a car or used convenient countryside buses. I could’ve accessed “the Wall” from two-lane roads in dozens of places, taken short strolls, and arrived at my evening’s lodging with my feet none the worse for wear. But no! I wanted to hoof Hadrian’s Wall Path westward for the entire eighty-four miles from Segedunum (Wallsend, Newcastle) to Maia (Bowness-on-Solway). I’d decided to collect the six stamps on a “Hadrian’s Wall Path Summer Passport.” Read more
Encounter at Hadrian’s Wall  2023-05-13T01:52:30-07:00

A Long Century


By Yefim Somin

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Bronze winner in the Men’s Travel category

(a version of this essay was originally published at
My cousin Suzanne left Russia for France in the early 1970s, when only a few managed to emigrate. Little communication was possible across the Iron Curtain, but one thing stuck in my memory: there is a place in Paris, she wrote, where the name of our common relative is on a memorial wall. Almost 30 years later I am taking my teenage son on a grand tour of Paris. Metro Picpus is in the outer 12th arrondissement, far from the tourist crowds, but that’s where we are heading one day. Read more
A Long Century2023-06-24T07:44:06-07:00