Editor’s Choice

Editor’s Choice2017-04-24T02:31:53-07:00

Enduring The Promised Land


By Shoshi Parks

Gold Solas-award Winner in the Adventure Travel category

It’s unbearably hot in Portland, Oregon. Not humid, Pacific Northwest hot, but dry hot. Southern California hot. Desert hot. Last night, lying awake in the canicule, the acrid scent of wildfire smoke rippling through the room, I finished Narcissa Whitman’s journal. In 1836 she and her new husband, Marcus Whitman, a doctor and Methodist missionary, began their journey on the Oregon Trail — a trek that made her and another traveler with their group, protestant missionary Eliza Hart Spalding, the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains. Read more
By |December 4th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice|Comments Off on Enduring The Promised Land

How the Swiss Make You Say Bad Words


By Ben Ren

Silver Solas-award Winner in the Funny Travel category

It was during dinner that Mom uttered a most terrifying sentence: “I want to visiting Europe again.” Dad, who was in the midst of airlifting a swath of noodles into his mouth, immediately paused operations, the carb-heavy threads dangling precariously from his chopsticks like loose wires. I gulped as a wave of anxiety washed over me. It had been three years since we last set foot on the continent, and for that my feet were grateful. The blisters–our painfully-won souvenirs–had only just healed. Read more
By |November 27th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice|Comments Off on How the Swiss Make You Say Bad Words

In the Garden of the Fox


By Anne Sigmon

Gold Solas Award-winner in the Travel and Healing category

My visit to Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari shrine veered off track even before I left the parking lot. One of Japan’s oldest and most revered Shinto shrines, Fushimi Inari was the one site I’d most wanted to explore in depth as I traveled around the country with a group of friends. Fushimi is a UNESCO World Heritage site founded in 711 AD. The shrine sits on a holy mountain, a shaded retreat with altars dotted on a tangle of forested trails that snake up a seven-hundred-sixty-four-foot peak. It is guarded, believers say, by magical foxes, those tricky denizens of Japanese folklore. Read more
By |November 20th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice|Comments Off on In the Garden of the Fox

Shopping for Salvation in Nicaragua


By Tiffany Hawk

Silver Solas Award-winner in the Travel and Shopping category

My Spanish 101 may be buried under 25 years of rust, but when our bus driver says, “quince minutos,” it’s clear that I’m in big trouble. Our guide, Jesus, doles out facts about Lake Nicaragua’s freshwater sharks and the lagoon atop the nearby volcano, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. A woman across the aisle complains about her knees as her husband pretends not to hear her. The couple behind us teaches bridge strategies to the couple behind them. In our mid-40s, my husband and I are 30 years younger than anyone else on this tour, which is important: it means no one on this bus can help me. Read more
By |November 13th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice|Comments Off on Shopping for Salvation in Nicaragua

The Treatment of Dead Enemies


By Laurie McAndish King

Gold Solas Award-winner in the Most Unforgettable Character category

              Four decapitated heads, each the size of a large grapefruit, materialize as my eyes adjust to the shadows. The heads, which hang at eye level on thin cords, each have long dark hair and shiny black faces, with eyes and lips that are sutured shut. They are human heads, on display in a tall glass case at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England. I creep forward until my nose touches the glass and gawk. Two of the heads sport long, braided hair with red and white feathers plaited in, and decorative threads sewn into their upper and lower lips. The other two look more natural, with straight hair and no facial adornments. They are tsantsas—shrunken heads—made by the Shuar and Achuar people who live in the Amazonian rainforest. Read more...
By |October 9th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Treatment of Dead Enemies

Ghosts in the Black Forest



 By Marianne Rogoff

Gold Solas Award-winner in the Love Story category

  Jayne and I are traveling to Switzerland, to an international conference on the depth psychology of Carl Jung. On our way we’re staying overnight in Freiburg with Josef, a German she met here over thirty years ago when she was a young American exchange student. She had told me he was her first true love and first hard breakup so I am a little worried about the plan, but when we arrive he welcomes us with warm hugs and smiles as we leave our shoes and baggage at the door. We’ve been on the move through airports and train stations for days; we’re animated, wired and tired, and when Josef offers fancy house slippers to wear, they are all so sparkly we can’t decide. He is excited, playful, as he slips his favorite pairs on our feet and carries our carry-ons upstairs to show us around, sliding across the wood floors in his socks like a kid. He suggests “some good German beer and a bite to eat” and we accept and settle in while he bustles around, aiming to please, at home in the kitchen, arranging plates of food with panache and ease. Read more
By |October 2nd, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Ghosts in the Black Forest




By Rosie Cohan

Silver Solas Award-winner in the Travel and Healing category

I land in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital in April, 2000. Kosovo, a small land-locked republic that was part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. This ravaged land was part of the Serbian massacre of Muslims, as was Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1998-1999 Balkan war. Trudging down the metal steps onto the tarmac in the Spring of 2000, I see at least fifty UN and NATO soldiers in brown and camouflage uniforms, loaded down with ammunition belts and automatic weapons. They scurry around guarding a few commercial and military planes, tanks, and several white Red Cross ambulances. Entering a temporary metal shack that serves as an arrival area, a bald, middle-aged man is eyeing each passenger. Below his faded, black leather jacket is a slightly wrinkled white shirt that resembles his pale, drawn face. I am one of the few women and my bewildered look must have identified me. He asks my name, and introduces himself as Mustafa, Vice President of the Riinvest, the economic think-tank I am to consult with on behalf of a Washington, D.C. non-profit. Read more
By |September 25th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Reconciliation

Negotiating with Nomads


By Mike Bernhardt

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Travel & Shopping category

A parade of tables lined the sunny, cobblestoned promenade, displaying hand-inlaid wooden boxes, ceramic vases, fossils, and silver teapots. A beige stone wall, festooned with colorful tapestries and inset with arched, wooden doorways, bordered on one side. A hint of brine wafted on the light breeze. As I strolled in Essaouira, my favorite town in Morocco, a man called out to me from the entrance of his emporium. "Come into my shop and have a look around!" His ample frame was clothed in a brown robe and a black turban; his round face wore a smile radiant as the morning sun. "I'm not buying, I did all of my shopping last year," I called back. On that first visit to Morocco, my copious purchases nearly exceeded the airline’s weight limit. Somehow, his smile brightened even more. "No problem, just have a look anyway!"
By |July 31st, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Negotiating with Nomads

The Ride


By Heather Williams

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Silver Winner in the Bad Trip category

It was 1972 and I was hitchhiking with my friend Wendy in Northern California. It's hard to believe now.  Women eagerly climbed into cars with strange men back then, especially in California where everything, anything, was possible. I was an adventuresome 22-year-old. I had dropped out of Oberlin College and traveled west on my own.  Wendy was eighteen, from New York.  She and I became friends in Los Angeles where we were volunteer community organizers for Cesar Chavez’s lettuce boycott. Now, having moved to Berkeley, we were headed far north for our next adventure: visiting her brother at a rustic summer camp high in the Trinity Alps. The campers hadn’t arrived yet. We would be hanging out with counselors as they prepared. Read more
By |July 17th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Ride

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
By |July 10th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Lines of Duty

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
By |July 3rd, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Cauldron of Calamities

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
By |June 26th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on A Magic Itinerary from a Stranger in Morocco

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
By |June 19th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Time Passage

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.
By |June 5th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Pteropods in the Balance

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
By |May 15th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Encounter at Hadrian’s Wall  

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 YefimSomin.com)
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
By |May 8th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on A Long Century

The Hotel Ricardo


By Taylor Jennings

                    Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Silver Winner in the Adventure Travel category Of all the gin joints in all the hotels in all the countries in Africa, the Hotel Ricardo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, probably most resembles Rick’s Café in ‘Casablanca’ if not physically, at least metaphysically. It was long after sunset when we left the endless desert behind and entered a populated area where golden charcoal fires flickered across the hills.  Accordingly, I was completely unprepared for the shock of electricity when the driver stopped at the end of a short driveway in front of a two-story tin-roof hotel with a welcoming open doorway. Read more  
By |May 1st, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Hotel Ricardo

Letting Go of Hungary


By Ying-Ann (Annie) Chen

Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Funny Travel Category

When I turned twenty, all the things I wanted got in my head. So, I went to Hungary. I scrolled through the program website of simple synecdoches. Brazil: Christ the Redeemer, Croatia: lakes, Mauritius: monkeys, Mongolia: yurts, Thailand: temples, Poland: colorful buildings, and Romania: Medieval architecture. Hungary: sunflower fields. Off I went. I stood in a clean suburban house under a slanting red tiled roof and windows that opened outwards. This was my host home in the village of Zalaegerszeg. I gifted my host-family Ghirardelli chocolate, a Sather Gate magnet, and pineapple cake. The city near where I live, where I go to school, and where I am from, I explained. Read more
By |April 24th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Letting Go of Hungary

My Posthumous Ally


Seventeenth Annual Solas Award Gold Winner in the Travel & Transformation Category

My Posthumous Ally

How a poet’s tragic childhood improved this writer's relationship to loss

By Gary Singh

At the Casa Pascoli Museum in San Mauro, Italy, I found a posthumous ally.

Over the years, I had written several travel stories “walking in the footsteps” of deceased writers. Abandoned buildings and old haunts, long-gone locales, gravesites and the outskirts of history all inspired me more than contemporary attractions.

I didn’t care about four-star restaurants in Venice. I wanted to raise the ghosts.

Many of these stories were contrivances—art for art’s sake—but something about the process must have served a healing purpose. I never thought about it, therapeutically speaking, until I explored Casa Pascoli.

Read more

By |April 17th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on My Posthumous Ally

Ambush on the Cumberland Plateau

travelers-talesBy Brian Reisinger

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Seventeenth Annual Solas Awards

A hunting trip in America’s original colonial backwoods was supposed to be full of lessons for his 12-year-old nephew.

We were deep in rural Tennessee when the rain came. It was light and so quick that the sun was still out, and it danced in the sunlight as we drove on, coming and going. It was hard to tell whether the rain was just starting and stopping, or whether we were traveling through different pockets of a land with secrets. That land was the historic Cumberland Plateau, and we had come to this high wooded country to hunt wild hogs.  [Read more]
By |March 30th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Ambush on the Cumberland Plateau

The Weight of Paradise

travelers-talesBy Cherene Sherrard

Grand Prize Gold Winner in the Seventeenth Annual Solas Awards

(this essay originally appeared in Hidden Compass)


Given the picture-perfect day, the narrow Oahu beach was peculiarly empty. A pair of newlyweds had the entire panorama as backdrop for their wedding photos. Far from shore, streaks of cirrus clouds formed a cross in a cobalt sky that met the white foam of the break. The rainbow arcs of parasails spun their stick figure riders like marionettes.

The water was the aqua blue of my dreams, but I couldn’t enjoy it. Turning away from the waves, I kept my eyes fixed on the bride and groom as they cycled through predictable romantic postures. We didn’t say a word, but I could feel my husband watching them, too. We were steeling ourselves — for the unpredictability of the water, and for the challenge that awaited us there. [Read more]
By |March 15th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Weight of Paradise

To the Young Mom on Flight 1122

travelers-talesBy Pier Nirandara

Grand Prize Bronze Winner in the Seventeenth Annual Solas Awards

Fourteen hours, five passengers, three seats, two longed-for countries, one memorial.

You shuffle down the aisle, toddler in tow, before plopping down in the middle seat beside me. Already flustered from the delayed flight and whatever connection you had to make, strands of hair escape down the sides of your face, framing brows downturned at the corners. Your expression crumples ruefully as you apologize profusely in advance: it was to be a long 14 hours, especially with your child in your lap. I smile politely—but the gesture quickly drops when your husband closes the aisle seat, armed with another child, a newborn.
By |March 15th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on To the Young Mom on Flight 1122

House of Transfiguration


By Dianne Cheseldine

Travel and Transformation Gold Winner in the Sixteenth Annual Solas Awards

Finding an oasis in the ancient medina of Fez.

Only a small plaque indicated the entrance to my riad, Dar Attajalli, meaning House of Transfiguration. The door opened and with one steep step I entered a new world. The young employee, Idris, greeted me with Salaam Alaikum in a soothing voice. He was tall and slender and moved with ease as he crossed the tiled floor of the courtyard. He was casually dressed in blue jeans and a light-colored cotton shirt, sneakers and a baseball cap, his dress contrasting with the old courtyard surrounding me. He lifted my heavy suitcase as if it were weightless and showed me to my room, the only one located on the ground floor. It was more beautiful than I had imagined, dimly lit with a huge bed clothed in an emerald-green spread and amber pillows displaying Berber designs. The floor was covered in carpets and several leather poufs in varying shades of blue, brown and red. The window of my room opened onto the courtyard from where I could contemplate the patterns of the wooden panels aligning the walls. I could hear the soothing sound of the fountain twenty-four hours a day.
By |May 12th, 2022|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on House of Transfiguration

Journeys with an Amazonian Shaman

travelers-talesBy Johnny Motley

Men's Travel Gold Winner in the Sixteenth Annual Solas Awards

Further proof that lives can change in an instant.

On the sixth day aboard an Amazonian cargo ship, I spied the faint outline of São Gabriel da Cachoeira from the aft deck. Located deep in the Upper Amazon, São Gabriel held the title of “Most Indigenous City in Brazil,” although “city” was a misnomer: São Gabriel was little more than a village that had sprung up around a Brazilian military base, an outpost intended to secure the nebulous borders between Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela.
By |April 26th, 2022|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Journeys with an Amazonian Shaman

Boots Bilong Mi

travelers-talesBy Patrick Ritter

Grand Prize Gold Winner in the Sixteenth Annual Solas Awards

On a dugout canoe trip through the interior of New Guinea, how far would you go for a pair of shoes?

I heard a splash behind me and I froze midstroke. Sounded close. I twisted around to see a large tree crashing into the water. The Sepik River winds across the swamplands of Papua New Guinea like a massive snake, its diet trees and eroded silt. The tree shuddered in the current. From the branches startled kingfishers escaped into flight, screeching. I glanced to Randy, my buddy from California, at the front of the dugout canoe. His face was sunburned and questioning. “No,” I said, “not a puk-puk.” In New Guinea the Pidgin English word for crocodile is puk-puk.
By |March 29th, 2022|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Boots Bilong Mi

Honor and the Sea

travelers-talesBy Janna Brancolini

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Sixteenth Annual Solas Awards

How a female pioneer of underwater archaeology teamed up with a Sicilian winemaker to save a priceless ancient shipwreck.

  Buried beneath the floor of the Mediterranean, in waters so turbulent the epic poet Homer had imagined the thrashings of sea monsters, the ship waited. She had once defended an ancient settlement near modern-day Marsala, Sicily—until she was sunk in a dramatic battle during the third century B.C.E. For two millennia, people passed by her, unaware. As time wore on, the sea and its banks shifted, until water just deep enough to submerge a person stood between the vessel and its reclaimed glory. Yet her hiding place wasn’t the ship’s only secret: Her timbers held a clue to history.
By |March 29th, 2022|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Honor and the Sea

The Shakeout Trip

travelers-talesBy Robert Dale Fama

Grand Prize Bronze Winner in the Sixteenth Annual Solas Awards

A premature midlife crisis, a sack of money, and a backpack combine to reveal that a beginner traveler learns quick in the Sahara.

We had already broken down five times when Amadou snapped the ignition key off in his dilapidated Land Rover. He reached up and rubbed his necklace, a black leather amulet that contained gris-gris, written prayers to protect and bring luck to the wearer. Beltrán lowered his head and made the sign of a cross. In Mali and surrounded by sand on the last leg to Timbuktu, a turn of a key changed everything. Suddenly, I thought we would never arrive, and with that, that I’d fail to accomplish the first phase of my round-the-world trip.
By |March 29th, 2022|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Shakeout Trip


By Lisa Boice

Animal Encounter Gold Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

“The life list of a birdwatcher is of a different order. It’s not what you cross off that counts, but what you add.” —Terry Tempest Williams

The black sky was like a drop cloth over the prairie grass and the only thing we could see were the bugs darting in and out of the light from our car’s headlights. We were only 60 miles west from Houston in Eagle Lake, Texas, but the big city felt a lifetime away. I turned my neck to see behind us and the brightness of the headlight beams from another car made me wince. My husband, Steve, yawned, which made me yawn. It was early and we hoped we weren’t too late.

We were in a hurry to get in line at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge to witness the Attwater's Prairie-Chicken’s courting ritual. During March and April, the males go out to a lek, an area where animals—or in this case, birds—assemble to engage in courtship behavior. In the human world our leks have evolved from parties and bars to smartphone apps where singles attempt to impress and be impressed. But at this lek all the hope that male Prairie-Chickens can muster is on display in the middle of an expansive field as they perform an elaborate dance just after sunrise, which is why we were up early in the black of night. [Read More]

By |April 12th, 2021|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Lifer

Why I Love Baboons

By Lynn Brindell

Adventure Travel Gold Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

I think Beatus did it because he felt guilty. Or because he thought we’d give him a bigger tip. He’d gently rustled our tent flap that morning, the bright slit of light slicing through dark green shadows.

“Good morning!” he softly called. “Game drive now!”

We, The Newlyweds, usually slept in. But on our last day in Africa we left camp early, bundled against the mist and chill, our jeep the first to growl out and bounce along the rutted, mud way that passed for a road.

I leaned into Rob, cold air rushing against my cheeks. We weren’t supposed to be in an open-air jeep, without windows or ceiling to protect us from the sudden onslaught of a storm or an animal’s pounce. But I think Beatus wanted to deliver, finally serving up that signature moment, an exotic and extraordinary miracle of nature, witnessed in the bush. [Read more]

By |April 6th, 2021|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Lynn Brindell|Comments Off on Why I Love Baboons

Laura: Lady of the Mexican Nights

By Edward Stanton

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

You wanted to get farther away from home, beyond the border and Baja California, deeper into the country. The city of Saltillo lay on a slope of the Sierra Madre Oriental, just north of the central plateau, about 5,000 feet high. There you found a boardinghouse with a courtyard on Calle Xicoténcatl of sacred memory.

Your room opened onto the light-filled patio with a gurgling well, shade trees, cracked flower pots, a colossal zaguán or foyer with a carved wooden door. The courtyard was the hub of life for everyone in the house: the landlords Don Alfonso and Doña Hortensia; their daughter, her husband and their children; Panchita, a plump Indian woman who did most of the shopping, cooking and cleaning; a bachelor who taught Latin and Greek at several schools to make ends meet; uncountable dogs, cats and birds in cages. And then there was the woman who scandalized our whole house and neighborhood. Laura. [Read more]

By |March 22nd, 2021|Categories: Editors' Choice, Edward Stanton, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Laura: Lady of the Mexican Nights

Marriage, Dubois Style

By Colette O’Connor

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

"Just add three letters to Paris and you have paradise." —Jules Renard

The family Dubois of Avenue Foch are French. That is to say, the family Dubois are different. In an age when nearly half of American marriages collapse, often in smoking heaps of anger, bitterness, pain, I often wondered, what does it take? Really, what does it take – to keep it together, if not forever, at least through thick and thin? So when I met the family Dubois of Paris’s Avenue Foch, I thought, Ah! A chance to understand how it’s done. I thought, Oh! If Tolstoy’s “happy families are all alike” idea was working out for the family Dubois, as it certainly seemed to be, given how they appeared so rich and thin and cheerful at lunches I shared with them, or quick aperitifs, then here was a family to study. So observe them, I did, like an explorer a continent foreign, with fascination. Here is what I found:
By |March 15th, 2021|Categories: Colette O'Connor, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Marriage, Dubois Style

The House Within

By Jacob Kemp

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

When I turned twenty-one, I spent the better part of a year in an attic, hiding from Nazis.

The calendar read 2011. I had just graduated from college. I was offered a role in The Diary of Anne Frank, to play Peter Van Daan. So I packed a suitcase, a carry-on, my winter coat, and left New York only weeks after I arrived—for Amsterdam, 1942. The actress playing Anne was a rising star in Chicago theater. A year later she’d be in a superhero movie, a blockbuster based on a comic-book. Onstage, she was a marvel. Scenes together, despite the long run of the show, the work and the sweat and the reaction of our energies each night, had that flinty and rare combination of absolute safety and vulpine unpredictability. We were well-matched. I awaited her articulation, her transformation into Anne, with the zeal of a tennis player anticipating a worthy opponent’s next serve. But in addition to being a formidable talent, she smoked.
By |March 8th, 2021|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Jacob Kemp|Comments Off on The House Within


Mont St. MichelBy Marcia DeSanctis

Grand Prize Gold Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

There was danger, even in the presence of angels.

February is not the ideal time for a road trip to northern France, but the moodiness of the sea, wind, and sky appeals to a certain breed of loner like me, drawn to the echoing voids of the off-season. Coastal Normandy is famous for its dramatic weather, and in winter, it grows wilder still, with thrashing winds and squalls of frozen sleet that churn up from the English Channel. The region is a sweep of battlegrounds and fortified castles, stone-cold Norman abbeys, and craggy ports that have hosted centuries of departing and returning soldiers. Here, God and war forge their strange alliance, as they often do, and the backdrop of tempests, tides, and occasional shards of sunlight render it fertile ground for ghosts and their keepers.

I had endeavored to Mont St. Michel to seek some perfect solitude.

By |March 1st, 2021|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Marcia DeSanctis|Comments Off on Headlights

Passage of a Revered Teacher and Spiritual Leader

Abbot of Tengboche MonasteryBy Frances Klatzel

The Sherpa people of the Everest region mourn the Abbot of Tengboche Monastery, Ngawang Tenzin Zangbu, who passed away on October 10, 2020. Renowned for his commitment to the sacred valley of Khumbu and the Sherpa people, Tengboche Rinpoche was also well known among trekkers and mountaineers to Everest.

The allure of Everest, the highest (8,848 m) and most famous mountain, moves people of every nationality to visit the once remote Khumbu Valley, the homeland of the Sherpa people on the south side of Everest.

On a ridge in the heart of the valley, Tengboche Monastery holds a special place in the hearts and minds of both Sherpas and world visitors. Sherpas are an ethnic Buddhist people who settled valleys in the Himalaya about 500 years ago but have in the past century earned an extraordinary reputation on mountaineering expeditions.

Over the past sixty years, thousands of trekkers and climbers have paid their respects to the long time Abbot of Tengboche Monastery, Ngawang Tenzin Zangbu. His title, Tengboche Rinpoche, refers to his status as a ‘precious one’ and revered reincarnation of the monastery’s founder. The Sherpa people venerated Rinpoche as a strong unifying force and spiritual protector of the environment and culture of the Khumbu Valley. [read more]

By |November 30th, 2020|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Passage of a Revered Teacher and Spiritual Leader

The Trip That Took Me

travelers-talesBy Marcie Kaplan

Elder Travel Bronze Winner in the Fourteenth Annual Solas Awards

The Himalayas helped her find intimacy, faith, and reassurance.

I had my first tingly feeling when we were hiking up through woods from a 10,000-foot Himalayan pass to a monastery, and we passed soldiers in camouflage. I expected surprises in Bhutan, a Buddhist country about happiness more than money, and had been surprised by the trail’s red limbs with bulbous, mossy growths that seemed to reach out at me. But I hadn’t expected soldiers in camouflage. My guide, Pema, greeted them, “Kuzuzangbo la,” and continued on, signaling me not to ask questions, I thought, so I nodded politely to the soldiers and followed Pema.
By |September 3rd, 2020|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Jacob Kemp|Comments Off on The Trip That Took Me

Cubana Be, Cubana Bop

travelers-talesBy Tom Miller

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fourteenth Annual Solas Awards

The best guitar maker in Cuba.

Three events—baseball, Pope Jon Paul’s visit, and the Elián González case—exposed Cuba to the American public far beyond the embargo. Yet it was the improbable success of a handful of aging musicians that exposed a Cuba few knew and expanded the country’s audiences far beyond its bashers or its cheerleaders. The musicians went by the name of the Buena Vista Social Club, their music came from the 1950s and earlier, and their appeal was resolutely apolitical. On a visit to Havana, the American musician and producer Ry Cooder, not finding the musicians he sought, teamed up with Cuban producer Juan de Marcos to produce an album of exquisite sounds from another era.

By |April 30th, 2020|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Cubana Be, Cubana Bop

Our Ravaged Lady

By Erin Byrne

Grand Prize Gold Winner in the Fourteenth Annual Solas Awards

Little by little, his spirit expanded in harmony with the cathedral.
—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

She’s had many lives and here was the burnt offering of another.

Notre Dame’s lace spire sizzled and crumbled as it fell, and the gigantic hole it created became a cauldron. Flames, golden to orange to red, assaulted the lavender-tinged Paris sky, and smoke billowed in gray and white explosions. Silhouetted against glowing cinders, her bell towers stood dignified but unprotected.
By |April 16th, 2020|Categories: Editors' Choice, Erin Byrne, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Our Ravaged Lady

Dark Train to Cusco

travelers-talesBy Chase Nelson

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fourteenth Annual Solas Awards

A modern-day rescue mission raises questions of life and death.

With her husband looking on, we took turns pumping her heart for her, pushing blood to her organs, to her extremities, hoping for a gasp to bring her back, tearful and afraid, from wherever she was now.

Technically, they were called compressions. Less technically they were called rib-breaking, breast-exposing, desperate attempts at resurrection.
By |March 31st, 2020|Categories: Chase Nelson, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Dark Train to Cusco

Love in a Time of Abundance

travelers-talesBy Amanda Castleman

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Fourteenth Annual Solas Awards

Navigating grief with the Okavango Delta’s last generation of Bushmen hunter-gatherers.

When he was 15, Ditshebo “Dicks” Tsima took his spear into the bush. Hunting was still legal in Botswana’s Okavango Delta then, so he could follow an ancient coming-of-age tradition, practiced for around 200,000 years by his people: the Bushmen.

Most young men ran down giraffes, their lean muscles churning to pace the world’s tallest animals, which can cruise comfortably at 10 mph. Hour after hour, they pursued the lolloping giants through the mosaic landscape where Africa’s last wetland wilderness drains into the Kalahari Desert. Islands, scrub, and grasslands all flashed by: a fractal terrain of riverine lushness and heat-seared dust. “You chase them until they get exhausted and stand their ground,” Dicks explains. “Then you spear them. That’s the best way for a family to judge your worth. If you can chase down a giraffe, then your in-laws know you will take good care of your bride.”
By |March 2nd, 2020|Categories: Amanda Castleman, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Love in a Time of Abundance

Almost Blond in Nepal

travelers-talesBy Nancy Bartley

Funny Travel Story Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

I never asked to look like a female wrestler. You know the blondes in bikinis who toss each other around the ring or wallow wantonly through mud. But then again, maybe my problem simply was a matter of hair color – streaks of blond highlights in my brown hair, hair-coloring that marked me as distinctively western from my bangs to my trekking pants.

I was in disbelief when one of the men gathered around the television at my hotel first mistook me for a pro wrestler. I’m a writer, not a wrestler, I protested. I was in Nepal, going to Mount Everest Base Camp to do a book on an American mountain climber who had two-minutes of fame for the heroic rescue of a climber left for dead. But the trouble began long before I boarded the Twin Otter for Lukla and the remote regions of Nepal. It began in Thamel, the tourist section of Kathmandu where trekkers and climbers buy outdoor gear at good prices. I was minutes from the hotel when a young man began to follow closely behind me. As I would learn, he had a great fascination with my hair.
By |May 6th, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Nancy Bartley|Comments Off on Almost Blond in Nepal

Nuns on a Train

travelers-talesBy Ashley Seashore

Doing Good or the Kindness of Strangers Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

Half of my money is in my right shoe. My passport is in my left. The other half of my money is in an envelope in my underwear, and my credit cards, family photos, and one traveler’s check are in a flimsy pouch slung around my neck and hidden beneath my clothes. I have arrived in Rome in the dead of night at the wrong train station and I’m certain that the only reason I’ve been unmolested so far is thanks to the grace of a small crew of Sicilian nuns who have now left me.

Stazione Sant-Oreste is dark and empty. The shops and ticket counters are closed; the people are gone. There are too many shadows and echoes. I wait nervously as furrow-browed station patrolman Pierre-Luis takes my measure. Will he fulfill his promise to the nuns to look after me? Or will he do what I can see he wants to do, which is abandon me to whatever awaits me in the night? After all, he only made the promise so the nuns would stop yelling at him and poking him in the chest with their godly, determined fingers.
By |April 29th, 2019|Categories: Ashley Seashore, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Nuns on a Train

Strangers in the Bush

travelers-talesBy Susan Bloch

Destination Story Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

I’m traveling into unknown territory with a man I just met. His name is Karl, my safari guide here in Namibia, and we’re driving along a coast shaped by death and diamonds. A coast where shifting sand dunes bury secrets, mysteries, and skeletons; where for centuries, Atlantic waves smashed sails, masts, gunwales, and rudders, against treacherous rocks; where secrets drowned and secrets were lost at sea; where secrets skulk in rusted ships’ keels and hulls and lie camouflaged inside the bleached whale ribcages littering the beaches. The secrets of what shipwrecked sailors did to survive the torture of thirst, hunger, and exposure; secrets shared between sailors and prostitutes about buried treasure; and in the late 1930s, how Germany’s secret plan to recapture Southern Africa was smuggled to Nazi sympathizers in the region. These tales had captivated me for decades. But no secret was ever so carefully guarded as that by Karl—his family scandal. The secret I didn’t know when the two of us trekked alone into the bush.
By |April 22nd, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Susan Bloch|Comments Off on Strangers in the Bush

That Other Hijab Story

travelers-talesBy Maryah Converse

Culture and Ideas Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

When I tell people that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jordan, the response is usually predictable: “Wow. How was that?” How am I supposed to answer that in few enough words that their eyes don’t glaze over? Overwhelming. Amazing. The hardest job you’ll ever love. A place where I was always and inexplicably a foreigner and a daughter of the desert at the same time. And sooner or later, they ask the inevitable question: “Did you have to…?”
By |April 15th, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Maryah Converse|Comments Off on That Other Hijab Story

This Never Happens

travelers-talesBy Anne Lowrey

Bad Trip Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

"Nunca ha pasado aquí," he repeated. I shrugged as if I didn’t hear him, though I understood every word. “This never happens.” Except it did. I sat silently in the back of the rusted car that was taking me slowly away from the events of the past few days. I had run out of words to say in Spanish. In the middle of Colombia’s coffee country, with nothing but the clothes on my back, I was too exhausted to be angry. “This never happens” was all anybody seemed to be able to say to me when I told them. Each time the phrase came it spoke with a loaded look that also pleaded, “Please don’t tell anyone.” Why did getting robbed with a gun to my head feel like some terrible secret I’d be forced to keep?
By |April 8th, 2019|Categories: Anne Lowrey, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on This Never Happens

The Place Where Norman Slept

travelers-talesBy Teresa O'Kane

Animal Encounters Gold Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

Norman is a solitary old bull elephant who lives on Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Years ago, he spent his days with his elephant friend George, until George had a battle with an electric fence. These days Norman wanders alone, joining the breeding herd only during mating season. The rest of the time he observes the other elephants from a distance or ignores them completely. Norman is bigger than most elephants his age. He is the one who asserts discipline over the herd and metes out punishment when he and his eight tons deem it necessary.
By |March 31st, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Teresa O'Kane|Comments Off on The Place Where Norman Slept

The House on KVR Swamy Road

travelers-talesBy Sivani Babu

Grand Prize Bronze Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

We push through a sea of people and cows, the dust and smog swirling red and heavy, giving the scene around us the hazy air of a vintage photograph. A calf chews languidly on a banana as flies buzz around its head. We walk down the street as the tinny sound of temple music floats by and the aromas of everyday life assault our senses: fruits, spices, incense, the musk of oxen, diesel, smoke. Nearly two decades have passed since I last walked KVR Swamy Road, but I still remember the childhood admonitions to keep the dust down by not dragging my feet. I laugh. A drop in the bucket, I think to myself, but I make sure to pick my feet up anyway, hopping, jumping, leaping over puddles and pungent piles of cow manure.
By |March 14th, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Sivani Babu|Comments Off on The House on KVR Swamy Road

The Citroën and the Pomegranate

travelers-talesBy Matthew Félix

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

I’ve traveled extensively. But you’d never know it from the looks of my apartment. Between an almost obsessive insistence on traveling light—never carrying more than one backpack, which fits into any overhead bin—and a general aversion to accumulating things, I hardly ever bring back mementos from the road. That’s what made my attraction to the pomegranates all the more peculiar.
By |March 5th, 2019|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Matthew Félix|Comments Off on The Citroën and the Pomegranate

The Mystery of the Sahara

travelers-talesBy David Robinson

Grand Prize Winner of the Thirteenth Annual Solas Awards

In 1965, I was driven across the Sahara by a woman whose real name I never knew. I’ve been trying to find her ever since. I was working in Nigeria at the time. In West Africa, even if you never see the actual Sahara, you are always conscious of its presence to the north. During the winter months, the desert asserts itself through the Harmatan winds that kick up dust storms and cause dry skin, hacking coughs, and chills among the populace as well as vivid sunsets. But in any season, just to see a Hausa man on the street is to feel the pull of the desert.
By |March 1st, 2019|Categories: David Robinson, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Mystery of the Sahara

Mideast Uprising

travelers-talesBy Sharon Kreider

Travel Memoir Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

Before the internet, Google, or cellphones, the journey overland from Europe to Asia took time, ingenuity, and more than a little courage. Travel through Turkey, Iran, and Syria can be difficult today but was especially challenging for a young, white twenty-year-old woman touring these regions alone in the 1970s.

In February 1977, I found myself stuck at Gubulak, the border crossing from Turkey into Iran. Johan, someone I met in Greece, and I had been turned away from a Syrian boundary a few weeks earlier. Naively, we thought a bus service would just be there. Not only did such a thing not exist, but Iran had travel bans from sunset to sunrise. I was also completely unaware that civil resistance had commenced in Iran which led to the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi or 'the Shah.' I didn't see another woman anywhere.
By |July 30th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Sharon Kreider|Comments Off on Mideast Uprising

Hung, the Boat Woman of Hue

travelers-talesBy Maxine Rose Schur

Most Unforgettable Character Silver winner in the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

I raised the expectation, You shook your head sadly. Like fish in water and fowl in the air It’s not easy to meet… I saw you off on your way And felt hundreds of jumbled feelings. —Nguyen Binh (1918-1966)

For years I had loved the words “Perfume River.” I imagined sailing down this Vietnam waterway of which I knew nothing. I imagined it smelled gorgeous and the experience would be one of romance and poetry. That’s why on my single day in Hue, the ancient, imperial capital of Vietnam, the first thing I did was to inquire how to take a boat ride on the Perfume River.
By |July 2nd, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Maxine Rose Schur|Tags: |Comments Off on Hung, the Boat Woman of Hue

Finding the House My Father Built

travelers-talesBy May Gee

Elder Travel Bronze winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

A few thin, gray hairs skimmed the top of the elderly man’s pointed head, just like my father’s hair used to on his. Faint crinkles touched the skin around the old man’s eyes and deep creases ran from the edge of his nostrils to the outsides of his lips. All that was missing was a chest-length wispy mustache and goatee, and he could have been one of the Eight Immortals from Chinese mythology.
By |June 25th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, May Gee|Comments Off on Finding the House My Father Built

Welcome Back Again

travelers-talesBy Matthew Félix

Doing Good or the Kindness of Strangers Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

Nine hours after leaving Fez, my French friend Sophie and I arrived in Tangier. Although we had walked to the train station the morning of our departure, this time we were arriving late at night. We opted to get a cab, a ride that shouldn’t have cost more than five or six dirhams, or less than a dollar. Past experience having left me with a strong aversion to taxis—I’ll always choose walking great distances over taking a cab in places I don’t know—my stomach was wrapped in familiar knots as we came out of the station.
By |June 18th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Matthew Félix|Comments Off on Welcome Back Again

The Five Wise Men of the Voodoo Trail

travelers-talesBy Kevin Dimetres

The feeling was unfamiliar. Alone, I sat on the splintered wooden bench while the passersby sized me up with skeptical curiosity. Their skin glistened with sweat, accentuating the slash marks lacing both sides of their faces. The slash marks had been deliberately crafted into their visage, haunting me with wonder. Images of celestial snakes and sword-wielding gods decorated the decrepit dwellings surrounding me. This was a faraway world, and for the first time in as long as I could remember as a traveler, I felt the fear of the unknown begin to surge in my veins.
By |June 11th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Kevin Dimetres|Comments Off on The Five Wise Men of the Voodoo Trail

Under the Cedars of Parc Perdrix

travelers-talesBy Becky Band Jain

It was at the end of the year I spent in the South of France, fully in the grips of my Francophilia, when a friend invited me to a barbecue. A week after Bastille Day, the summer heat was at its peak. The rosy tan stucco on the houses matched the scorched soil, a shade lighter than their terra cotta rooftops. Their large shutters shielded them from the sun’s onslaught, and spoke of a time before air conditioners. It was a traditional, agricultural region still. Orchards of peaches and apricots, olives and grapes; this was the terroir of Cotes du Rhone, and the famous Tain l’Hermitage vineyards. Gardens burst with bougainvillea, hibiscus and oleander.
By |June 4th, 2018|Categories: Becky Band Jain, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Under the Cedars of Parc Perdrix

Time Travelers


By T Stores

Family Travel Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

On a rainy fall weekend, leaves brilliant with failing light, I hear Mr. Spock from my living room in rural Vermont: “Live long and prosper.” I smile, glad that James and Izzy have discovered Star Trek, good viewing for twelve-year-olds, especially those who are about to embark on a year-long adventure, “exploring new worlds, going where”—well, not no man but many men and women—“have gone before.” While I finish packing for our trip to Europe, the refrain echoes in my mind. “Live long and prosper.”
By |May 28th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, T Stores|Comments Off on Time Travelers

The Last Surviving Sea Silk Seamstress

travelers-talesBy Eliot Stein

Culture and Ideas Silver winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

Byssus, or sea silk, is one of the rarest and most coveted materials in the world. Today, there is only one person left on the planet who knows how to harvest, dye and spin it into elaborate patterns that glisten like gold. Each spring, under the cover of darkness and guarded by members of the Italian Coast Guard, a 62-year-old woman named Chiara Vigo slips on a white tunic, recites a prayer and plunges headfirst into the crystalline sea off the tiny Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco.
By |May 21st, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Eliot Stein, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Last Surviving Sea Silk Seamstress

Rogue Wave

travelers-talesBy Tina Dreffin

Cruise Story Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

I awakened to someone caressing my foot. It was my husband Peter, announcing my 2 A.M. dogwatch—the time period for me to steer our sailboat at sea, offshore Namibia along the west coast of Africa. When Peter turned around to head back on deck, I luxuriated beneath the covers. A low, eerie sound of ooooohm-hummmmm reverberated through the hull, like that of a pipe organ. The eerie call was the wind in the rigging as the air filled the hollow boom. Rushing waves echoed through the hulls, sounding like volumes of cascading water.
By |May 14th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Tina Dreffin|Comments Off on Rogue Wave

On the Road with the Lady of the Rockies

travelers-talesBy Linda Ballou

Destination Story Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

As I crested the bluff overlooking Estes Park, the summer sun pushed away the gray that had followed me from Denver (an hour’s drive away) to reveal bluebird skies. The sweet mountain town, guarded by 14,000-foot peaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park, rests in a cleft carved by the Big Thompson River. I was drawn here by the vivid descriptions of this magical place by Isabella Lucy Bird who journaled her stay as she rode 800 miles solo on her mare Birdie in 1873. I imagined her sense of relief at having finally arrived at what she dubbed the “Inner World.”
By |May 7th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Linda Ballou|Comments Off on On the Road with the Lady of the Rockies

That Old Time Religion


By James Michael Dorsey

Adventure Story Silver winner in the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

Stories have always come to me in Africa. I can’t say if it’s the taste, the smells, or the sheer antiquity of the land; or maybe it’s just the sense of belonging I have while I am there, but the words always come.
Because it is a continent lacking in written languages, storytelling serves to preserve not only local history and culture, but also the daily lives so often lost in recorded history. In Africa, more than in the west, storytelling is an art form. In West Africa, everyone has a story, and Abraham Boko had more than most.
By |April 25th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, James Michael Dorsey|Comments Off on That Old Time Religion

Mitty in Rome


By Juilene Osborne-McKnight

Grand Prize Bronze winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards


They have cleaned the fountain in the Piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere. This means that it no longer works. Water spills over the basin and down the sides.

On the lone dry step, the King of the Gypsies has taken his throne. He is young – well, younger than me, which qualifies enough of the world these days. He wears a patchwork coat of many colors and a pair of old pajama pants. He carries a tall staff whose top is adorned with feathery rags in profuse colors. Some days I see him begging; in early mornings on my way to work I have seen him asleep in doorways. But I have also seen men kneel before him and buss both of his cheeks.
By |March 16th, 2018|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Juilene Osborne-McKnight|Comments Off on Mitty in Rome

Crossing Shibuya

travelers-talesBy Aaron Gilbreath

Grand Prize Silver winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

Within Tokyo's populous Shibuya ward lies the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. By some estimates, 2,500 people cross here during rush hour each time the signal changes. Locals call it “The Scramble.” Every day, over two million passengers pass through neighboring Shibuya Station, commuting to work and enjoying the area’s countless shops and restaurants. Many of them pass through The Scramble. When traffic lights turn red, they all turn red simultaneously, stopping ten lanes of automobile traffic and sending pedestrians from five separate crosswalks into the massive intersection. For nearly one full minute, people flood the street in what seems an explosion of human buckshot. To the casual observer, the surge resembles chaos ─ all these bodies, weaving and darting, moving in different directions across each other’s paths. Yet there is order to it, a choreographed chaos. As Los Angeles Times writer John M. Glionna said in 2011, “Despite so much humanity inhabiting such a confined space, there’s rarely a collision, sharp elbow, shoulder-brush or unkind word.” When you watch footage of The Scramble, you can’t help but wonder what holds this system together. How do people remain so well-behaved?
By |March 7th, 2018|Categories: Aaron Gilbreath, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Crossing Shibuya

All the Grains of Sand

travelers-talesBy Angelique Stevens

Grand Prize Gold winner of the Twelfth Annual Solas Awards

It was a full moon, which meant from my vantage point, I could see his naked silhouette shining blue as he washed his body behind the big lorry. I was naked too, behind the Land Rover. The body was so familiar, that wiry frame, those graceful hands, the shaven head and the point of his beard. We had both gone, separately, to bathe behind the circle of vehicles that surrounded our camp. I had been so careful about choosing a spot farther away from the men sitting around the fire that I hadn’t realized I moved myself closer to the place where the crew washed. At some point, mid-bath, I turned my head and there he was, no more than 20 feet away bent double scooping water from his basin and splashing it on his chest.
By |March 1st, 2018|Categories: Angelique Stevens, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on All the Grains of Sand

The Fan Over the Dining Table

travelers-talesBy Donna Lawrence

A reach for understanding of an unknowable past.

My grandmother wrote a genealogy tracing her family, the Corbins of Virginia, and it was fun to flip through the slender book and find interesting connections. Some of it was speculation. One Hanna Corbin married John Augustine Washington, brother of George Washington. She may have been connected to our family of Corbins—that was uncertain. But one connection that Grandma was sure of was William Tappico, King of the Wiccocomico Indians of the Algonquin tribes, whose granddaughter, called Mary Tapp, wed our ancestor, John Corbin in 1799. My dad was so proud of that, our Native American blood. But, among the records of births and marriages and deaths, one entry stopped me cold. It was the last will and testament of William Corbin of Culpeper County, who died on December 3, 1796: “I give and bequeath unto my son Benjamin Corbin one Negro wench Sarah and her child Lydia and all their future increase.” Reading those words, I forgot to breathe.
By |February 7th, 2018|Categories: Donna Lawrence, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Fan Over the Dining Table

Some Vague Stars to the South


By Dave Zoby

Syria, and the ancient lessons of friendship.

Dust-covered aluminum satellite dishes rimmed the rooftops. During the heat of the day, electrical circuits popped audibly, faltering all afternoon. Mid-day, the bakers came out in their floured aprons to read the state paper in the shade of their doorways. There was the sweet-shop, the pharmacy, the place to buy shoes, a booth for a haircut. And always the joyful roar of farm tractors strumming the streets, the farmers seated at the wheel, a load of watermelons stacked on a wobbly trailer. We snapped the requisite photos of the Omayyad Palace in Damascus—even me, in a half-hearted way, with a cheap camera my mother had leant me. There must be hundreds of images from our meeting with the Grand Mufti: the Mufti in the middle of the group, the Mufti smiling, looking serious, pious. I memorized his famous quote: There is no holy war. Only peace is holy.
By |December 25th, 2017|Categories: Dave Zoby, Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Some Vague Stars to the South

Like Dust in a Storm


By Sivani Babu

A tragic close call in rural Colorado.

Useless. I wiped at my sunglasses with my dirty hands, trying to clear the droplets that settled on the lenses. The water smeared and streaked across, creeping into dust filled crevices and turning to mud. It became even harder to see and I gave up, pushing the glasses into my muddy and matted hair where they came to rest atop my head. Useless. I could relate.
By |July 31st, 2017|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Sivani Babu|Comments Off on Like Dust in a Storm

Last Stop in Oklahoma

travelers-tales By Robert Reid

An Okie expat and his 76-year-old uncle aim to summit the Black Mesa in the USA's most unlucky and unwanted rectangle.

The road’s empty and rising slightly. I lean forward in the driver’s seat and look through the windshield to the biggest skies I’ve ever seen. An immense block of sea-blue smeared in white clouds presses down on fields of cut wheat, peppered in parts with small clumps of trees, a far-off farmhouse, a wind pump. My cellphone signal’s gone, and with it my GPS, so I’m guessing. Is this it?
By |July 24th, 2017|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Last Stop in Oklahoma

Warp Thread

travelers-tales By Leslie Oh

A weaving workshop on the Navajo Reservation bonds a mother and daughter and offers a lesson about how to live a balanced life.

Mom and I breathed deeply four times in the cool shadow of Table Mesa. In the distance, a worn road led southward through the Navajo Reservation and northward to Shiprock, New Mexico. The white tips of Dibe Nitsaa, Mount Hesperus, the sacred mountain of the North, whispered above. We stretched our arms into a sky as turquoise as the stone in the necklace Mom made me. Father Sky. Swollen gray clouds drifted slowly by. Then we folded ourselves in two; our fingertips brushed the red soil swirling about our feet. Mother Earth. Mom’s eyes remained closed as she inhaled one more time and brought her arms to her chest, the way she normally embraced me with all her might. I wanted to melt there but instead I stood awkwardly beside her, trying to mime a graceful pattern of arm and leg movements that resembled Tai Chi. We faced East (thinking), then South (planning), West (living), and North (wisdom).
By |July 17th, 2017|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories, Leslie Oh|Comments Off on Warp Thread

Monks and Monkey Poop on the Mountain

travelers-tales By James Michael Dorsey

A pilgrimage gone wrong.

At first sight, the temple on the mountain seemed a folk tale come to life.

On my journey through Burma, the gleaming temple on the rock that guards Mount Popa ha