Editor’s Choice

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

Manhauling From The Right Side of The Brain

travelers-tales

By Karen Joyce

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Gold Winner in the Bad Trip category

It was a typical Sunday at McMurdo Station, Antarctica: cement-grey skies and a thirty-knot katabatic heading straight at us from the South Pole. All week long we’d worked our 10-hours days with the mid-summer November skies a clear cerulean blue, with hardly a breath of wind. And now of course, Sunday: our only day off, always with this misery weather. Read full story
By |May 6th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Manhauling From The Right Side of The Brain

Meeting Baba Yaga

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By Elizabeth Van Zandt

 Eighteenth Annual Solas AwardsGold Winner in the Most Unforgettable Character Category   It’s evening, and I’m sitting at a café table alongside the cobbled main street of the ancient village of Sarlat. While I wait for my dinner to arrive, I sip a glass of Bordeaux, enjoying the mellow taste and the soft hum of French coming from nearby tables. “Hello.”  I look up and there stands Rayna, the only other American in town and the last person I really want to see. Read full story
By |April 29th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Meeting Baba Yaga

Boya

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By Heather Corrigan Phillips

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Gold Winner in the Travel & Transformation Category

Beneath the low staccato of whispered Arabic, it was unmistakable, that look of derision: a sidelong glance, subtle tilt of head, and subsequent eye roll to the girl in the row next to her. That flush of intimacy between two girls sharing a cruel secret. A young girl’s mockery is apparent in any language, it seems. Read full story
By |April 22nd, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Boya

Escaping Firecrackers in the Desert

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By Lisa VanderVeen

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Adventure Travel category

The night is black. I can’t read your features, but I know you’re scowling. We’ve been held captive behind your blockade for the past six hours and we’ve found a way around it. You threw rocks at the car that came to rescue us and now I’m running to it, through the frigid Bolivian desert, clinging to my suitcase. We don’t speak a word to each other–I don’t speak Spanish, and you don’t speak English. Your anger transcends words, though, and in the end, I understand: It’s not about me. I’m a pawn, and I’m terrified. Read full story
By |April 8th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Escaping Firecrackers in the Desert

Little Paris

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by Taylor Jennings

Eighteenth Annual Solas Award Silver Winner in the Destination category

Dracula’s castle. I could just see it perched on the top of the hill. Not an ominous silhouette for a sunny day in Transylvania, where it’s known as Castle Bran, the reputed home of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stocker’s classic tale.  Here I was at the beginning of the 21st Century to investigate a plan by Romania’s Ministry of Tourismto transform the medieval castle into a million-dollar Dracula theme park. It was an irresistible story for the foreign press, including me, but Ruxandra, my Romanian friend and colleague, said it wasn’t popular with locals and has yet to be built despite repeated attempts. Read full story
By |April 1st, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Little Paris

Toiletry Bag

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By Jennifer Elle Lewis

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Bronze Winner in the Women’s Travel category

I spent five days packing a toiletry bag. It was for my first business trip post-baby. I’d already read in the Attachment Parenting Handbook exactly how many days I could be away from my six-month-old before he was irrevocably traumatized, calculated how many times a day I must pump before my milk would dry up, and ordered the most efficient and quietest breast pump for the long journey to New Delhi – but I wasn’t finished packing yet. That damn toiletry bag just wasn’t ready. If only I could get it organized, I’d be ready to go. Read full story
By |March 25th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Toiletry Bag

The Art of Crossing the Street

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By Emma Morrell 

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Gold Winner in the Family Travel category

The complete bedlam in Hanoi’s old quarter sent thrills through me, but only from the safety at the edge of the road. Hundreds of motos – bicycles, motorbikes and scooters – dodged around each other on the street in front of my children and me, as if they were weaving an intricate braid. Cheerful tooting and honking intermingled with invisible clouds of exhaust fumes and fragrances of phô broth and fried spring rolls. I couldn’t help but catch my breath and smile. The hum of the city’s motos buzzed through our bodies and fizzed as far as our skin and eyes, making Hanoi everything I had never dared hope it would be. As long as I didn’t have to cross that road. Read full story
By |March 18th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Art of Crossing the Street

The Tides of War

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By Mike Bernhardt

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Gold Winner in the Culture & Ideas category

Our journey began in 1997 with an old, hand-bound book, its thick, padded covers wrapped in light green fabric embroidered with a pattern of cracked glass and flowers. We found it hidden underneath a sweater in Margaret Hansen’s dresser drawer. By the time Margaret died at the age of 103, she had lived through two world wars and survived her children, two husbands, and a 96-year-old boyfriend. Everyone, even her neighbors, called her Oma — German for grandma. Her eyes were gray and piercing but kind. They smiled when she looked at you. Read full story
By |March 13th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Tides of War

To the Thai Woman Who Touched Me

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By Pier Nirandara

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Grand Prize Bronze Winner 

Your hands touch my bare skin. They press, stroke, rub. “Pressure okay?” you say, the English heavily accented. I recognize the intonation immediately. “Khon Thai ka.” The words leave my mouth in a strange way—muffled from the pillow pressed around my face, and rusty from disuse. Your fingers pause. After all, I don’t look Thai. I thought you were Chinese, you respond in our mother tongue. People always think that. It’s because they can’t tell us apart. To them, we’re all the same. Especially here. Read full story
By |March 8th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on To the Thai Woman Who Touched Me

The Lessons of Drnc

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Lance Mason

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards

Early August, 1970. Gearing down on the last hill, a quartz-white sun rising behind me, aiming the VW microbus onto the Bay of Kotor’s perimeter road.

Last week I’d farewelled Istanbul’s Golden Horn and the Old City’s bazaars, swung west and north though Greece, motoring up through Macedonia and Skopje. In a week I’d load the bus on a ship from Bremerhaven to California, but was detouring now up the Adriatic coast because, weeks before, some German friends in Köln had praised its beauty. So, I’d crossed the Kosovan passes near Pech, encircled by the fists of igneous, snow-strewn crags, and then wheeled down through Montenegro to Kotor. Read full story
By |March 5th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Lessons of Drnc

You Can’t Get There From Here

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By Sue Parman

Eighteenth Annual Solas Awards Grand Prize Gold Winner

“You can’t get there from here.” The young woman working in the Tourist Office in Stornoway pointed to the map between us. Stornoway was on the Island of Lewis and Harris, the largest island in a hundred-and-thirty-mile chain of islands called the Scottish Outer Hebrides that lay, like the fossilized skeleton of a giant fish, some forty miles west of the Scottish mainland. Forty-five miles to the south of Stornoway lay the island of Berneray where I wanted to go in order to visit a Danish anthropologist named Susanne Barding. Read full story
By |February 29th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on You Can’t Get There From Here

Summer at Nrityagram Village

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Sumitra Mattai

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Women's Travel category

  I arrived at Nrityagram dance village in Karnataka, India in July of 2014 with the monsoon rain. Red clay earth stained my socks and sneakers as I followed the worn stone pathways. Coconut trees and banana palms slow-danced in the breeze, and the air was fragrant with jasmine and frangipani. Stone structures rose from the verdant landscape in gentle, curving lines, their henna-hued facades painted with white line drawings. As I wandered the campus, I felt the presence of spirit life, of souls lost and found. Read more
By |January 29th, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Summer at Nrityagram Village

The New Ascentionist

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By Kang-Chun Cheng

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Travel & Sports category 

  When I arrived in Kipwa, it was so hot I nearly threw up. It was February, in the middle of summer, just a stone’s throw from the equator, with the kind of ferocious heat that steams water in a Nalgene, disintegrates cheese and chocolate, and makes me want to do nothing but lie down on a bouldering mat –– anything other than go cragging. Read more
By |January 22nd, 2024|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The New Ascentionist

Crushing Christmas with the Coast Guard

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By Gillian Kendall

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Cruise Travel category

  Holidays have been weird the last couple of years. Masks, distancing, vaccines or the lack thereof have all made the season a lot less bright. And forget merry: the 2021 season of light could be darkly depressing. But despite the general angst in America and Covid-concerns worldwide, I'm spending this December with a bunch of people who put the "sea" back in "season" and break through incredible obstacles to enjoy the "holiday routine" -- I'm a civilian instructor on a US Coast Guard icebreaker. Read more
By |December 18th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Crushing Christmas with the Coast Guard

Where is their Tibet?

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By Mary Litrell

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Elder Travel category

A crowd of more than a thousand folds me in as we climb a hill toward the plaza outside the Dalai Lama’s temple high in the Indian Himalayas. Today, March 10, 2019, marks the 60th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising—the day His Holiness fled Tibet. Three stoic-faced elders motion me to join them on a low wooden bench. I sit among hundreds dressed in faded Tibetan attire—well-worn leather boots, dark holey sweaters, and knitted caps pulled down over the ears. Read more
By |December 11th, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Where is their Tibet?

Enduring The Promised Land

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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, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Enduring The Promised Land

How the Swiss Make You Say Bad Words

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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, Featured Stories|Comments Off on How the Swiss Make You Say Bad Words

In the Garden of the Fox

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By Anne Sigmon

Gold Solas Award Winner in the Travel & 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, Featured Stories|Comments Off on In the Garden of the Fox

Shopping for Salvation in Nicaragua

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By Tiffany Hawk

Silver Solas Award Winner in the Travel & 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, Featured Stories|Comments Off on Shopping for Salvation in Nicaragua

The Treatment of Dead Enemies

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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

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 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

Reconciliation

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By Rosie Cohan

Silver Solas Award Winner in the Travel & 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

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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

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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

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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

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

A Magic Itinerary from a Stranger in Morocco

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

Time Passage

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

Pteropods in the Balance

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

Encounter at Hadrian’s Wall  

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

A Long Century

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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

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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 full story  
By |May 1st, 2023|Categories: Editors' Choice, Featured Stories|Comments Off on The Hotel Ricardo

Letting Go of Hungary

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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

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By Gary Singh

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

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

travelers-tales

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

Lifer

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

Headlights

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