Ryan and I want to wish the entire TurnipseedTravel community a wonderful 2014, one filled with happiness and health and - of course! - travel. Throughout the past year I've been inspired by so many travel bloggers, whose diverse and creative posts have helped me, encouraged me, and ultimately made me want to hit the road. I'm so happy to share with you some of the best blog posts I read in 2013. (Note: Not all of these posts were published in 2013, but I did read them all for the first time this past year.)
In no particular order at all, I give you.......
To say I have a sentimental streak when it comes to pets would be a bit of an understatement. On my first trip to Shakespeare and Company over 10 years ago, I was introduced to Kitty, the shop cat. They didn't have to tell me that Kitty was named after Anne Frank's diary ("Dear Kitty...") not because she was a kitty-cat. Unfortunately, some other tourists around me were less astute and insisted on calling her "kitty-cat" for hours as they browsed. For shame!
It never occurred to me that there would be resident pets in hostels as well as shops. Britany's post makes me want to hit the road and cuddle every hostel dog in the world. There are few things in the world that can compete with a snugly dog appreciating a belly rub.
Stephanie's post about the heartbreak and sorrow that comes when your friend and travel partner receives horrible, life-changing news when you are thousands of miles from home is filled with tension, fear, raw nerves, and love. It's a brilliant piece about the collision between the traveling world and the world you leave at home and how they can be so far apart and yet never really separated.
Of course, it's long established that I'm an animal lover but that's not why I love this post. For me, it highlights the great work that travel bloggers do when they share the stories of small organizations that are improving the world one tiny corner at a time. A lot of animal based tourist attractions can be quiet ugly when you understand how they work behind the scenes so I'm happy that Ken and Lauren are highlighting a group that really understands conservation work.
Even since I read The Poisonwood Bible after returning to Canada from Malawi 10 years ago I've had a crush on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But this I fear is a case of unrequited affection as I seriously doubt I'll ever see the DRC in my lifetime. There is scarcely a more dangerous country in the world. For a million reasons, none of which have to do with me and my travel dreams, I hope life greatly improves for the Congolese people.
Brendan's article is one I have read and re-read a dozen times. He's a smart, savvy, experienced traveler and you can tell he's not messing around when he describes Kinshasa as a swelter of distrust. It's a vivid, vibrant piece that makes me feel slightly claustrophobic as he describes the smells of his hotel room, the swarm of prostitutes at 5:00 am, and the unrelenting extortion for bribes. His encounter with Kinshasa's "only honest man" is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise sorrowful place.
You gotta love an article that starts with the dramatic proclamation that married people have sex. Shocking! Craziness! While there are zillions of packing lists for round the world trip, no one ever thinks to mention a plan for 6, 12, or 18 months worth of contraception. I love this article for the incredible comment feed, with real female travelers sharing their real stories and offering up helpful info. There's such a sense of community among the women who are from so many different backgrounds and countries but share the same health concerns.
PS - Their blog also features an awesome review of foodtrucks in Austin, Texas that has inspired me to check out the foodtruck scene in my own hometown!
Just like travel and contraception, it seems no one talks about the pressure to drink while backpacking and I'm so glad Bobbi got so personal and opened up this conversation. From the extensive comment feed it's evident that this was a long overdue discussion and it was heartening to see so many people reject peer pressure and encourage hostel environments where people from all cultures and drinking habits feel safe and happy.
As someone who's just as likely to order a plate of nachos as a drink when I'm at a bar, I've often been asked "Why aren't you drinking?" Of course, there's nothing wrong with (responsibly) having tons of fun while you travel and, like Bobbi, I'm not trying to say people should or should not drink while backpacking. But I do like seeing the travel community be more open towards their Shirley Temple doffing compatriots.
Brilliant! Crazy jealous that I didn't think of this. Such a GREAT post about something so simple.
About 15 years ago, I read a blog post (origins insanely forgotten now) about someone describing their 5 or 10 best cups of coffee around the world. One involved having beans hand ground in a family hut in Ethiopia. Another was a delectable cup prepared by a prisoner in a jail-cell in Brazil (I think!). I wish that article still existed, that I could find it again because it was so darn good, but at least Agness can fill the gap in the meantime.
One of the most challenging things about traveling is coming to terms with poverty and misery in the world. We feel compelled to help but rarely know how. Blog posts abound on topics like if should give to begging children, or 'visit the tribe' during a Kenyan school building vacations, but Graeme's post gives much more food for thought as he discusses what it's like when his living arrangements in Harare comes with hired help.
Another great reason to check out this new travel blog? There are very few travel bloggers writing about Zimbabwe and even fewer are living there long term. It's a fascinating country and I hope some of you are inspired to put it on your list.
In August 2013, one of my closest friends took her own life. Anita Mac was my Ottawa neighbour, a huge supporter of my work, and boundlessly generous, never hesitating to share information, pass on a lead, or recommend me for a press trip. She was also completely game for spontaneous trips to the corner store for ice cream sandwiches, she was rather nuts with a bit of caffeine (chai lattes only!), a fearless athlete, hugely considerate of hurting others feelings, and a prime partner when it came to sneaking up on the appetizers at a party. Her death greatly affected the travel writing community and provoked a lot of discussion about the myth of having it all, the idea of travel as an escape or a savior and so much more.
Anita's tragic death was an influence on Ryan's article, "When Travel Doesn't Heal". One of the rawest, most personal, most emotional pieces I've ever read, Ryan doesn't hold back when it comes to discussing the darkest moments of his life. While this article emphasizes that travel cannot heal you or fix you, it has actually inspired me to travel more. Not to escape from something but to live life to the fullest, to cross some items off Anita's bucket list on her behalf, and to be the happiest me I can be.
Date a girl who writes. Date a girl whose hands are smeared with ink from the pen that she loves to write with, but that keeps leaking. She may not have a perfect French manicure because those long nails would always splinter when she spends nights on her computer typing. But with these hands of hers, she has created whole worlds in her writing that she will take you to if you want her to.
Absolute loveliness! Perhaps my favourite thing I've read all year. Technically more about writing than traveling but the two are absolutely intertwined for me.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2014 brings continuous inspiration to us all!
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