The Best ViewI’ve got Antarctica on the mind. A lot of terrific travel writing has emerged from the White Continent of late, but my attention is more personal – after I finish my guidebook assignment in southern Patagonia, I’m bound for the Antarctic peninsula.

I’m stoked. But as the date of the cruise approaches, I find myself questioning my motivations. Antarctica will give me the continental sweep – 7 for 7 – a feat I’ll be proud to work into cocktail party conversations until I’m old and gray.

Am I going to Antarctica to humble myself in the face of everlasting ice and snow, or to stroke my own ego?

Is knocking a continent off a checklist ever a good reason to travel? What does it say about our culture when wealthy travelers can collect remote and exotic destinations like trophies?

Travel is always an inner journey through the outer world, as the BNT tagline goes, but that journey should be one of discovery and self growth, not a status boost from one echelon of world traveler to another.

I’ll go to Antarctica. I’d be a fool to pass up this opportunity. But I’ll try to go with an attitude of humility and wonder. I’ll try to keep my mouth shut at cocktail parties. And I’ll always try to remember that travel isn’t a matter of how far you go, but of how carefully you strive to understand.

1) “Bragging Rights” by Marie Javins, Perceptive Travel

Marie Javins knocked Antarctica off her life-list years ago, and like me, she found herself questioning her motivations for going there. Honest perspectives like hers are few and far between – thank goodness for independent, non-corporate websites like Perceptive Travel, which have the guts to publish stories that dare to ask the question: Why?

2) “Into Uncharted Waters” by Jason Anthony, World Hum

Jason Anthony is an born story-teller, but this bullet of a piece on Antarctica isn´t a story – it´s a warning. Anthony reminds us that Antarctica is a cold, harsh world where humans cannot survive without extraordinary measures. With nearly 40,000 tourists setting sail for the continent each year, disaster looms around the corner. “Hope for the best,¨says Anthony, ¨”but don’t be surprised if grim news comes.”

3) “Yule And Me On The Nile” by Nils Bruzelius, The Washington Post

I love travel writing that is deep, raw and meaningful – not just a descriptive account of someone’s vacation. Sometimes, though, a vacation piece can be just what the doctor ordered. Nils Bruzelius’ account of his Christmas dinner on the Nile doesn’t break any new literary ground, but it’s an easy, pleasant read – one that reminds this somewhat jaded travel writer of the joy of a holiday in a far-away land.

4) “Moldovan Mothers” by Jason Spears, Peace Corp Writers

The Peace Corp is a fertile ground for travel writers. In this thoughtful and sharp-eyed piece, Jason Spears gives us a snapshot of a Moldova, a country adrift in the global economy, whose sons and daughters must travel to support themselves – at the cost of leaving their families behind.

5) “Golden Trout” by Tim Patterson, Traverse Magazine

Forgive me for ending with a little ego stroke. My latest story, from the high country of Wyoming, was just published in Traverse Magazine. It’s about fishing and friendship and mountains and America. I think it’s a good one, and I hope you enjoy it.

Any recent stories you’ve enjoyed? Post a link in the comments!

BNT contributing editor Tim Patterson travels with a sleeping bag and pup tent strapped to the back of his folding bicycle. His articles and travel guides have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Get Lost Magazine, Tales Of Asia and Traverse Magazine. Check out his personal site Rucksack Wanderer.
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