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Tales From The Road: Bejing, USA, Nepal, and Siberia

by Tim Patterson Jun 19, 2007

This is the first edition of a new weekly column, celebrating the best inspirational travel writing on the web.

We all love a great travel story, but the truth is that truly inspiring and entertaining reads are few and far between. And who has the time to search out the diamonds in the rough?

You can hit the bookstore and pick up a hard copy of the Best American Travel Writing series, or you can keep reading this post and check out the five stories with the links below.

Some are by established writers and originally appeared in well known magazines; some I culled from the depths of the blogosphere. All have one thing in common: quality.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading these travel stories as much I enjoyed finding them.

1. “My Chinese Clown” by KateMonster recently announced the winners of their first travel writing contest. “My Chinese Clown” received an honorable mention. It’s the story of a romance between a young American woman living in Beijing and her new crush – who happens to be a clown.

The story gets better and better with each sentence, building to a tender conclusion. “Beautiful, deceptively simple storytelling,” said one commenter. Also check out Matador Editor David Miller’s piece “Notes on Los Pitayeros: Surf, camping and hallucinogenic cacti on the Pacific Coast of Baja.”

2. “The Path of Apprenticeship: The Zen of Yellowstone” by Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins is one of the best adventure travel writers on the planet. His article about cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park leads into a profound discussion of skill, balance, pace and craftsmanship. The writing is so freaking good that I want to excerpt every single paragraph – here’s one:

“Through this motion, this mantra of muscle, I slip into a state of grace. Everything fits. The darkling sky mirrored in the violet snow. The snow feeding the trees and the hidden creek. The creek cutting the mountains. The mountains and me. We all dovetail together.”

3. “Turbulence” by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is one of my all-time favorite writers, a genius at crafting poignant, funny, self-deprecating stories from everyday experience. “Turbulence” was originally published in The New Yorker magazine. It’s awkward, perceptive, hilarious and witty – Sedaris at his very best.

4. “Stranded in Kathmandu” by Josh Kearns

While we’re on the subject of air travel, here’s a well-considered rant from a traveler waiting for the Royal Nepal Airlines plane to Bangkok. Royal Nepal only has two planes, and one is in the shop for repairs.

Josh has plenty of time to ramble about everything from Kathmandu cafes to airport “security ogres” to high maintenance British women with “freshly painted claws” before bringing it all back around to how air travel relates to Buddhist teachings on egotism. A terrific, rollicking read.

5. “Some days in the life of a Siberian Cyclist” by Rob Lilwall

Rob Lilwall is in the midst of a multi-year bike ride from Eastern Siberia to his home in England – via Australia. His journey is awe inspiring, but the post above is especially noteworthy for its spare understatement.

Like the explorers of old, Rob and his partner endured absolutely brutal conditions, but Rob relates the whole epic Siberian experience in barely 1000 words.

Got a story that blows my picks out of the water? Do tell! Post the link and a short introduction as a comment below, or e-mail us for inclusion in the next edition of Tales From The Road!

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 Get Lost Magazine, Tales Of Asia, Matador Travel and Common Language Project. Check out his personal site Rucksack Wanderer.

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