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Tales From The Road: Greenland, USA, Nepal, India

by Tim Patterson Jul 3, 2007

I’ve got a lively and eclectic batch of stories for you this week, but before I get to the picks, here are some thoughts about the intersection of travel writing and the Internet.

The web has enabled a budding renaissance of quality travel writing, with sites like, and leading the revolution.

Of course, you can still find first-rate travel writing in the traditional print media. Outside, New Yorker, Get Lost! and Wend are four examples of traditional magazines that regularly feature outstanding travel narratives.

Even better, many magazines archive some or all of their stories online, freely available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Then there’s the travel blogosphere. Finding well-written travel stories in this boggling bubblebath of breathless blogs can feel like panning for gold in the Mississippi, but there are at least three great things about finding a compelling story on a little known blog:

  1. No hidden agenda – you get the story straight up, unedited and honest.
  2. Ease of conversation – bloggers will almost always appreciate and respond to comments or questions.
  3. The thrill of discovery – finding a great story on an obscure blog is like exploring a Thai island and stumbling on a hidden white sand beach.

Each week in this column I’ll link to five quality travel stories I’ve discovered online.

Whether you’re in the office, at home or checking e-mail in an Internet cafe in Nairobi, these stories will stoke your wanderlust and keep you entertained. So without further ado:

1) “A Very Long Way to the Hong Kong Cafe” by Daisann McLane

Daisann McLane’s story about her discovery of a Chinese restaurant – and a Chinese chef – among the sled-dog pens of Ilulissat, Greenland is a prime example of a detailed, perceptive and entertaining travel story that so rarely makes it into the pages of certain mainstream magazines and newspapers.

2) “A Day of Discovery” by Richard Preston

Take it from me, Northern California’s massive and majestic redwood trees are even more awe-inspiring than man-made wonders like Angkor Wat, St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Great Pyramids.

In this story from Orion Magazine, two naturalists bush-whacking through dense rainforest in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park discover a previously unknown grove of titan trees. Richard Preston takes you there and makes you feel their sense of wonder.

3) “Journey to Dolpo” by Michael McCarthy

Ever since I read Peter Matthiessen’s classic travel narrative “The Snow Leopard” I’ve been intrigued by the Dolpo region of Nepal, one of the most remote places on Earth and a last refuge of Tibetan culture.

Michael McCarthy undertook an epic journey of his own to Dolpo recently, trekking over high passes and dodging Maoist rebels to reach the impoverished villages of Upper Dolpo.

McCarthy was on a mission to collect children for an orphanage in India, a cause that makes me uncomfortable, but regardless of the moral implications of his journey, the tale makes for an excellent read.

4) “India” by Jeff Vize

Jeff Vize sets off for India on the bus from Kathmandu, scared and tantalized by the sensory assault that lies ahead. His thoughts will be familiar to any traveler who has contemplated a journey to the sub-continent:

“India occupied a legendary position in my mind. It was the place everyone talked about; the place we all simultaneously loathed and loved. Mere mention of its name evoked groans of ecstasy and pain. One traveler would sit you down, look you in the eye and beg you not to go; another would swear that somewhere among its seething mass of humanity there existed the key to enlightenment. India. I couldn’t figure it out, so I had to go.”

5) “Wish You Were Here” by Mark Surkin

Here’s an off-beat leftover from last week’s Pink Floyd themed edition.
The first paragraph made me scratch my head, the second made me smile, but by the third I was grinning and nodding along. Kind of like listening to The Wall.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s round-up. If you come across a great story with a travel theme, please contact us for possible inclusion in next week’s 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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