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Tales From the Road: India, Egypt, Argentina and Montreal

by Tim Patterson Oct 16, 2007

Aside from honesty, curiosity is the most important ingredient of good travel writing.

The best stories come from authors who are both ignorant and interested, who want to know, and simply report what they find.

Good travel writing is so much more than spa reviews and “8 Best Restaurants in Rome”.

Travel stories are windows to the far corners of the world; reports that have the freedom to dig deeper and paint more boldly than any filed by reporters for the Associated Press.

1) “Kolkata: My Entrance To India” by Queen Bee

Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is a city that’s always hovered at the edge of my imagination, vaguely associated with heat, grime and Mother Theresa.

I never had a solid mental picture of Kolkata until now, after reading this fine travel blog by Queen Bee, who writes with just the right blend of candidness and curiosity.

2) “Cry For Me” by Ted Conover

Suffice to say, Ted Conover did not have a great time in Bariloche. Still, bad trips often make for the most entertaining travel stories. At least, unlike Ted, I won’t be in Patagonia for the southern winter.

3) “The Gift Of The Nile” by Chris Vourlias

To be perfectly honest, my favorite part of this story was the author bio at the end:

“Chris Vourlias…was last spotted on the coast of Kenya, losing dhow races and searching for free WiFi.”

Now that’s my kind of travel writer. And his story is pretty darn eloquent too.

4) “Feasting On Montreal’s Charms” by Erika Johnston

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had lunch yet, but this story really hit the spot. Nothing makes a travel story more rich, more voluptuous, than good descriptions of good food.

Give me an edge of the seat narrative about scaling the North face of K2 and I’ll be entertained, but tell me about four kinds of pork in one dish and you’ve won a spot in the roundup.

5) “A Short-Cut In the Hindu Cush” by Rob Lilwall

Way back in the first edition of “Tales From the Road” I introduced Rob Lilwall, the English cyclist who is in the midst of a multi-year bicycle journey from Siberia to England, via Papua New Guinea.

His recent blog about his ride through Northern Afghanistan is an excellent read, complete with a tremendous wipe-out on the far side of the Hindu Cush. (Which I always thought was spelled ‘Kush’ – what gives?)

At the end of this latest update, Rob writes “the end is (almost) in sight.”

Since I came home last week with my tail between my legs after failing to ride from Montreal to Halifax, I can only imagine the epic scale of a journey where a quick pedal from Tehran to London qualifies as the final lap.

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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