Earlier this month we asked everyone on the editorial staff what their picks were for the best of 2008, both personally and at Matador. As expected it ended up being a perfect cross-section of perspectives on the community, good writing, video, and stoke. Here’s your Matador Editors’ 2008 Year in review:

David Miller – Senior Editor

David Miller with daughter Layla. Morning after her first camping trip. Elwha River, Olympic Peninsula, Washington.


1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

There were so many good blogs and articles written this year, but one in particular, Teresa Ponikvar’s What’s up with Pachuca just hit all the right notes. “How can a town without a living river be a living town?” she asks. This piece speaks for the growing number of us who seem to be perpetually searching for and in love with place.


2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

This year we moved to the Pacific Northwest and quickly discovered the Olympic Peninsula. It’s the best place we visited this year and now one of my favorite places in the world for sure.

This was the last place in the US to be “settled,” and unique in that the native peoples here, particularly the Quiluete Nation, were able to remain in their homeland, and to a large extent, preserve their culture and way of life. When you roll in to La Push (a classic surf break), you pass a sign that says “Quilete Nation: You are welcome in these lands.”

People are smiling, stoked. The water is clear; the forest is massive. There were gray whales out there while I was surfing.


3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

Over the last several years my travel style has changed. Instead of traversing places, now I’m more interested in deepening relationships with places I’m still just getting to know.

So even if money were no object, 2009 would still be about heading back down to Patagonia, where our family has been traveling for the last several years. Some local trips on the wish-list: expedition / exploratory kayak trip in the Rio Azul headwaters. Backcountry snowboarding in the cordillera above El Bolsón.


4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

I keep peeping this one. KRS-1 just killing a freestyle. What I love about this video is the full-on Buddha presence KRS-1 exudes–just totally calm and centered–as he goes from just walking around, to entering the studio, to flowing right over whatever is coming out of the speakers.

Here’s someone who takes nothing for granted: when he first walks in, one of the engineers asks him “what’s poppin’?” His answer: “the world.”


5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

It would be a trip. Say a multi-day overnight float trip through some high-desert canyon in the American West. Maybe the Dolores River in Colorado. Someplace where he could float in, then set up camp dozens of miles from any roads or buildings, and hike up in the sandstone to ancient Pueblo granaries–places where you could literally see the fingerprints of peoples who lived here thousands of years ago.

I don’t even know why this is what I’d want his present to be. Maybe it’s just the idea that he’d see into a different part of this place we call America.

Ian Mackenzie – Matador Network Architect

Ian in Hawaii. Looks like Canadian Survivor.


1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

Very difficult to choose, but my favourite would have to be 10 Revolutionary Acts Of Courage By Ordinary People. I came up with the original idea for the article, but Robyn Johnson fleshed out each person and really made it her own. It’s intelligent, thought provoking, and it makes me proud that this type of material can be published on Brave New Traveler.

2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

Last February, I spent 3 weeks in Hawaii. The first two, I was shooting a documentary project that took me to some incredible locations. The first week I found myself on the summit of Mauna Kea, gazing up at massive telescopes crusted with ice and snow.

The second week I was wandering miles and miles of hardened lava at the Volcanoes National Park. Finally, the third week I was finished working and my wife and I flew to Kauai to cap the end of an unreal trip. Despite being a well-trodden tourist destination, Hawaii is still magical.

3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

Bhutan. I’ve simply been hearing too much about it -from the incredible scenic beauty, to the startling discovery that they balance their economic growth with the happiness of their people. Money aside, that’s definitely where I’d go.

4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

I know it’s past the point of cliche now, but definitely Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. There’s something about that whole phenomenon that went beyond merely tricking your friends/family into a “Rick Roll.” It was a cultural milestone.

Plus, I spent hours crafting how to best develop my strategy… from embedding the video into a new page, to hiding link with a TinyURL…etc. Good family fun.

5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

A George W. Bush bobble-head. Because that would give Obama a chuckle whenever he needs it.

Julie Schwietert – Managing Editor

Julie con la gente.

1) Favorite article on Matador in 2008:

That’s tough, but my pick is Misty Tosh’s The Ultimate Baja Escape.. Misty has totally nailed the Matador formula: Take your deep knowledge and intense experience of a place, write about it in your own unique voice, and make it real and relevant for readers.

“The Ultimate Baja Escape” is a three day road trip guide and it’s clear that she knows the terrain from her own experience of riding it. She provides insider tips you can’t know just by surfing the internet. This is EXACTLY the kind of article Matador editors and readers want to see. And after I read it, I was ready to find myself a truck and hit the road.

2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

What a cruel question! I have to choose?! 2008 was an incredible travel year for me, the best of my life so far. I was able to spend significant amounts of time in my favorite stomping grounds, Latin America, where I listened to amazing stories and found ways to bring them back to readers.

I spent a month in Colombia, about six months in Mexico City (with trips to Oaxaca, Veracruz, Perote, & Guadalajara), and just enough time to fall in love with Chile. I also went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It’s impossible to choose a best place; they were all incredible, each with their own unique people, experiences, and stories.


3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

I know that I should say I’d go some place really far-flung or spend the money on a round-the-world trip since money’s no object, but I really just feel pulled to settle down in Latin America and do some serious slow travel around Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

I love to live in a place, not just pass through, so if money were no object, I’d travel around for the whole year, settling down for awhile and renting a home.


4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

I’m pretty stoked about some video footage I shot during my visit to Guantanamo Bay that Matador’s video editor, Joshua Johnson, worked wonders with and got live a couple weeks ago.


A day at Guantanamo Bay; one guards perspective from Matador Network on Vimeo.

5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

I don’t think I’d buy President Obama anything. Instead, I’d encourage him to read stories about Matador members and their travels. There’s no single site where he would feel more inspired by how people build community online, at home, and in the world, and there’s no single site where he’d find better writing about it.

Tim Patterson – Contributing Editor

Tim hard at work.

1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

Apart from my own brilliant articles you mean? I gotta go with Sarah Stuteville’s essay Why We Still Need To Write About African Poverty. Remember that name, Sarah Stuteville. She’s an up-and-coming superstar journalist, gonna be the next Nick Kristof, guaranteed.

2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

Tough call. I rang in the New Year with college buddies in El Chalten, Patagonia, but it was too freaking windy down there. Plenty of fond memories of crazy times in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay with Brian Meissner and the hostel crew. Went back to some old haunts – camping on Koh Rong island in Cambodia with my friend Jon and two curvaceous Dutch girls was a blast….and while it wasn’t exactly a happy experience, visiting the Kachin Independence Army’s mountaintop base in northern Myanmar was a unique privilege. Can’t pick just one, sorry.

3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

I would go home to Craftsbury, Vermont and stay there for a while. But my job is to travel so I’ll be bouncing back and forth between New England and SE Asia. Tough, huh? I’m sure y’all feel sorry for me.

4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

No question about, the BNT 1,000 subscriber celebration video where I get naked and Ian gets drunk.


5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

A lump of coal in his stocking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got great respect for Obama, but he needs to know just how “clean” coal really is. Check out Exposing the Bi-Partisan Myth of Clean Coal for more.

Tom Gates – Editor, Matador Life

1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

I loved this blog by member Jon Brandt and it has kicked around my brain ever since. The article that really got to me was Digging out of the Sinkhole by Susan Greenwood. Next year isn’t going to be any better for the economy and this article gave me a little bit of hope.

2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

Laos by a mile. I think it might have had something to do with the fact that by then, I was in The Zone with my 3 month trip through SE Asia. Nothing much could phase me and, even if it did, there was valium readily available. This place is delicious.

One word: Tom.

3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

No matter how incredible and remote the experiences have been since, I’ve never enjoyed a weekend more than the one I had at Singita Game Reserve in South Africa. You can romanticize the bum mattresses in guest houses only so much before you bump into an experience like this, where the concept of luxury is completely re-invented. Incredible people, the most astounding rooms, a great respect for nature, unbelievable food and a massive wine cellar. Oh, and the animals. RIGHT THERE. Yeah. This is where I’d go.

4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

I’m really bad at these. They enter and leave my brain in minutes. I keep coming back to the Snagglepuss sketch on SNL from a few weeks ago. It just cracked me up to no end. Watching Jay Brannan fumble and bumble through a career in music is pretty fun too.

5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

A subscription to Coast To Coast AM’s podcast. This is the best talk radio show in the world. Conspiracy theories, UFO’s, ghosts, space, abductions, secrets…I could listen to theories about the disappearance of honey bees and mysterious calf mutilations for hours. Perhaps this is too revealing.

If only 5% of what is covered on here is true, the world is a much different place than anyone understands it to be. I’m dying to know what secrets the incoming president gets to know and which are outside of even the his boundaries. By the way, if you’re traveling, this show makes bus rides fly by!

Eva Holland – Contributing Editor

Eva, seconds before licking the microphone.

1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

It’s hard to choose, but probably Spencer Klein’s essay, When Maximo Was Our Captain: Surfing Bocas. I don’t know much of anything about surfing, or Panama, but Spencer had me right there with powerful, hard-working word choices, telling details, and great use of dialogue.

2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

Oh gosh, this is tough. I covered a ton of ground this year and had a lot of amazing experiences. I’ll have to go with New Orleans, though – I visited for the first time in March and absolutely fell in love with the city’s food, its architecture, its people and its play-hard ethic.

NOLA combines everything that’s wonderful and welcoming and alive about the South, with the live-and-let-live progressive attitudes of a San Francisco or Vancouver. I was back there this summer for several weeks, and got caught up in the evacuation leading up to Hurricane Gustav. It was a sad way to leave, but I know I’ll be back.

3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

South Africa, no question.

My answer to that one hasn’t changed in years: I got hooked on the country’s history, culture and literature as an undergrad, and – as anyone who follows Matador Pulse or my blog in the Matador Travel community knows – I never get tired of talking about it.

I’ve never yet managed to scrape together the money to get there (the flight alone from Canada can run between two and three grand) but when I do, I’ll probably be one of the best-informed tourists ever to land in a new place. Someday, I plan on solemnly taking in Robben Island, hitting up the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, eating my way through Soweto’s up-and-coming dining scene (while pausing to appreciate the tragedy and political impact of the Uprising) and, of course, cheering the Springboks on at an international rugby match.

4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

Is it too corny to pick the “Yes We Can” clip?

Barring that, definitely the footage of ImprovEverywhere “freezing” Grand Central Station:

5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

Not to go on about South Africa too much, but probably Antjie Krog’s Country of my Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa. It’s an account of Krog’s experience as a journalist covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid, and it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It also has an awful lot to say about the immense challenges and rewards of healing and bridge-building after a terrible period of division.

Lola Akinmade – Editor, Matador Goods

Lola, not enjoying herself at all.

1) What was your favorite article on Matador in 2008?

One of my standout favorites is 5 Ways Inner Travel Helps Your See Other Cultures. As avid travelers who move beyond the mainstream to the offbeat, we can also fall into the trap of constantly pursuing the most “authentic” experience, when it’s actually being lived all around us.


2) Where was the best place you visited this year and why?

Peru was hands down my favorite spot this year and hiking the Inca Trail was the experience of a lifetime. I totally hammed it up at Macchu Pichu – jumping in a Matador t-shirt. Be sure to check out my Peru photo gallery. You can find more travel photography at http://www.lolaakinmade.com.


3) If you could travel anywhere in 2009, money aside, where would it be?

Mongolia has been calling me for awhile. Would love to spend some time in Mongolia, take in its raw beauty, and immerse within the culture. Sometimes, I consider myself a cultural ambassador and would love to share more of my own culture and heritage in far flung places.

But honestly, if money was not an issue, I would probably go on a year long round-the -world volunteering/photojournalism trip. It would be focused on working with children and in orphanages and I would work my way from the South Pacific islands through Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and back.


4) What is your favorite online video (youtube, etc) from this year?

I wish I could link to some thought provoking, insightful piece, but this video hands down, had me laughing and clapping in total admiration of the dancer’s talent – Guy dancing to Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

5) If you had to buy the incoming president a holiday present, what would it be?

Not to get into any religious tiffs here, but I’d probably buy him a Bible as a continual guide for the inclusive, “my brother’s keeper” exemplary lifestyle he’s already leading by. People caring for and sharing with each other at the grassroots level can change a nation. And together, they can do many great and mighty things.

To everyone in the Matador community: thank You for making 2008 our best year yet. We’ll see you in 2009!!