Most people will tell you that 2011 sucked.

ALL THE NEGATIVITY THAT we’ve been hearing about the past 364 days has come from realizing things we’ve known all along, but have somehow ignored or shrugged aside. From miserably depressing scandals in athletics to uprisings across the Arab World to protests in Russia and the biggest wave of social demonstration in the United States since the 1960s, the world has begun its dreary awakening.

And it seems everywhere we went this year, from Patagonian Chile to Egypt to New York, the stories we brought back were shaped by these awakenings.

As well, within the Matador Network itself, we saw a year of unprecedented change and achievement:

  • For the second year in a row, we won a Lowell Thomas Award for Best Online Travel Journalism.
  • We produced our very own video series, Breaking Free, a collection of stories about American citizens living abroad to pursue their dreams, to debut next year.
  • We launched our new-and-improved Matador Community, which has become arguably the greatest place on the Internet for travelers, writers, photographers, filmmakers, and straight-up life-seekers to connect and share their work.
  • We produced our very first print publication: No Foreign Lands: 100 of the Most Inspirational Travel Quotes of All Time, which combines powerful photography from contributors amongst the Matador community with meditative thoughts from some of history’s most profound thinkers.

Below you’ll find a few of our favorite moments here at Matador for 2011. Some you may remember, some you might have missed. We’d love for you to share your thoughts on what you loved, hated, laughed at, cried with, or raised your eyebrow to. We’ll see you on the other side of the calendar.


Matador in the Middle East

If 2011 was a big year for anyone, it was those in the Middle East. At Matador, our coverage of the region spanned from the very timely in editor Nick Rowlands's dispatches from Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution to timeless pieces like When people ask about my trip to Israel and The Gaza you don't see in the news. And with Glimpse correspondents in Syria and regular contributor Robert Hirschfield recalling memories from Israel, we don't plan on losing our focus any time soon.


Scenes from the real places you don't see on the news

2011 saw the addition of photojournalist Daniel C. Britt to the Matador team, and with that came his eye-opening series of photo essays like Scenes from the real Mazar-e-Sheriff (seen above), Scenes from the real Afghanistan, The Kabul you don't see in the news, and Scenes from the real Iraq. Further south, Uganda-based photographer Will Boase offered his own ground-level view of The Uganda you don't see in the news and A beginner's guide to driving in Uganda.


An Epic Year for MatadorU

MatadorU, the educational and training arm of Matador Network, saw a year of absolutely amazing success stories, highlighted by photography student Laura Cook being named The Guardian's "Been There" photo contest winner, writing student publication of tons of material from U students across dozens of venues around the world.


No Foreign Lands

A lot of big things happened for us this year, but certainly one of the biggest was the publication of our very first printed book: No Foreign Lands: 100 of the Most Inspirational Travel Quotes of All Time. Juxtaposing the most memorable and thought-provoking quotes with fascinating images from around the world, No Foreign Lands is an inspirational meditation on how we travel.


24 Hours In...

This year, we kicked off the beginning of a new series of ground-level guides to how to make the absolute most of your 24 hours in a city. So far, we've covered Manila, Seattle, San Diego, Mammoth Lakes, Puerto Escondido and Quebec City, among others. If you think you know your city like the back of your hand, hit us up!


How to Watch a Bullfight

If you've ever been to a bullfight--and even if you haven't--chances are good that you have an opinion on the matter. In How to watch a bullfight, Jason Wire takes a step back from what he saw and, as he says, "it might be the most impressive thing you see all day."


Memories of Life in the Burn Unit

As perpetual travelers, what we seek is not the "destination"--it's simply the place. That place can be a beach in Thailand, a bar in Chicago--but it can also be some place we don't actively search for--a burn unit of a hospital, like the one in Jane Nemis' Memories of life in the burn unit. It is not filled with sun-dappled, glittering landscapes, nor exotic spices, nor enchanting street performers. It is, however, filled with truth...something worth seeking no matter where you find yourself.


The 2011 Glimpse Correspondents

2011 was a huge year for Glimpse, our program that fosters editorial and funding support for emerging writers and photographers. The most significant piece by far was Iris Chung's just-published piece, North Korean defectors: Escaping life under Kim Jong-Il, which arrived on the same day as the former leader's death. Also be sure to catch up on other highlights from this year's Glimpse correspondents, like The making of a Polish-American club star and Notes on wearing the veil in Indonesia.


The Best of Matador Sports

This year at Matador Sports, editor Benita Hussain interviewed climbing photographer extraordinaire Jimmy Chin, SURFER magazine editor Chris Dixon published a photo essay about surfing big waves at Cortes Bank, and Meghan Hicks reflected on over 200,000 miles of adventure in Gear as memoir: A vehicle of life and death. If you read any of them, read all of them.


How to identify a narcotrafficker

One of the year's most celebrated pieces among the Matador staff was How to identify a narcotrafficker, by contributor Philip Johnson. As Nights editor Kate Sedgwick notes, "it's the insider/outsider view that criticizes without condemning, that plays on our fears as travelers" that illuminates the culture within our travels themselves.


Burning Man 2011

In case you haven't noticed, we Matadorians like to burn. This year was no different, as Matador's co-founder Ross Borden, filmmaker Ian Mackenzie, and resident ass-rasher Joshua Johnson spent a week out on the playa to celebrate this year's theme, Rites of Passage. We've published a great many articles on Burning Man, but if you're looking for a place to start, head for our original video, Dear Temple of Transition.


Matador @ TBEX '11, Vancouver

2011 witnessed the most amount of Matador staff meeting up in the same place at the same time, when 10 of us took part in TBEX 2011 in Vancouver. From back left to right: Ross Borden, Karen Mackenzie, Joshua Johnson, Eric Warren, (2nd row) Michelle Schusterman, Stefan Klopp, (front row) Carlo Alcos, Candice Walsh, Eileen Smith, Ian Mackenzie.


Going Underground

Steve Duncan, the host of the Discovery Channel's Urban Explorers program, drew up a beautiful and interesting photo essay about his travels in some of the world's strangest underground passageways, sewers, tunnels, and catacombs.


A morning in Dickens world

Perpetual searcher of the surreal Bill Brown spent a half-day in Dickens World, a strange pseudo-amusement Dickens museum outside London. Fake rivers, strip malls, and at least one trip to the fourth dimension are involved. If you're into that kind of thing...


Let's talk about race...

Even the most neutral conflict-avoiders had an opinion on Ernest "Fly Brother" White's 8 things white people will never know about travel, which churned up a storm of comments and discussion by putting into perspective the vastly different experiences that can happen when traveling simply because of one's race.


How to Get Laid in Mexico

Matador's senior editor, David Miller, had a particular goal in mind during a surfing trip in Mexico some years ago: "Goal: find partner and engage in sexual encounter which possibly evolves from straight-up "boning" into unprecedentedly life-affirming moments." By the time you finish reading, whether or not he succeeded in reaching the goal may not even matter anymore.


Life. It's about relationships.

This year we took a hard look at the relationships we've made inside and out of our travels, with Lauren Quinn offering an intimately stark memoir about How NOT to get laid in New York, Teresa Jarnikova's Notes on not kissing after two beers, and Brave New Traveler editor Carlo Alcos's honest and uplifting look at How to get over a divorce.


Year in Review: Our favorite moments of 2011