Archives for October, 2013

According to the teenager with a shaved head, two hand tattoos and one bare shoulder, the crossed lightning pendant I just purchased will cancel out eighteen different evils and assist me in overcoming 80,000 obstacles. The IRS comes to mind—but the young Buddhist monk who kneels before me offers no policy with my purchase—no small…

From our plane, the city looks as if some fitful child scattered all of his Legos across a blanket of green. Every colored block, some red brick, pale pink, or sea green—is home to a family or two or three, a shop or restaurant, probably cows and goats, too. And all these homes, multiplied by…

Seven Skies

“When you reach an empty part of the desert, if the wind blows from the North, then West, South, and East—if the wind comes from every direction, this means, ‘You are not welcome here’, and you need to leave immediately.” Such is the helpful advice of Mohammed on the microphone, his last-minute lecture—‘Intro to Genies’—right…

Is it possible to fall in love with a place in just one day? Yes, of course. The answer is yes. After leaving London on National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary Expedition, we flew to Oman, and shifted suddenly from the cooler fall of Europe into the steamy season of the Gulf. In total, I believe we…

Dead Reckoning

“You only know where you are by remembering how you got there.” So says our professor, anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis, explaining the sailors’ process of navigation, dead reckoning. He stands in the aisle of the plane, gesturing with his hands, while on either side, a dozen flat screen TV monitors all show…

I just can’t keep it a secret this time–no way, no how. My next assignment is just too big, too spectacular, and too special to leave you all guessing along the way about where I might end up in the world. And so, just this once, I am publishing my travel plans in advance (uh,…

I love National Geographic. It’s not a secret. Like most of us, I was obsessed as child. I read (or flipped through), every single issue of National Geographic and World magazines. I grew up watching National Geographic Explorer on television, reading National Geographic books, and competing in the National Geographic Bee. I could never get…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: travel is so very personal. Each of us has our own idea of what constitutes a great destination and a great time. Indeed, it’s the beauty of changing seasons is how each one caters to our personal fancies, be it Paris in the spring or Alaska…

In summer, the Golden-winged Warbler flits among the thorny blackberry bushes and spiky yellow goldenrod up here, on top of the highest points in the Appalachians. These rounded, stone-strewn humps are the “Highlands of Roan” and as their name suggests, they very much resemble the misty highlands of Scotland—mostly bald compared to the surrounding hillsides…

Charles Rennie Mackintosh observed that, “Art is the flower, Life is the Green Leaf,”  but I would very humbly add that after the green leaf dies, all those red, orange, and yellow leaves become nature’s most magnificent work of art. For the past two weeks I’ve enjoyed autumn’s splendor, from the yellow aspens of Grand…

While the government shutdown turned the South Rim into a bit of a ghost town, I still managed to see the Grand Canyon by flying over it, twice. Luckily, the airplane and helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon continued to run, allowing me the chance to really take in the full breadth of America’s inspiring…

I’ve been deported before— There was that Chili’s in college where the manager asked my friends and I to leave immediately . . . and then there was that small middle-eastern nation with its humorless dictator, whose border agents informed me that I had been blacklisted—should I attempt to return, I would be barred entry.…

Good travel surprises us. It teaches us new things, it changes our opinions, and helps us see the world in a new way. Until now, I’ve always associated fall with the northeast and the foliage brilliance of New England, but traveling through Utah in early October showed me the other side of autumn–one with red…

With 5 iconic National Parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion), Utah ranks third among states with National Parks (California has 9, Alaska, 8). In addition, Utah has 7 National Monuments (Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, Dinosaur, Rainbow Bridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Timpanogos Cave, and Hovenweep), as well as 6 National Forests (and 43 state…

Every second of travel comes down to a decision—to stop and get out of the car, or to carry on, foot pressed hard on the pedal, to the destination we first had in mind. I was doing fifty when I saw the small cabin at the edge of the road, prim and square, with windows…

It snowed on the night I arrived in Grand Teton. The next morning, on the last day of September, the wall of mountains simply disappeared into whiteness, and as I hiked through the sagebrush, my face tingling with falling drops of ice, I sent this tweet: big snowstorm overhead/ mountains melt into heaven/ the sky…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the freedom to travel is the greatest freedom of all. Most of us take it for granted—we walk, drive, fly and ride wherever we please. Sometimes a road gets blocked for construction, or a flight gets cancelled—perhaps we get annoyed and frustrated, but in the end, we…