Tag archives for travel

Long before I ever jet set to London or Tokyo, and long before I sailed the oceans or bussed to Antarctica, I went on road trips, with my parents. Every summer we set off in our family van, rolling from one rest stop to the next, on to national parks and the beach and the…

Back in 1996, not far from my house, someone walking through the park stumbled upon a gigantic stone covered in moss. Finding a rock in Rock Creek Park is not unusual, but when that rock turns out to be a gigantic marble vase as tall as me, adorned with a fierce eagle and a oxidized…

You don’t “drive” a dogsled. You simply hold on tight and try to not fall off. My team of Alaskan huskies only have one speed—forward, and as a dabbling amateur musher, I only have one function—to slow us down. I jump on the rubber drag pad whenever we rocket down steep slopes, or those moments…

It’s been a grand year of great adventure, and though the clock is ticking the final seconds ’til 2014, I am glad for the chance to review all that we’ve been through in the past twelve months: I opened 2013 on the streets of Edinburgh, exploring the land of my forefathers before leaping back across…

‘Tis the season of snowy nights and short days, log fires and sleigh rides. It’s also the season of ice storms and slush piles and seasonal affective disorder—in other words, the perfect time to escape to somewhere else. This year, National Geographic celebrated all Four Seasons of Travel with our book by the same name.…

Back in ZA

I thought I’d been selected for a secondary search. The man motioned at me from behind the table, lulling me away from the security line at Johannesburg’s Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport—and so I grabbed my bags and dropped them on the table. But it was all just a ruse—as I stepped closer, his uniform…

Superlatives are the bane of travel publishing. Magazines tend to shout their hot pink sans serif headlines, boasting the highest, remotest, southernmost, fanciest, nicest, cheapest, most sophisticated, most beautiful, and most wonderful; in short—the best. But who decides these things, and what exactly constitutes the very best travel experience? Playing with pandas in China? Riding…

I never in a million years ever believed I would get to spend time with gorillas in the wild. The shock of living the pages of National Geographic magazine, over and over, is what makes this 125th Anniversary Expedition so spectacular. For me, Rwanda marked the final stop in what has been, truly, a life-changing…

More than the lions or the elephants or the hippos—it’s the smell of Africa that I find so intoxicating. Right now, in November, it’s the smell of the driest dust—grey Kalahari sand so fine you can taste it on your teeth at the end of the day—and the smell of the promise of rain. Scientifically-speaking,…

In the Kingdom of One Million Elephants, I only saw two. He was just a baby, huddled against his larger mother with wrinkly skin and sad, wet eyes that blinked against the bright sun. His trunk gripped a shoot of green leaves like a toy, and waving it in the air, the young elephant moved…

So far, I’ve been to about ten countries that each claim to be the happiest country on Earth. In Iceland, in Denmark, in Holland, even in India once, someone pulled me aside to claim that their country is the happiest. I never disagree; I just simply ask, “How do you know?” I’ve taken enough Stats…

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…

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…

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…

Preserve the Parks

My very first travels, ever, were family vacations. Every summer, my parents would pile all of my brothers and sisters into our van and then head west for weeks on end. I learned quickly that “travel” meant three things—enduring Nebraska, visiting national parks, and surviving on Nature Valley granola bars. I remember so well how…

Back in January, I tracked down my great-great-great grandfather at the ScotlandsPeople Centre. This month, I traveled to the other side of Scotland and saw the land of my maternal ancestors. I walked the same streets of Glasgow that they walked, went to their church of Paisley Abbey (check out the view), visited their last…

Glasgow Music

Every city has its sound—Manhattan’s taxi commotion and Sydney ferries, or Cairo’s car horns and New Orleans’ trumpets in the streets—though try and define it too much and you’ll miss the music of the place. To be a good traveler, you really only have to listen. I’ve been listening to Glasgow since the eighties—ever since…

I am always drawn to islands—the more windswept and remote, the better. Thus I always dreamt of visiting Na h-Eileanan Siar, or the Western Isles of Scotland (also known as the Outer Hebrides). Thanks to travel brochures and back issues of our very own National Geographic, I imagined the isles were a separate world of…

Flying to Barra

“Boarding pass?” I dug the card from my bag and handed it to the woman at the shop in the Glasgow Airport—her nametag said “Lauren”, her straight brown hair fell to her shoulders, and her nose was pierced with a barely-there gold stud. “Where you flying to?” she wondered aloud, but I only stared back…

The world turns and seasons change—summer has passed and led us into gentler autumn with its changing leaves and more rigid schedule. The kids are back in school, and work is revving back up again, but there is no such thing as a bad time to go wandering. Next month, National Geographic will release their…

Albertosaurus was shorter than most of the RVs I’ve been stuck behind on my journey around the great province of Alberta, but as a smaller ancestor of T. rex, he still packed a serious bite. Somehow I fell in love with this species that is no more, perhaps because this dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous was…

Brushing Chico is the most fun I’ve had in weeks. His coat is sleek and velvety, and with every stroke, a hundred little white hairs fall away, leaving his shiny and muscled surface quivering in the faint light of this century-old barn. The walls and roof beams are built with rough-hewn tree trunks, the bark…