Two-week trip to the Balkans? Count me in

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(Not the actual lagoon, but close)

World Nomads is currently running a travel writing contest for a two-week trip to the Balkans. Comes with free flights, €1000 for a 10-day tour, apparel, a train pass and mentoring with travel writer Tim Neville of Outside Magazine.

I’ve entered in past WM competitions, with no success…but maybe this year will be different? Either way, go here to read my story on the contest them of “a place I’ll never forget” – in this case, the place I call the shaman’s lagoon, in Haiti.

Applications close on March 21 and winners are announced April 12.

Colorado

Over the past two months, I found myself headed out of Chicago every two weeks, first to see family in Boston, then for a long weekend in Venice Beach, and finally, to visit my brother and his girlfriend at their new place in Colorado, about an hour north of Denver.

It was my first time in the Centennial State, but between the mountains, big open plains and faint smell of cow, it definitely won’t be my last.

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Babson Boulders

BABSON BOULDERS NEVER TRY NEVER WIN

As a native Midwesterner, New England has always seemed full of secrets to me. But none as surreal as the Babson Boulders, a seemingly random collection of massive boulders with inspirational all-caps etchings scattered around the forest of an abandoned inland settlement in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

I first learned about the boulders six or seven years ago, when someone recommended the site to me after hearing about it from someone else who heard about it from someone else. That’s my kind of provenance.

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The Iceland Ring Road: Part II

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I took an eight-day drive with my wife and partner Sarah around Iceland’s famous and rugged Ring Road. In the last post, I explained how we did it. In this one, I explain what we saw and ate along the way.

Against popular currents we took a counterclockwise route around Iceland’s 830-mile Ring Road, starting and ending in Reykjavik. Because we only had eight days and a 2wd car, we limited our exploration to:

  • South Iceland (Day 1-2)
  • East Iceland (Day 3-4)
  • North Iceland (Day 5-6)
  • West Iceland (Day 7-8)

This left out areas like the Westfjords and the Highlands, but those can be for next time. As the Jewish people say, next year in the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

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“I’m tryin’ to backroads it to Walmart!”

After spending two weeks in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for the first half of July, I’m officially back in Chicago. At least, my body is. My psyche is still in the desert somewhere. On one hand, it feels like I was gone for a long time. On the other, it feels like I never left Chicago; this small Edgewater apartment, this noisy block where the cars bottom out on the speed bumps, this stupid cat who recently started snoring for some stupid reason.

I wrote a few extended meditations in the desert, but haven’t logged my various stray observations and favorite pictures and so forth. So, here we are—stray observations and some pictures. Enjoy.

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Natural Theater, or, the Very Large Array

Yesterday I took a few-hour jaunt out of T or C to the Very Large Array, the, uh, very large radio telescope/observatory roughly fifty miles west of Socoro, New Mexico—notable only because once you’re past Socoro, there’s nothing but mountains, fields, and a gradual elevation climb to 7,000 feet above sea level. Every five or ten minutes I’d see another car on the road, but otherwise, the only signs of life are endless acres of shrubby trees tended by sleepy herds of roaming cattle. But even in its seeming remoteness, the landscape is far from bleak. Instead, it emanates an unfamiliar, palatial sentience. Not merely a backdrop, but a conscious presence. Waterlogged storm clouds combed the sky, washing the roads with fat raindrops. Lightning flashed, occasionally scorching the ground just a few car lengths away. But in the distance, the hot, white light of the desert sun pierced through the gray dimness of the squall, as a broad performance of natural theater. And no better stage than the vast plains that once were the floor Lake San Agustin, an ancient, Pleistocene expanse.

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