This is the Chicago I saw in 2017. A city of stoicism, secrets, strife, sadness and surprise. All iPhone 7 for @benvanloon.jpg.
Provincetown, Cape Cod, Boston, Georges Island.
No particular order.
No particular need for order.
For the second time in as many months, my wife and I headed back to the high New Mexican desert to see some new sites and find ourselves at some old ones. Every time I go back to the Chihuahua, I leave part of myself behind and I take something different back with me.
New Mexico isn’t really a place people think about. It’s the epitome of flyover country. Round-trip flights from Chicago to Albuquerque rarely fluctuate in price or schedule, and nothing in New Mexico ever really changes. It has its own spirit that’s weathered regime changes and climate shifts for centuries and chances are that it will outlive the looming death of American empire. Fine with me, as long as I can buy some land there before it happens (one of my few life goals, along with eating bear meat and setting foot on Antarctica).
Taos is a small town of about 5,700 people in the high desert of northern New Mexico. It’s home to artists, ranchers, naturalists, vagrants and the oldest inhabited indigenous community in the U.S.—the Taos Pueblo, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Landmark and thousand-year-old residence of the Tiwa-speaking Puebloan people.
Not many people have heard of Taos—including many in the surrounding region—but it’s probably better that way. No major highways run near it (driving through a maze of winding roads it’s about four hours south of Denver and two-and-a-halfish hours north of Albuquerque), it has no major economic influence, it’s about 7,000 feet above sea level and it’s surrounded by expansive mountain ranges, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. It’s a miniature somewhere in the middle of a massive and mysterious nowhere.
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.
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.
I recently took a long weekend to hang out in Venice Beach, the Land of Lebowski. No itinerary. We ate some good food, rode some shitty bikes, stayed in an AirBnB along the canals, hiked to the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains and caught our last dose of Pacific sun before heading back to Chicago to hide inside for the next six months of winter.
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.