Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The color of adventure: When will travel show more diversity?

The faces of adventure travel are just as diverse as the spirit of adventure itself, argues our featured contributor, Lola Akinmade Åkerström, a Nigerian-born travel photographer and author. So why hasn’t the travel industry caught up?

Growing up in Nigeria, I came across a map in my favorite class, Geography. I traced those longitudes and latitudes with a yearning to explore them, and when my finger settled on the North Pole, it became a lifelong obsession of mine to get there someday.

Years later, while doing research on expeditions to the North Pole, I discovered 19th-century African-American explorer Matthew Henson who went on seven expeditions over a span of 23 years with Robert Peary. While Peary was glorified across media for discovering the North Pole, trail-breaker Henson—who technically would have been the first man to set foot on the pole—received a fraction of his accolades.

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The race to be last: Polar explorer Eric Larsen battles climate change

The North Pole has long fascinated adventurers, each one eager to set new records. But being first is no longer the holy grail of Arctic exploration. Polar explorer Eric Larsen shares what expeditions are like now—when the finish line is melting.

“It’s not about being first,” polar explorer Eric Larsen tells me, before we embark on a overnight winter camping trip with a group of other cold-weather loving adventurers. “It’s about being last, and seeing these places before they’re forever changed.”

We weren’t heading to the North Pole (even if it sure felt like it) and a place Larsen knows well; instead, we pitched our tents in the backcountry of Irwin, Colorado, outside Crested Butte. And Larsen wasn’t challenging anyone to a race up the mountains either. He was referring to the race to the North Pole—a race that has changed significantly since the heyday of Arctic exploration, thanks (or rather, no thanks) to the modern-day threat of global warming.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Inside Kong Lor Cave, Laos’ real-life ‘Space Mountain’

It’s way off the tourist trail and difficult to get to, but Laos’ Kong Lor Cave dishes up a theme park-sized experience for those willing to make the journey.

Imagine Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Space Mountain speed. Now imagine it on an underground river, in the dark, inside a massive cave in Central Laos. That’s what it feels like to fly through Kong Lor Cave on a longtail boat. Some even liken it to the River Styx—the mythological ancient Greek river that supposedly links Earth with the underworld—or Gollum’s underground lair from The Lord of the Rings.

Set in the relative wilderness of the Phu Hin Bun National Protected Area, some 200 miles east of the capital Vientiane, Kong Lor (which means ‘beauty in the dark’) is difficult to get to and hidden from the main Vientiane-Vang Vieng-Luang Prabang tourist trail. In fact, most travelers to Laos wouldn’t have even heard of it. But those who make the journey are in for a treat.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The most fun on three wheels? Try driving a tuk-tuk through Sri Lanka

More tourists are visiting Sri Lanka than ever before. But if you want to dodge the crowds, you could always sign up for a 10-day, 1000-mile self-drive tuk-tuk rally. What’s the worst that could happen?

It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m watching my brother, Matt, have a mild nervous breakdown. We’re lost in a tangle of spaghetti-nest back roads in rural Sri Lanka.

He’s already nearly driven our tuk-tuk into two separate walls in just 10 minutes. “I think something’s wrong with the front wheel,” he stammers. I coax him out of the driver’s seat, inspect the front wheel (to check if it has been put on sideways) and offer to take over.

A gaggle of local kids is laughing at us. Partly, I imagine, a result of our bad driving. And partly because Matt is dressed as a zebra and I am dressed as a giraffe. If we hadn’t already been driving for six hours, if the light wasn’t waning, and if I wasn’t lost in Sri Lanka with my brother, I’d probably be laughing too.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Forget Paris, this tiny town in Malta is Europe’s Culture Capital in 2018

Malta’s Valletta may be Europe’s smallest capital, but it was named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2018. But how can this tiny town hope to compete with the Old Continent’s cultural heavyweights?

To a rousing chorus from an orange-cloaked choir and two black-clad soloists, 7,000 years of Maltese culture ripples, splashes, folds, sweeps and dazzles its way in glorious technicolor projections across the façade of one of Europe’s most spectacular Baroque cathedrals.

It’s the launch of Valletta 2018, marking Malta’s tiny UNESCO World Heritage capital’s year as European Capital of Culture (together with Leeuwarden in the Netherlands). With over 140 projects and 400 events planned, there has been, as you’d expect, plenty of local criticism, too: “Where’s the high culture?”; “Very flashy, but not enough of the real Malta”; “Why is it not more cutting-edge?”

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The more remote,the better: Why this adventurer loves difficult journeys

Difficult journeys and remote places, often by motorbike, is what travel writer Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent does best. With her latest book up for a prestigious award, we catch up with this fearless, multi-tasking, solo-traveling adventurer.

She’s a writer, public speaker, TV producer, and expedition leader—and her latest book, Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains, set in India’s far north-eastern corner of Arunachal Pradesh, has been shortlisted for the 2018 Edward Stanford Wanderlust Adventure Travel Book of the Year.

This (still) under-visited region was closed to foreigners between 1950 and 1998 and even today, permits and restrictions make it a challenge to visit—but that’s all part of the appeal. We chat to Antonia about why she was attracted to this part of India, what makes it so different, and the enduring appeal of solo travel.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to rent a scooter in Southeast Asia (and live to tell the tale)

Many travelers dismiss the idea of renting automatic scooters in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world on account of not having a license. But those travelers are missing out, argues Ben Groundwater.

“Have I made a terrible mistake?” That’s a question you will most definitely ask yourself at some point on a motorbike adventure in Southeast Asia. That and others like,”‘Was this the worst idea I’ve ever had?”And, “Should I give up, turn around, and just forget this whole thing ever happened?”

They’re reasonable questions and certainly, all of them flashed through my mind as I hurtled through the chaos of noise, dust and bright lights that is central Ho Chi Minh City. I was only about two minutes into my six-day journey around southern Vietnam. Have I made a terrible mistake? Possibly.

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