This was hard. Over the last month I’ve collected the nominees and added them to my RSS reader, slowly sifting through the blogs I liked, loved and well, honestly there were a few that just confused me. For example what does a vegetarian food blog have to do with travel? I mean sure, yeah, there’s a recipe for kimchi, but that’s not really the same as, say, going to Korea and eating kimchi, right? I had to draw the line somewhere!
Last year, I made two categories: one for the best new travel blogs, and the best overall. At the time I felt like new blogs needed a little extra help and while someone six months into blogging isn’t going to be able to compete with a six-year veteran (or so I thought), I would take their potential into account and give folks credit for the great adventure they were ABOUT to have.
This year, it’s totally different. From newbies like Roads and Kingdoms, which is written by NY Times and Time Magazine writers to Mozzarella Mama by an Associated Press journalist in Italy to Honey Trek, who seemingly came out of no where and are writing these epic posts like this one of them hiking the Annapurnas — it just seems like the field is filled with really professional and inspiring blogs.
Anyway, I have a certain thing I’m looking for, so these are the blogs that fit that thing. I like strong photography driven sites, I like story, I like professional writing, but I want to know the person writing it too. I’m completely turned off by service-type articles, anything like “how to get cheap shoelaces” or whatever kind of kills it for me. Cut the fluff, give me the good stuff. Do something a little different. Be quirky or strange, but be good. Don’t hold back.
It’s a pretty short list, but these were my favorites.
With so many people writing about around-the-world travel, specifically the one-year-abroad-quick-let’s-see-everything kind of trips, I really like this site because it’s about travel, but it’s not about travel. You know? He’s so un-self aware it’s sort of breathtaking. It’s written by Foster Huntington, who you may have run into online if you ever saw The Burning House project (which went viral a while back and now has a book). For the past two years he’s been traveling around the west coast in his van. He tells stories, takes pictures, runs the #vanlife hashtag on Twitter and even has a tumblr for user submitted van-ity shots. If you love a good old-fashioned road trip, then this is it: A Restless Transplant
I knew Torre last year, and I’ve always been a big fan of her writing. This year she’s been writing more about her personal travels, which has been equal doses of hilarious and horrifying to follow. She’s almost worse at motor biking around Thailand than us (we fell off our bike three times on the way to Pai). This is a good time to start following her, because her book is coming out this spring (Love with a Chance of Drowning about her adventures sailing around the world with “a guy she met in a bar”) and personally I can’t wait to see what happens next: Fearful Adventurer
This is a travel blog with an unlikely focus: Namibia. I think at this point we can fairly well imagine what it would be like to live in the countryside of Italy (thank you Under a Tuscan Sun) or in France (thanks, like a million books) or to even live on a Thai beach (Oh, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, the role that launched a thousand full-moon parties) but Ekua’s blog is completely fresh and new. Like this post of the Namib Desert — stunning photography but also, something you’ve never seen before. Wherever she ends up, I want more of that: Girl Unstoppable
A good photo essay is an art, something Alex & Mina sum up as, “the often mundane, seldom peculiar, and sometimes extraordinary details”. The photography is just amazing, their design is totally stripped down to let you get as much photo-goodness as you can, and they know how to tell a story without words. Okay there are some words. Mostly photos though, just like their name implies: Sending Postcards
Kim was on the list last year as one of the best new blogs, and this year she was one of the most frequently nominated blogs. I still wasn’t going to put her on the list (I really did want to pick all brand new blogs this year) but I was completely sucked into her writing for the Rickshaw Run she’s doing in India now and the realities of being three women in India, sleeping in tiny villages, which essentially means a cot in some stranger’s shack, and what that’s like. Kim can write. She can tell stories. And you don’t feel this cloying “Look at me, I’m being a writer!” thing happening either — she’s a natural: So Many Places
Cass started in Alaska in 2009 and has been slowly traveling around North and South America. It’s one of those blogs that you almost want to pick a place to start, somewhere back in his archives and just read forward from there. Here’s a random post from June of last year. Beautiful photography, great outdoor travel writing, it’s really like a very long book you’d pick up called, “Three years of biking around the Americas” because you love the idea of that, even if you’d never end up going. It’s classic Outside magazine style travel narratives: While Out Riding
Best New Blogs
Victoria and Steve just started traveling last year, made their way from South America to their current location, just up the road from me in Mexico. She’s a writer, he’s a film maker, and between them they have a way of writing and capturing the world that’s stylized and emotive (See: An Ode to Couchsurfing or Bolivia Salt Flats). The very promising: Bridges and Balloons
Mike and Ann got married in 2011 and at the end of the year decided to take a 500 day trek around the world for their honeymoon. Which is disappointing, because at some point that means they’ll go home. And not post safari photos or write-ups on Mozambique. It’s probably the best round-the-world travelogue style blog I’ve seen — ever. Tons and tons of fantastic photos, entertaining stories, so really, maybe 500 days isn’t long enough: Honey Trek
Ever wanted to teach English overseas? Sarah is doing that — she is an up-and-coming writer, just completed the Glimpse Correspondent program, has a BFA in art education and she teaches English in South Korea. Her stories are very much grounded in where she is… like when she hiked the Jagged Ridge Trail on Saryang-do, two tiny islands located in South Gyeongsang Province — you’re getting a much closer view of what it might be like to live overseas, it’s something you only see when the person is there long enough to go deeper and also cares about the details and getting them right. She’s also writing some heavy narratives (like Perceived as a Prostitute on the Streets of Seoul). Seriously good: Mapping Words
Patricia Thomas is an AP reporter who has been living and raising two children (with her Italian husband) in Italy for over 16 years. She’s working on a book about her experiences, which I’m sure will be lovely, but I’m kind of enjoying the bite-sized excerpts she’s feeding us online. I have to admit, I often skip straight to the parts about her kids, like this (Spitting Image) is one of my favorites about being corrected by her culturally Italian child to be more “elegant”. She’s also a great reporter, so stories about a wine mystery fit right in. And when she says, “Ah, just give me a violet vespa,” I feel like, damn I know this woman: Mozzarella Mamma
Roads and Kingdoms doesn’t QUITE fit in here, except that it’s amazing. It’s a multi-author blog, it’s written like a travel magazine, but it’s so good that I had to include it. It’s still a blog, but make no mistake, they are putting out content that rivals anything you’d find out there, from Nat Geo to NY Times to Travel & Leisure. I think their travel + food stories are sublime: Roads and Kingdoms
Sarah started traveling in 2012, and she writes some wonderfully honest and unaffected stories (see: My Meltdown Moment). She decided to travel to find herself and to build a new life and she’s doing that. For me, the most interesting part is watching her grow… just in the short time she’s been blogging you can see it, in her writing, her photography, her story telling, the way she moves through the world. If you wonder if travel can change you, I think the answer is yes: Sarah Somewhere