ASIA & THE MIDDLE EAST I lived briefly in both Cyprus and Turkey. This – combined with a degree in Latin and classical studies – often gives me good contacts and historical context while covering some areas of the Middle East. I'm excited by Asia, but have only been to Thailand and Hong Kong so far. Work takes me more often to Oceania – places like Guam, Yap, Palau, Samoa, Tahiti, the Marquesas, and, in December 2011, Australia and New Zealand. I also plan to visit China, Cambodia and Vietnam in 2012.
HONG KONG – Glitz and grit collide in the Fragrant City. This cosmopolitan consumeropolis was once a pirate outpost, then a port trading in tea, silk and opium. From a barren rock, Hong Kong grew into one of the worlds densest cities with seven million residents.
It's still eastern Hollywood
HONG KONG – Big thunderclouds boil across this neon-swathed cityscape. Brooding, bright and quicksilver, the landscape perfectly personifies the Fragrant City's cinema.
A life in ruins: Petra
JORDAN – Hooves tattoo down the Siq, that sinuous half-mile crack of canyon. Dusk drips down the walls. Gods squat in the shadows; ancient desert lords hacked into the scarlet sandstone. We cower, alone and forsaken.
BALKANS & EASTERN EUROPE I've roadtripped through Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia, in addition to travels in Hungary and Romania, where I stayed with a friend for a few weeks.
Stone Cold Beauty
CROATIA – After a breakup, some women binge on chocolate. Others buy shoes. I went to the Balkans: substituting wander for lust. Oh yes, I was in Feisty Femme mode, all right. Forget heartbreak. Bring on the beer and borscht!
Coffee bribes in the former bloc
HUNGARY – Nyugati station is an odd blend of Victorian ironwork, eastern Bloc grime and a slick blue-glass mall. This mishmash, not without its charms, is repeated throughout the capital.
HUNGARY – Everyone tries to like Budapest. Eastern Europe is trendy and the
recent EU expansion only added cache.
Old Brave World
NORWAY – The Zodiac slaps up the fjord. I crouch in the bow, one hand laced under the plastic lifeline, the other holding my fleece hat. Norway smells of firs and salmon and saltspray. The Arctic breeze holds an undertone of iceberg too.
Spoonful of sugar
SLOVENIA – The spa's list echoes its broad-church ethos, stretching even to Tibetan gong treatments. The clear-eyed, beaming therapist places bronze-colored cauldrons around my body, then taps them with a padded mallet. Apparently the "singing bowls" are harmonically aligning my aura. "Some tart's banging pots on me," the Monty Pythonesque part of my brain trills.
I called this continent home for more than eight years. Many places I've traveled I've never covered, such as Monaco, Germany and France.
EUROPE – From the Queen Mary 2 to a French Kissing Festival, Claddagh rings to Crusaders' castles, here are top picks for romance in the stone streets of Europe.
Old Brave World
The Zodiac slaps up the fjord. I crouch in the bow, one hand laced under the plastic lifeline, the other holding my fleece hat. Norway smells of firs and salmon and saltspray. The Arctic breeze holds an undertone of iceberg too.
GREAT BRITAIN The UK feels like my other home: I moved there aged 21 and have since wracked up about five years residence, most recently in 2003. The undeniable highlight: living aboard a traditional narrowboat in Oxford, England, while working for the local paper. My back catalogue contains material never published on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as destinations like Bath, Bristol, the Isle of Skye, the Orkney Islands and London (I lived in Camden for several months and routinely visit).
I would most love an assignment to visit the Channel Islands. Or anything that would take me to see my godbaby in Crouch End, London!
England's Coal Coast UK – The scion of Serenity Hall is silent. I am neither a tree-hugger, nor, it seems, tree-hugged. But I do take away something deeper from the coal coast, so stripped by the sea and corroded by commerce: a harsh and haunting landscape that somehow preserves the calm after the storm.
Around in Boats
UK – A British narrowboat excursion certainly ranks among a few of the world's
favorite things, along with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Naughty and Nice
UK – England's movie industry stretches far beyond slick spires and wheezing wizards. Oxford is a town that has it all.
MEDITERRANEAN I called this area home for more than three years, primarily Rome, but also Athens, Nicosia and Ankara. As an Italian-American and classics major, I sunk deep into my roots and historical geekiness there. I return yearly on average and often teach travel-writing workshops in the region.
My unpublished material includes Malta, Pisa, Sardinia, the Veneto, Cinque Terra, Lago di Como, Calabria and Puglia, where my family originated. At the time, you see, I planned to be a hard news reporter, not a travel writer. But working with The International Herald Tribune's insert Italy Daily changed my mind about the genre. I later staffed at The Athens News in Greece. I've contributed to about a dozen guide- and phrasebooks for the area.
Dream destinations: Spain, Portugal, Crete, Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. Also Tunisia...
Venus on a half shell
CYPRUS – Follow in the footsteps of Aphrodite to rediscover romance on the shores of the Mediterranean.
At the Seashore with Medea
A Marriage Unravels in Athens
GREECE – Plum shadows outline the Parthenon. This buttress of land, the art upon it defying time and Turkish detonations are so ancient. The moon even more so, a bruised apricot. My woes, suspended briefly between the two, have no weight.
ITALY – "Hollywood on the Tiber" survives bombs, near-bankruptcy and blockbusters with bella figura.
A new era for Ischia
ITALY – Capris overlooked neighbor is heating up, luring tourists with natural hot springs, serenity and the famous garden of British composer William Walton
Prosecco and the City
Ten reasons to hold your next singleton celebration in Milan
ITALY – Mid-April's Salone dedicated to furniture and all things haute for the home has outstripped the fashion extravaganzas here. Everyone's sucking in their cheeks and sucking down their featherweights in saffron risotto. Parties blur between galleries. Art installations jam traffic. The Brera district boils, then reduces down to a seven-day block-party in Moschino, Miu Miu, and MaxMara.
Zen and the art of moped mayhem
ITALY – All roads do lead to Rome, specifically to Piazza Venezia. Buses blast around the rotary, as tiny Fiats dart across the undefined lanes. It's a swirling, sucking whirlpool of metal. And I'm riding the wave bareback on a beat-up moped. This is Italian traffic, al fresco
LATIN & SOUTH AMERICA Electric Ladyland: Medellin
COLUMBIA – Never mind that smugglers, paramilitaries, leftist guerillas and government troops still clash in the corrugated countryside. A new nose or cleavage costs about 60 percent less than in the States. Andale!
Calm as a Hurricane's Eye
HONDURAS – Everything is slow, slow as I've never experienced. Heat leaches muscle fiber, skeletal strength and all ambition. Coral sand grits under my bare feet, after the espadrilles unlace. Even the lightning pulses long and lazy on the ocean's horizon. Tropical diving downshifts yet another gear, if such a thing is possible.
Running Naked in Paradise
From baby-cradle water lilies to stretch-limo river otters, South America’s only English-speaking country surprises. But can it push further – protecting its tropical rainforest and indigenous culture – with a clever carbon-offsetting plan? (Available Aug 2011)
Mining, music and moonshine
KENTUCKY – Banjo notes cascade over the bourbon-colored river. Hidden among the oaks and magnolias, a fiddle embroiders the Appalachian folk tune.
Mushing in the Rocking Mountains
COLORADO – The spotted mongrel lunged, twisting on the tugline: just one bell on the tangled wind chime of baying hounds. Then hike! the team shot forward over the crusted powder.
ALASKA I have a wealth of ideas – and material – on Alaska. Most recently, I'm excited by winter sports there and InnerSea Discoveries, the "uncruise" company that launched in 2011, specializing in boutique, adventure, wilderness trips.
Bears Behind Trees
ALASKA – I hope to miss the forest for the bears. And indeed the state wantonly strews them everywhere: bears prowling through coastal waterfalls, bears nosing in roadside berry patches, bears charging across tidal flats.
Tangled up in Wild Blue
ALASKA – I am not a true daughter of this earth. But I moved here young enough to bear its brand. I've raced 100mph over the salt flats. I've climbed glaciers in the same county where I primped for my junior prom. I've seen my reflection fragmented by blackberry brambles in flooded fields. The scent of this coast signals home to me, more clearly than any channel buoy.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST This "ecotopia" has been home – on and off – since age 11 for me. Seattle has anchored my last seven years of international travel. I do much of my regional coverage on exclusive contract, but material remains on Oregon's Portland and pinot noir country, as well as Washington's Olympics, North Cascades, San Juans and Columbia River Gorge. I recently contributed the Vancouver Island chapter toFrommer's Best
Hiking Trips in
British Columbia. I'm just home from Vancouver and headed to Whistler in summer 2011.
Dream destinations: northern Vancouver Island, both diving and hiking. The Queen Charlotte Islands. Also, I think it would be kinda cool to explore Idaho and Montana nearby...
Surfing the Wild Pacific Rim
CANADA – Tofino halfway up Vancouver Island's west coast is one of the world's premier cold-water surf sites. Squeezed into wetsuits, hoods and booties, the locals ride year-round. Even during a winter storm surge.
A Look Under the Hood
Cold-water divers explore Puget Sound's jade underbelly
WASHINGTON – I grew up on the coast of Puget Sound, galloping along drift logs and squelching across mud flats. Yet the inland ocean remained a cipher: a reflecting pond for the snow-shadowed mountains. Now I've plunged through the looking glass.
Roughing It In Style
Cocktails in the wilderness, hiking boots
in the boardroom: wild child Seattle balances work and play
WASHINGTON – Its 600,000-odd inhabitants care more about snow-pack than stock options and society galas ... This may be the slacker-genius capital of the world, a native once observed.
Seattle: City strokes
WASHINGTON – The lake has become a private playground. Each day, at dawn and dusk, needle-nosed shells navigate this secret world, smack in Seattle's center.
Seattle Coffee: Are You Experienced?
WASHINGTON – Forget Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Ignore Bill Gates, even if he's the planet's arch plutocrat. The split-tail mermaid overshadows them all.
Skimming the Surface WASHINGTON – The [four-person racing kayak] arrows across the lake. The glide is like that of a rope swing, except it goes on and on, and we never splash land. Caught in the midsummer night's dream of it all, I find the sport irresistible.
The tide's out and dinner's on
Harvesting seaweed on the shore
WASHINGTON –My foot hooks the prey and draws it close. Then I cut through the cold, satin flesh of a bullwhip kelp. I am licensed to kill with an $11 shellfish and seaweed permit. Earthwalk Northwest, a School of Primitive Living Skills, is teaching me to "eat the beach" on Lopez Island in the San Juan archipelago.
Winter of our Content
WASHINGTON – From apres-ski aromatherapy to storm watching, and gray whale sightings to vineyard crawls on horseback, Northwest honeymooning shines in the cooler month.
OCEANIA Most of my Pacific coverage has been on exclusive contract. However, extensive material remains available for fresh stories about Guam, Yap, Palau, Samoa, Tahiti and the Marquesas. I'll also be visiting Australia and New Zealand in December 2011.
Treasured Islands: Embracing the Samoan Way of Life
SAMOA – Pigs, chickens and children amble across the country's tens roads. That’s OK; even traffic moseys in this Polynesian archipelago. Its 193,000 inhabitants still fish and farm taro, despite their day jobs. And fales – the traditional thatched, open-air pavilions – front even the swankiest of modern homes. Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way of life) flows unabated, although TVs and mobiles chime into the mix as the nation approaches its 50th anniversary in 2012. (Available soon)