my 7 links: the best of rare travels.
“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow…”
—Lawrence Clark Powell, American librarian and writer
Just before heading off to bed last night, I got a tweet letting me know my good friend Dylan—of The Travelling Editor fame—had nominated me and four others to choose seven posts that represent our best [and sometimes worst] blogging moments. Although honoured by the nomination, I had little idea what the challenge was all about. A bit of poking around online led me to TripBase, where I learned that their editor Katie recently started the “My 7 Links” blogging challenge:
The idea is simple: bloggers publish 7 links from their blog to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.
There is much to be said for moving forward, for keeping your gaze fixed ahead—not looking back, but staying focused on the next things you hope to accomplish. And yet there is also something pretty cool about taking stock of where you’ve been. Just as a mountain climber might pause every few hundred metres or so and examine the ground he’s already covered, it can be rewarding to look back on your blog archives (or an old box of journals or a few photo albums) and realise, “Wow, maybe I have come a long way…”
As Katie writes, “Not all blog posts are created equal,” so with that in mind, here are a few stand-outs from the past year of Rare Travels:
1. my most beautiful post
Photo Essay: The Spectrum of Spring
There’s nothing quite like spring, especially in a place with as grey and dark a winter as London. I’ve never been more excited to see the explosion of colour that is spring than in March of this year. From rich violets to vibrant greens, the palette of blossoms that took over parks and front gardens was a sight to behold—and definitely made for one of the most visually stimulating posts on Rare Travels.
2. my most popular post
Thoughts on the 131 to Kingston
This piece could have fallen under the below category of the ‘post whose success surprised you’…it was written after a long, frustrating day of transport in London—when a person struck by a train disrupted SouthWest train services. I wasn’t sure if the subject matter was appropriate for a blog post, but from the response I got, I discovered I wasn’t alone in thinking about those who lose their lives on the tracks.
3. my most controversial post
Lost: Somewhere between Liverpool and London
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I don’t do controversy. I’m not generally one for ruffling feathers, so there weren’t too many to choose from for this category. But if there’s one thing that is fodder to travel bloggers, it has to be when travel doesn’t go well—such as in this case, when a simple train ride from Liverpool to London turned into a horrendous seven-hour journey home. Holding onto the idea that an uneventful journey isn’t one worth writing about, we begrudgingly accept delays, cancellations and other travel frustrations, knowing that at least we’re guaranteed to get a post or two out of the experience.
4. my most helpful post
On Life outside our Comfort Zone
There are few things I am more passionate about than getting outside our comfort zone. Anytime we step over the borders of what is familiar and into an environment that may scare us is an opportunity to challenge ourselves—and see just how far we can go. I love this post because its aim is to encourage people that it’s not so much about being “brave enough,” but just being open to taking a chance on the world. As Frances Mayes writes in A Year in the World, “The world cracks open for those willing to take a risk.”
5. a post whose success surprised you
Wanna Go to Mexico?
Ever since I first watched Sophia Dembling’s audio slideshow, “Taking the Greyhound to America,” on WorldHum last year, I’ve been fascinated by the medium of putting a narrated description and photographs together. I’ve done a few of my own since I first discovered them on WorldHum, but none got as much response as the one I made after a roadtrip with my brother last Christmas from Kansas to Virginia.
6. a post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
Photo Essay: Looking Back on Egypt
This category is a tricky one—blogging is a bit like the photo albums we upload on Facebook in that some pictures will get “liked” and some won’t, but that doesn’t mean they’re any worse than the others. But I suppose if I have to choose, this photo essay I put together shortly after the riots broke out in Cairo in February didn’t get any comments…but I still love the photos, taken on a trip to Egypt a few years ago.
7. the post that I am most proud of
“To Know You Very Happy”: Adventures in Learning Mandarin
I almost laughed when I read this category—it seems like asking a mother of five to choose her favourite child. It’s definitely a challenge, but I finally decided on this post about a month of Mandarin classes I took back in February. Even though a limited budget kept me close to London throughout the spring semester, I looked to things like this Mandarin class to keep my wanderlust sated and to have me constantly thinking outside the box—which, after all, is exactly what Rare Travels is about. No matter where you are, whether at home or on the road, the adventure of new experiences awaits us…sometimes it’s just up to us to find it.
Thanks again, Dylan, for nominating me—and to Katie at TripBase as well, for putting together such an interesting challenge. And last but not least, here are my five nominations to keep the “My 7 Links” fun going…
I also wanted to thank EasyJet for choosing me as one of their top 10 travel bloggers in the month of June, including my piece on Oxford’s rowing culture in their monthly round-up last week. Thank you!