Paul Brady is an editor at Condé Nast Traveler.
This isn’t a list of the best travel writing of the year, but if this is what travel writing could be every time, the genre wouldn’t have such a shaky reputation. I didn’t pick anything from Traveler because that would be lame.
Pass the Bucks (Steve Boggan, The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2010)
The story of following the same $10 around the country for 30 days could’ve been hokey, but Steve Boggan set aside his own quest to write about the characters he meets, their lives and the places they live.
All Amanda Can Jet (Tumblr)
This was the second year JetBlue released its All You Can Jet pass, spawning a mountain of mediocre tweets and poorly-managed trip-diary blogs. But Amanda Mae got it absolutely right—and the constantly updated “local beers consumed” metric was a nice touch.
My Country, My Train, My K-Hole (Hugh Ryan, The Morning News, June 30, 2010)
I’m a sucker for stories about trains, but this is on the next level: “The train is a liberating K-hole, a moment of suspended animation where it’s entirely acceptable to not answer phone calls … There are an endless number of things you can not do.”
No Country for Old Men? (Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, Jan. 25, 2009)
This Ed Vulliamy article is from 2009, but the full-length book that grew out of it, Amexica, came out this year. Driving the entirety of the Mexican-American border, he writes a little bit about everything that makes it one of the most fascinating places on the planet: tattoo parlors, Christianity, narcoterrorism, “right-wing windbag talk radio,” and what sounds like the best La Quinta in Texas.
Boom (Sean Flynn, GQ, July 2010)
Probably the best story I read about the biggest story of the year, the oil spill, and while I probably can’t argue that it’s “travel writing,” it certainly evokes a particular place.
The Whistling Language of La Gomera
I have no idea when this was written, but I found it this year while researching… something. I forget. I like it because while we may spend 18 hours a day on the internet, there are still fascinating things to find out about like this utterly unique whistling language invented in and still used in the Canary Islands.