1. This Week: New Weekly Worldwide Writing and Photography Contest—$100 Prizes


    This week, bigger prizes!

    • Writing 1st Place:$100 Contract
    • Photography 1st Place:$100 Contract
    • Deadline: March 21, 2012

    Find an assignment near you. As always, if you have a place you would like to cover that isn’t on our list, send it to suggestions@trazzler.com and we’ll get back to you in 24 hours or less. Good luck!

  2. Winners of the Weekly Worldwide Writing and Photography Contest—

    Photo credit: Elizabeth

    Weekly Worldwide Contest Winner—2/29/2012

    Photography Honorable Mentions:Camilla Mann (Entry), elizabeth (Entry), P Y Huff (Entry), Liz Burnham (Entry),Joshua Phelps (Entry), Chelsea Johnson (Entry)Writing Honorable Mentions:Kristen Gustafson Hamlin (Entry), Rachel Webb (Entry), Katie Presley (Entry), Tanja Cilia (Entry), Keely Herrick (Entry), Elizabeth Bennett (Entry), Camilla Mann (Entry),Chuck Lenatti (Entry), Kristina Baines (Entry)

    We are now excitedly judging last week’s Spring Gardens and Weekly Worldwide Contests, which ended today and will announce the winners next Wednesday. Loving all of the happy flower photos—thanks to all who submitted! Check out this week’s new Hiking Contest and Weekly Worldwide.

  3. New Writing Contests This Week: Mendocino Hiking and Weekly Worldwide

    Hiking in Mendocino Contest


    • Writing 1st Place: $50 Writing Contract; 2-Night Hotel Stay in Mendocino
    • Photography 1st Place: $50 Photography Contract; 2-Night Hotel Stay in Mendocino

    Go to Hiking in Mendocino Contest »

    Weekly Worldwide Contest


    • Writing 1st Place: $50 Contract
    • Photography 1st Place: $50 Contract

    Go to Weekly Worldwide Contest »

    As always, if there’s a place you would like to write or photograph for either contest that’s not on our list, just send it to suggestions@trazzler.com and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

  4. Writing and Photography Contest Roundup—2/2/2012

    We just posted the winners of our Winter Parks and Weekly Worldwide writing and photography contests. Thanks so much to everyone who entered, we really enjoyed seeing and reading about your cold-weather explorations (even the hardcore snow kiting and ice climbing—brr). If our furry oracle is correct, we’ll be looking forward to at least six more weeks of the underappreciated, ethereal quiet beauty of parks in the winter.

    This week we’re running another Weekly Worldwide Contest with many new places added. You can see what’s close to you and enter here:
    • Writing 1st Place: $50 Contract
    • Photography 1st Place: $50 Contract
    • Deadline: February 8, 2012

    In the meantime, we’re busily judging the California Wine Contest and last week’s Weekly Worldwide and will make an announcement by 2/8/12.  Thanks so much for the great turnout!

  5. Writing Contests: East Coast Sandwiches and West Coast State Parks + Deep Thoughts

    Thanks to all who downloaded our iPhone app! We’re now working like crazy on the next big thing. It’s going to be much more participative every step of the way. Here’s what we’re thinking:

    • The check-in market is cornered. The world doesn’t need another Foursquare clone.
    • Unedited reviews: Sometimes useful, often faked or spammy, almost always demoralizing to wade through. See TripAdvisor or Yelp’s four stars and a rant.
    • Guidebooks/newspaper travel sections: Based on an antiquated, elitist model that relies on a handful of people (often just passing through or relaying  hearsay) to cover a huge geographic space. Prone to obsolescence, inaccuracies, shilling, and sameness.

    We want to collect the experiences that drive people to check places out and report back on them. To put it succinctly:

          People + Places + Love

    A place will only appear on Trazzler if: 

    • our editors scouted it out and loved it.
    • a person scouted it out and loved it and our editors agreed.
    • a person scouted it out and loved it—our editors disagreed, but smart people convinced them they were wrong.
    • an expert (like a tourism bureau or local blogger) suggested it and our editors agreed.

    Frankly, most places won’t make the cut. Instead of listing every place in the big wide world and waiting for people to check in, we want you to send you on assignment to check places out. Instead of interacting with a chosen few, our editors work with everyone, devising creative contests that feature places we care about—and reward the people who love a place enough to capture its essence in photos or words.

    Here are two contests that are happening right now (soon there will be more all over the world that you can enter right from your phone or Trazzler.com):

    East Coast Local Institutions: Sandwich Edition: Writing Assignment—$250 Contract + a Free Philly Hoagie Getaway
    West Coast Endangered Places Contest: California State Park Edition—Writing Assignment: $500 Contract

    Deadline for entry: November 30.

  6. Places of Protest: Digging into the grassroots “People’s History” when we travel

    Photographer: Fritz Berlin Fan

    »Go to Slideshow: 11 “People’s History” Places

    Historian and activist Howard Zinn died a little over a year ago and his voice is sorely missed. It’s tempting to wonder what he would have to say about the recent uprisings and movements in North Africa and the Middle East (and the US for that matter). His philosophy in a nutshell: “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” While specific facts can be disputed from his famous work, A People’s History of America, Zinn did a great thing by shifting our perspective from that of the prestigious few to the experience of the anonymous majority. It was a grassroots story of America (and the world) that identified groups of people who banded together time and time again when there was no other recourse and agitated for change.

    When we travel far from home, it can be hard to make contact with a historical reality that is deeper than royal china collections, presidential knick knacks, nationalistic propaganda, and kitschy reenactments. Museums are filled with the beautiful and seductive detritus of power. The stories of these “fugitive movements of compassion” (as Zinn called them) of ordinary folks who toiled in the shadow of the elite are less glamorous, but much more interesting and harder to tell. No presidents slept in any of the places in this slideshow… these are stages where the people are the protagonists—protesting, rioting, demanding, creating, organizing, and changing the world. »Go to Slideshow
    —Megan Cytron, Editor of Trazzler

  7. Crafty travel: 14 places around the world where you can learn to make beautiful things

    As all kindergarten teachers know, few activities bring people together in a state of zen-like contentment like sitting in a circle making things with our own two hands. No matter how exotic the locale, when we travel, it is this kind of basic human moment that sticks with us the most. Over the past decade, savvy communities of artisans around the world have discovered that burnt-out post-industrial travelers are interested not only in buying handmade crafts, but also in learning to make them. This is good for those of us in dire need of craft therapy, but it has also turned out to be a solid model for small-scale community-based tourism.

    Travel, at its best, is an exercise in wish fulfillment. In a world of mass-production, the romantic notion of escaping to a far-flung destination and making contact with a community of craftspeople using ancient techniques is a compelling fantasy. While they may not be the Arts and Crafts utopias envisioned by the likes of John Ruskin and William Morris, the good news is that places like this really do exist and the possibilities are endless: batik workshops in Senegal, pottery classes in Turkey, incense making in Vietnam, glassblowing in Italy, weaving in Guatemala, drum making in South Africa, or quilting in Alabama. This slideshow pulls together fourteen spots around the globe where you can travel and immerse yourself in a craft.

    Photo by Andre Natta

  8. 15 Hotels With a Macabre History

    Hotel Dalen in Tokke, Telemark, NorwayHotels are places of transgression. While there doesn’t appear to be a medical term for people who suffer from a fear of hotels, there’s something about these transitional spaces, teeming with intimate human moments, that can make us feel a bit uneasy. Hitchcock knew this—his sketchy, rootless characters breezed in and out of hotels and boarding houses. In “Psycho” (and later Stephen King’s “The Shining”), the specter of an empty motel off the main road produced a sense of dread and foreboding.

    If a hotel has been around long enough, it’s probably safe to say that someone died there at some point—and most don’t make much of a fuss about it. Some places, however, have a way of holding on to their sad stories—and embellish and fictionalize the facts to feed our morbid curiosity.

    Each of these 15 hotels has a dark past—they are all, also, lovely places to spend a night, if not an eternity. Several are said to harbor ethereal remnants of the people who perished there, others bear physical scars from real violence, and a handful go down in infamy as the site of a messy, high-profile celebrity death.

  9. J.R.R. Tolkien drank here: Literary watering holes

    While a visit to the home of a famous literary figure offers a peek at an eerie, lifeless space suspended in time, seeking out the public places where a writer wrote, drank and caroused tends to be a messier proposition. Life marches on in bars and cafes. Regimes fall. Neighborhoods change. New people take over. If you are lucky enough to find the place still in operation, you can never be sure what to expect.

    It’s true that many of the world’s great literary haunts have been reduced to a tourist-trap cliché — just consider the countless European bars with dubious “Hemingway drank here” signs propped up outside. Some venerable salons were disbanded and commandeered for decades for some other use (like the communist occupation of Kafka’s coffeehouses in Prague). Others managed to stay afloat but couldn’t keep the intellectual spark alive or the market forces at bay. It’s enough to make a sentimental literature nerd somewhat despondent. Nostalgia aside, reading about these temples of debauchery and creativity and then making a pilgrimage to their present-day incarnations is sure to reveal a fascinating intersection of history, homage, mythology, memory and marketing.

    And then there are the places that haven’t given up the ghost: like the creaking boozer on the edge of Hampstead Heath where Keats morbidly pondered his nightingale; the Oxford pub where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis plotted their modern-day take on mythology; or the Madrid coffeehouse where starving postwar writers ran up tabs and sipped free soda water while plotting their next act of literary subversion. Time has passed, writers have changed, but the gathering places still feel relevant.

    Here are 13 that run the gamut. Papa Hemingway only appears once, so it’s obviously an incomplete list. Have you ever gone on a literary bender? In 50 or 100 years, where will the hallowed writer hangouts from the early 2000s be? Tell us

    Megan Cytron

    Here’s the list:
    Eating a highwayman’s feast at a historic pub in Hampstead, London
    Raging with dead poets in the West Village, New York City
    Imbibing with the spirits of sotted Spanish writers in Madrid
    Drinking in the history of al-Fishawy coffee shop in Cairo
    Quaffing ale With J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in Oxford, England
    Downing bourbons with Gatsby’s ghost in Louisville, Ky.
    Hanging out with Henrik Ibsen in Oslo, Norway
    Downing a pint at the Old Country’s oldest pub in Dublin


  10. Win a Weekend Stay in Mendocino

    From its charming coastal New England-style village to its forests of towering Redwoods, Mendocino County is a Northern California destination that combines the sea, the wilderness, romance, and outdoor adventure. The region is a playground for beachcombers and nature enthusiasts: there’s Van Damme State Park and Glass Beach, and sophisticated getaways from its quaint inns along the coast to its artisanal wineries.

    If you’ve passed through Mendocino County, we’re certain you have visited an attraction—a bed & breakfast, a secret cove, an annual festival, a foodie spot— that you hope to return to someday. And, if you live here, we know you have a regular hangout, a hidden local spot on the coast, or a favorite family winery that you can’t wait to share.

    Now is your chance to write about these places in Mendocino County. We’ve partnered with Visit Mendocino County for our newest regional writing contest: the Mendocino Writing Contest. Our Mendocino County sponsors have put together an assortment of prizes:

    People’s Choice Grand Prize: A weekend stay and tango workshop at Weller House Inn and dinner for two at Ravens’ Restaurant, an award-winning vegetarian foodie spot. (Alcohol and gratuities are not included.)

    People’s Choice Runner-Up Prize: A $100 gift certificate for MacCallum House Restaurant and two magnum bottles of Syrah from Meyer Family Cellars.

    People’s Choice 2nd Runner-Up Prize: Two passes to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and two bottles of Pinot Noir from Barra of Mendocino.

    Note: Proof of age is required to claim prizes of alcohol.

    Editors’ Choice Prize(s): Trazzler will also award a $250 freelance writing contract to contest entrant(s) to write more trips about Mendocino County.

    Want to enter? Visit the contest page and “Enter Now.” You’ve got until September 20, 2010. We look forward to reading your entries…

    —Cheri Lucas

  11. Write for Trazzler

    If you are reading this blog, then you must be wondering why anyone would be crazy enough to launch a travel site start-up at the tail end of the summer of the staycation (how I loathe this term!). I don’t know about you, but personally I need the escape of travel more than ever before. I love my day-to-day life, but it’s intense and it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world really exists outside of the self-absorbed confines of Madrid.

    As I write this, I’m sitting in a little house in “el pueblo más raro de Andalucía” (Andalusia’s weirdest town, as our friend who loaned us his apartment calls it). This place has zero tourist interest. When I plugged my laptop into a Franco-era outlet, my power cord caught on fire. Wifi? You’ve got to be kidding. Every evening families leave their front doors open and eat dinner. When you walk down the street, you can’t help but be a voyeur—it’s like peering into dozens of living dollhouses. When we went to the local public pool the kids flocked around us as if we were endangered animals in a zoo (my paleness is pretty freakish here). Every day, we drive through the dusty hills dotted with toros bravos to the windy, nearly abandoned beaches, look across at the dark mountains of Morocco, check out Roman ruins and white medieval towns perched on hills, eat sea anemones and reproductive organs from tuna from the Strait of Gibraltar. For a lot of people, this would be the vacation from hell and for us it’s the best one ever.

    And, for me, that’s what Trazzler is about. So many other travel sites are essentially reference books with logistical information, tourist bureau propaganda, or an unedited, overwhelming morass of useful and useless information. Guidebooks rely on just a handful of undercompensated writers to do it all. When I started writing for Trazzler, I quickly realized that it was completely different from any other assignment. Here, a writer creates his or her own beat. There’s no pressure to write about places you don’t know or care anything about. No need to create trips that appeal to everyone. Here you’ll find what slips through the cracks everywhere else—those secret places that you might only tell your friends about… those defining travel moments that reside in your memory long after you have returned home.

    What we want to do is create a world of travel possibilities. Each Trazzler Trip transports you to a very specific place and moment. Real human beings are behind each and every trip, carefully choosing the photo, writing the copy, and editing it. You decide what appeals to you and what doesn’t. Trazzler is a savvy friend who will get to know your Travel Personality over time. You can use it as “virtual teleportation” (as Biz Stone imagined when the idea was hatched), travel therapy, a game, an escapist fantasy, or—we also hope—as a tool to learn about new ways to travel to one-of-a-kind spots and an outlet for your travel ruminations.

    More later, but I just wanted to give a shout-out to the smart and creative people behind this site. I worked with Adam Rugel over twelve years ago at AOL, writing ad copy for everything from frozen steaks to the Weekly World News. He moved onward and upward to specialize in online travel sites (and I took the escape route into the world of freelance writing, design, and perpetual studentdom). Trazzler is the culmination of many years of experience, experimentation, inspiration, planning, and dreaming. It’s not going to be anything like anything else out there. And it’s just going to get better.

    So sign up and take this crazy journey with us, then take a crack at writing your own trips. But, be warned, if you are really astute and analytical, we’ll rope you into helping us—we’re wily that way.  Let us know what you think.

    —Megan Cytron

  12. I Always Thought Online Travel Should Be Fun…

    In 1995 I abandoned the hostel-hopping circuit for my first real job, at AOL in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Traveling was definitely more fun than working at AOL, so when a position came up with AOL Travel, I thought it would be better because of the “travel” in the title. The job had its moments, but I learned there was a great divide between “travel” and “traveling”.

    I left AOL in 2002 itching to do something in travel that was fun. My friend Dave and I made several travel-related pilots for TV, including Bargain Travel Minute, Hostel Days and a bunch more. We spent some time in Los Angeles, had an agent at ICM, pitched a show to MTV — that was fun.

    When I came back to San Francisco in 2004, I spent a year working at pre-podcasting company AudioFeast, then another at the podcasting pioneer Odeo. When Odeo morphed into Twitter, I continued to work in the office and eat the snacks, but I started working on my own project, 71Miles.

    During my three-year hiatus from online travel, there was a lot of innovation and the creation of a number of new products, but almost all of it centered on search and price. Arbitrage can bring about useful results, but fun?

    Trazzler is our attempt to bring at a much-needed dose of the fun of traveling into the world of online travel.