1. 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

  2. January/February Freelance Assignments

    Thank you to all who applied for our January/February round of weekend-getaway freelance writing assignments. There were so many high-quality pitches this time—more than ever before—that it was quite difficult (bordering on agonizing!) to narrow it down to just one person per region. Without further ado, here they are:

    Northern California (Lake Tahoe) Brigid Fuller
    Pacific Northwest (Willamette Valley) Spencer Foxworth
    NYC/Boston (Vermont) Rob Liguori
    South Florida (Miami) Stephanie Dunn
    Southern California (Santa Barbara) Tien Nguyen

    A bit about our selection process: We first do a preliminary reading of all of the submissions. At this time, we select a group for a second reading. Then we pick of favorites from among this batch and “trazzlerize” them (that is, we make them Trazzler trips or send them to get photos). These trips rise to the top of the list of submissions and the editors give them another reading (or two or three…) to narrow things down further. In the end, about 10-20% of the submissions become Trazzler trips and make it to this final round. While we aren’t able to provide a lot of feedback on individual trips (we wish we could, but we’re a small team and are perpetually swamped), we have written extensively about our editorial criteria and philosophy:

    http://www.trazzler.com/about/writing-guide
    http://www.trazzler.com/about/writing-nuts-and-bolts
    http://blog.trazzler.com/2009/08/trazzler-nycgo-summer-contest.html

    This last link, in particular, goes into a lot of detail about why most trips don’t make it to the final round. If this is the case, keep trying!—many of our freelancers and contest winners have entered multiple times before winning. We love it when a writer “gets” our (admittedly quirky) editorial style and focus—even if it takes a couple of tries.

    Which brings us to this month’s assignments… We’ll be doing another huge round of 20 weekend-getaway writing adventures—we’ll announce it here and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts in the next few days, so please stay tuned…

  3. 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.

  4. Hell on earth: 15 gates to the underworld



    The more curmudgeonly among us might call the holidays, to (mis)quote David Foster Wallace, “a sneaky keyhole view of hell.” These days, hell is whatever we want it to be: other people (Sartre), ourselves (Oscar Wilde), a half-filled auditorium (Robert Frost). So much of our idea of hell comes from literature, rather than religion—Dante’s and Milton’s allegories, in particular—it’s hard to imagine a time when hell was more geological than metaphorical. Not so long ago, it was thought to be a real physical place beneath the earth’s crust with secret entrances in caves, volcanoes, underground rivers, and bubbling pools of boiling mud.

    In the 12th century, Medieval Europeans (not unlike air travelers this spring) were terrorized by the prospect of Iceland’s increasingly active volcanic hellmouth, Hekla, spewing ash and evil all over the continent. In the 1500s, a Spanish friar exploring Nicaragua allowed himself to be lowered into an active volcano on a rope, just to get a closer look at the lake of fire and find a way to exorcise the demons. While science has demystified many of the natural occurrences that were once interpreted as emissions from Hades, these 15 gates to the underworld remind us of the power of the earth to command our fear and respect—and shape our stories.

    1. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/lago-daverno-italy-in-pozzuoli-campania-it
    2. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/hekla-volcano-in-suurland-is
    3. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/volcan-masaya-in-nindir-masaya-nicaragua
    4. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/rodin-museummuse-rodin-in-paris-ile-de-france-75007-fr
    5. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/exploring-the-skocjan-caves-in-slovenia
    6. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/actun-tunichil-muknal-in-cayo-bz
    7. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/el-prado-in-madrid-comunidad-de-madrid-es
    8. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/owakudani-valley-in-hakone-japan
    9. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/bumpass-hell-trail-in-old-station-ca
    10. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/val-d-enfer-in-maussane-les-alpilles-france
    11. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/gao-miao-temple-in-ningxia-china
    12. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/hell-in-ky-1
    13. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/wat-si-khom-kham-in-mueang-phayao-thailand
    14. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/hells-gate-national-park-in-naivasha-kenya
    15. http://www.trazzler.com/trips/yellowstone-lake-in-yellowstone-national-park-wy

  5. Close Encounters With Primates in the Wild


    View the Slideshow
    When our ancestors climbed down from the trees and set into motion an incessant wandering in search of greener pastures, most humans lost touch with our fellow primates. Perhaps this is why finding ourselves face to face with furry long-lost cousins can be so compelling. How could we not recognize ourselves in those faces, fingers, and familiar gestures? While homo sapiens sapiens has spread all over the rest of the earth, 90% of the world’s primate species live in tropical forests—fragile ecosystems that are hard to navigate without a prehensile tail or grippy toes, and which chainsaw-wielding bipeds seem hellbent on destroying. To get to the habitats where wild primates live often requires an arduous journey off the beaten path to remote national parks, reserves, or rehabilitation centers. Many of these places are learning how to save the forests by encouraging a new kind of sustainable tourism—one that makes conservation a more attractive option for local communities than poaching and slash-and-burn deforestation.

    Travelers unaccustomed to living with monkeys in their midst can get into some pretty entertaining trouble when the opportunity for contact arises. The animals often come out of neighboring forests and into tourist towns plying their furry wiles and foraging for easy snacks. A magical monkey moment can quickly morph from the mystical meeting of the minds depicted in Gorillas in the Mist to the menace of the Planet of the Apes. Sticking with more conservation-oriented protected areas will get you closer to the family groups and simian social clubs in their natural setting. Here they put the kibosh on full body contact and feeding the animals, but in return you get to observe the comings and goings, grooming, mating rituals, and general goofing off of non-captive primates. It’s far more entertaining and insightful than any reality TV—though strangely similar plot-wise, what with the nit picking, scuffles, primal screams, intense snuggling, and silly posturing.

  6. November/December Freelance Assignments

    We have another round of freelance writing assignments up for grabs this month. Some are ending next week, so get your submissions in soon. Read more here:

    Any writers who applied for the last assignment and had a submission that was promoted to “Trazzler Trip” status will automatically be considered for the same region this month (though feel free to add more information to your bio or additional submissions if you think it might be helpful). Winter is perhaps the best season to escape the reality and routine of everyday life—we can’t wait to read about these beautiful spots. Thank you again to all who took the time to submit a trip or participate last month. Please keep writing!

  7. Off the Grid: a Thanksgiving Fantasy Slideshow

    Off the Grid: 17 places where no one can find you

    What is a vacation? The word comes from the Latin verb vacare, an etymology that hints at emptiness—both physically vacating the premises and mentally clearing out the cluttered cupboards of your mind. The excesses of Thanksgiving—the airport groping, delayed overpriced flights, comfort food orgies, cataclysmic shopping days, intense rekindling of familial feelings (for better or for worse)—accomplish quite the opposite. It’s no wonder that the aftermath of America’s favorite long weekend inspires dreams of deserted islands, far-flung mountain villages, and quiet starry nights of contemplation.

    Something to be thankful for: there are still countless places in the world that feel remote and removed. This weekend, they will be more vacant than ever. Some are closer than you might think, while reaching others requires time and dedication that few manage to muster. Enjoy these 17 escapist, off-the-grid spots (Not sated? You can find plenty more on Trazzler.com.)

    View the slides on Salon.com:
    http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/11/28/trazzler_off_the_grid_slide_show

    —Megan Cytron

  8. Trazzler on Salon: Urban Enigmas

    As an avid (nearly fanatical) reader of Salon for over a decade, I am very excited to announce that we’ll be putting together weekly slideshows of our favorite Trazzler writing on Salon.com in the upcoming weeks. Over the years (really, it’s been years already?) as Trazzler’s editor, I’ve noticed many themes, leitmotifs, and odd commonalities among the thousands of Trazzler trips submitted. Be it the obsessions that drive us to travel and explore, cultural manifestations that are constants across the globe, or the earth’s repeating geological phenomena, there are so many interesting ways to read about travel and the way we experience it. We often tweet these @trazzler, but now you can follow along on Salon, too.

    This slideshow “Urban Enigmas” was based on one of our very first writing contests. Since then we’ve collected many more of these quirky conundrums.

    Urban Enigmas
    A good, productive city is often depicted as a hive of people zipping from one place to the next with purpose and determination. As any urban dweller knows, there’s not much fun in that — few of us move to the big city to sleepwalk through it. Situationist hero Guy Debord called this state of mesmerism the “petrified life” and urged urbanites to interact with the landscape in a deeper (and weirder) way. To notice what is hidden in plain sight, you have to be in the right frame of mind, which is to say, you have to be looking. Proto-slackers like Baudelaire paved the way, drifting through the streets riffing off the endless possibilities and moods, discovering poetry and mystery in the smallest details. Others, like today’s street artists, take a more active role, altering the urban terrain in ways that provoke and entertain passersby.

    The enigmatic, inscrutable corners of cities get short shrift in guidebooks and travel sections, because they aren’t landmarks or must-see-before-you-die kinds of spots. The intersection of art, literature, history and mythology imbues these 13 places with meaning.

    See the Trazzler Slideshow on Salon:
    http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/11/21/urban_enigmas

    —Megan Cytron

  9. September/October Freelance Writing Assignments + New November Assignments

    We’ve been busily reading all of the excellent submissions for our first (we hope of many) weekend-getaway freelance writing assignments. There were so many high-quality pitches, in the end, it was quite difficult (bordering on agonizing!) to narrow it down to just one person per region. Here are the final six:

    A bit about our selection process: We first do a preliminary reading of all of the submissions. At this time, we select a group for a second reading. Then we pick of favorites from among this batch and “trazzlerize” them (that is, we make them Trazzler trips or send them to get photos). These trips rise to the top of the list of submissions and the editors give them another reading (or two or three…) to narrow things down further. In the end, about 10-20% of the submissions become Trazzler trips and make it to this final round. While we aren’t able to provide a lot of feedback on individual trips (we wish we could, but we’re a small team and are perpetually swamped), we have written extensively about our editorial criteria and philosophy:

    http://www.trazzler.com/about/writing-guide
    http://www.trazzler.com/about/writing-nuts-and-bolts
    http://blog.trazzler.com/2009/08/trazzler-nycgo-summer-contest.html

    This last link, in particular, goes into a lot of detail about why most trips don’t make it to the final round. If this is the case, keep trying!—many of our freelancers and contest winners have entered multiple times before winning. We love it when a writer “gets” our (admittedly quirky) editorial style and focus—even if it takes a couple of tries.Which brings us to this month’s assignments… We’ll be doing another round of $1250 weekend-getaway writing adventures:Any writers who applied for the last assignment and had a submission that was promoted to “Trazzler Trip” status will automatically be considered for the same region this month (though feel free to add more information to your bio or additional submissions if you think it might be helpful).

    Winter is perhaps the best season to escape the reality and routine of everyday life—we can’t wait to read about these beautiful spots.

    Thank you again to all who took the time to submit a trip or participate last month. Please keep writing!

  10. On the Road Writing Contest Winners

    Congratulations to all of the winners of our On the Road Writing Contest and a big thanks to our sponsor, Fairmont Hotels, and all who took the time to enter and vote.

    The final editorial prize winners are:
    Editors’ Choice Grand Prize: Susan Offer Szafir
    Editors’ Choice Runners-Up Prizes: Peter Herring and Alexis Bohan Peschiera

    The editorial prize semifinalists are listed here. Great job to all—we loved reading about your roadside finds—please keep writing!

    The People’s Choice winners are:
    Indrani Ghose, Christine Medina, David Joshua Jennings, Carolyn Turner, Sandra Dee Carr, Carly Mary Cady, Daniel Scharch, Nicole Bigelow, Kate Baggott, Dejon Flow Simons.

    We can’t wait to hear all about our winners’ stays at Fairmont’s beautiful hotels and read about their adventures on Trazzler.

    Our Smart Travel Writing Contest is well underway—get your entry in now.

  11. Guide To Trazzler’s Writing Contests

    Trazzler Writing Contests: An Overview
    Surfing trips on Trazzler is like rummaging through a chest of treasure, it’s only a matter of time until you stumble upon that hidden gem—the ideal trip for you. Our writers zoom in on particular travel moments and experiences special to them, in places both well-trekked and off-the-radar.

    While we hire freelancers each month to write trips about weekend getaways or themes (such as local institutions, eco-travel, or a writer’s own travel “obsession”), we also host travel writing contests, offering Trazzlers more chances to share their favorite travel experiences—and be rewarded for sharp, inspired writing. Some of our writing contests are topical: think “On the Road” or “Smart Travel.” Other writing contests are regional, like our spring 2010 Louisville Writing Contest. For these, we encourage local writers and community institutions to participate and share spots that appeal to locals and discriminating visitors.

    Ways to Win: Voting and Editorial Prizes
    With the help of our past partners, including NYCGO, Sharing Aloha, and Only in San Francisco, we’ve awarded a $10,000 New York City writer-in-residence contract, a trip for two to Hawaii, 15 trips to San Francisco, dozens and dozens of freelance contracts, weekend resort stays in getaway towns like Stowe, VT, and Bend, OR, and many other goodies.

    There are two ways to win: We award People’s Choice Grand Prizes to contest entries that earn the highest-number of votes, but also select Editors’ Choice Prize winners based solely on editorial quality. (The contestants never cease to impress us—while we can’t reward everyone, we always award runners-up freelance contracts to the writers of our favorite entries in our big contests.)

    How to Enter
    Never entered a Trazzler writing contest before? It’s free and easy. On our writing contests page, find the contest that appeals to you, click “Enter Now,” and follow the prompts to the final submission page (and sign up/sign in if needed). We usually have more than one contest going at once, so be sure to submit your entry between the start and end dates.

    For tips on writing a “Trazzler Trip,” read Writing Nuts and Bolts, which explains the elements of a Trazzler trip: location, title, links, tags, and a photo… Our Writing Guide goes over what makes one Trazzler Trip more attention-grabbing and appealing to our editors than another. We especially love trips that evoke the sensations within a particular place, or those that tackle a destination from a smart angle.

    Tips to Get Out the Vote
    While we award the very best writers with Editors’ Choice Prizes, many contest entrants who eye our People’s Choice Grand Prizes impress us with how successfully they rack up votes during voting periods, using Twitter, Facebook, their blogs, and other creative ways to spread the word about their contest entries. So, here are some starter tips on how to get out the vote for a People’s Choice Grand Prize:
    • The “Share” Button is Your Friend: Use the “Share” button on your trip page to post the entry to your Facebook wall and friends’ home pages, or email it to a friend.
    • Spread the Word: Publish a post on your blog with a link to your entry, asking your readers to “Save” your trip. (If they don’t have an account, they can sign up via Facebook Connect or regular sign-in, using the Trazzler tab).
    • Tweet It: Share your entry’s link on your Twitter handle and ask followers to vote and retweet.
    • Explain Why You Deserve to Win: Perhaps you’ll devote the trip to a meaningful or sustainable travel project, or plan to donate part of your monetary award to a nonprofit. Let your readers and followers know how you plan to spend the grand prize or contract.
    • Reciprocate: Feature fellow travel writers on your blog when they vote for and share your trip on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.
    More Travel Writing Resources
    While our travel writing philosophy is unique and we particularly love Trazzlers who nail our style, we value all kinds of travel writing—as well as the resources out there for writers like you. Here are some online communities and blogs that provide travel writing and photography tips, freelance writing/editing leads, and general usefulness in the realm of travel writing:

  12. On the Road Writing Contest—Sponsored by Fairmont Hotels

    15 Prizes totaling $6000 and 80 nights at luxury Fairmont Hotels and Resorts around the world (choose among 50+ locations). >Details
    Summer is upon us, which means a flurry of trip planning and happy escapism. We think a trip can be much more than a constellation of must-see places—isn’t travel really about the movement and momentum that it takes to connect the dots? Jack Kerouac put it succinctly: “the road is life.” For our next contest, we want you to write about the road: the in-between places, quirky attractions, scenic drives, irresistible pitstops, natural oases, sleepy forgotten towns, places of pilgrimage, roadside enigmas, monuments, crossroads, and one-of-a-kind ways of getting from point A to point B. Our winners will get a chance to hit the road in style—we’re giving away $6,000 and 80 free nights in any of Fairmont’s 50+ eligible luxury hotels all over the world.

    enter now

  13. 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

  14. An Adventure Awaits in Bend, Oregon…

    Hey Trazzlers,

    We’re excited about our latest regional travel writing contest: 365 Days of Adventure in Bend. Surrounded by mountains and forests, this former mill town turned adventure playground in Central Oregon is an ideal base to explore the outdoors. In the winter months, you can ski and snowboard on Mount Bachelor, and during the summer, you can fish, hike, cycle, raft, and swim, when this mountain town is blessed with sunshine.

    So, if you are a resident, a seasonal visitor, or someone who visited once and simply loved the town, consider submitting a trip for this contest. Maybe there’s a brewery or park you love, or perhaps you look forward to one of Bend’s annual events, like the 4th of July Pet Parade or Balloons Over Bend.

    For the Bend Writing Contest, our sponsor, Visit Bend, has rounded up some great prizes, particularly for active travelers and nature enthusiasts:

    Grand Prize: A Bend Adventure for Two

    Lodging for two at Mount Bachelor Village Resort in a condo along the Deschutes River; a $500 gift card for a shopping spree at Merrell, the official outfitter of Bend adventures; and dining at the award-winning restaurant Cork.

    Eager to enter? Check out the runners up prizes and details on our contest page. We look forward to reading your entries. Happy writing!


    —Cheri Lucas

  15. Regional Contests: Louisville and Stowe


    No matter where you go in the world, you are sure to find spots that capture the essence of the local culture—those favorite places that exemplify your hometown, or hotspots in a city you can’t help but return to again and again. We are excited to announce two regional contests: the Louisville Writing Contest and the Stowe Writing Contest. For these, we invite residents and visitors of these regions to submit short trips about their favorite spots and activities, including mom-and-pop shops, parks, festivals, underground spots, foodie destinations, unique shops, neighborhood hangouts, historical sites, local institutions, and romantic places.

    Among the prizes for these contests are hotel stays at 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville and the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa in Stowe, dining and gift certificates, and other goodies. Visit the Louisville and Stowe contest pages for rules, prizes, and information about our sponsors. We look forward to reading your entries!