Top Ten posts from a year I love anyway

Did you ever have a particularly brutal teacher? Who grilled you harder, left you doubting your fundamental competency, and didn’t seem to notice when you turned in tear-stained homework? I didn’t. Until 2013. When it started I thought the rug had been pulled out from under me, but the worst was over.


I’d like to say I understand the year and learned all its lessons, but the mere notion of summarizing 2013 just led to my wasting the better part of the afternoon watching the Daily Show, Colbert, and crocheting the start of a new blanket. Clearly I haven’t processed it all.

But what I can do is fulfill the tacit contractual obligation to post my Top Ten Blogs of the Year. WordPress has informed me which ones got the most clicks, but forget statistical accuracy, I’m going to list the ten that stand out to me.

Trishaw drivers in Mandalay, Myanmar10. An Unexpected Chance to get Killed in Mandalay Just a fun day in Mandalay, where circumstances reminded me of how much I love to travel, even if it occasionally increases the chances of severe injury.

Rail workers in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Wigi is the one in the yellow hat.

9. If I’d had a clue I wouldn’t have met the Wigi. The places are incredible, but sometimes it’s the people you meet that maintain the strongest hold on you.

8. What Happens to Men like Rudi? Same theme as #9, another trip, another country, another human person. I wish I had the answer.

7. Blue Dragon  It’s so easy to get pessimistic, but hearing about people doing incredible work, helping each other and making a difference gives me so much joy. I hope I can spread some of it to you.

Fall leaves in Big Basin, California6. It Seemed like Spring for a Moment  Why is it so hard to be grateful and not greedy?

Mardin5. Mardin.  This city is one of my all time favorites. Poignantly beautiful in its own right, I always feel a rush of vagabond adrenalin when I remember looking out over the Syrian Plain below, tantalized and tortured by the proximity to so much heritage, so much sheer human intensity, and so much suffering. In my mind I still sometimes watch the children of Mardin flying kites on their rooftops, held aloft by the exhalation of ages.

Poppies in a meadow in Turkey, Kurdistan4. Two travelgasms and a tragedy, Hasankeyf Part 2. I was already in love with Turkey, both halves of it, but that day cemented the region in my heart. Standing in ancient dwellings carved into the very stone, then walking alone through stunning mountain meadows of crimson poppies before descending to find myself in the company of a half dozen new friends? Now that’s a good day. Did you sign the petition yet?

Rainforest hiking in Malaysia

A construction worker next to the normal workers

3. Is that a good start or a bad one? Jungle Birthday Part 2. It wasn’t much fun at the time, aware that I was alone and stupidly helpless in the jungle, where sound does not travel and help is hard to find, but I can’t think of a more appropriate way to start the birthyear: lost, angry, in pain from a dozen stupid little cuts, but on my way to what will hopefully be a good story.

2. The System’s Broken, and the Fire Hasn’t Even Started Yet. This post was just a set up for the Glow fire festival in Santa Cruz, but to my surprise, was chosen to be Freshly Pressed, and I am grateful for the increased readership that generated. So grateful in fact, that I can almost entirely overcome the pique that the tag which brought me there was not #Travel. #Transportation? Close enough.

1. Falling apart in Anuradhapura.  This took no thought at all. The post itself is nearly irrelevant, but that was the pivotal moment of the year. At times I’ve felt a stunned confusion too guilty to smile about, that I had somehow minced through the minefield of romantic love without detonation, pain yes of course, but never the soul crushing agony. In Anuradhapura…Breakup emotional pain in a dirty hotel room in Anuradhapura

How to say this without reeking of self pity? The floor was dirty, long black hairs from tenants past, while ants and cockroaches commuted up and down the walls, but still I lay there most of the night and past the dawn, unable to uncurl from around a core of pain like nothing I’d ever felt before. It doesn’t surprise me that the non-emotional account of the town was more popular.

Well shit, I didn’t mean to end on a downer. And I’m not.

Because seconds keep clicking, and months slip past while you’re waiting on a minute, so here I am, unexpectedly stationary on the other side of the world from where I expected to be. And I like it.

Many things are not as I would have written them, but we don’t write our lives. I guess they write us. And right now, I like where the story is headed.

Congratulations to all of you, for surviving the insanity of 2013. All my best wishes for understanding it, and all my earnest hope for a brilliant 2014.