The Caribbean as it used to be: How Montserrat is coming alive again

More than 23 years after a huge volcanic eruption left this island nation all but abandoned, Montserrat is ever-so-gradually finding its feet as one of the Caribbean’s most appealing destinations.

It was Scriber who first mentioned the Goat Water.

The ornithologist and I were walking up through a forest of banyan, fiddlewood and Spanish oak in Montserrat’s Centre Hills, in search of the golden oriole—happily, easily spotted. Conversation then turned, inevitably, to the elephant in the room: The impact on his island after the massive eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano, some 23 years previously.

This verdant 40-square-mile British Overseas Territory, which lies 34 miles southwest of Antigua in the Caribbean, had been sauntering comfortably along, enjoying something of a mini tourism boom—until that eruption.

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Meet the defiant young Iranians swapping Sharia law for life on the road

Determined not to have their dreams defined by their conservative government, a new generation of Iranians are hitchhiking and couchsurfing their way to freedom. Even if, for now at least, that freedom can only be found in private.

The air in this tiny bar is thick with smoke. Ershad picks up a fluorescent marker and scrawls on the wall: “We found here because we were lost.”

The mantra captures the essence of his nomadic spirit and directionless journey: Traveling freely, discovering the unknown, finding meaning in every single second of life.

We’re in Ghalat, Iran, a hilly town outside the city of Shiraz which boasts a long history of marijuana cultivation and a famously mellow population. The seven of us, who all met over the internet, arrived here by hitchhiking.

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What does it take to be a female travel photographer in 2018?

The travel industry is, like many others, historically male-dominated. But thanks to the peerless talent and determination of a new generation of female photographers, that’s all beginning to change.

As far as sought-after job titles go, “professional travel photographer” is certainly up there. But for every dream job, there’s a long road of hard work and hurdles to navigate first—and for women hoping to make it in what’s still a male-dominated space, the work can often be harder and the hurdles higher.

So, to mark International Women’s Day, we asked some of our favorite female travel photographers and contributors how they made it happen, what they love most about their jobs, the challenges they face, and what advice they have for the next generation.

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Rugged white guys with beards? Nope, most of my favorite explorers are women

If you took pop culture as gospel, you’d think the only people who take on any pioneering exploits were posh, hairy, white men. But plenty of badass women have grabbed adventure by the horns over the centuries too.

There are two definitions for the term ‘pioneer’ in the modern Oxford Dictionary. The first description is of a person who is “among the first to explore or settle a new country or area”. The second describes someone “among the first to research and develop a new area of knowledge or activity”.

Judging by these descriptions, it’s abundantly clear that pioneers of adventure travel still exist all around us. And included in those pioneers are plenty of women who have been accomplishing amazing feats throughout history and right up to the current day.

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Is it time for Leeuwarden to step out of Amsterdam’s shadow?

With the spotlight on this unsung corner of the Netherlands, it’s time for this European Capital of Culture for 2018 to show off. And it’s doing so with a powerful theme: Celebrating the diverse community that makes this Dutch town what it is.

In many ways, Leeuwarden is a typical Dutch city. The hub of the region of Friesland—home to those pretty black-and-white Friesian cows—it has the usual vast number of monuments (over 600, if we’re counting), street after street of artisanal shops, and an impressive Jacobean church. Cobbled streets wind between rows of architectural masterpieces in the medieval town center, with only narrow canals to separate them, and historic sailing vessels—former Dutch commercial ships—are a reminder of Leeuwarden’s Golden Age of trade.

But as one of this year’s two European Capitals of Culture, Leeuwarden is shaking off its dusty, traditional image. Up to now, it may only have been known only for those Friesian cows and large cattle market, but the town is flexing its metaphorical muscles, reaching out across its borders, and going for something a little more cutting-edge. In fact, its 16th-century Oldehove—a tower that leans more than Pisa—has become a symbol of the city and its people: Quirky and somewhat unconventional, but definitely upright.

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Why is nobody visiting Rwenzori, home of Africa’s spectacular secret summits?

Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains are home to six of Africa’s 10 tallest peaks. But where Kilimanjaro welcomes some 50,000 hikers every year, Rwenzori barely breaks 1,000. Welcome to the home of Africa’s secret summits. 

The oldest person to summit Uganda’s Margherita Peak was a Canadian woman named Beryl Park. She was 78 years old and she topped the 5,109-meter (16,761 feet) pinnacle after just five days of hiking in 2010—a feat so impressive, it’s on par with some of the world’s greatest mountaineering exploits.

Fast forward eight years and I’m in the remote Rwenzori Mountains National Park following—slowly—in Beryl’s boot steps. While I’m not here to make the summit push (Margherita is incredibly technical and not for the crampon-less) I am hoping to reach Mutinda Lookout, a 3,975-meter-tall (13,041 feet) block of granite towering over the valley.

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Why locals don’t always make the best tour guides

Have you been on a guided tour that’s had you snoozing midway through? Often, tours are sold on the basis of having a ‘local’ guide—but is that enough? David Whitley has this to say.

We’ve all been there at some point; desperately looking for an excuse to break away from the group without offending anyone, bored to tears with the tour we bitterly regret signing up for.

Tours can be excruciatingly bad for several reasons, but often the guide is the problem. There was the one in Kalgoorlie, Australia, where the guide pointed out the supermarket and the hospital—to show the town had them, just like everywhere else.

Then there was the tour with the incomprehensible man marching his guests round a temple in Luang Prabang, Laos, on a strict script with not a care in the world if anyone was listening, much less understanding. And there was that guide in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, who traipsed between a succession of entirely unremarkable shops as if they were undiscovered jewels.

One thing these three had in common, though? The guides were born-and-bred locals.

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