Images from Haiti are heartbreaking. Such disasters, with their mind-boggling destruction — earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars — are difficult to witness, even on television. So much suffering from Mother Nature and the hand of man.

The day before the tragic earthquake in Haiti I was reading a heart warming story in The New York Times about another area of the world rising from the ashes. The Balkans, recovering from the unspeakable atrocities of the 1990s, had some good news to share. A train linking Sarajevo and Belgrade was now back on track after nearly 20 years.

The route, famous in the region, was once a literal link between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims in this part of the world that was once known as Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had been famously knit together by Communism and Tito, but the cohesion couldn’t hold and the region exploded into war and chaos following Tito’s death and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The bridges were targeted in the bombings and were a major challenge to rebuild. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Culture, Feature, Olympics, Train Travel

Every year around this time the New York Times (and other publications) publish lists of their favorite destinations for the new year. Often places on the list are obvious, often not, and sometimes there are real surprises.

On the Times’s list this year I’d put Copenhagen, Shanghai, and Costa Rica in the first category, Damascus, Bahia, and Istanbul in the second category, and Shenzhen (China), Koh Kood (Thailand), and Montenegro in the third.

Number 1 on the list, however, is Sri Lanka, and that’s a place I’d put at the top of my list for this year, a country I last visited in 1979. The island is just emerging from three decades of civil war and finally, one hopes, can put such strife behind. The island is rich in archaeological treasures, ancient culture, exotic (from a Western perspective) wildlife, and pristine beaches. Not to mention the home of a revered relic, “Buddha’s Tooth.” It’s time for a return visit.

2 Comments | Filed Under Feature, Travel

Spud Hilton reported in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day a new spin on the top 10 lists we always see at this time of year. Not the best beaches or golf courses or hot cities for the new year, but the Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.

The list was compiled by Jeff Greenwald and Christy Hoover at, a nonprofit organization (part of the Earth Island Institute) that urges travelers to spend their travel dollars in ways that protect human rights and minimize impacts on the environment. They acknowledge that no country on the list is perfect (what country off the list is?) but they found lots of hope and inspiration in many places. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Africa & Middle East, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Feature, Ghana, South America, Suriname