Here at AFAR, we have a tradition. Every issue, we spin a literal globe, pick a country at random, and send a lucky contributor there on 24 hours’ notice. Since the inception of this crazy idea, AFAR has spontaneously sent over 40 people—journalists, authors, chefs, actors, political correspondents—to countries all over the world. And one thing is always true: Our writers are great improvisers. Navigating in a new place with next-to-no prep time isn’t easy, but it does make for a great story. Here, some of our favorite Spins to date.
1. SNL writer Jorma Taccone (you may recognize him as one third of The Lonely Island) goes to Kenya and searches for a local rapper to make a music video with. Amazingly, it actually works—and you can see it here.
2. Cheryl Strayed, author of the novel Wild, tries to hike in Andorra—the one week of the year they don’t allow it. Instead of taking to the wilderness she hoped for, Strayed becomes an urban hiker for a week.
3. CNN political correspondent Sally Kohn discovers some startling truths about supposedly tolerant Amsterdam. For one, the beloved Christmas character Black Pete is really just a guy in blackface.
4. American actor Andrew McCarthy gets arrested in his Spin the Globe destination, Ethiopia. It all started with a complex of ancient churches and an exorcism.
5. In Bogotá, Chef Daniel Patterson eats his way through European imperialist influences to dig to the true center of Colombian flavor. In the process, he finds a country that’s beginning to look inwards for inspiration.
6. Writer Mickey Rapkin unplugs in Budapest, letting strangers guide him through the unfamiliar city. There, he finds the romanticized old Budapest reborn as a modern tech and foodie hub complete with its own version of Silicon Valley.
7. Poet Beth Ann Fennelly finds herself solo—no husband, no kids, no obligations—in Belize. Throughout the week, Fennelly meets a cast of characters that make the trip unforgettable—or, as one sex shop storekeeper would say, “un-Belize-able.”
Want more? Check out more Spin the Globe stories—and maybe spin the globe yourself.