What have we been doing with our light-filled, lazy summer nights? Reading great travel stories, of course. Here are three that we particularly loved.
Earlier this year, when reports surfaced about The Bunyadi, a dine-in-the-nude pop-up restaurant in London, we knew it was only a matter of time before some brave journalists embraced the stunt so they could regale us with tales of eating in the buff. The first of these articles, an essay from Pelin Keskin on Eater, is simultaneously hilarious, informative, descriptive, and appalling. Keskin spends a good portion of the story describing everything from the barebones decor of the restaurant to the “naked” preparation of the food (it’s essentially raw) and the birthday suits of servers and fellow diners. In the end, the author comes away with two fascinating observations: First, the food at this restaurant is an afterthought, and second, the experience—paying 69 quid to have all familiarity stripped for the night—is the height of privilege. Pity the waiting list is 47,000 names long.
Too often travel narratives focus only on the author and his or her adventures; lost in the shuffle are the guides and outfitters who invariably help us writers find the cool stuff. Renee Brincks’ recent feature for BBC Travel takes a different approach. Brincks profiles Trenton Gould, owner of Kayak Adventures Worldwide, an outfitter that operates in Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park. The change of perspective is refreshing. Brincks quotes Gould describing the experience of paddling amid ice floes near the park’s Pedersen Glacier and witnessing calving near Aialik Glacier. She also shares Gould’s leave-no-trace practices that include replacing rocks moved during beach stops, avoiding lighting campfires on overnight journeys, and carrying waste out of the wilderness after excursions.
Megan Padilla’s recent Huffington Post essay about her daughter’s love for Hamilton isn’t a traditional travel story. Yes, Padilla mentions how she’ll take her seven-year-old to New York this summer. And, yes, Padilla vows to spend part of that trip in the cancellation line at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in the hopes of snagging affordable tickets to see the show. But, really, the piece is about a journey of another kind, how watching a video of show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast performing a song from the play helped the author’s daughter think about historical figures and race in a whole new way. Padilla herself says it best: “Now, I notice that when my daughter sees a picture of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, she seems to have moved past the color of his skin and instead focuses on his character, both strengths and flaws.” If only we all could learn the same lesson.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.