Who says the Internet is ruining our collective attention span? Over this past year, our readers have devoured our long-form features and photo essays, taking vicarious journeys around the world, word by word. From deeply personal essays about seeking solace on the road, to fun and funky photos of a “micronation” in the Nevada desert, these are the stories our readers loved the most this past year. Settle in—these deserve to be savored.
10. When You Need to Escape Reality, Take a Rhine River Cruise
Overwhelmed by current events, writer Chris Colin left the headlines behind and discovered the ineffable delight of being completely unmoored on a weeklong European river cruise with his family. He finds that a river cruise from Basel to Amsterdam doesn’t feel like real life, but that’s kind of the point.
9. 8 Striking Photos of Rodeo Girls in the American Southwest
When Polish-American photographer Ilona Szwarc visited Texas, she found that some of the most intriguing figures in the rough-and-tumble sport of rodeo are young girls. Here, her resulting photo essay explores identity and femininity through these rodeo heroines.
8. Dispatch From a Refugee Camp in Greece
In January 2017, writer David Farley sought the human side of the refugee crisis during a monthlong stint volunteering with refugees on the Greek island of Chios. Get an up-close look at what it’s really like and meet some of the refugees Farley met.
7. Go Inside the Quirky “Micronation” of Molossia Through These Brilliant Photos
Deep in the Nevada desert, you can find the self-proclaimed Republic of Molossia, a micronation complete with customs office, currency, navy, postal service, rocket program—and president. Drawn to its self-aware eccentricities, photographer Amy Lombard visited the Republic and gave us a peek behind its borders.
6. Why Western Ireland Is the Best Place to Be Sad
When life got complicated, writer Chris Colin found himself drawn to Western Ireland. Windswept, isolated, and desolate, Yeats country seemed to be the perfect place to be sad. But Colin finds that the wildly poetic landscape may be healing, too.
5. This Sort of Thing Can Only Happen in Ireland
The story of a graveyard, Guinness, and what happens when two music legends walk into a historic Dublin pub. Writer Serena Renner tells the incredible true story of meeting her favorite Irish singer/songwriter and his even more famous friend—and what unfolds thereafter.
4. Sweden’s Magical Midsommar Festival Is Straight out of a Fairytale
Sweden’s most iconic summer festival is Midsommar, a celebration of the summer solstice and the connection between nature and one’s sense of self. Its centerpiece is the maypole. But when photographer Michelle Bablitz journeyed to the small town of Enviken, Sweden, to frolic through the festivities, the maypole would not go up.
3. See Old New York Through a Traveling Photographer’s Lens
Photographer Todd Webb first landed in New York after being discharged from the U.S. Navy following World War II. Shouldering his heavy photography equipment, he began to explore both the city and a fledgling career as a professional photographer, creating a poignant portrait of postwar NYC through a newcomer’s eyes. His photos saw new acclaim this year when the Museum of the City of New York featured them in a solo exhibition.
2. The Ideal Iceland May Only Exist in Your Mind
Writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner headed to Iceland with a very specific trip in mind: to search for puffins and peace. Along the way, she encountered many different versions of the land of fire and ice, and she learned that, while your ideal Icelandic trip may not actually exist, you can, and should, still go in search of it.
1. This Is the Secret Michelin-Star Capital of the World
Baiersbronn, a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest, has a collective eight Michelin stars. Of its handful of restaurants, three are Michelin-starred. Writer David Farley goes out of his way to uncover the secret to the hyper-local cuisine in this gastronomic haven.