Daylight Saving Time ends next weekend (November 6), which means it’s about to start getting dark even earlier across most of the country. Embrace that darkness by curling up by the glow of your mobile device and reading about travel. Over the past few weeks, we’ve marked as favorites a number of stories worth sharing. Here, in no particular order, are a few of them. 

Author Heather Mundt’s recap of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy in the Colorado Rockies is short and sweet but it packs a punch—much, apparently, like the experience itself. Over the course of the piece, Mundt describes how she and her fellow classmates used mud as sunscreen, started fires without the help of matches, and swam the length of a reservoir. Perhaps the goriest detail: what it was like to eat grubs and earthworms for a snack. If these details aren’t confirmation enough of Mundt’s badassery, the accompanying photo of her rappelling and covered in mud should do the trick. Color us impressed.

So often we talk about travel as something you do in real life. But according to a recent article by Harriet Baskas for CNBC.com, virtual reality (VR) vacation experiences are gaining in popularity, too. According to the story, some new packages include panoramic videos that can usually be viewed online, via YouTube and Facebook, while others require apps and special viewers such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard. Current “destinations” available virtually include Las Vegas, British Columbia, and the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia. Baskas writes that big brands are getting in on the action, too—in recent months, travelers have fiddled with VR campaigns from Marriott Hotels, Best Western Hotel and Resorts, Hilton Inn Express, and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Don’t get us wrong; as cool as virtual vacations might be, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Still, to paraphrase one of our newest Nobel Prize winners, the times certainly are a-changin’.

As the United States readies itself (fingers crossed) for its first female president, we loved the BBC article about Kate McWilliams, the youngest-ever female commercial airline captain. McWilliams is 26 and flies for easyJet, a British low-cost airline carrier based at Luton Airport in London. Although only 5 percent of commercial pilots are women (that statistic is depressing), McWilliams has been flying since she was 13. Following aviation training in Southampton, she joined easyJet as a first officer (also known as the second pilot or copilot) in May 2011, and recently took the rank of captain after passing the airline’s command course. According to the article, McWilliams is based out of Gatwick Airport and now flies Airbus A319 and A320 planes to locations across the globe, including Iceland, Israel, and Morocco. You go, girl. 

Sometimes the very best travel writing appears in the least likely of places. Such is the case with Jill Robinson’s personal feature about skiing with her new daughter—a story that starts on page 52 of Ski Utah’s recent destination marketing magazine. The piece chronicles two firsts for the author: skiing with her newly adopted 6-year-old and returning to the slopes after one of the worst injuries of her life. The result is an intensely personal journey about recovery, growth, adaptation, and love. Yes, details about their time on the slopes are compelling; Robinson is skilled at telling adventure travel stories and brings to life the chill of the air and the puff of the powder. But the best parts of the story are when the author opens up and shares her innermost thoughts (and fears) about expanding her family, becoming a mom, and sharing a love of the outdoors with her child. If you read one story heading into ski season, this should be it.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to 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.