The 2013 Blogathon armchair travel contest

Travel destination mystery photo

This month a contest in running on this blog. All you have to do is respond to a question. There are no tricks, no wrong answers (but please read the rules below to avoid disappointment). Just a thoughtful response is required to this question:

What is the best travel destination you have ever visited that connected you more deeply with nature or the Earth? It must be a place you have visited, not one you dream of visiting. It does not have to be a wilderness area. You might not have had to travel more than a few kilometres. It might even be a city. Your answer must also include a brief explanation of how the place affected you or why you consider it the best.

The prize is a one-year subscription to Orion magazine, paid for by myself because I think it is a great, thought-provoking publication about our relationship with the Earth.

Please read the rules:

  1. You must provide a thoughtful answer to the contest question appearing in bold type above. Only entries fulfilling the spirit of the question will be eligible to win.
  2. Answers must be 125 words or less.
  3. People entering the contest grant me permission to repost their responses to the question, edited as I deem necessary.
  4. The answer may be delivered to me by a comment to this post, or by email to with “blogathon armchair contest” included in the subject line.
  5. I will promote this contest on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I will do my best to include any responses to my tweets, posts and pins on those sites as eligible entries, but cannot take responsibility for any I might lose or overlook. The best way to enter is to follow rule 3.
  6. Entries must be submitted by midnight EDT (Toronto time) on June 19, 2013.
  7. You may provide as many different answers as you wish, but only one entry will be counted per person.
  8. Single entries will be based on the honour system. If I find reasonable evidence that someone has entered multiple times using different identities, they will be disqualified.
  9. Members of my immediate family are not eligible.
  10. I will place the identities of everyone providing suitable entries in a hat and have Danny (or someone else nearby) draw the winner at random.
  11. The winner’s name and answer will be announced in a blog entry on or about June 24, along with a compilation of other answers I deem interesting.
  12. When the winner is announced, I will require a mailing address to be sent by email so I can send a subscription. In case I do not receive this by July 24, 2013, another winner will be drawn at that time.

Here is a bonus question, not for a prize, but to show off your travel experience, knowledge of geography or detective skills. I took the photo and it contains clues (it is not my favourite travel destination, but a mighty good one):

What is the name of the place in the image above?

If you want to try, please submit the answer in a comment separate from your contest entry. The first correct answer will bring honour to your name as long as this blog exists.

8 thoughts on “The 2013 Blogathon armchair travel contest

  1. When I studied in Madrid I lived with a host family who loved to hike (and still do). They decided to take me on an excursion, and I happily accepted the invitation, relishing the chance to see some of the land outside the city. We walked for what seemed like weeks, along a path that zig-zagged through valleys and around hills and over streams and through the thickest forest I’ve ever seen. Since it was cool and cloudy in the morning, but sunny and almost overwhelmingly hot in the afternoon, complete with a light shower in between, it felt like I had walked through every season by the time we finally stopped for sandwiches my host mom had packed in a little bag. We had tortas and baguettes and some water while sitting on this stone fence, looking out at fields with no human structures in sight. I didn’t speak much Spanish yet so all I could really do to communicate was nod and smile, which I did over and over again while eating the bread and eggs, downing gulps of life-giving water in between bites. The problem with this destination, I realize, is that I don’t remember exactly where it was, but one need not find that particular spot to have the same feeling; all one need to do is walk for long enough that it feels like you’re untethered from any location that has a name.

    1. Eric, you won the contest. Congratulations! I don’t have any contact info for you, but if you send your mailing address to me at vanwaffle at gmail dot com I will send you a subscription to Orion magazine. Thanks!

  2. One place that connected me most to the earth happened by accident. On a vacation, we decided to cut from Highway 1 to a freeway, thinking we would head south more quickly. What we never guessed was how far into the wilderness this road would take us.

    I don’t think we passed another car on that road. We crossed cattle grates. We saw terrain I’ve never encountered (I grew up in green, deciduous PA). What struck me most was that we felt so far away from civilization, when we were really just between two super-heavily traveled highways. To this day, that still strikes me: how quickly we can leave “it” all behind.

  3. The photo reminds me of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Regardless of where it was taken, it is a lovely photo and well composed. I’m not sure if I will find an answer to enter in your essay contest, but we will see.

    1. Alana, you were just about right on. I took the photo on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  4. What connects us to the Earth? Is it an emotional tie? Intrinsically linked to people, to memories, to how we relate to others? – Each location is rooted to a culture, to the people populating it. One can travel through breathtaking areas, through mountains and waterfalls but still feel like a mote whirling past – awed by surroundings, or even scared or intimidated yet experiencing no bond.
    My most meaningful connection with nature wasn’t trekking through Nepal or hiking in the Rockies, or even travelling through remote regions of Russia: it was harvesting and tending nature at my Grandma’s farm. Lugging water from the nearby stream.. fishing in the river.. digging the potatoes. It melded me into a symbiotic being of nature. It rooted me.

  5. On June 26, 2007, my partner guided me further north than I had ever been, to visit his relatives. It was a very long trip, and the length sapped my patience and goodwill to its limit. He had been to this lakeshore destination many times as a boy, with his parents and sister, and remembered it as miserable, lacking in plumbing, hellishly hot at times, and full of midges and biting flies and poison ivy. He wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into, which didn’t inspire confidence in me. The only consolation was his understanding that the place, in the possession of his cousin, was now a clearing with a cabin. His cousin had tamed some of the worst characteristics while still keeping it as natural as possible.

    He needn’t have worried. As we rounded the 90-degree bend in the dirt-road, I could see the lake, glowing in the late afternoon sunlight which pierced the tree-line, and felt my impatience and annoyance swiftly begin to melt away. By the time I parked to one side of the property, I began to feel that I had stumbled into another universe. The wind blew steadily, and the trees hissed in response. The cabin was a bright, lofty, gorgeous place that had been built a few years ago, with a long deck, a patio doorway, and two tall, trapezoidal windows, all facing waterside.

    After introductions to everyone present, we were invited to walk out onto the million dollar view of lakeshore. The sand was off-white and exquisitely soft, except where driftwood, pebbles and stones, bulrush stems, and other lake debris littered it. Occasionally the skeletons of walleye pike, picked clean, lay beached among tree roots where stormy waves had stranded them in the night. Those waves rolled in relentlessly, goaded by the constant wind, probably accounting for the fine texture of the sand. I could well imagine eons of summer waves and winter ice pulverizing the rocks into the silky sand between my toes. The water itself was almost russet red, and stretched to a flat line of sparkling horizon. A few fishing boats, mere dots from this point, could be picked out in the midst of the dazzle of the sun on the water.

    Any residual annoyance at traveling such a long way was whipped away by the wind. I could only stand ankle-deep in the water and marvel at my reversal of fortune. It felt unreal, as if I might wake any moment and find it was a dream. After some minutes, the others repaired to the deck to sit and talk, but I remained on the shore and felt every last one of my work-related cares and knots of stress wash away.

    I think my sleep that night was deeper than it had been in many years, as if the wind and waves, like the dream-catcher that Native people hang over a child’s cradle, had captured my city-life demons in their web, permitting only good, restorative rest to reach me. Even now, the memory of it brings a cascade of longing to return and ground myself in the eternal rhythm of that echo of heaven. For thousands of years, those waves have pounded the rocks to silken particles and will go on pounding long after we are all dust. If that doesn’t instill a sense of one’s place in the universe, then I don’t know what will.

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