The nature writer and memoirist Ellen Meloy once wrote, “a map, it is said, organizes wonder.” Maps are memories: they link us to the past, the landscape, and ourselves. They are also preparation, getting us where we’re going, and at their most dramatic are the difference between life and death.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The worst turbulence I ever felt was on a flight in 2013. At the start of a trans-Pacific trip from Chicago, we flew through a cloudbank above the Great Plains and dropped several hundred feet in the span of two or three seconds. The plane bucked like a horse, throwing…

Lisbon skyline, taken from Miradouro da Graça

Touring the Portuguese world from the museums of its founding city.

In the pastel glow of dawn, ships lean into whitecaps. On the nearby shore, there are bright fortress walls and palm-crowned hills, red-roofed cottages clustering between rivers and crude stone bridges in the hinterland. …

For anyone with a touch of wanderlust, streaming radio is a window to the world.

Radio Earth

When I was growing up in Texas in the nineties, I dreamt of listening to radio broadcasts from around the world. I was at the bottom of the Great Plains, surrounded by cow pastures and…

Fort Ross in 1828 by A. B. Duhaut-Cilly. From the archives of the Fort Ross Historical Society.

Fort Ross lies in the green shadow of the North Coast Ranges, halfway to Fort Bragg from San Francisco along State Route 1, California’s splendidly scenic coastal road. At a glance from the highway, it looks like any other colonial American fort, but even casual observers might notice the odd…

Even more scenes from Caribbean Mexico

I am dropped off at Muyil Pueblo in a storm of butterflies. They are black and float around me in such quantity that I mistake them for garbage kicked up by the departing bus. They are headed for the sea, and the road is…

Continued scenes from Caribbean Mexico

A middle-aged Canadian woman with greasy blonde hair is standing in my hostel’s kitchen when I return. The naked ceiling bulb is out and she is eating yogurt and fruit in the light of the open refrigerator. This kitchen is a doorless shack, and the…

Kicking myself out of Portugal

The alarm goes off, and I lay under the covers for half an hour. It’s too cloudy outside. I’m out of clean clothes, and consider pairing thin slacks with a stretched old sweater, but the combination is jarring so I settle on a faded yoked…

Scenes from Caribbean Mexico

I pedal to Tulum in the evening, the shadows of leaves gliding over my rusted bicycle as the sun falls through the jungle. The Maya built this city at the edge of the Yucatan before they’d ever heard of steel or Spain, and here it remains…

A. B. Thompson

Traveler, writer, cook.

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