Beneath the Sun and Stars


I’m just back from a short job in Glynco, GA, followed by a few days of filming in Florida. It was a steamy week of early morning / late afternoon shoots and midday business meetings on the beach. We were scorched by the sands, gouged by the shells, plagued by mosquitos and swarmed by biting ants. And that was just the first day…

But I’ve returned to my desk and I’m ready to entertain you.

We’ll get back to travel stories soon. I’ve also got some cool new books to tell you about, both classics and new stuff, and some great music to shove in your ipod for the road.

In the meantime, reader questions continue to flow in. Let’s have a look at one more as I unpack from the latest trip and figure out where I left my pen…

Dave O. from America asked: What was your most memorable experience?

There are so many. Each trip is special, and each offers its own unique memories that are cherished separately and cannot be ranked or compared.

That being said, there are a few special moments I think about often.




Traveling on a Nicaraguan freighter from the coastal town of Bluefields to the Corn Islands.

Beyond the sheltering hills of Bluefields Bay, the morning sun wrapped us in golden warmth. A gentle salt breeze ruffled our sun-bleached hair. The sea was the colour of so many picture postcards: a blue so pure you’d think it was faked. To aft, beyond our foaming wake, the broad reach of the endless tangled shoreline was gradually revealed with every chug and twist of the prop. The emerald jungle of the Mosquito Coast stretched to the horizon, promising more of the same for as far as we could imagine.

I rolled over and lay on a woodpile, my elbows and chin on the ship’s rounded rail, looking straight down over the bow. The boat rose and fell with hypnotic repetitiveness over broad rolling waves. With each downward slide the prow cleaved the sea and spray crashed up, dusting my face with a gentle salt-smelling mist. The rhythm was all-absorbing… Ksssh… Ksssh… Kssssssh… and I was drawn into its spell.

Looking back, it’s possibly the only time in my life I’ve felt complete and utter happiness–and been fully conscious of it. At that moment our world felt absolutely limitless, full of possibility.




Mongolia, the south Gobi desert. We’d been wandering through a remote region for the past week by jeep. We’d gotten lost, and our driver decided to take a two-day short cut across a treacherous untraveled expanse to meet up with another route east.

We camped that night in a rocky hollow. We’d eaten the last of our food, and we had only enough water for morning coffee. I pitched my tent a short walk away from my companions, and I lay half out of the door facing up. The desert air was unmarred by moisture and free of ambient light – and there wasn’t another soul for hundreds of miles. The Milky Way cut a gauzy swath across the deep black background, and cold stars sparkled in layer upon layer, fading out eons beyond antediluvian time. In all my life I’ve never seen such a sky. The brightness of the full moon woke me at 3am. I thought it was dawn.

My Mongolia represents freedom, wandering, and self-contained sufficiency. When asked where you’re going, the only possible answer is to gesture toward the distant horizon and say, “Over there.”



Island hopping along Croatia’s Adriatic Coast. I was traveling self-contained with a car and a tent, sleeping where night found me and swimming as I pleased.

On the shore of stony islands, the sun dried salt to a thin powdery crust on my skin. I sat under olive trees, eating a rustic lunch of bread, hard cheese, and coarse local wine drunk straight from the bottle. My backdrop was the bleached bony spine of the mainland that towers over the islands and the sea, and in the distance the slow clonk of sheep bells.

I learned on that trip that I’m drawn to the landscape and culture of the Mediterranean by some strange form of magnetism. The writer Lawrence Durrell would have called it the “spirit of place.” It felt like going home.



About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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