Gordon Peake: Insider stories from the world of foreign aid


Gordon Peake [Photo by Steve Morris] Gordon Peake’s first book — Beloved Land — was a memoir of life in Timor-Leste, one of the world’s newest and least visited nations. He followed it up with another ‘residency’ book, this time on Bougainville, an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea that hopes to become an independent country. Unsung Land, Aspiring Nation will be published in early...

David Eimer: Cultural survival in China’s borderlands


David-Eimer – Photo by Gilles Sabrie David Eimer is the author of the critically acclaimed The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China, and A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma. He was a Beijing-based correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph from 2005 to 2012, and the Southeast Asia correspondent for the Daily Telegraph between 2012 and 2014. You can also find his...

Travel Back in Time to Shibamata


I want to tell you about an area of Tokyo I discovered on my last trip to Japan. It may not be of interest to you on a first visit to this massive city. But if you’re a repeat visitor, you’ll want to check it out. When most foreigners think of Tokyo, they think hyper-modern: nighttime scenes of flashing neon, electronic noise, giant screens and outlandish characters — a less dystopian version of...

“Futuristic” Tokyo Lodged in the Past

I want to share a few Tokyo discoveries with you as I catch up on the year’s travels by posting long overdue blogs. It’s a city I know well. I lived there from 2000 to 2002, and I go back nearly every year for a visit. For the past several years, we’ve found a flat in Minato ward, a nice leafy residential neighbourhood just off the embassy district. But this time we decided to look a little...

Summer Festivals in the Barbarian North


Local festivals are big in Japan. It’s one of the great things about Japanese summer. There’s the food, of course. My favourite festival foods include yakisoba (fried noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and of course gallons of draft beer. But there are also a bewildering variety of performances, from traditional theatre to giant pink penises. I was in...

Not a Hazardous Sport


Not a Hazardous Sport brings to a close Nigel Barley’s series of anthropological journeys that began with The Innocent Anthropologist and continued in A Plague of Caterpillars. This time, he leaves Africa behind and sets his compass for the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where he hopes to live among the Torajan people, mountain pagans known for their elaborate ancestor cults and traditional...

Beneath the Sea by Train to Hakodate


I had a chance to visit Hokkaido this summer, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. A trip to Hokkaido used to involve flying, or a very slow journey by boat, but a new extension of the shinkansen network to Shin-Hakodate station opened in March 2016. We were now able to go there by train thanks to the Seikan Tunnel — a 53km long underground section, 23km of which sinks 100 metres below...

Tachikawa: Where My Writing Life Began


I’ve been running this website since March 2009, and this is my 300th blog. I guess that’s an anniversary of sorts, and it got me thinking about my early years as a writer. I made several false starts during my twenties, mostly because I just didn’t have any life experience, and so I had nothing to say. I only really found my topic with travel. That was a way in, an exotic frame for me to explore...

Gunkanjima: The Bond Villain Island in Skyfall


That mysterious ruined island in Skyfall is real. If you saw the 2012 James Bond film, you were likely as mesmerized as I was by the scene. Bond and Séverine are prisoners on a yacht, and as they sail towards the villain’s lair to meet their doom, a mysterious island emerges from sea mist. As the ship draws closer, we see that the island is crowded with abandoned concrete structures: an entire...



We arrived in Nagasaki just as the late afternoon light began to slide down the mountain sides, reflecting off the long narrow harbour and casting the first shadows into the crevices of the steep hillsides clustered with dwellings. This would be our final stop of a week-long exploration of western Japan. And in many ways, we saved the most unique city for last. Nagasaki’s setting in the valley of...

Ryan Murdock

Author of 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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