Category Travel

A Journey Through the 16 Best Films of 2016

In my tendency to occasionally write about subjects that aren’t directly related to places I’ve been, I’ve had people say to me, “Brendan, you have a travel blog – focus on travel!” But watching a film is a form of travel. I love movies, always have, always will, because of their power to transport us someplace else. […]

Love at the American Embassy in Ukraine

There are moments in life when you realize that you’ve made a mistake. A big mistake. A mistake that there is really no getting out of. I say this because it’s common in today’s world for people to say that they have “no regrets”. This isn’t true of course. What they mean is that they […]

Waking Up From Paradise

As I’ve aged, my nightmares have ceased to be about evil clowns and being trapped in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to being about me, at the airport, on the day I leave paradise. There’s nothing I can do about my imminent departure. I’m certain of this even as I dream. I’m stuck. They wouldn’t let me […]

President-Elect Trump and Other Near Death Experiences on Praslin

Near death experiences from the Island of pounding rain, mutant sized geckos, and President-elect Trump.

My Life As A Fruit Bat

Other than one or two trucks, used for agricultural purposes, there are no motor vehicles to be found on the island of La Digue. The inhabitants of this 10km² island, part of the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean, get around on foot or by bicycle – mostly the latter. No cars and the most […]

Five Years Lost, Five Years Found

Five years ago last week, I left America for a life abroad. As I was 25 when I left, this means that an entire sixth of my life has now been spent living outside my own country’s borders. That may not seem like much, but to me those days feel like an old film being […]

A Soviet Family Reunited on Thanksgiving

You know how this goes. Relatives you haven’t seen in years – some you can’t remember ever having seen – gathering around the table to eat and share what they’re thankful for … in this case, not having seen each other for the past year. Your cousins are all there, little Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. […]

Hold Your Applause

Part 1 in Weird Correlations With Democracy: Why Clapping on an Airplane Makes You More Susceptible to Authoritarianism.

Trieste – City of Fog

Trieste is a city with an identity crisis. Part of it longs to be back with its previous Hapsburg rulers, while another part clings to the Italian mainland. Trieste became part of Italy only in 1919, and it shows. Like a party guest who arrives after everyone’s already had a few drinks, she can’t decide […]

What We’ll Always Have

Last Tuesday a friend I haven’t seen in eight years left a comment on my Facebook wall. We had met in the summer of 2007 in Prague, the two of us participants in the same study abroad program. I would often see her in between classes on the steps of a building at Charles University. […]

How to say “I have a cavity” in Ukrainian*

Of all the chairs it’s possible to find one’s self in, the dentist’s is possibly the worst. Ok, on second thought the electric chair likely gets that title… but you get my drift. It’s not that I’m afraid of the dentist exactly, I go willingly enough, but I do so with the knowledge that this […]

Chernobyl Smiles: Investigations in Punctuation Fallout

If there’s one trivial piece of knowledge that the traveler can attest to, it may just be this: city to city, country to country, we don’t all smile the same way.  Did I say trivial? Perhaps I spoke too soon. After all, what says more about us at first glance than our face and the […]

Passports: The Key To Winning Foreign Hearts

While Americans back home celebrated the Fourth of July in the typical way – fireworks, barbecues, pool parties – I celebrated at a Ukrainian restaurant in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. I’d been invited by an older American acquaintance – let’s call him John – and now presently find myself seated at an outdoor table […]

For a Fun Time, Take the Bus to Sheki

To get started, head to Baku’s international bus station. Once your taxi deposits you onto the curb, right into a waiting crowd of aged Azeris clamoring for your attention like malnourished seagulls, good luck finding your way to the illusory ticket office. The fading grey building here might sell many things, from secondhand pantyhose to […]

Ukraine Runs to Europe, Europe Runs from Ukraine

I was one of the few walking down Lenina Avenue this past Saturday, the rest of the city was running. It was the day of the Kharkiv Marathon, and as I walked past on the sidewalk I couldn’t help but summon to mind the images that had flashed across our TV sets two years ago […]

A Guide to Overthrowing Your Dictators

I recently introduced the topic of “pet peeves” to my class of 10 students in Baku, Azerbaijan. “A pet peeve,” I explained, “is something you find annoying about something or someone, that perhaps another person would not. Does anyone have a pet peeve they would like to share with us?” A particularly bright girl in […]

The Estonian Equivalent of a Bus Driver

As I was spending a few days in Tallinn my general preference was to walk whenever possible, all the better to explore the Estonian capital’s enchantingly twisty streets and spires so crudely beautiful they’d pierce the heart of even the most worldly of travelers. My destination today, the Estonian Forensics Institute, lay further than my […]

The Joys of Ukrainian Train Travel

*I just want to preface this, and to ward off angry comments, by saying that I love Ukraine and I love trains. Just not those two things put together.* There is being uncomfortable, and then there is taking the night train to Kiev. Is it possible to get used to shuttling between the Ukrainian capital […]

Sour Cream and Pedicures (Fragmented Memories from Ukraine)

A couple of weeks ago I was sipping limoncello on a balcony overlooking the lower Amalfi Coast, but it feels more like an era has passed. Much has happened since then, and dreams and reality have intertwined a seemingly endless number of times. I might still be on that balcony sipping limoncello, or I might […]

How to get Back into a Country (an instruction manual)

It’s hard to remember the last time I approached the passport desk without an underlying sense of dread. Adding to my detriment, Ukrainian immigration officials are like rabid dogs, sensing my uneasiness and eager to draw blood (in the form of a back-room bribe). As a result the woman behind the desk spends an eternity […]

American Cities in Italy

If you live in Rome and want to go to Siena, it’s necessary to change trains in a little town somewhere in the middle called Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. I get a cappuccino to still my train-rattled nerves and find myself back in the station, passing the time until my connection by reading Italian fairy tales. A […]

When in Rome: An Expat Excuse for Thuggery

I love idioms as much as anyone, and use every opportunity during conversation to slip one in. Sometimes even without opportunity. -How are you? -In seventh heaven! On cloud nine! And that’s no pie in the sky! -Umm, okay. Want to get something to eat, other than pie? -How out of the blue! Oh would […]

Undeliverable: Tragedies of the Italian Post Office

Greek monuments litter Italy at nearly the same rate as beggars and churches, but nothing serves as an icon to Greek Tragedy like the Italian post office. Government bureaucracy is a bad word in every country, but only in Italian do the syllables rise and fall with the singsong charm of a French guillotine. Burdened […]

The Patron Saint of Vernazza

When you’re traveling on a tight budget, one of the first things to go are the train tickets… paying for them that is. Now, you might think that this would cause a problem, mainly in being able to take the train, but when the country you’re train hopping in is Italy and the person in […]

Pisa: An Unsatisfying Erection (all that Viagra can’t do)

If you’ve done much traveling in Southern Europe you’re probably aware that the train station is generally the worst thing you’ll experience on your trip. In Pisa it’s the opposite, which doesn’t mean that the train station is nicer than those others, only that the rest of the city is so wretched as to make […]