...But I won't do that.

A few years back, while I was driving through the States, I passed a hitchhiker holding a sign that read “Hiking for Beer.” This abstruse notice made me wonder. Was he offering drivers beer for their service or if this were the goal of his trip — to hitchhike in search of the best beer across America — did he hope motorists would empathize with his mission? But I also got this idea in my head: I could hike, too, but proper hiking…for beer. 

Noah Lederman writes the travel blog Somewhere Or Bust. His travel stories have appeared in the Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, the Economist, and elsewhere. He is completing a memoir about an unusual year-long journey with a surfboard. Follow him on Twitter @SomewhereOrBust

Showboat, Trump Plaza, and Revel to close

You wouldn’t have known from the long line of people waiting to check in that the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino would be closing in just one week. My partner Rob and I arrived at the Mardi Gras-themed casino a few minutes after 4:00, when check-in began, and already guests had formed a long line along the gaming floor. Many were traveling both light and heavy: They had backpacks and pillows from home and bags with bottles of liquor, even though a sign in the self-park garage said guests were not allowed to bring their own alcohol into the hotel. 

Jesse Smith is a writer based in Philadelphia.

A spider monkey clings to the wall of its cage

A smiling cashier welcomed me in the lobby. His arms were akimbo. He wore a polo shirt that read, “Refugio Herpetológico.”

“Welcome!” he exclaimed in Spanish. “How are you?”

I forced a smile and forked over my 3,000 colones — about $6. He handed me a receipt and escorted me through the gift shop, toward the Refugio’s main entrance. Then he pointed to a trim young man in the corner, also wearing a printed polo shirt.

“This is Marco,” said the cashier. “Your tour will start in a couple of minutes.”

Damn it, I thought. It figures.

Robert Isenberg is a writer based in San José, Costa Rica, where he serves as a reporter, videographer and photojournalist for The Tico Times, Central America’s most respected English-language newspaper. He is the author of The Archipelago: A Balkan… More…

Looking out across Mesopotamia into Syria

I wander through the narrow passages and quickly lose my sense of direction. The limestone buildings are completely closed off from the outside world. They seem built to last forever. My presence, in turn, excites nothing more than an occasional passing glance. A young boy squats in a window framed with stone blocks. The framing is nearly perfect, as if he were a painting. I hear the ezan, the call to prayer. Here and there a church tower is visible. Behind the walls, I sense courtyards with small irrigated gardens. A few dozen pigeons perch on the dome of a mosque. Many of the surfaces are decorated with designs — some purely geometric, others that suggest plants, animals, or drops of water. Arabic lettering on doors and ceramic signs, heavy wrought-iron door handles; Archways laden with complex ornaments.  One of them shows Şahmaran, queen of the snakes. She has the… More…

A chasen and chashaku sit inside a chawan, the traditional tea bowl

As I was sitting seiza, kneeling on thin tatami mats with my legs folded tightly underneath my thighs, my feet began to go numb. Our host had yet to even enter the room, still outside of it preparing the utensils on her tray. I had only been seated in the position for a few minutes and was already concerned about the lack of blood flow to my ankles. I worried I wouldn’t make it through my first Japanese tea ceremony, let alone any of my future lessons.

One of my instructors, Drew, was busy explaining the hanging scroll in the cove in the corner of the tea room — too busy to notice my very visible physical discomfort. On this snowy morning, the scroll featured Japanese calligraphy and the characters for beautiful, moon, and flower. “It serves as a reminder that beauty can still be found even in the depths… More…


The first thing Azeb wanted to know about me was if I was on Facebook. After that she got to the less important stuff: Where I was from, if I was married, had kids, believed in God — and what was I doing in southern Ethiopia? Azeb, a 25-year-old business student with big glowing eyes and long dark hair, was born and raised not far from where we were having breakfast. We ended up sitting together when we realized we were the only people in the dining room at the Lesiwon Hotel in Yirgacheffe, the namesake town of a region known to coffee cognoscenti for producing some of Ethiopia’s highest-quality coffee beans.

As Azeb scooped up pieces of her omelet with torn-off hunks of bread, as is the Ethiopian custom, I stabbed at mine with a fork and told her about my travels thus far in her country. But it… More…

Chacruna, the DMT-rich shrub, grows wild near the main Rainforest Expeditions lodge.

Fifty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg published The Yage Letters, a book largely consisting of the correspondence between the two on their separate treks through the Peruvian rainforest. Although their travels were a decade apart, both went in search of yagé — an entheogenic drug better known as ayahuasca. Burroughs’ quest for what he would wind up calling the “space-time drug” was motivated, in part, by the promise of a cure for his heroin addiction. But both beat writers were also lured by rumours that the drug provided answers to the mysteries of god, the universe, everything.

Fast-forward a half-century and it’s no longer the counter-culture’s very outer fringes heading to Peru to try ayahuasca. Drug tourism in the Amazon is a veritable small industry, with hundreds of shamans in Iquitos, Pucallpa, Puerto Maldonado and Cusco offering “trips” to North American and European tourists. Some — like me — even book an ayahuasca… More…

A hair and mustache icon

Baldness can be sexy, but let’s be frank, only in certain cases. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Kingsley, or fashion model Tyson Beckford are positive examples. Perceptions may vary, of course, but for the most part a bald head makes a man less attractive, especially if he’s overweight or stocky. And men know it. They experience baldness as a loss of more than just their hair and are aware of it with every look in the mirror.

Before coming to Istanbul I never really thought about the fact that somebody could want to invest time and a couple of thousand euros in new hair. I knew that the “combover” — to cover otherwise obvious baldness — was no longer the latest in hair fashion and a toupee was completely out of the question, but hair transplants never really crossed my mind. Hair loss is not a marginal phenomenon: Two… More…

Right before he set off to travel the world

This story is the forward by Pico Iyer from the newly released King Cobra – Mekong Adventures in French Indochina. The book is available now from DatAsia, Inc., in bookstores, and on Amazon.

At 26, I had a rich — a dangerous — sense of knowing it all. I was living in New York City and I had a 25th-floor office in Rockefeller Center, from which I could look out on a jungle of other high-rises. I’d only recently emerged from college and I hadn’t seen much of the world, though my job, implausibly, called for me to write palpitating, first-hand accounts, every week, of places I’d never visited (worked up from colleagues’ reports) for Time magazine. I had no dependents and few responsibilities and, though I’d traveled widely in South and Central America and grown up between England and California, I knew next to… More…

Relaxing in Saigon

This story is an excerpt from the newly released King Cobra – Mekong Adventures in French Indochina. The book is available now from DatAsia, Inc., in bookstores, and on Amazon.

Facing a discussion of French colonial policy, I find myself faltering. Generally when one discards the primitive belief that politicians are benefactors he becomes either a skeptic or a politician himself. Unfortunately, I am of the former class. However, it is apparent, even to the skeptic, that the French have a very efficient government in Indo-China; certainly as efficient as one could expect in an equatorial climate. Witness the regulation that makes it compulsory for every native who lives in or enters the country to have a card of identification bearing his photograph and finger-prints; this and many other thorough ordinances.

More from King CobraThe… More…