Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Animals That Come to Life in Art

All pet owners know that their four- and sometimes two-legged friends have distinctive personalities. But that doesn’t apply solely to our domesticated companions. Go into the wild and watch how different penguins or baboons behave, and you’ll start to notice the uniqueness of each individual. Animals are just as complicated as humans (with a lot less baggage), capable of learning, surviving against the odds, and feeling, everything from fear and compassion to sadness and joy. We’ve all seen the videos of elephants crying, a husky going absolutely bonkers when his master returns home after an extended tour of duty overseas, the Labrador gently interacting with a curious but cautious three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and the giraffe kissing his caretaker goodbye, sensing the man’s impending death from cancer. When animals are portrayed in art and an artist can brilliantly capture their entire being and personality — their characteristics, beauty, and emotions — in static media like marble or paint, you’ll find yourself looking at something that comes this close to being the real thing. Read about the top five animals in art >


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Three Days in the World’s First National Park

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National ParkI had wisely chosen early autumn as the time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park. Post–Labor Day, the school year had begun a few weeks before, the summer crowds had dissipated, and the weather had cooled substantially — perfect conditions for spending three full days in the oldest and most diverse national park in the United States. Read more >


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The Eeriest Places on Earth

Nevada City, MontanaIf you’re planning to visit a fabricated haunted house for Halloween, or to attend a party in a costume that’s anything but frightening, I have an alternative: Go to an authentic ghost town. These abandoned places teem with vacated, decaying buildings and with the spirits of a long-vanished population. You’re unlikely to run into a vampire or a sexy French maid; a rolling tumbleweed is more probable, or the hint of an odd susurration carried on the wind that blows through the silence of these eerie, deserted places. You can find them all over the globe, from Chile to Italy to Japan, and they will give you a thrill, and a chill, like no other locations in the world. Read about the top five ghost towns >


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Dream Bigger: White Is Not Only for Christmas

Church of St. Charles at the Four Fountains, Rome, ItalyAs winter wonderlands start to pop up around the globe, white takes center stage in the form of unique flakes, shiny skating rinks, and Santa’s beard. But snow, ice, and St. Nick’s facial hair don’t hold a monopoly on the pure, unspoiled beauty of white. In fact, some of the world’s best occurrences of white have nothing to do with gelid winters and aren’t seasonal at all. Read more about the world’s top five whites >


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When Nature Has Fun: The Best Natural Curiosities

Hoodoos, Alberta BadlandsMalta’s Azure Window. Aruba’s Natural Bridge. New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain. Four of Australia’s Twelve Apostles. All were beautiful, quirky sites carved by the forces of nature, and all were destroyed by the very same forces. If you are fortunate enough to have seen them before their demise, you undoubtedly have a fond memory; if not, you’re out of luck—they’re gone for good. But fear not: Plenty of other one-off oddities still exist around the world. You just have to make sure you get to them before storms and erosion make them things of the past. Read more about the world’s top five natural curiosities >


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Sunday Driving, Any Day of the Week

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park, South DakotaRemember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >


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Five Doors to Admire Before You Open Them

House of the Blackhead, Tallinn, EstoniaWe pass through doors countless times every day — in our home, our workplace, the subway, elevators, barns, garages. Most are fairly unremarkable, utilitarian means of egress. But every now and then, a masterfully crafted door stands out in the crowd, arresting our attention, hinting at something remarkable behind it and enticing us to go inside and discover the treasures or surprises awaiting us on the other side. These are my top five doors in the world. Read more >