Genius loci

[Genius Loci] January 2023

1 January 2023

Fellow travelers,

We have successfully orbited our sun again, at least according to this artificial thing we impose on ourselves called calendars. And as I look at mine, I see something on the calendar that I haven’t seen since July 2022: meetings and class prep. Yes, dear friends, my sabbatical has come to an end.

My sabbatical was nice. I had a lot of time to think, reflect, and write. Its energy has been so good, I’m trying not to let it go. This got me thinking: “How can we carve out and protect creative time during times of obligations, busy work, and day jobs?” I made some notes about sabbaticals and “micro-sabbaticals,” which you may find helpful as your holidays come to a close and you return to work.

One of insights I gained during my sabbatical was the importance of racking our focus and attention away from distractions and onto what matters most: our work. And by “work,” I mean “creative work.” I wrote a bit about how my sabbatical has helped me see more clearly in my end of year review for 2022. In short, my signal-to-noise ratio was off. I’ve allowed too many distraction command my attention. There is a lot of noise out there, and I need to protect my time and respect my own work. As should you.

I am backing away from social media a bit and I’m starting a free Discord forum where we can actually have conversations about creative/literary/photography projects about travel, nature, & place. It is free to use/chat using the free Discord app, so join using this invite link: (I’m just launching this now, so please invite your friends).

With all this said, things will be changing around here in 2023.

Travel Writing World will no longer be a fortnightly podcast. Instead, I’ll interview authors about books I find interesting and notable. There may be months without a new episode, but that’s okay.

In the same vein, this newsletter will also see some changes. I won’t bombard you with links galore. Last month’s newsletter had over 50 links, and it would have been more if I didn’t stop myself.

Alastair Humphreys replied to December’s link-o-rama and wrote, “I think your newsletter is fantastic. But I also find it a victim of its own success… There are SO many good links to click that I get overwhelmed and sometimes ignore all of them. Foolish, I know. But I wonder if you’d get more clicks by posting fewer links each time?” Alastair’s comment was a graceful (gentle? kind?) way to say, “Cut the crap, you fool! Focus!” And it came at the right time, for it confirmed to me what I had been thinking for a few months anyway.

Sure, Alastair was speaking about my newsletter in particular. But I find his comment to have a broader, more general application. Trying to do all the things comes at the risk of not doing a few things well. And for creators, not doing anything well is an existential problem. So, let us re-focus our energies on what is important and valuable and good in 2023.

Anyway, Genius Loci will continue to have these preambles, these musing, these updates about place, travel, and nature. They will also continue to have links to my public-facing work. But instead of including a looong list of links, I’ll recommend only a few, notable links in three broad categories: words, images, and audio/video. Today’s newsletter is representative of the change.

Speaking of which, onto what you came for:


🏆 The 2023 Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year shortlist was announced last month. Have you read any of these award-nominated books? It is an excellent idea to steep yourself in award-winning and award-nominated books (or, books that are bestsellers — though there often is a gulf between books that highly praised and books that sell a lot, unfortunately).

🏝️ Fans of Pico Iyer will be thrilled that he has a new book out this month called The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise. I got my hands on an advance copy and it is a wonderful, heady book on the topic of paradise and the ideal world. I’ll be interviewing Pico on the Travel Writing World podcast, to be published on January 11.

🚶‍♀️ If you can stomach more experimental literature, or if you have a thing for the urban wanderings of Baudelaire, Benjamin, Poe, and the flâneur, you might want to try Antonio Muñoz Molina’s novel (if we can call it that) To Walk Alone in the Crowd, about wandering through 21st century Madrid and literature.

⛅️ Speaking of literary experiments, subscribe to Drifting — a literary, cloud-headed newsletter on wandering, solitude, serendipity, & connection.


🇮🇹 I finally got my hands on Alys Tomlinson’s book Gli IsolaniThe Islanders — , which I backed on Kickstarter. It documents the traditional costumes and masks worn during festivals and celebrations on the islands of the Venetian lagoon, Sicily, and Sardinia. Alys photographs using a large format camera, and her black and white photos are great. I interviewed Alys about her photographic practice here.

🇬🇱 Keepers of the Ocean is a personal exploration of intimacy with and within the overwhelming nature of west Greenland. The book portrays the close community of Inuuteq Storch’s hometown Sisimiut photographed over the past three years. The landscape, as well as everyday images of friends, family, food and interiors, form part of the subject matter. A photographic study on place and people.

📸 If you’re interested in travel and the photography of place, check out the first edition of the beefy Raw Society Magazine. It is limited to 500 copies and, from what I’ve been told, they’ve been selling fast. The mag features stories about Turkey, Stockport, Cuba, Menorca, the American South, and more. Read more about the magazine here.

Audio / Video

🌿 I’ve just discovered the Prompted by Nature podcast, an interview show about nature and creativity. Helen Forester is based in the U.K., and her show might interest those using creativity to work in and with nature.

🌬️ For the budding freelance writers here, watch this short video of Oliver Pelling (senior editor at discuss a few elements of the “perfect pitch.”

🇬🇷 If you’ve ever wondered what Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house in Mani, Greece looks like, check out this YouTube video. It features drone shows and a first-person walk-through. Simply stunning, this house.


📆 January is a good time to take stock of where we are in our lives. I find this webpage to be humbling and motivating, one in which I consult from time to time to remember that time is fleeting. (Coincidentally, I think I first saw this in Alastair’s own newsletter some months back). Amazon sells a calendar that allows you to chart your own life in weeks as they happen, which is a bit morbid.

Back matter

That’s it for this month.

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