Atlas & Boots’ top 10 posts of 2018

This article may contain affiliate links

From topical debates and trip reports to how-to guides and personal pieces, we publish a wide range of posts every year. Here’s our pick of 2018

Well, this has been an eventful year. We kicked off 2018 with a month in Australia followed by a trip to New Zealand on commission for Lonely Planet as part of our Trailblazers partnership. We followed up with various projects for Lonely Planet including judging their flagship Best in Travel 2019 campaign and speaking at their Diversity in Travel Writing event in London.

We hit 225,000 monthly users on the site, bought a house and moved to the country, and also travelled to Ireland, Catalonia, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. Oh, and I wrote a book!

If that weren’t enough, we’re ending the year in Costa Rica on commission for National Geographic Expeditions. Needless to say, it’s been a fantastic year.

On a more general scale, we’ve stepped up our efforts to cut out single-use plastic. Also – and I’m sorry if this makes us sound completely unbearable – we’re planning to try Veganuary in 2019 (albeit from mid-Jan to mid-Feb) to offset the footprint of our travels somewhat. We try to take long trips instead of frequent short trips to minimise the number of flights we book, but we can’t deny that our travels have an impact on the environment. This is something we’ll continue to address over the coming year.

In the mean time, we thought we’d take a look back at Atlas & Boots’ top 10 posts of 2018, chosen based on reader engagement and editorial judgement.

These posts range from topical debates to trip reports and personal pieces, and represent a good cross-section of what we have to offer. We hope you’ll follow along in 2019 and send us feedback on what you love, what you don’t and what you’d like to see more of. We’ll see you out there!

1. I’ve officially travelled the world. Here’s what I’ve learnt

atlas & boots top 10 posts
Atlas & Boots I’ve had to choose writing over travelling this year

Travel has taught me a great many things and after 50 countries of travel through 21 ‘Risk’ regions I wanted to take pause and share them with our readers. The lessons listed here are not practical tips or travel hacks. Nor are they a reflection of life as a blogger. Instead, they offer insights on life, love and beyond. Taking in everything from money and the environment to age and confidence, this piece resonated with our readers and became one of our most shared posts of the year.

2. Polar bear death: has extinction tourism gone too far?

All tourists feed into the culture of extinction tourism
Dreamstime All tourists feed into the culture of extinction tourism

I wrote this piece after hearing news about a cruise ship guard shooting and killing a polar bear while scouting an area for landing. It signified everything I hate about tourism, chief among them human encroachment on wilderness and the sacred belief that human life is worth more than all other. It struck a chord for another reason too: those tourists could have been me and Peter. I want to see Canada and more of Norway. I want to sail across the Arctic and I want to see polar bears in the wild. This post grapples with the ethics of doing so.

3. Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef

Diving Steve’s Bommie was unspeakably special. The clandestine nature of the dive – seeking special dispensation from the captain, waking under the cover of dark, being the only two passengers diving with the crew – only heightened expectation. The dive did not disappoint. As we corkscrewed around the bommie, we peeked in nooks and crannies, catching the eye of a scorpionfish, rearing at the nightmare silhouette of a lionfish. The accompanying video shows non-divers a completely different world.

4. Climbing Uluru: a step too far

Uluru in the red centre of Australia is worth the trip
Atlas & Boots Uluru in the red centre of Australia is worth the epic trip

Regular readers may be aware that Peter is a bit of a climbing junkie. Climbing Uluru – one of the world’s most famous icons – would have been a nice feather in his cap, but he chose not to bag this particularly alluring peak. In this post, he unpacks the controversies over climbing Uluru, asks if there should be a hard ban given the site’s cultural significance and concludes that climbing Uluru really is a step too far.

5. Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti

This isn’t my most eloquent post, but deserves a place in this list for sheer wonder of experience, captured to some extent in the accompanying video. Swimming with whale sharks was one of our greatest wildlife experiences, right up there with diving in the Galápagos and swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. These magnificent creatures are bewitching in both beauty and behaviour and it was an utter privilege to share their space.

6. Climbing Carrauntoohil: Ireland’s highest mountain

Valerie O'Sullivan Peter in Ireland’s Reeks District

In this post, Peter recounts the challenge of climbing Ireland’s three highest peaks… in one day: Carrauntoohil at 1,038m (3,406ft), Beenkeragh at 1,010m (3,310ft) and Caher at 1,001m (3,284ft). His account of dicey knife-edged ridges, breathtaking dropoffs, plunging ravines and hidden moraine pools is accompanied by stunning photographs of some of Ireland’s finest scenery, proving that this blustery corner of the world is well worth a trip.

7. Jumping the 134m Nevis Bungy, the highest in New Zealand

A wave before leaping
Atlas & Boots A wave before leaping

Some of us go in search of heart-stopping thrills because that’s what makes us feel alive. We know that joy can be found on the fringes of fear and so we dive feet first into all the things that test us. It’s with this sense of bombast that I booked the 134m Nevis Bungy jump, the highest in New Zealand. It was only when I was on the ledge, strapped to the cord that would keep me from death that I was hit by the absurdity of the situation. This post and the video within shows what happened next. (Note: there may be an expletive or two.)

8. Safari in Etosha National Park: where the wildlife comes to you

self-drive safari through Namibia etosha
Atlas & Boots A lion lazes in Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is said to be one of the world’s best destinations for wildlife watching – and it did not disappoint. From herds of elephants thirty strong to prides of lion on a stalk, this national park offered some of the most magnificent wildlife displays we’ve seen. At times, it seemed we were privy to a documentary scene: vast herds of zebras and wildebeest desperately waiting at a waterhole, working up the courage to take a sip under the lazy eye of lions nearby. Watching them approach and retreat, approach and retreat, was almost like ballet.

9. Travels with my sister: conquering a lifetime of hearing loss

Forida and Kia on a hike in the Chiltern Hills travelling with hearing loss
Atlas & Boots Forida and Kia on a hike in the Chiltern Hills

This was a deeply personal piece about my younger sister, Forida, and her fight against hearing loss. It shares the challenges she faced in childhood, how I’ve tried (and sometimes failed) to help her as her older sister, and how a recent change for the better prompted her to join me for a trip. This post recounts our break in the Chiltern Hills and shares Forida’s diary of receiving new hearing aids, adjusting to new tones and pitches, and building her confidence as a traveller.

10. The ups and downs of our move to the country

move to the country path
Atlas & Boots A change from east London

As mentioned above, this year we left London semi-permanently and moved to the Dales town of Richmond in North Yorkshire. This post reflects on the move and shares a candid account of the pros (space, access to the outdoors and a sense of well-being) and cons (FOMO, lack of family and friends). On the whole, it’s been a great move and a great year.

We look forward to sharing what’s next!

Get our monthly roundup of posts straight to your inbox: subscribe to our newsletter.

Lead image: Valerie O’Sullivan

You might also like: