Around this time of year, it makes sense to look back over the previous 365 days and take stock. For the folks here at BootsnAll, 2008 was a pretty momentous year. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this year, so we’ve spent quite a bit of time lately being really proud that we’re still here a decade after we started – and that we’re still serving and connecting with travelers from all over the world. So while we’re feeling nostalgic, we thought we’d bring you a list of the highlights from our travel stories and articles – these are 15 of the most popular BootsnAll articles that you’ve enjoyed during 2008.
20 World Geography Facts that Might Surprise You
Travelers are some of the smartest people we know when it comes to geography – while much of the world can’t tell one -stan from another, many travelers consider themselves to be savvy when it comes to maps. Which may be one of the reasons why this list of 20 surprising world geography facts is the most-read article of 2008 – it’s been read by lots of travelers who want to make sure they’re not caught out by some weird bit of geographical trivia at parties.
People who have read this article have learned that the sunny Mediterranean city of Cannes in France is actually futher north than the often-freezing city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They’ve learned that the country of England is smaller than the state of Louisiana, but that if you include Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland then altogether the United Kingdom is smaller than the state of Michigan. They’ve learned that Italy’s capital city of Rome is on the same latitude as Chicago. And if you didn’t read this article, they’re all smarter than you are right now. Luckily, you can remedy the situation easily by reading the article yourself.
9 Modern-Day Classic Movie Locations You Can Still Visit
No matter how good the special effects in a movie are, film buffs usually know that most of the scenes are shot on soundstages or, if they’re actually in the real world they’re often not in the places they say they are. But some filmmakers go the extra mile to make their movies believable by setting them in real-life places like actual office buildings, fraternity houses, or high schools – and those real-life locations were the subject of the next popular article on this list.
The nine films profiled in the article were filmed in several different places throughout the United States, and while you may be enough of a movie fanatic to know that "Field of Dreams" was filmed in Iowa or that some of the most important scenes from "Forrest Gump" were filmed in Savannah, Georgia, there are bound to be a few revelations in there for you. For instance, did you know that "Office Space" was shot in a business park office building in Austin, Texas? Or that the high school where "The Breakfast Club" was filmed is the same high school where scenes from "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" were filmed? Perhaps most interesting to us at BootsnAll is that the college classic "Animal House" was made in the same town where BootsnAll got its start – Eugene, Oregon.
Top 10 Destinations for Independent Travelers in 2008
Way back in January of 2008, the staff at BootsnAll asked themselves where they’d send independent travelers that year. What did we consider the kinds of places that might get overlooked, however undeservedly? What destinations had fallen off the radar of the typical backpacker, despite still being a great place to spend some time? What places had that ideal mix of culture and value to appeal to travelers who are not only independent but also budget-minded?
Well, after much deliberation, we came up with our list of 10 places we thought should be hot for independent travelers in 2008. Among the places we chose were Budapest, Ethiopia, Sicily, Belize, and Nepal. And since we’re working on a brand new list of where independent travelers should go in 2009, it’s fitting that our 2008 list is still among the most popular articles of the year. We hope the 2009 article hits a similar high note with you!
>> Read Top 10 Destinations for Independent Travelers in 2008 – and enter your nominations for our 2009 list while you’re at it!
A Massage with a Happy Ending
We have to admit that this article is a bit of a favorite around the office. Since it was first published in 2004, it’s been one of our most popular articles of all time and continues to come up near the top when you Google "happy ending massage." (You can trust us on that, you don’t have to test it out if you don’t want to see what else comes up on that search. It’s not always very safe for work, if you catch our drift.)
What makes this article such a winner, however, isn’t that it’s explicit or X-rated – it’s the sense of self-deprecating humor with which the author, Richard Taylor, tells the story of going for a massage in Thailand without really knowing what he was in for. Anyone who’s ever been out of their element will recognize the "go with it" attitude, and readers have been laughing right along with Richard for more than four years now. We anticipate this one will continue to be a BootsnAll favorite for years to come. (Pun sort of intended.)
>> Read A Massage with a Happy Ending
Best Selling Beers Around the World
Let’s face it – one of the things that’s great about traveling is the whole "getting away from it all and letting your hair down" thing. And yes, that often involves imbibing (sometimes heavily) in the local brew. So it wasn’t surprising to us to see that our article about the world’s best-selling beers was pretty popular in 2008.
Some of the beers on the list are well-known, and probably not surprising to serious beer drinkers, but others are definitely interesting entries. For instance, while you might not consider beer to be a typical drink in Brazil, it’s a country that definitely puts away a good percentage of the world’s beer. And while you might have guessed that Guinness is Ireland’s best selling brew, you might have also thought Foster’s was the best-seller in Australia (you’d be wrong). Now, this article isn’t a commentary on the best beers of the world, because several of the liquids-that-barely-qualify-as-beer on the list would definitely not have made it if that had been the focus. Still, it’s a fun way to find out what’s popular where you are or where you’re going.
Original Locations of 15 Mega-Chains
When you think about chains like McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and The Gap, it’s actually really hard to imagine that there was an original location of any of them. Massive chains like that are so ubiquitous – often crossing borders and popping up in the least likely of places – that it feels like they were always there and new branches just spring from the earth fully formed like Venus from her clam shell.
Of course, we know better than that – but because we can’t imagine life without them, we don’t stop to think about where any of these mega-chains got their start. That’s probably one of the reasons our article about the original locations of 15 of those chains was so popular this year. If you’ve ever wondered where your favorite morning Starbucks latte was born, or wanted to know about the first place the Colonel ever fried chicken, or thought it’d be fun to get a Slurpee at the first 7-11, then this article is the place to go.
Five of the World’s Best-Kept Secret Destinations
The travelers who like BootsnAll best aren’t generally the package tourist type. Sure, we can take care of you if you’re really looking to relax on a Caribbean cruise or looking for a package deal to the Costa del Sol, but for the most part our audience has been independent travelers since we started in 1998 – which is why it doesn’t surprise us at all that an article about "best kept secret destinations" would be extremely popular with BootsnAll readers.
The places author Cherrye Moore on this list aren’t necessarily unheard of or even off the beaten path – in fact, in some cases they’re cities in well-traveled countries – but they’re all often overlooked by the bulk of the tourists who visit those countries. So if you want to consider yourself a really intrepid traveler, then take this list into consideration and check out such local favorites as Catanzaro in southern Italy or the Bimini Out Islands in the Bahamas.
Six Ridiculous Restaurants
To most of the people we know, food is a huge part of what makes travel interesting and fun. Whether that means making a pilgrimage to Naples to eat a pizza in the city where it was born or wandering Taipei’s night market and challenging yourself to eat the strangest-looking street food you can find, food and travel are intimately tied. Usually, however, the eating experience is a positive one (or at least makes a good story to tell later).
With the six crazy restaurants Peter Frick-Wright wrote about in this article, the best thing you might get out of the experience is a good story – because the focus clearly isn’t on the food. Of course, if you’re not as interested in the food anyway, then perhaps eating sushi off the body of a nearly-naked woman, ordering french fries cooked in pure lard and called "Flatliners," or attempting to eat a 72-oz steak in order to get your meal for free might just be your idea of fun. Honestly, just the idea of a 72-oz steak makes us want to reach for the Rolaids – we’re not sure we could handle the actual steak. But hey, knock yourself out. Your heart surgeon will thank you for the job security.
>> Read Six Ridiculous Restaurants
12 Places to See Really Good-Looking Locals
Some of us around the BootsnAll office are old enough now that the idea of being on the prowl for the local hotties isn’t at the top of our to-do list when we’re traveling. (Besides, we think our significant others might object nowadays.) But we remember the good old days, when part of the fun of hitting a new city was finding out whether there was anyone cute staying in your hostel or haunting the popular disco.
The good news, which most well-traveled people have learned as they’ve gotten around, is that there are beautiful people pretty much all over the world. Still, there are some places that seem to have more than their fair share of gorgeous locals – and we’ve got 12 of them listed in this popular article. You might expect cities like Miami Beach and Milan to show up, but if you didn’t know that there are plenty of good-looking residents of cities like Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and Rabat then maybe it’s time you got a nice haircut and bought a plane ticket.
Which Airfare Site is the Cheapest?
Independent travelers are often budget travelers who have more time than money to devote both to their trips and the planning that a trip requires, so we’re pleased that our guide to which airfare booking site really offers the best deals has been so popular. We’re bargain hunters by nature, and we’re also always trying to bring the best bargains we can find to BootsnAll readers, so we thought we’d perform a little test to see which of the popular airfare websites really delivered the goods on their perpetual promises of saving travelers money.
We tested six different itineraries (both domestic and international) with varying degrees of specificity, and we were actually kind of surprised by some of the results of our tests. We’re not sure if the people who read the article were surprised, but we’re pretty sure they came away from the article with more information about what airfare websites they should look at first when booking their next trip. And that’s what it’s all about, in the end, right?
Becoming an Expat
I’m going to break from the "we" tense I’ve been using here so far, because the next article on our list is one I wrote. Back before I started working at BootsnAll, I remember distinctly telling CEO Sean Keener that one of my dreams was to relocate to Italy. I also remember thinking that such a pronouncement (during my first interview, no less!) would knock me out of the running for most jobs out there, so I continue to feel very lucky that not only did it not keep me from getting the job – it was an idea that excited Sean as much as it excited me!
Now, it can be a big jump to make from being an avid traveler to moving to another country, and I’m still in the middle of what has often been a long and agonizingly frustrating process. But the fact remains that I’m finally pretty close to getting a visa that’ll let me move to Italy, and that’s pretty damned cool. This article was my way of providing a bit of guidance to anyone else who came home from a trip and thought, "Hey, it’d be really cool to live there…"
>> Read Becoming an Expat
Where is the Deepest Canyon in the World?
As is the case with the article at the top of this list, the popularity of this article just confirms what we’ve suspected for years – travelers like travel trivia. A good percentage of the travelers who frequent the BootsnAll travel message boards are so into travel trivia, in fact, that one of the most popular threads is a travel game where you have to guess where a photo was taken. So apparently just seeing the title of this article, "Where is the Deepest Canyon in the World?" makes you so curious you’ve got to read it to find out!
We’re not going to give away the answer here (you’ve got to read the article to get it), but we will say that no, it’s not the Grand Canyon. Follow author Allan Taylor on his trip to this incredibly deep (and incredibly beautiful) canyon.
Taking the Train to Naples
Anyone who’s taken the train in Italy will be able to relate to this tale – although it was published back in 2005, it’s still one of the most-read articles on BootsnAll because it’s still something that happens to travelers in Italy almost every day. Author Michael Cornn and his parents thought they had done everything right as they waited at Rome’s Termini station for their train to Naples – tickets purchased early, track determined, all there was left to do was wait.
But in retrospect, the fact that no one else was waiting on the track with them and everyone was instead staring at the big "Departures" board should have been a tip-off. Even the best preparations are no match for last-minute track changes, as Michael and his parents found out. Luckily, travelers like Michael write about experiences like this so the people who follow in their footsteps can avoid the same mistakes.
>> Read Taking the Train to Naples
My Favourite Beaches of Goa
Any article that begins with the line "The beaches of Goa are like the curves of a woman’s body – warm, inviting, sensuous" is bound to be a good one, right? Well, clearly BootsnAll readers think so – since this article was published in 2004, it’s been one of the most popular articles every year. Author Priya Shah has compiled a list of her favorite beaches in Goa, India, but the most popular beaches in this well-known beach lover’s magnet aren’t on the list.
Instead, Priya concentrates on the beaches that are a little more off the beaten path and less crowded. Which is, after all, what most of us want when we’re picturing a beach getaway. No one spends their time imagining a beach packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists and thinks, "Ooh, that looks like fun!" So if you’re going to be heading to Goa, read through this list of 10 less crowded beaches and figure out how many you can visit yourself.
>> Read My Favourite Beaches of Goa
Pee Pee Island: A Girl’s Guide to the Asian Squatty Potties
Of all the articles on listed here, this easily has the best title. It’s possible it’s one of the best-titled articles ever published on BootsnAll, in fact. And the subject isn’t just funny to read about – this is practical information that a girl’s gotta know. There are several threads on the BootsnAll boards about how to use squat toilets, so we know it’s not something that this article’s author, Sherry Ott, was unique in her concern about.
Yes, the article is a fun read – but it’s also a how-to guide that you ladies will definitely want to take a look at if you’ve ever wondered how you were going to manage using a squatty potty without peeing on your shoes. Guys, this is one article that you’ll enjoy because it’s funny – and perhaps it’ll give you a bit of sympathy for the women you’re traveling with the next time they’ve got to use that hole in the floor as a toilet.