I’m embarrassed to admit that during the school year, my leisure reading predominantly involves glossy magazines. I’ll indulge every now and then in Glamour (it’s fun to share with roommates), pine over my past running days with Runner’s World, or snag an issue of Time to feel updated with the world. Yet my favorite magazine has to be National Geographic Traveler. Once I saw the February/March 2014 cover online, I knew I needed to obtain the issue.
The feature story has particular significance to me. During my time in China last year, I spent a week travelling the southern province of Yunnan, and we went to some of the same locations as the Nat Geo title suggests: Shangri-La, Jade Snow Dragon Mountain, Lijiang, and more. It was by far the most breathtaking area of the world I ever visited, and one of the best weeks of my life.
Yunnan is possibly China’s most biodiverse and ethnically diverse region. You can go from the southern jungles or the year-round temperate capital of Kunming, drive for a day, and end up on plateaus and glaciers at over 15,000 feet stretching into Tibet. 22 of China’s 52 ethnic minorities reside here, with cultures and languages and color in their lives beyond what my minimal Mandarin Chinese could ever comprehend. I went trekking for a day through Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest canyons, and spent a few nights living and learning with host families outside Shangri-La in the culturally Tibetan village of Napa.
The photographer, Michael Yamashita, perhaps has the longest-running collection of photos from China spanning across 30 years. These from Yunnan are absolutely stunning and truly capture the rugged, almost mystical essence of the region. And to be honest, I can’t remember anything too notable from the written story because I was too busy marveling at the images. Memories of Yunnan flash through my mind nearly every day. I’m thrilled that National Geographic continually uncovers untouched corners of this world, but in some sense, this is a secret that I want to keep.
The issue also caught my interest for its features on Quebec City and the Berkshires of Massachusetts—so many peripheral connections! I’m not sure if any retailer in Canton offers this magazine (my parents mailed it to me from a bookstore in Florida), but if you’re pining for some wanderlust at any budget, I suggest you check it out. I’m crossing my fingers to return to Yunnan someday.
To subscribe and see more on this issue, peruse the Nat Geo Traveler site.
To see more of Michael Yamashita’s work, both professional and daily life, follow his Instagram.
And my own experience in Yunnan can be found in my blog archives!