Toward the end of each year I usually post a round-up of my travel highlights from the previous 12 months.  This year I’ve been diligent enough with updates that I don’t feel I have many new 2009 details to share.  Hence, I’ll just share a few images from some of my favorite (photographable) moments this year:

russia
One of my earliest overseas journeys in 2009 was a February trip to St. Petersburg, Russia.  My account of the experience, “St. Petersburg, Vampire-Style,” appears in the December 2009 issue of Afar Magazine.  If you read the article, you’ll learn more about the teens pictured above, who taught me the choicest Russian swear words during a wee-hour foray into a bar called Mod.

cruisetrek
Perhaps my favorite story assignment of 2009 required me to infiltrate a Star Trek fan-cruise from New York to Bermuda.  My five-part account of the experience, “Where No Travel Writer Has Gone Before,” appeared in World Hum (along with a teaser video) in November.  Part III of the series revolves around the Star Trek theme-wedding of Wayne and Rita Applegate (pictured above).

shakespeare
As has been tradition in recent years, July found me in France, where I run a month-long creative writing workshop at the Paris American Academy.  One of the highlights of the summer for me (pictured above) was reading from my newest book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, at the legendary Shakespeare & Company Bookstore on the Left Bank (video of the reading online here and here).

wallytiffany
I spent a lot of time in 2009 working and hanging out on my farm in Kansas.  I enjoyed many peaceful and sublime moments on the prairie this year, but one of the most fascinating events I witnessed was when Tiffany, my nephews’ Limousin heifer, gave birth to a bull calf, which we named “Wally” (pictured above in my north pasture, just minutes after he was born).

bookpassage
I visit a number of travel-writing events each year, but few can compete with the sheer exuberance and camaraderie of the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference each August in San Francisco’s North Bay.  My key contribution to the festivities this year was leading the peanut gallery in an a capella rendition of the Muppets anthem, “Manah Manah.”  That’s me in the far right of the above photo; also visible (in roughly left-to-right order) is guidebook publisher Pauline Frommer, Travelers’ Tales publisher Larry Habegger, San Francisco Chronicle travel editor Spud Hilton, World Hum editor Jim Benning, novelist and travel writer Linda Watanabe McFerrin, and travel-writing legend Tim Cahill. [Photo by Joel Carillet, as is the Cahill shot above]