• Kate Hamilton
The phrase “once upon a time” is traditionally followed by the narration of a magical tale; by an account of myths or legends from a realm beyond the bounds of any worldly map. In childhood, we travel by means of our imagination, guided by fairytales into dreams of distant lands. Powerful stories continue to inspire us as adults, and we can end up creating tales of our own as we explore and embrace new paths.
Recently, a quartet of stories depicting a neighbourhood in Naples caught the imagination of readers around the world. Written under the pseudonym Elena Ferrante, the Neapolitan Novels chart the lives of two women, from their infancy in Italy in the 1950s, right up until the modern day. Guardian Cook Editor Mina Holland found herself “spellbound” by the books, setting out on a “pilgrimage of sorts” to discover the world of Lenù and Lila for herself.
From L to R: Yosemite National Park by Elliott Ross, Colorado by Aaron Miller, Faroe Islands by Robbie Lawrence

A form of pilgrimage also drew artist Steph Wilson to Tangier, a city that for countless years has hosted writers, artists and creatives such as the Rolling Stones. Perhaps most famously, French Fauvist painter Henri Matisse found inspiration in the city’s variegated sunshine for some of his finest work. And so Steph set out to explore Tangier, tracing the brushstrokes of Matisse, and gaining in the process a new respect for the ability of fresh perspectives to make us question our own world view.
In Yosemite National Park, a 211 mile-long trail leads adventurers to walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the legendary conservationist, John Muir. The Scotsman spent his life exploring and protecting the wilderness, and played an integral role in the establishment of the US National Park Service. Today, mountain guide Colby Brokvist pays homage to Muir’s legacy of exploration by leading groups of intrepid travellers into the wild.
From L to R: Naples, Norway by Jonas Bendiksen, Northern Ireland

Of course, following in the footsteps of others doesn’t mean that you have to walk the same path. On a journey around Colorado, Aaron Millar found many of the original Gold Rush towns to be gimmicky, trying too hard to recreate days gone by. The writer located the state’s real treasure in the land, where endless skies and vast expanses gave his imagination space to roam.
Indeed, sometimes when we travel in pursuit of a story, we go on to discover that we need to break free of the old tales. The city of Oxford is steeped in powerful accounts of myths and legends, but for university students, the weighty presence of the institution’s elitist legacy can cast a dark cloud. Author Rosalind Jana navigated her own way through; choosing what myths to embrace, while simply ignoring those that loomed large. She writes: “Sometimes the stories are to be told and revelled in. Sometimes the stories are to be torn apart.”
Tangier by Steph Wilson, Naples by Elena Heatherwick, Sligo in Ireland by Nikki McClarrom

However, the stories that Ireland projects, complete with vibrant tableaus of verdant fields, towering giants and rainbows that end in pots of gold, remain resolutely intact, inspiring so many travellers to make their own journey to the Emerald Isle. Compelled by the verse of Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B. Yeats, who described his native country as “the land of heart’s desire”, writer Delilah Khomo embarked on something of a literary pilgrimage to Sligo, on the southwest coast. After a weekend of horseback riding, roaring fires and bathing in seaweed (“the closest I’d ever get to life as a mermaid”) she found no need to tear the stories apart, the land was every bit as magical as she’d hoped.
Powerful tales have been the driving force behind our travels in this issue. Like a trail of breadcrumbs they have led us to the doors of destinations, and we hope that we’ve left our own stories scattered along our many and various paths.

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