PHOTOS: A Centuries-Old Craft Is Under Threat by COVID-19

A look at the artisans behind a rich cultural heritage and a coveted international good.

The textile craft of Kashmir, the disputed region that hugs India and Pakistan, is woven deep into the valley’s cultural heritage–a rich legacy of tapestry that was imported from Persia in the latter half of the 15th century. Over the centuries, Kashmir carpets and shawls have borne testimonies of extraordinary artistry, with their meticulous geometric and calligraphic designs. The beauty lies in the detailed needlework, a skill handed down by generations of weavers. The art flourished during the Mughal period that lasted into the 18th century. The tradition continued even during the troubles that followed under the rule of the Afghans and Sikhs. The British arrived in the early part of the 19th century and commercialized the woven products. And soon Kashmiri carpets and shawls became known across the globe. But sadly, this art is dying a slow death. Problems began in 1989 when the valley was embroiled with insurgency operations, and a long-drawn-out conflict between the Indian armed forces and militant outfits has continued ever since, with brief interludes of peace. As a result, many artisans fled from the valley. The industry has been plagued with other social and economic problems: the cost of quality wool has become prohibitively expensive, the market is flooded with counterfeit products churned out of power looms, and the younger generation of the valley has been generally uninterested in pursuing a career in weaving due to its low pay. Despite all of this, Kashmir exported roughly $125 million worth of handicrafts since 2019. But the pandemic has once again jeopardized the future of this ancient craft. In an effort to boost spending, state-run councils have been assisting local artisans with participation in virtual fairs and trade shows.

I Searched Airbnb For the Best Socially Distanced Rentals

The best getaways—from home and humans.

We are all looking for the perfect getaway, but it’s difficult to find weekend vacations that still allow for social distancing—yes, we want a vacation, but we still want the ability to be a recluse. What this means is no condos and no renting a room in someone else’s home—you need your own space, and a place away from people and crowds. Earlier this summer, Fodor’s spoke with Airbnb to learn about their updated cleaning policies and why this rental site might be just what you need in a time of social distancing. With blackout periods for cleaning and entire homes to yourself, an off-the-beaten-path rental might serve as the safe getaway you were looking for. So we scouried Airbnb to find the best, socially distanced rentals for your next people-free getaway. For more on how to safely travel in the pandemic, download our new ebook, written in collaboration with WebMD.

10 Jaw-Dropping Basalt Formations Around the World

Who knew Mother Nature was such a talented sculptor?

In Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien prequel, the characters land on a barren planet in search of—what else?—aliens. One of the scientists remarks that they must’ve found the alien base because “God does not build in straight lines.” Apparently, this “scientist” has never heard of columnar basalt formations. To be fair though, these perfectly geometric formations are so striking that they do look like you’re about to stumble on a lair of Handsome Squidward aliens. In reality, however, they’re formed by lava that contracts, consequentially fractures, and then, (depending on the spacing of the fractures and the lava flow) when the lava cools, the results are these perfectly shaped rock columns. Here are 10 of the most incredible examples of these geological wonders from around the world.

10 U.S. Dog Parks That Are a Destination Unto Themselves

You and your dog will fall in puppy love with these parks.

When we travel, we want to surround ourselves with the best a place has to offer. We look up the best things to do, the best restaurants, the best bars. But if you’re going to a new place with a certain loyal canine companion along for the ride, don’t they deserve the best as well? Here are some of the coolest, some of the most beautiful, and—of course—some of the best dog parks in the United States (that humans will love too).

10 Bonkers Things I’ve Needed to Barter While Living on the Road in a Pandemic

In these crazy coronavirus times, I’ve gotten back into the wonderful world of bartering.

I live fulltime on a 19-foot Skoolie named Bubba the Bus. Making money while living on the road is a challenge, but, why do you need money? Well, for starters, to acquire things like groceries, gas, parking, power, water, and showers. Now that campgrounds and RV Parks are reopening, some of these burdens are alleviated; however, the average cost for a night’s accommodation begins at $35 and only goes up from there. Where can you park when campgrounds are closed? Where can you shower when gyms, Rec Centers, and public places are closed? Where can you dump your toilet or fill your tanks when RV parks and rest areas are closed? Welcome to my wonderful world of bartering. The current situation has prompted me to dust off a lifetime of skills and recycle them into things of value. In the process, one-of-a-kind experiences and connections have been created. The biggest challenge has been proposing the barter/exchange in a way that people understand because they aren’t used to hearing it. The conversations usually start with “This might sound a little crazy” or “this may seem odd, but” which were the exact words I said to a fruit farmer in Bakersfield, California, when I made my first barter on the open road. Here are the many things I’ve been bartering en route.

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