Molly Beer

Molly Beer is a terrible traveler. She reads books about Africa while camping in Tibet, prepares food she learned to make in Italy in her Mexican kitchen, or writes obsessively about El Salvador while living on a rooftop in Ecuador. Worse still, she can’t pack, she suffers from motion sickness, she is terrified of volcanoes, and she once (three days into the Aldo Leopold Wilderness) tore up the map. And yet, here she is. Wherever here is.

A former contributing editor and founding member of Vela, Molly Beer’s travel writing has appeared in Salon, Guernica, and Best Women’s Travel Writing, among other publications, and has been deemed “Notable” by Best American Travel Writing. She is a former Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University. Read more about her work at

Stories by Molly:

  • The Lifecycle of Butterflies

    In Michoacán, the migrating mariposas appear with November, as if trailing the marigolds trucked in for Day of the Dead. They come by the fragile millions, fluttering a few thousand miles from el norte to the transvolcanic range of their own origin. As such, the monarcas are seen to symbolize the annual returning of souls, […]–Read more

  • Fire Ants

      *Selected by Paul Theroux as a notable essay in The Best American Travel Writing 2014 In those first months living in El Salvador, had I walked down a village street and seen young men leaning against gaping doorframes, their eyes steady upon me, I would have read the wrong story. Then, I could barely […]–Read more

  • Writers Respond to Typhoon Haiyan

    On ordinary days, this is a magazine of creative nonfiction, inspired by travel, written by women–by which we mean that Vela publishes writing that endeavors to express what is real in a manner that is both curious and connection-seeking, and we do so in the spirit of solidarity. And when but in the wake of […]–Read more

  • The Princess and the Soldier: A Girl Reading

    Like everyone in possession of that most impractical English degree (or three), I have read my share of the canon. Those hurtled marble busts of white men, dead or otherwise, pates polished by reverence: I have read their books like a baited fish, trailing after beckoning green lights and yellow butterflies and muddy bottoms. I […]–Read more

  • That Spanish September

    When I graduated from college, in the spring of 2001, it seemed to me that where I situated myself, where I’d been and wherever I went next, indicated who I was. Place was like fashion, a signifier like a college sweatshirt. But place was also a passport, a record of collected stamps and visas, sure, […]–Read more

  • Interview with Vela’s Featured Writer: Amy Butcher

    You and I met a little over a year ago at Colgate University, when I was the out-going Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Creative Nonfiction and you were the incoming. I remember that when I was packing up I had this deep fear that I might never again have so much validation and support as […]–Read more

  • A Pro/Creative Life: Writing as a Mother

    I was offered my first book contract five weeks before my first child was due to be born. I had written the final touches of the proposal in a New York hotel between AWP panels. In my queen-sized hotel bed, propped upright by pillows and my eight-month abdomen, I had felt inflamed with conviction that […]–Read more

  • Map to Motherland

    This morning, Steven and I woke up late and tired because our two-year-old had been up twice in the night dreaming about scary dinosaurs and then there was an incident with a rat in our bedroom. Now, in my cold Mexican kitchen, I am “sproaching” eggs in sugar cane vinegar and picking rodent-gnawed fruit out […]–Read more

  • Reading Emily Rapp

    To read Emily Rapp’s memoir The Still Point of the Turning World is to have that life river that you’re navigating—an eddy here, a riffle there—go all Niagara on your ass. You’re in a barrel with Rapp, the mother of a child—Ronan—who’s just been diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease (100% terminal), plummeting over the precipice. Then […]–Read more

  • On Packing

    It is best to use a well-made bed or the floor, so long as you have a large, smooth, clear surface, a canvas, if you will. It is best to start early, to take your time, to mentally map out (a maze of nerves like tangled alleys, footpaths, avenues) the possibilities, the contingencies. You must […]–Read more

  • Featured Writer: Sidsel Overgaard

    Sidsel Overgaard is a public radio journalist who has reported on topics ranging from how a once-popular pregnancy test led to the endangerment of the Chiricahua leopard frog in New Mexico, to how lingonberries and reindeer blood challenge pickled red cabbage and meatballs as the ‘New Nordic’ cuisine in Denmark. But today on Vela she’s […]–Read more

  • The Jackass Prize

    Clayton may be in possession of the only Ivy League degree between us, but he arrived in New Mexico without either a sleeping bag or hiking boots—he’d lost the Vasque boots our sister and I had given him a year or two earlier—and suffered for his folly that variety of derision unique to close siblings, […]–Read more

  • Fellowship and the Emerging Writer

    Sitting in my half-packed office at Colgate, I gazed outside at the spring rain dampening the old stone buildings of that beautiful campus. In that way that gray skies do, the overcast made the new green of the trees and grass more intense and me more pensive. My yearlong fellowship was ending. It was time […]–Read more

  • Who Made this Grave

    One day, in late October, my son and I left his Mexican preschool and wandered up the Calzada toward Morelia’s pink stone aqueduct. He was collecting sticks snarled with epiphytes and I was walking backwards so I could watch him—his red plaid uniform, his white-blonde hair—and yet lure him homeward. Behind him, I could see, […]–Read more

  • A Home in this World? A Travel Writer’s Response to “Moving Around Without Losing Your Roots” in Harvard Business Review

      “I didn’t just hail from a different place. I had a different kind of life,” writes Gianpiero Petriglieri of the mobile lifestyle that comes with his work training global business leaders.  I am not a global leader, or even very gainfully employed just now. And I don’t usually read the Harvard Business Review. But my sister […]–Read more

  • Best Women’s Travel Writing: Reading at Politics and Prose, Washington D.C.

    Thirty-two intrepid travelers and eloquent writers have contributed to the 2012 edition of this popular anthology series, including Vela’s own Lauren Quinn and Molly Beer.   To celebrate the release of the anthology, on Friday, October 5 at 4:30 p.m., Molly will be reading from her essay “Bridge on the Border,” about crossing the Rio […]–Read more

  • Wind Horses of Mustang

    “Having a horse here is like having a motorbike in the city,” Bhupendra Sherchan explained the first day we rode out together on the flanks of snow-capped Nilgiri. The day was still pleasant and autumn-like, the light white, the winds as gentle as the sheep eddies in the town’s single unpaved street, but that would […]–Read more