Atlas Obscura is grateful to the thousands of individuals from all over the globe who send us photos, tips, and detailed information about the fascinating, hidden, and all-around wondrous places they’ve encountered. Our community-driven database of nearly 13,000 curious places wouldn’t be the same without their efforts. But in 2017, one Atlas Obscura community member contributed more place entries (142!) and uploaded more images (a whopping 1,143!) than anyone else. That intrepid explorer is Dr. Alan P. Newman (click through to his bio to discover all the places he’s added to the Atlas), a scientist who hails from the U.K. and has traveled all over the world this year.
We reached Dr. Newman by email to ask him what tips and tricks he has for his fellow Atlas Obscura explorers, as well as what his life of daring treks actually looks like.
What is your occupation and location?
Semiretired university professor at Coventry University, England. Before I retired I was head of Environmental Sciences. I still teach one course between January and March and keep my research going. Now living in Sheffield but we also have a house in the mountains just inland from Alicante, Spain.
How did you first discover Atlas Obscura?
I was searching for something related to one of my research interests (drainage engineering) and Google threw it up. Once seen, I was hooked.
How do you like to make use of the site, for example, finding places to visit in your travels or as a place to record your journey?
I do both. If I visit a locality I always look it up on the Atlas first, but I like to add places when I visit them. I also like to give a bit of exposure to my local area, South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, so I have been adding local places that I am really proud of from that fascinating area of the country.
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
I think it would have to be the Great Wall of China if it were a man-made place. For a natural feature, it would be Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
What were some of the most amazing places you got to visit this year?
I visited Iceland in February and had the chance to dive the Silfra rift. In fact the whole of Iceland was great, particularly the geysers and hot mud pools. I also got the chance to visit the Sacramento Locomotive Works, whilst away on an ASCE conference. A railroad fan’s dream. My visit to Porto in Portugal was also superb and made even better by the heads up from the Atlas.
What were your most and least enjoyable trips this year?
I think my most enjoyable trip overall was the road trip we took on our way from the Santander ferry port to our house in Alicante. We took a massive detour via Portugal and parts of Spain we had never visited before. After that I also enjoyed our trip to Tuscany where the highlight was discovering some of the remains of the Gothic Line from WWII and visiting the memorial to the fallen of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. As for the least enjoyable trip, whilst Iceland was great the high cost of virtually everything tended to take the edge off the trip to some extent and, to be honest, I would not really recommend a visit in winter. If I were to go back it would be in summer when you can make use of almost 24 hours of daylight.
How much do you travel, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I make at least one visit to the USA every year and whilst in Spain, which is for about 5 months of the year, my wife and I travel quite a lot. This year the Port of Mazzaron in Murcia was another of the highlights. We try to get to at least one other country per year.
I like to take on the local culture, meet people with a different outlook and, importantly, sample their food and drink. I also like to visit historical engineering structures particularly relating to both hydraulic engineering and railroads. I am also a scuba diver so the diving opportunities are often important.
What other resources do you use when you travel?
What’s on your agenda for 2018?
Surprisingly perhaps I am looking forward to visiting a place in the U.K. where I have never been, Hadrian’s Wall. We also have a list of places in Spain that we have driven past on their excellent freeway system but have never diverted to see them. We also plan to visit the Philippines where my son is planning to get married.
What advice would you give to fellow Atlas Obscura explorers?
I think that, within reason, over-planning a trip can lead to a lot of frustration. Try to be reasonably relaxed and be prepared to change your plans if you come across an opportunity to visit something unexpected, even if you have to miss out on something else you planned to see.