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feb 24 2011

What is the most memorable place you've ever visited?

Grand Canyon (Courtesy of msmarls/myBudgetTravel)

It's not unusual for images of iconic destinations like the Grand Canyon, Paris, and Prague to spark inspiration for a trip. Art museums and the Internet are flooded with gorgeous photography, paintings, and videos of classic spots.

Last week, for instance, I stumbled across a stunning series of photo montages by Swiss artist Corinne Vionnet, who pieced together "hundreds of snapshots of tourist locations found on the Internet" and overlayed them to create one unified portrait of each.

The resulting photos are recognizable—you can easily make out the Brooklyn Bridge and Chichen Itza, say—but also otherworldly. It's a slideshow worth spending some time with.

Still, nothing recently has captivated my attention more than an interactive online video series produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). It pays homage to—of all places—Pine Point, Ontario, a former mining-town turned ghost-town.

It was the very first place NFBC contributors Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons ever visited, and, it seems, it has haunted them ever since.

Recently, they went online to see what had become of their first travel-love and discovered, to their surprise, that the town no longer exists. After the mines there shut down in 1987, the Canadian government shut the town down, too. Less than a year later, it was wiped clean off the map, and its residents relocated.

This discovery prompted Shoebridge and Simons to look more closely into Pine Point: what became of the people who lived there, what happened to the buildings and roads, and—most importantly—why, exactly, it stayed with them.

The video series they made as a result is curious and singular: a mash-up of audio interviews with former residents, archival findings played out in scrolling text, old snapshots floating across the page.

It's about 20-minutes long, and I played it twice through in a row. Something about it haunted me, just like the town haunted Shoebridge and Simons.

And it got me to thinking: Every traveler has that one place—that one tiny town, perhaps, or somewhere more exotic and far-flung, maybe—that gets under his skin, and just stays, lodged there.

For me, that place is Sebago Lake, an idyllic shore retreat in southern Maine. It was the first place I ever visited solo, as a 19-year-old, so ready and eager for a change of scene from my hometown in suburban Ohio that I leapt at the chance to teach rock climbing to 12-year-old girls at a Sebago Lake summer camp. I haven't been back since—but my thoughts return there often. It's the place that made me love travel.

What is that place for you? We'd love to hear about it. Perhaps it could even be a contender in our Coolest Small Towns contest next year…

See more from Budget Travel

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Your Year in River Cruises

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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