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May 22, 2006

Much of the world is still unreachable, unexplored or unexamined

“While lamenting the passage of heroic explorers, [Paul] Fussell also decries what he imagines to be the homogenization of the world, the way in which whole cities and previously remote regions have become interchangeable and safe for Mom and Dad and Buddy and Sis. He argues that airport design has become a “ubiquitous international idiom.” He jokes that “the closest one could approach an experience of travel in the old sense today would be to drive in an aged automobile with doubtful tires through Romania or Afghanistan without hotel reservations and to get by on terrible French.” * To which I can only reply, Mr. Fussell really should get out more. […] Whole nations in Africa, and Latin and South America…are largely unknown, seldom visited, extraordinarily uncomfortable and every bit as threatening as the Danikil Desert was when Wilfred Thesiger crossed it in the 1930s. Airplanes, CNN, and the Internet may offer the illusion that nowhere in the world is unreachable, unexplored or unexamined. Yet for ten years Algeria might have been the dark side of the moon, and the savagery between an unelected government and Islamic terrorists turned that country into a Heart of Darkness in which tens of thousands of people were killed just an hour’s flight from Rome or Nice.”
–Michael Mewshaw, “Travel, Travel Writing, and the Literature of Travel” (2004)

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