“Tourists, I could now better understand, were not some lesser species. Like all travelers, they had earned their right to travel as they wished, and if that meant organized tours and checklist sightseeing, who was I to tell them they were wrong? Travel did not always have to be hard or deep. It could even be easy and fun, and even I could do it, guiltlessly.”
–Matt Gross, The Turk Who Loved Apples (2013)
“Many of the greatest travel books of the late 20th century were about epic journeys, often by young men, conveying the raw intoxication of travel during a moment in life when time is endless, and deadlines and commitments are non-existent; when experience is all you hope to achieve and when the world is laid out before you like a map.”
–William Dalrymple, “Home truths on abroad,” The Guardian, September 18, 2009
“Unlike the oil industry, which is scrutinized at all levels, travel writing has become an extension of the industry. With few exceptions, travel writing and travel sections share the singular goal of helping consumers spend their money pursuing the dream of a perfect trip. They seldom write critical reviews; only articles about what to do and what to buy and how to experience a destination. This “feel-good” approach is rare even in lifestyle journalism, which is where to find the travel sections. Other lifestyle or back-of-the-book journalists thrive on critical reviews, explaining how and why they judge movies as great or miserable; whether the food at a restaurant is mediocre or exquisite; and describing music concerts as electric or boring. Imagine if movie reviewers only discussed their favorite films, if restaurant critics only wrote about their preferred haunts and music critics never wrote a scathing review of a badly performed opera. That is what travel writing has become.”
–Elizabeth Becker, Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism (2013)
“Impatient people…find that travel is slow and full of nuisance and delay — that there’s no instant gratification. Or that there’s only one bus or train a week and you might get stuck. They haven’t got the patience for it but that’s what travel teaches you. Temperamentally, people are less suited to travel than ever because the Internet is so quick in offering answers. But they’re not always the right answers.”
–Paul Theroux, Gadling interview, May 7th, 2013
Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.
— Vera Nazarian
Our first year traveling full time we spent on bicycles. It was a beautiful way to see the world. The drumbeat of pedal strokes become meditation, if you do it long enough. The predictable pattern to days is comforting in its simplicity: Pack the tent, ride 25 miles, picnic in the sun, ride 25 miles, set up the tent. Wash, rinse, repeat. Cycling forces an interaction with the landscape and the people who inhabit it that travel inside a vehicle does not. I love that.
But then, we turned a corner, our gap year became our life and we realized that we were going to keep going, keep traveling and our approach changed. We slowed down. We took to renting places for a few months at time instead of packing the tents every day. In sitting still we see a place differently than we do if we’re moving through, even if we’re moving in the slowest, most interactive way possible.
What is new and exotic to me is mundane to someone else. My favourite beach and dive vacation spot is on a stretch of ocean that is life and economic stability to someone else. The secret place I love to spend the winter might be heaven to me, but it’s a status quo prison to my friend who cannot escape it.
I don’t think about this enough. Most people don’t, I’d wager. If we did, we would travel differently, perhaps. Can we talk about that? How does the knowledge, and a growing understanding, of the fact that everywhere we go is someone else’s home and backyard change how we walk through this world? How should it?
“Wit, style, a keen and original mind, an eye for the unusual — these are what delight us in the travelogue writer. The compiler of a guidebook, on the other hand, must be a totally different kind of person. His job is to report the location, dimensions, age, and life-history of the monuments, and only incidentally, if at all the emotions or associations they arouse in his breast. Wit and originality have no place in such an assignment; in fact, they might very well get in the way. What he requires above all are the matter-of-fact virtues of thoroughness, diligence, and accuracy.”
–Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World (1974)
“Sometimes I thought of the Peace Corps as a reverse refugee organization, displacing all of us lost Midwesterners, and it was probably the only government entity that taught Americans to abandon key national characteristics. Pride, ambition, impatience, the instinct to control, the desire to accumulate, the missionary impulse — all of it slipped away.”
–Peter Hessler, Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West (2013)
“China is easier to write about than Cheyenne, Leningrad easier than Louisville. But to see Cheyenne and Louisville written about well, to see the dailiness of America brought to life with freshness and humor, is to watch one of the hardest high-wire acts in travel writing.”
–William Zinsser, They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (1991)
“Reading and restlessness — dissatisfaction at home, a sourness at being indoors, and a notion that the real world was elsewhere — made me a traveler. If the Internet was everything it was cracked up to be, we would all stay home and be brilliantly witty and insightful. Yet with so much contradictory information available, there is more reason to travel than ever before: to look closer, to dig deeper, to sort the authentic from the fake, to verify, to smell, to touch, to hear and sometimes – importantly – to suffer the effects of this curiosity.”
–Paul Theroux, The Last Train to Zona Verde (2013)
“As is often the case when I travel, my vulnerability — like not knowing what the hell I’m supposed to do upon arrival — makes me more open to outside interactions than I might otherwise be when I’m at home and think I know best what needs to be done. On the road, serendipity is given space to enter my life.”
–Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home (2012)