June 23, 2014

Paul Theroux on the “romantic voyeurism” of the traveler

“The traveler is the greediest kind of romantic voyeur, and in some well-hidden part of the traveler’s personality is an unpickable knot of vanity, presumption and mythomania bordering on the pathological. This is why a traveler’s worst nightmare is not the secret police or the witch doctors or malaria, but rather the prospect of meeting another traveler.”
–Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008)

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June 16, 2014

Sense of place is tied to the people who live there

“To me, a sense of place is nothing more than a sense of people. Whether a landscape is bleak or beautiful, it doesn’t mean anything to me until a person walks into it, and then what interests me is how the person behaves in that place.”
–Mark Salzman, in They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (1991)

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June 9, 2014

Human history is more complex than academic Orientalism suggests

“To see the travel writing of 19th and 20th century Europeans as uniquely prejudiced and uniquely politicized, exclusively open to formulating “discourses of difference” or contributing in some unique way to the politics of colonial expansion, seems to be to be historically naïve and clearly factually wrong: Abdul Latif Shustari and Fanny Parkes were direct contemporaries traveling through India at the same time, but of the two it was Fanny who was far more engaged in an open to India; Shustari in contrast was unable to shed centuries of highly cultured Persian hauteur towards and India he regarded as culturally and civilizationally inferior — an attitude that was again tinctured with centuries of conquest, migration and colonial history. Human history is more complex, and human prejudices more varied than many of the academic acolytes of Orientalism would allow.”
–William Dalrymple, in Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund’s Postcolonial Travel Writing: Critical Explorations (2011)

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June 2, 2014

Every tourist at some level denies being a tourist

“The structure of the tourist experience involves a paradoxical relation at once to the cultural and ontological Other and to others of the same (tourist) culture. It is tourism itself that destroys (in the very process by which it constructs) the authenticity of the tourist object: and every tourist thus at some level denies belonging to the class of tourists. Hence a certain fantasized dissociation from the others, from the rituals of tourism, is built into almost every discourse and almost every practice of tourism. This is the phenomenon of touristic shame, a ‘rhetoric of moral superiority,’ which accompanies both the most snobbish and the most politically radical critiques of tourism.”
–J. Frow “Tourism and the semantics of nostalgia” (1991)

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May 26, 2014

The best travel stories are connected to the people one meets along the way

Beside travel, another source of reportage is other people, those encountered on the road, and those we travel to meet in order to get them to convey their knowledge, tales and opinions to us. Here Herodotus turns out to be the master extraordinaire. Judging by what he writes, whom he meets and the way he talks to them, Herodotus comes across as a man open and full of good will toward others, making contact with strangers easily, curious about the world, investigative and hungry for knowledge. We can imagine the way he acted, talked, asked and listened. His attitude and bearing show what is essentially important to a reporter: respect for another man, his dignity and worth. He listens carefully to his heartbeat and the way thoughts cross his mind.
–Ryszard Kapuscinski, “Herodotus and the Art of Noticing,” Lettre Ulysses Award Keynote Speech, October 4, 2003

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May 19, 2014

There are infinite ways to experience a single place

“By talking our city’s physical geography and overlaying it with psychogeography — a technique of mapping the psychic and emotional flows of a city instead of its rational street grids — we become more sensitive to our surroundings. [As Guy Debord says in his “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography”: “The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance that is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the terrain); the appealing or repelling character of certain places.” Geography, then — that most concrete of propositions, to which we are bound — is reconfigurable and customizable through the imagination. Psychogeography can take many forms: One could create an alternate map of a city according to specific emotions, for example, mapping Paris not by arrondissement but by every place you’ve shed a tear. Or you could create a psychogeographic map of a city’s language by making a derive from point A to point B, writing down every word your eyes encounter on buildings, signage, parking meters, flyers and so forth. You’d end up with a trove of rich language, myriad in its tones and directives, comprised of peripheral words you’d most likely never paid attention to, such as the fine print on a parking meter.”
–Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing (2011)

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May 12, 2014

Kindness and respect can open doors on the road

“I think when you show genuine curiosity, and when you’re confident enough to walk alone with a smile on your face, people think, he really wants to be here. And you ask a question, and all of a sudden you’re getting invited in for tea and food. If you’re polite and show due respect, I think people get it. When you’re being disingenuous, they get that, too. But when you’re being genuinely kind, it’s so disarming.”
–Henry Rollins, “Punk Rock World Traveler,” World Hum, November 2, 2011

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May 5, 2014

Freya Stark on the need for solitude

“Modern education ignores the need for solitude: hence a decline in religion, in poetry, in all the deeper affections of the spirit: a disease to be doing something always, as if one could never sit quietly and let the puppet show unroll itself before one: an inability to lose oneself in mystery and wonder while, like a wave lifting up into new seas, the history of the world develops around us.”
–Freya Stark, The Valleys of the Assassins (1934)

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April 28, 2014

You don’t really know a place until you’ve been bored in it

“When you drive on the Great Plains, sometimes it’s hard to understand why the land is so empty, why the small towns are dying, why you get so bored. And it’s hard to write about the boredom without being boring. The boredom is important, however: I don’t believe you know a place until you’ve been really bored in it.”
–Ian Frazier, in They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (1991)

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

April 21, 2014

At its best, travel is indistinguishable from just living life

“Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”
–Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008)

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