April 20, 2015

On the road, disorientation is as important as discovery

“Any budding academic can tell you that deliberately placing oneself in a position of not-knowing, and to then go about finding out what you don’t know, can be a fulfilling pursuit, and the disorientation itself, the early stages of figuring out what you didn’t know that you wanted to know, was as exciting as the eventual discoveries. This was one of the reasons I traveled.”
–Alden Jones, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia (2013)

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April 13, 2015

Travel, its very motion, ought to suggest hope

“Travel, its very motion, ought to suggest hope. Despair is the armchair; it is indifference and glazed, incurious eyes. I think travelers are essentially optimist, or else they would never go anywhere.”
–Paul Theroux, Fresh Air Fiend (2000)

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April 6, 2015

“The Tramps,” by Robert W. Service (1907)

Can you recall, dear comrade, when we tramped God’s land together,
And we sang the old, old Earth-song, for our youth was very sweet;
When we drank and fought and lusted, as we mocked at tie and tether,
Along the road to Anywhere, the wide world at our feet.

Along the road to Anywhere, when each day had its story;
When time was yet our vassal, and life’s jest was still unstale;
When peace unfathomed filled our hearts as, bathed in amber glory,
Along the road to Anywhere we watched the sunsets pale.

Alas! the road to Anywhere is pitfalled with disaster;
There’s hunger, want, and weariness, yet O we loved it so!
As on we tramped exultantly, and no man was our master,
And no man guessed what dreams were ours, as swinging heel and toe,
We tramped the road to Anywhere, the magic road to Anywhere,
The tragic road to Anywhere, such dear, dim years ago.

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March 30, 2015

Foreign news should offer us a means by which to humanize the Other

“At a much deeper, more metaphysical level, foreign news should offer us a means by which to humanize the Other — that is, the outsider from over the mountains or beyond the seas who instinctively repels, bores or frightens us and with whom we can’t, without help, imagine having anything in common. Foreign news should find ways to make us all more human in one another’s eyes, so that the apparently insuperable barriers of geography, culture, race and class could be transcended and fellow feeling might develop across chasms. Many a high-minded news organization has inveighed bitterly against those who resent the influx of immigrants from other countries. But this view proceeds from the assumption that a reflexive suspicion towards foreigners is a mark of Satan rather than a common, almost natural result of ignorance — a fault which news organizations have an explicit ability to reduce through a more imaginative kind of reporting (as opposed to ineffective, guilt-inducing denunciations of bigotry).”
–Alain de Botton, The News: A User’s Manual (2014)

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March 23, 2015

People from cultures that prize individualism tend to misapprehend cultures that don’t

“We were leaving not just a place but a consciousness — one in which the “I” was different for the Asmat than for me. It was group, tribe, family, tied together in ways difficult to grasp. For me, as an American, “I” is the biggest, most important unit. For us, freedom is everything. The right to do as we please, unbound by clan or village or parents — to move two thousand miles at will, to make a call home or send an email or say hi via Skype. We can reinvent ourselves, changes churches or religions, divorce, remarry, decide to celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa or both. But these men in Otsanjep are bound to each other. To their village and its surrounding jungle, to the river and the sea. Most people will never see anything else, know anything else. I kept wondering if I was as guilty as Michael [Rockefeller], also filled with a Western conceit that I could just walk into a place and not only get it but also dominate it. Could I make the Asmat spill their secrets? Would they ever? Should they?”
–Carl Hoffman, Savage Harvest (2014)

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March 16, 2015

The secret of travel is to approximate the life of a local

“When I started traveling professionally, I was surprised and delighted to find that I could still make emotional connections to places. I discovered this for the first time in Portugal, where — after having schlepped around Spain — I met a young Dutch woman who introduced me to a her friend, a colorful poet, who invited me to dinner (this after weeks of solitary meals) and then took me to a dive to hear men singing fado. It was in Lisbon that I discovered the secret of travel writing, which is also the secret of memorable travel: You approximate, as best you can, in the short time allotted you, the life of a local. Once back home and writing, I stumbled upon another secret: The best trips make the best stories. Though I had known this in theory from books like Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, which are nearly as crammed with friends as they are with learning.”
–Thomas Swick, A Moving Experience, The Morning News, December 3, 2013

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March 9, 2015

Ariel Levy on the joy of traveling to write about it

“There is nothing I love more than traveling to a place where I know nobody, and where everything will be a surprise, and then writing about it.”
–Ariel Levy, “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” The New Yorker, November 18, 2013

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March 2, 2015

Travelers tend to fetishize an impossible notion of authenticity

“Once globalization and development have homogenized and sanitized the world – quite often for the best – it will no longer be possible for even the most self-indulgent and romantic among us to maintain the illusion that what we are doing is anything other than not-particularly-glorified tourism. If all the classic elements of backpacker stories have gradually become clichés, we might as well pause to acknowledge that they were surprisingly fun clichés while they lasted. And if we now insist that all these clichés fetishize a certain impossible notion of authenticity, while coming dangerously close to essentializing foreign countries as premodern, we should also pause to confess that we enjoyed them anyway.”
–Nicholas Danforth, World travel can be all about timing, San Francisco Chronicle, September 20, 2012

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

February 23, 2015

The Sacred, by Stephen Dunn

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

February 16, 2015

Travelers risk discomfort for the thrill of a new perspective

“Many travelers seek out this high. We seek out what is different from what we behold in our daily lives, whether it is language, fashion, standards of behavior, architecture, climate, or animal species, because beholding what is different has the quality of being unreal. If our brains resist the realness of something, but this thing is before our eyes, we’re accompanied by little sparks of excitement just by moving through the world. While tourists spend their time away from home seeking our the comforts of home, travelers risk — even cultivate — discomfort, because what they want is the thrill of a new perspective.”
–Alden Jones, The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia (2013)

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day
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