It doesn’t take any special ability to travel the world and write a book, but it’s quite difficult to travel the world and write a good book. If there’s a bane of travel literature, it’s the books that examine the author’s neuroses or supposed brilliance rather than the places they are traveling to and in.
Luckily there are plenty of brilliant books out there. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite moments from some of my favorites. As always, let me know what you think and feel free to add some of your own in the comments.
- Have a quest. The quest is the most significant and consequential of all travel plans. What you really want to do is meet indigenous folks, understand their concerns, find out how things work, make friends. You don’t do this in the company of traveling English-speakers. So have a quest, some bit of business that will shove you into the cultural maelstrom. Perhaps you have distant relatives in the country. Look them up. That’s your quest. It will force you to use the phone book (people in Iceland, you’ll note, are listed by their first rather than last names) and to arrange transportation to an area of the country that is not likely a tourist destination. Perhaps you’re interested in trains, or motorcycle clubs, or ecological issues.
- An adventure is never an adventure when it’s happening. Challenging experiences need time to ferment, and an adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility.
- Regardless of one’s budget, itinerary and choice of luggage-the act of travel is still, at its essence, a consumer experience.
- When something human is recorded, good travel writing happens.
- Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies…To be the slave of custom, at any level, is much like being a monkey, an ‘ape of the wayward senses’. To rise above it is already something like becoming a god.
- The goal was comprehension, and the only way to comprehend the world was by making myself vulnerable to it so that: it could change me. The challenge was to lay myself open to everybody and everything that came my way. The prize was to change and grow big enough to feel one with the whole world. The real danger was death by exposure.
- I was astonished by my confidence with strangers. Often I was able to talk to them immediately as though we had always known each other. For a long time I had been training myself to want nothing from others; to accept what was offered but to avoid expectation.
- It is remarkably easy to do things, and much more frightening to contemplate them.