Thus ever from himself doth each man flee.
One of the better essays I’ve read this year. I ended up browswing the site and Instapapering a bunch of other stuff. (via)
It is another paradox of [On the Road and Huckleberry Finn] that the supposed escape from civilization in large part consists of escape to civilization, or at least to its lesser-known boroughs. In each case, their travels are set against the grandeur of the natural world, but the scenes of their adventures are composed of unknown people in unfamiliar places. The “promise of every cobbled alley” is wrapped up in the possibility of the stranger — more fully, the chance encounter with the mysterious stranger in the enchanted place.
Seen in the right way, what the two novels show us is not the virtue of quitting civilization, but the freedom that comes from finding our own way through a world that is not of our own making.
Go to a city and find your way to somewhere new; take a walk or a drive through the streets of Washington, D.C., and you will begin to feel how it is a different place from Austin or San Francisco or Paris or New Orleans — how your possibilities for action are different and so too your possibilities for being.
At long last you are all consumer, endlessly provided for and endlessly entertained. But if, deep down, you have reconciled yourself to your condition, which is not to play but to work, you know that without work you cannot fully inhabit your humanity.
With so many other ways to get information — if you want to know about Albania, for example, you can now much more easily ask the Albanians — the point of travel writing has fallen out. There’s an increased pressure on travel writers to create a personal arc of, yes, transformation.
‘What am I doing here anyway?’ — the fundamental mantra if not prayer of every traveler. For it is precisely on a trip, in the morning, in a strange city, before the second cup of coffee has begun to work, that you experience most palpably the oddness of your banal existence. Travel is no more than a relatively healthy form of narcotic, after all.
I love this. Reminds me that I forgot to do notes on Tokyo. Should have done that when it was still fresh.
I just finished reading Chris Willett’s journals from the Indian Himalaya that I tumbled a while ago.
The purity of the alpine is not a reassuring quality. It is a fearful one, one that does not invite a person to linger or lounge. It is an abode that is best visited and not one to be domesticated, the living room of everything that is not the village, everything that is outside the bounds of settled, civil life.
But it is a place that one calls to some of us, bringing us to the hostile place to breathe the air and feel the sterility. It is a place, like the floor of Death Valley or, presumably, the ice floes of the Antarctic, that amplifies human existence. One does not feel insignificant in such places. Rather, one feels a sense of importance for no other reason that being alive.
It is not an importance born and cultivated to be ego satisfying or one that inspires arrogance. No, it is a sense that to be alive is an important quality and that to be alive is better than to be dead. Barren, lifeless places teach us this better than anything written, drawn, or recorded. And, besides, the alpine is a beautiful place to visit in fine weather.
Trekking in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Chris Willett’s journals from a July-August trip to Ladakh and Zanskar, India. I still agree with my claim that he has pretty much the best hiking journal on the internet when you consider the double-whammy of writing and photography. Usually pretty unvarnished. Sometimes travel is damn hard.
It was here that Tibetans fled when the Chinese liberated their country, and it was here that I was told Tibetan culture was still intact. Desert peaks leading to handing glaciers soared above irrigated valleys, with monasteries carved into the sides of mountains and an outdoor paradise, this was the objective for the summer. But as always seems to happen, my time was more an experience within myself, an experience that helped to bring clarity to my own life at a time of transition. I will not be back.
I do not disagree with any of these. Food for thought!
An illustrated packing list from a notebook by the artist Adolf Konrad, Dec. 16, 1963.
The Frugal Traveler’s guide to ramen shops in Tokyo. I love the internet.
Even if you are not ever going to read an e-book, but want a device to help you stay connected and organized while traveling—especially if you’re going a bit off the beaten track—the investment in a Kindle (barely more than a hundred bucks at this point) can’t be beat.
Hadn’t considered it before, but this makes a lot of sense.
The fact that a place is out of fashion, forgotten or not yet on the map doesn’t make it less interesting, just more itself.
Good travel writing contends honestly and openly with presumptions of who is traveling and why… and it does not treat local people as though their lives were just incidental, conveniently or inconveniently producing conditions for others’ escapism.
When you visit New York City, you worry about whether you are being a tourist, about whether you are doing as the locals do. Same with visiting Paris, Rome, London. But in Las Vegas, everybody is a tourist. Anybody who’s not a tourist works in the tourism/hospitality industry. There is no real thing. It’s fake all the way to the bottom. The very idea of a sprawling, water guzzling city that sits in the middle of barren desert is too absurd to take seriously.
One of the commenters has some interesting photos from a North Korea trip earlier this summer.
Red Eye – Abstract City Blog – NYTimes.com. “A visual diary documenting a flight from New York to Berlin (with a layover in London).” I, too, ♥ my seat back monitor.
Halfway through, questions and answers | Trans World Expedition. I’m impressed that he’s still on budget! Seems like it would be very easy to go off-plan.