A crusade in reverse, we marched forth to lose what religion we had and be conquered.
I think we need to keep in mind that the backpackers you’re talking about, who go to new areas and beat new paths by living close to the people and close to the earth and so on, they are in a sense—and this isn’t my line, this is from an old book I came across—the shock troops of the mass tourism industry. They’re the ones who go into a place that has no infrastructure for tourism and basically create the market for other people to come in behind them. And that may or may not be a bad thing. But we need to be aware that that’s actually what’s going on.
dirt & dogs: Mongolia by Mountain Bike. This strikes me as something worth doing.
Man, if I’d known this when I got back from Tokyo, I would have saved myself sooooo much anguish.
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.