"The conversation, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candour from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again."—Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown.”―Theroux, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the RoadI gobbled The Tao of Travel down like a box of bon bons, hoping to share some of its best bits with you. Guess what―it quickly sold out. Argh. But I can still pass on some of my favorites, and point you to other tomes by this inveterate traveler and inimitable chronicler. The Lower River is a novel on Africa (one of his favorite destinations); The Last Train to Zona Verde is a travel book on a 2500-mile solo trip he took through the western part of the continent, and a A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta is an atmospheric mystery set in India.
|Illustration from The Tao of Travel|
American Henry James, who lived in Europe, apparently traveled from spa to spa to obtain relief from what Theroux describes as “an almost constant state of constipation.” (His prolix prose certainly wasn't!)
Who is this fella? "He rambled on the Continent, criss-crossed the United States, sailed across the Pacific, and ended up in Samoa, where he is buried." Answer: Robert Louis Stevenson
In his excellent chapter on walking, Theroux points out that the Chinese characters for pilgrimage mean "paying one's respect to the mountain.... Many Taoists make a point of visiting the five holy mountains they regard as pillars of China, the cardinal compass points as well as the center, separating heaven and earth."