I’ve never read a concentrated collection of travel writing prior to picking up this anthology. I’d only read the odd essay in magazines like “Times” or “Esquire”. I like to travel and I’ve done some informal writing based on some of the big trips that I’ve taken. I find that reflecting on what I’ve done either on a daily basis during a trip, or looking back at the trip as a whole gives meaning to where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. It makes me feel more engaged with where I am because I’m thinking about what I’m going to write about. This anthology has a lot of pieces that share some of those same goals and I felt that I could connect with the writers as well as learn from their own experiences.
Lisa Abend’s “The Sound of Silence” shares her experience getting lost, alone, in the Scottish highlands.
Scott Anderson’s “Lawrence of Arabia” explores the sites and history of the man who put the Modern Middle East into motion. I learned a lot of geopolitics I hadn’t known before.
Kevin Baker’s “21st Century Limited” shares the current state of train travel in the US and while it doesn’t woo him, sadly, it also doesn’t make him believe it should be done away with.
Patricia Marx’s “Tale of a Tub” hilariously recounts her experience traveling from Philly to Hamburg via freight ship.
Nick Paumgarten explores Berlin’s history as the center for techno music and culture in “Berlin Nights”.
“Baked Alaska” takes readers to a remote Aleutian island where Christopher Solomon and two friends hike into a remote volcano and then kayak around the island. Oh, and encounter lots of bears.
Even if you don’t get to travel, reading these experiences will give that vicarious experience while avoiding some of the pitfalls the authors survived in order to give we readers this tome.