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Travel for the Hell Of It:
It Ain’t All Fun and Games
by Matt Sutherland
great many Americans subscribe to the dreariest definition of the word “travel,” as if arriving at Point B is the only compelling reason for departing from Point A. Too often, travel for pleasure amounts to the equivalent of a prisoner work-release program with bleary-eyed Americans resigned to brutal, weeklong itineraries of sightseeing amongst throngs of other refugees from the workplace grind. This analogy may be a bit harsh, but there is an obligatory nature to contemporary vacationing, especially when children are involved and Disney beckons. Indeed, what’s a solitude-loving parent to do?
An alternative form of travel does exist as we find in four recently published book projects. In them we are reminded that in England’s Middle Ages, the word “travel” was inextricably linked with “travail.” Yes, there might be grand vistas and exotic cultures to experience along the way, but generally a journey meant blisters, dysentery, thieves, harsh weather, and predatory animals. the ability to deal with the unexpected, with little means and often in poor conditions. And there must be an aim. It can’t be a runaway escape. Finally, it is less about discovering oneself, overcoming and enjoying, than about sharing, giving, devoting. These are the ultimate adventures.” The Pan-American Highway, running between Alaska and Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, is fairly uninterrupted but for a sixty-mile mire of fierce jungle in the Darién province of Panama. Replete with the usual suspects of snake, croc, and three tribes of violent natives, complemented by hardened Colombian guerrillas on the lam, it is not the sort of place anyone in their right mind would seek out. And, Martin Mitchinson, author of The Darién Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama (Harbour Publishing, 978-1-55017-421-2) readily admits his eighteen-month search for intrigue and exotica threatened his sanity. A travel writer and veteran traveler of Central and South America, Mitchinson tells a riveting tale of life in one of the world’s most storied—from Spanish conquistadores to pirates—and remote regions. In the midst of a particularly grueling breakdown one night, terrified by alligators and guerillas outside his tent, he writes about his itinerant life: “I really want to go home. I’ve felt that way for twenty years. I want a good night’s sleep. I want a hot bath and a family Christmas. But I was hoping that I would sail home. I wanted to return someday from an epic journey. Not crying like a baby and helplessly weeping in the mud. Desperate for
Not Sport, Not Freedom, Not Escape
What with planes, trains, and automobiles, nowadays few travelers choose to amble about on foot, but there’s always an exception, including Alexandre and Sonia Poussin, an attractive French couple who set off on a three year, 8,700 mile walk from the Cape of Good Hope to the Sea of Galilee. Africa Trek: In the Footsteps of Mankind from the Cape of Good Hope to Mount Kilimanjaro (Inkwater Press, 978-1-59299-3574) is a fetchingly written story of bald-faced courage and chutzpah. Day after day, the Poussins humbly sought the hospitality of individuals and families for lodging (a place to pitch their tent) and meals. They experienced the traveler’s gamut of discomforts from malaria, hunger, thirst, lion attacks, and constant uncertainty, at times in very violent, even war-torn terrain. In other words, it was an adventure; exactly what they hoped. They write, “Adventure is not sport nor is it absolute freedom. It’s
M arch /a pril 2009
Destinations such as Lourdes. Jerusalem. which he details beautifully in his new book. in addition to insider and local of his wanderlust youth. No art. other legendary figures. bars. illegal or disrespectful. But the events of 9/11 launched spas. 978-2and other Hindu. His engaging traveler’s “anything nasty. India & Southeast Asia—Around The Complete Reference to the Best Resorts the World (The Wandering Press. Planet Backpacker: Profiles of eighty top snow-skiing destinations Across Europe on a Mountain Bike & Backpacking is the thrust behind Ski Atlas of the World: on Through Egypt. With yearly pilgrimages to Mecca. Marco Polo. ideal fodder for mid-life.” movement of the 1960s and ’70s included thousands From the sacred to the sultry. No battle between good and evil. Iran. In 9531870-0-7) provided Heather Stimmler-Hall actuality. I want a hot bath and tography. we believe. a northern ect certain to raise havoc with the blood Michigan newsweekly co-owner and editor. 978-0-9821344-0-5) (Abbeville Press. 978-0-7892-0986-3). I think every traveler wants a version of that. As expected. and Muslim countries. and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain rank as some of the world’s most popular places to connect with one’s religion. Buddhist.” “Cradles of Faith. with the wisdom that comes from hardship. the Muslim world has heavily influenced the notion of spiritual travel.” “Shrines. and seeking out the French capital’s sexiest hotels. and daily blog installments leading to this very fine book. and travel writer Rory MacLean sought to check out the decidedly more risqué fetish clubs. Our fourth author sidestepped caution and decided Transportation and Destination to bite off nearly the whole shebang. No passion. of far-flung cultures. stylists. editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Anaïs Nin.” M arch /a pril 2009 www. I’ve felt that way for twenty 1-4262-0336-7). 978“I really want to go home. five-monthtifully photographed coffee table-worthy projlong jaunt undertaken by Robert Downes. tions that offer helpful travel and lodging Downes sought to relive some of the free-spirited travels information.com ForeWord 25 .” are divided into ten chapters including “Majestic Ruins. the phoyears. no less. He captured his journey in knowledge of favorite slopes. Wilson. bar stools. From there. A significant part of the United States’ counter-culture and sacred springs. nightlife. some that lean heavily towards the mystical and others about “places that channel the wisdom of the ages. No well-told story. maps. 978-09788431-9-9).” via the mainstream media. Edited by Arnie man prone to wry observations on hostels.500–plus years by Henry Miller. and writing are superb in this coffee table-sized tome. in his introduction to Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations (National Geographic. armchair crisis avoidance. and unique perspectives. twenty-country. More than scene. a few travelers are chagrined to discover the Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India sheer breadth and cultural sophistication of (Ig Publishing. Mohammad. the book includes resort descripand the out-of-the-way haunts of seasoned travelers. to the Sexy City (Fleur de Lire Press. the Asia overland route east from Europe has with the opportunity to walk the same streets as been traveled back and forth for 1. and Catherine Millet Alexander the Great. A thinking pressure of any powder lover. a beaudetails the four-continent.lights hundreds more locations.forewordmagazine. Nepal. I want a good night’s sleep. this ancient city. restaurants.” voice and descriptive gifts offer a wholly different view Stimmler-Hall seeks to help women “awaken of the tortured region from what is currently available your inner femme fatale. maybe we’ll finally be able to work our way home again.” according to Keith Bellows. Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide ages to eastern destinations such as India. clothing and lingerie shops. mysterious mountains. restaurants.” and “Sacred Landscapes” which spotThe Pilgrimage lights “hallowed hills. cabaa new paradigm in the Islamic world and accomplished ret and striptease shows. in the City of of adventuresome hippies engaged in spiritual pilgrimLight. The contents a family Christmas. Most impressively. with scenes so horrible that they mark me with a sadness that never fully leaves my eyes. seedy. Our next book spot- not writing. and Paris’ nightlife is espeMaclean has a genuine understanding of the mystical cially difficult to comprehend. Without touting and spiritual elements at play. No lines of poetry.
and On-the-Road Histories: South Carolina (978-1-56656-667-4) authored by Kenneth Townsend. both The Little Black Book of Paris (978-159359-850-1). Wyoming. and The Little Black Book of Florence & Tuscany (978-159359831-0) are admirable additions to the award-winning Little Black Book series. With 100+ years of experience reviewing restaurants and hotels in Europe. The popular On the Road Histories series from Interlink Publishing offers colorful. and Las Vegas Restaurants & Hotels 2009 (978-206-713709-7).T r Av e l With much the same fervor as skiers. Michelin Travel Publications is taking on the New World with their extremely influential red guidebooks. host of the public television series bearing the same name. Insight Travel Guides is out with three new editions of its Step by Step series offering “Tailor-Made Itineraries. 978-08118-6527-2) profiles dozens of first-rate travel destinations from Spain to Ireland. “Finally. devoting.” Orlando: Step by Step (978-981-258-849-4). and finally. it is less about discovering oneself. giving. overcoming and enjoying. Los Angeles Restaurants & Hotels 2009 (9782-06-713708-0).” 26 ForeWord www. The New England Coast: The Most Spectacular Sights & Destinations (Voyageur Press. The following are recent releases: On-theRoad Histories: Hawaii (978-156656-615-5) by John H. and feasting on fried clams and chowder along the New England Coast.com M arch /a pril 2009 . Authored by Darley Newman. Rome: Step by Step (978-981-258653-7). heavily researched. cultural and historical guides to individual states. beginning with two European guides from Peter Pauper Press. Vermont. Virginia. William H. These are the ultimate adventures. Detailed Pull-Out Maps. Equitrekking: Travel Adventures on Horseback (Chronicle Books. 978-0-7603-3064-7) covers the fivestate region John Smith christened “New England” in 1614. Equitrekking is nicely photographed by Chip Ward and offers insightful detail about the different breeds of horses native to each region. Colorado. Authored by Vesna Neskow and conveniently sized at 4 ¼” by 5 ¾” with innovative fold-out neighborhood maps.” Now we move briskly through a slew of newly released city and country guides by some of travel publishing’s most respected names. but one can only wonder if a guide to getting lost is in a publisher’s catalog somewhere. and Hawaii. beach going. Chambers. the Carolinas. Johnson contributes 150 stellar photographs and Kim Knox Beckius offers unexpectedly good historical narrative and “tales of whale watching. sailing. San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country Restaurants & Hotels 2009 (978-2-06713707-3). Look for New York City Restaurants & Hotels 2009 (978-2-06-713706-6). Written by a Local Expert. a small. familyowned publisher that is more than eighty years old. On-the-Road Histories: Wisconsin (978-1-56656-673-5) by Mark Van Ells. than about sharing.forewordmagazine. equestrians are selective about their terrain. The book publishing industry continues to generously supply the planet’s wanderers with helpful travel resources. New Zealand: Step by Step (978-981-258-848-7) all do the series proud.