The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

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9780241145258: The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveller. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, "The Tao of Travel" enumerates 'The Contents of Some Travellers' Bags' and exposes 'Writers Who Wrote About Places They Never Visited'; tracks extreme journeys in 'Travel As An Ordeal' and highlights some of 'Travellers' Favourite Places'. Excerpts from the best of Theroux's own work are interspersed with selections from travellers both familiar and unexpected, including Vladimir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and more. "The Tao of Travel" is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.

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About the Author:

Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed books include Dark Star Safari, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, Fresh Air Fiend and The Elephanta Suite. The Mosquito Coast and Dr Slaughter have both been made into successful films. Paul Theroux is also a frequent contributor to magazines, and divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian islands.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Travel in Brief
 
The Necessity to Move

Comes over one an absolute necessity to move. And what is more, to move in some particular direction. A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither.
— D. H. Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia (1921)
 
Homesickness is a feeling that many know and suffer from; I on the other hand feel a pain less known, and its name is “Outsickness.” When the snow melts, the stork arrives, and the first steamships race off, then I feel the painful travel unrest.
— Hans Christian Andersen, letter, 1856, quoted in Jens Andersen, Hans Christian Andersen (2005)

 
The Road Is Life

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
— Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1958)
 
But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking along the road; the perspective, to say the least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with the absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.
— James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
 
You go away for a long time and return a different person — you never come all the way back.
DARK STAR SAFARI
 
A painful part of travel, the most emotional for me in many respects, is the sight of people leading ordinary lives, especially people at work or with their families; or ones in uniform, or laden with equipment, or shopping for food, or paying bills.
 — THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
 
Travel is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience.
FRESH AIR FIEND
 
The exotic dream, not always outlandish, is a dream of what we lack and so crave. And in the world of the exotic, which is always an old world peopled by the young or ageless, time stands still.
SUNRISE WITH SEAMONSTERS
 
It is sometimes the way in travel, when travel becomes its opposite: you roll and roll and then dawdle to a halt in the middle of nowhere. Rather than making a conscious decision, you simply stop rolling.
GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR
 
Whatever else travel is, it is also an occasion to dream and remember. You sit in an alien landscape and you are visited by all the people who have been awful to you. You have nightmares in strange beds. You recall episodes that you have not thought of for years, and but for that noise from the street or that powerful odor of jasmine you might have forgotten.
FRESH AIR FIEND
 
Because travel is often a sad and partly masochistic pleasure, the arrival in obscure and picturesquely awful places is one of the delights of the traveler.
 — THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
 
In travel, as in many other experiences in life, once is usually enough.
THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
 
In travel you meet people who try to lay hold of you, who take charge like parents, and criticize. Another of travel’s pleasures was turning your back on them and leaving and never having to explain.
THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA
 
Travel is flight and pursuit in equal parts.
THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
 
All travel is circular . . . After all, the grand tour is just the inspired man’s way of heading home.
THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
 
It is almost axiomatic that as soon as a place gets a reputation for being paradise it goes to hell.
THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA
 
No one has ever described the place where I have just arrived: this is the emotion that makes me want to travel. It is one of the greatest reasons to go anywhere.
THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
 
It might be said that a great unstated reason for travel is to find places that exemplify where one has been happiest. Looking for idealized versions of home — indeed, looking for the perfect memory.
FRESH AIR FIEND
 
When strangers asked me where I was going I often replied, “Nowhere.” Vagueness can become a habit, and travel a form of idleness.
 — THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS
 
Travel holds the magical possibility of reinvention: that you might find a place you love, to begin a new life and never go home.
GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR
 
One of the happier and more helpful delusions of travel is that one is on a quest.
GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR
 
I had gotten to Lower Egypt and was heading south in my usual traveling mood — hoping for the picturesque, expecting misery, braced for the appalling. Happiness was unthinkable, for although happiness is desirable it is a banal subject for travel; therefore, Africa seemed a perfect place for a long journey.
DARK STAR SAFARI
 
Invention in travel accords with Jorge Luis Borges’s view, floated beautifully through his poem “Happiness” (La Dicha), that in our encounters with the world, “everything happens for the first time.” Just as “whoever embraces a woman is Adam,” and “whoever lights a match in the dark is inventing fire,” anyone’s first view of the Sphinx sees it new: “In the desert I saw the young Sphinx, which has just been sculpted . . . Everything happens for the first time but in a way that is eternal.”
DARK STAR SAFARI
 
Traveling is one of the saddest pleasures of life.
— Madame de Staël, Corinne, ou l’Italie (1807)
 

Two Paradoxes of Travel
 
It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the rollercoaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the hometown or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.
— Carson McCullers, “Look Homeward, Americans,”  Vogue (1940)
 
To a greater or lesser extent there goes on in every person a struggle between two forces: the longing for privacy and the urge to go places: introversion, that is, interest directed within oneself toward one’s own inner life of vigorous thought and fancy; and extroversion, interest directed outward, toward the external world of people and tangible values.
— Vladimir Nabokov,  Lectures on Russian Literature (1982)
 

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