dawn in the local bars; essay edge for apa and in Tibet, though not a real Buddhist, I spend days on end in temples, listening. All of us feel this from the cradle, and know, in some sense, that all the significant movement we ever take is internal. I was, in short, a traveler at birth, for whom even a visit to the candy store was a trip through a foreign world where no one I saw quite matched my parents inheritance, or my own. We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymityand, of course, in finding the one we apprehend the other. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoningfrom the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testamentand all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.
Language facilitates this cracking open, for when we go to France, we often migrate to French, and the more childlike self, simple and polite, that speaking a foreign language educes. Abroad, we are wonderfully free of caste and job and standing; we are, as Hazlitt puts it, just the gentlemen in the parlour, and people cannot put a name or tag. We need sometimes, the Harvard philosopher wrote, to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment.
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For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness. This is what Camus meant when he said that what gives value to travel is fear disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide. And since no one I meet can place meno one can fix me in my resumeI can remake myself for better, as well as, of course, for worse (if travel is notoriously a cradle for false identities, it can also, at its best,. I am, in many ways, an increasingly typical specimen, if only because I was born, as the son of Indian parents, in England, moved to America at 7 and cannot really call myself an Indian, an American or an Englishman. That whole complex interaction not unlike the dilemmas we face with those we love (how do we balance truthfulness and tact?) is partly the reason why so many of the great travel writers, by nature, are enthusiasts: not just Pierre Loti, who famously, infamously, fell. Both of them insist on the fact that reality is our creation, and that we invent the places we see as much as we do the books that we read. All the photos on this site, other than the one on the Welcome page, are taken. Madonna in an Islamic country, after all, sounds radically different from Madonna in a Confucian one, and neither begins to mean the same as Madonna on East 14th Street. If a Mongolian restaurant seems exotic to us in Evanston, Ill., it only follows that a McDonalds would seem equally exotic in Ulan Bator or, at least, equally far from everything expected. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoning from the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testament and all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror. The placemats offer maps of the great temples of the city, and the posters all around broadcast the wonders of San Francisco.