Paul Theroux’s Travel Wish List

Paul Theroux reminisces on his past travels in this piece for The New York Times. It’s a great essay in which he also considers his wish list for places to visit.

“You’ve been everywhere,” people say to me, but that’s a laugh. My wish list of places is not only long but, in many cases, blindingly obvious. Yes, I have been to Patagonia and Congo and Sikkim, but I haven’t been to the most scenic American states, never to Alaska, Montana, Idaho or the Dakotas, and I’ve had only the merest glimpse of Kansas and Iowa. I want to see them, not flying in but traveling slowly on the ground, keeping to back roads, and defying the general rule of “Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never play cards with a man called Doc …”

Nothing to me has more excitement in it than the experience of rising early in the morning in my own house and getting into my car and driving away on a long, meandering trip through North America. Not much on earth can beat it in travel for a sense of freedom — no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and then “Eat my dust.” The long, improvisational road trip by car is quintessentially American.

This was my favorite paragraph:

The ultimate travel fantasies are, of course, unattainable. William S. Burroughs said in the 1950s, “What I want for dinner is a bass fished in Lake Huron in 1920.” In that spirit, I’d like to spend a Sunday in the West Medford of 1951, play bocce with my grandfather and eat some of my grandmother Angelina’s tortellini; I want to revisit the jolly bazaars of the Peshawar of 1973, the hopeful Nyasaland of 1964, the bike-riding China of 1980 (no private cars on the empty roads), and while I’m at it, I would like to return to the Borneo of the 1960s and again climb Mount Kinabalu.

I agree with Theroux on this count: a return journey to a place visited in the past can be a wonderful experience. A wonderful read overall.

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