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On Travel Writing

The Best Books I Read in 2020

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Do you have a book addiction? Well I’m here to make it worse. I love a good reading list like a hobo loves Aqua Velva. As the year comes to a close, and as dark Berlin huddles beneath a pandemic sky, I’d like to take a moment to share my top reads from the past twelve months. Each book made my list because it was memorable, important, or just thoroughly enjoyable. And each is worth your time. I...

Do you believe in the spirit of place?

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The novelist and island writer Lawrence Durrell believed we are each aligned with certain places. This is where we do our best work because we resonate with the Spirit of Place.  He believed landscape is not a projection of the psyche — an interpretation of your surroundings based on your interior — but a tutelary spirit which guides the growth of personality and art. This isn’t an original...

Will travel writing survive COVID-19?

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The future looks bleak for travel writing — at least, for the highly commercialized side — but I don’t think this is true for travel literature. They aren’t the same thing. What’s on the ropes? Most commercial travel writing exists symbiotically with the tourism industry, living off press junkets, review writing and advertising. It’s designed to sell a product or a destination. This side of...

So It Goes by Nicolas Bouvier

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“So it goes” recurs like a refrain throughout this collection of essays, and I found myself wishing it would go on and on. Nicolas Bouvier is one of those legendary writers whose name circulates among travelers, but few of my North American road friends had ever heard of him. It was European friends who told me about his classic road trip book, The Way of the World. The twenty-four year old Swiss...

Getting the Drift in London

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I’d only been in London for a few hours, and I was already thinking I’d have to scrap a year’s work. We were at the British Museum, sitting one row away from Michael Palin and Sara Wheeler. The topic of their sold out talk was, “What Makes Great Travel Writing.” I’m finishing up a new book about Malta, and I expected to nod knowingly along with the speakers, patting myself on the back for a draft...

The Best Books I Read in 2018

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It’s that time again. I typically read about 100 books a year. Everything from travel literature to poetry, history, psychology, fiction and memoir. I love reading lists and recommendations, and I bet a few of you do, too. So at year’s end, I like to take a moment to share my top reads of the past twelve months. They made my list because they were either memorable, important, or just thoroughly...

An Interview with Lawrence Millman

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Lawrence Millman is the author of eleven books, including Northern Latitudes, Last Places, An Evening Among Headhunters, and Lost in the Arctic. His travel articles have appeared in such magazines as Smithsonian, National Geographic Adventure, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Islands. He has made 30 trips and expeditions to the Arctic and Subarctic, discovered a previously unknown...

Old Glory by Jonathan Raban

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After a childhood of river dreams inspired by readings of Huckleberry Finn, Jonathan Raban set out to travel the length of the Mississippi River from north to south in a 16-foot open aluminum boat. His journey took place in 1979. The waters he drifted down were much more dangerous than the river of his childhood imagination, but Huck’s urge to escape, to light out for the Territory before someone...

Coasting With Jonathan Raban

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In 1982, Jonathan Raban bought a wooden two-masted sailing boat and circumnavigated England in a slow, wandering, unhurried way. He called this manner of travel “coasting”: moving along with the tide, letting the wind decide the direction of travel, and living “on the shifting frontier where the land meets the water and the water shades into the land.” According to his childhood schoolmaster...

Travel Lit and The Mark of the Eland

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My last London day was a short one. We had a flight to catch that evening, but there was still time to shift the scope of my trip back to books. Our first stop was Exmouth Market, and a late breakfast with Barnaby Rogerson, the publisher of Eland Books. I wanted to get his thoughts on travel literature. But that’s the focus of my next Adrift on the Continent column in Outpost, so you’ll have to...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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