After Reading "The Best American Travel Writing 2019"

Why do I travel? When I think about it, I cannot come to a conclusive single answer. There are so many facets of experience travelling brings, I find it difficult to describe. Sometimes I go to places just to check out what is the fuss about that place, sometimes it is to experience something, and there are times when I go to places just to learn about them, understand their historical importance and connect some dots. Like many, I do also have an insatiable wanderlust. Now that I know that it is ‘insatiable’, I ask myself what it is that I want to get out of traveling without losing my peace.

When I read others’ travel writing, it does one of two things to my lust. Sometimes, it quenches the thirst of experiencing that place by vicariously experiencing it and sometimes it acts like a gateway drug. The Best American Travel Writing 2019 has a lot of those gateway drugs. Most of the writings are long pieces which gave the writers real estate to describe their journeys in great detail. Setting two or three stories aside, most of the collection is worth reading. The stories the writers brought from near and distant places introduced me to the places, people that live there and gave me a little more context to understand them.

There are two stories from Cuba. Growing up in Bangladesh and having leftist friends in college years created an yearn in me to visit Cuba sometimes. One of the two stories talks about the infamous Guantanamo and another one takes us on a journey with a 3rd generation Cuban-American. Both stories depict a sad picture of Cuba, with people struggling but I wonder what the Cubans think of themselves. There is a story on Kashmir, where we see how politicians control the narrative and make lives miserable for common people. I was most intrigued by a story of finishing school. It was surprising to see these things still exist although the client demography has entirely changed. There were a few pieces where the writers were in economically struggling countries. I felt in all of those situations, they constantly compared the quality of life through a materialistic lens and landed on conclusions. The tone of the writers were significantly different depending on whether they were in a developed nation or elsewhere. The two stories from China had different themes but shows how China has changed over the last forty years. I saw the dilemma that Nashville denizens feel over how the city is changing to accommodate the demand of the tourists. The story of hurricane Irma in the Virgin Islands was a terrifying one. The way the writer described the intensity of the storm gave me chills to the bone. The story on Rio Grande and how the concept of the wall is different to people who live near and who live far away from it is truly thought-provoking.

Published at: 07/24/2021