16 May 2006

Real and Fictional Travels

The New York Times ran an article in Sunday's Travel section on books that evoked wanderlust. I find it amusing that I was reading it while Matt Lauer was interviewing the curator at the Louvre regarding increased tourism due to The DaVinci Code. (No, I haven't read the book.) Say what you might about the confluence of pop culture and high culture, but I agree with the curator who said he thought it was great that people who wouldn't otherwise come to the Louvre were doing so. Isn't that what engaging writing will do: inspire the reader to explore ideas, places, cultures, whether in person or from the armchair?

A few years ago, I sat on the sands of Copacabana and looked towards Pao de Acucar, realizing a dream I had had for over 30 years, inspired by my 4th grade Geography book. Reading Camus and Saint Exupery made me want to travel to northern Africa; Hugo planted a desire to see Notre Dame and the catacombs of Paris; Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, T.H. White's Once and Future King, Barrie's Peter Pan, and a host of other writers' works lead me to travels throughout England; Hemingway to Paris, Italy, Spain, Cuba (maybe some day I'll get there) and Key West; Bradbury to planets beyond my capacity to travel; Shakespeare's The Tempest to the Green World.

Reading Jessamyn West's Massacre at Fall Creek when I was a teenager made me think about events that happened nearby years before I lived. Sometimes I look out my window and look at that sometimes a trickle, sometimes a torrent of a creek and wonder about that massacre 200 years and 10 miles away and what it taught me about pioneers, justice, how disrespectful people can be towards other cultures.
Writing can both inspire and inform one's travels, both before and after one visits the actual locality. Give me an engaging piece of writing and there will probably be something in it that will make me want to experience it in person, whether it exists or not.

As Steven Colbert (who just isn't right, is he?) was quoted in the Times article regarding his travel inspiration:

"Lord of the Rings." I always wanted to travel to Middle Earth. And now wherever I go, I am always on the lookout for Hobbits."

Yeah, Steven, you're right!

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