An appropriate excerpt from Paul Theroux's book
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
298Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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Where I stayed
Mum and Dad's House
You think of travellers as bold, but our guilty secret is that travel is one of the laziest ways on earth of passing the time. Travel is not merely the business of being bone-idle, but also an elaborate bumming evasion, allowing us to call attention to ourselves with our conspicuous absence while we intrude upon other people's privacy - being actively offensive as fugitive freeloaders. The traveller is the greediest kind of romantic voyeur, and in some well hidden part of the traveller's personality is an unpickable knot of vanity, presumption, and mythomania bordering on the pathological. This is why the traveller's worst nightmare is not the secret police or the witch doctors or malaria, but rather the prospect of meeting another traveller. Most writing about travel takes the form of jumping to conclusions, and so most travel boks are superfluous, the thinnest, most transparent monologuing. Little better than a license to bore, travel writing is the lowest form of literary self-indulgence: dishonest complaining, creative mendacity, pointless heroics, and chronic posturing, much of it distorted with Munchausen syndrome. Of course, it's much harder to stay at home and be polite to people and face things, but where's the book in that? Better the boastful charade of pretending to be an adventurer:
yes, swagger the nut strewn roads, crouch in the fo'c'sle stubbly with goodness,
in a lusty "Look-at-me!" in exotic landscapes. This was more or less my mood as I was packing to leave home. I also thought: But there is curiosity. Even the most timid fantasists need the satisfaction of now and then enacting their fantasies. And sometimes you just have to clear out. Trespassing is a pleasure for ome of us. As for idelness "An aimless joy is a pure joy."And there are dreams: one, the dream of a foreign land that I enjoy at home, staring east into space at imagined temples, crowded bazaars, and what V.S. Pritchett called "human architecture", lovely women in gauzy clothes, old trains clattering on mountainsides, the mirage of happiness; two, the dream state of travel itself. Often on a trip, I seem to be alive in a hallucinatory vision of difference, the highly coloured unreality of foreigness, whre I am vividly aware (as in most dreams) that I don't belong; yet I am floating, an idle anonymous visitor among busy busy people, an utter stranger. When you're strange, as the song goes, no one remembers your name. Travel can induce such a distinct and nameless feeling of strangeness and disconnection in me that I feel insubstantial, like a puff of smoke, merely a ghost, a creepy revenant from the underworld, unobserved and watchful among real people, wandering, listening while remaining unseen. Being invisible - the usual condition of the older traveller - is much more useful than being obvious. You see more, you are not interrupted, you are ignored. Such a traveller isn't in a hurry, which is why yuo mistake him for a bum. Hating schedules, depending on chance encounters, I am attracted by travel's slow tempo.