James O'Reilly

Publisher's Preface: The Best Travel Writing 2006

The virtues of travel have long been touted, and we are all familiar with the clichés. Travel broadens the mind, dissolves dogma, rattles the cage, brings new vigor to the step. It is hilarious, romantic, life-threatening, enlightening, toxic to weak relationships, invigorating to the strong. Travel is tedious and soporific, exhilarating and addictive. It is expensive because evanescent, cheap because the traveler is forever rewarded with memory and story. You wish you were home, you wish you never had to go home. All of these things are true, and if you are lucky you may well experience each of them on the same trip.

I saw the Dalai Lama recently at the annual American Himalayan Foundation dinner in San Francisco, and he underscored what seems to me the most important of all the very good reasons to travel. The others on stage with him (former President Jimmy Carter and Dick Blum, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband) were talking in the usual generalities, politician-style, about the importance of education, when His Holiness added in his wonderful gutteral Tibetan-accented English: “Education yes very important. But brilliant mind linked with negative emotion...very dangerous. So—what we need also is education of warm heart.” And of course the way he said it, everyone in the room got it. Talk about communicating a powerful idea that washed away all prattle!

So without further ado, let me just say that here in these pages, in stories from all over the world, lies such an education.




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