James’s Corner

James’s Corner

Publisher’s Preface: The Best Travel Writing 2006

travelerstales 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.

Added on February 21, 2006

Publisher’s Preface: The Best Travel Writing 2005

travelerstales I stood at the front desk of the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, waiting for the clerk to hand me the stamps I’d just bought. Instead, he plucked postcards from my hand, licked the stamps, and began to place them precisely. The last stamp, however, tore at the corner when he was removing it from the main sheet, but instead of leaving well enough alone, he tore off the tiny, orphaned piece and reunited it with the rest of the stamp, which he’d already affixed. When he was finished, he gave me a huge smile and put my postcards in the outgoing mail. I laughed as I went out the door—a laugh of surprise at such care. To say it was good service wouldn’t do it justice, because it bore much more the mark of a warm heart.

Added on March 21, 2005

The Best TT 2004 — Publisher’s Preface

travelerstales Not long ago, I went to a concert in my hometown which featured The Cool Crooners of Bulawayo, a singing group from Zimbabwe. Two songs into the performance I had a huge grin on my face that didn’t leave until I fell asleep that night. These four men, ranging in age from thirties to seventies, not only utterly charmed me with their voices, dancing, and spirit, they reminded me of everything I love about travel. They reminded me of a fantastic trip to Zimbabwe long before that country fell prey to the dark side of a dictator; they brought me back to the friendship of my companions on that trip; they reminded me of encounters with the mighty Zambezi River, and baboons and crocodiles and hippos and people with improbable names such as Reward and Memory and The Bloke with the Handcuffs.

Added on February 18, 2004

Where do you want to go today?

travelerstales My family enjoyed a huge reunion in Maine recently, and the last to arrive was my cousin Jeremy, a beleaguered statistics Ph.D. student in the death throes of his dissertation. He told me that he'd decided to come—after initially saying he simply couldn't afford the time—by reflecting on a statistical concept called "the minimization of regret." What were the odds, he asked himself, that he'd regret frolicking with long-lost cousins at the expense of a few days delay on his work? Having posed the question, he jumped in his car and drove like a madman through the Ontario night and into a bright New England afternoon where he was greeted as a conquering hero by all.

Added on December 01, 2003

Why the World

travelerstales Some time ago I made a list called "10 Reasons to Travel and to Read Our Books" and when I came across it the other day, it struck me that the list was still a good one, and if anything, more timely, as people shrink from the risks of international travel. Here’s the list: 1. Expand Your Horizons 2. Discover Yourself 3. Find Love 4. Have an Adventure 5. Get Mystical 6. Break Habits 7. Lose Weight 8. Become a Storyteller 9. Face a Challenge 10. Appreciate Home. All of these things have a lot in common, and could in fact be reduced to one main idea: To grow as a human being, you must take risks. (As an old friend once said, "The only sin is to be stuck.") Risks imply motion, and travel is the most obvious and direct way for us to engage in such motion, all of which might be summed up by another quote, this one from 13th century philosopher and poet Rumi: "Travel brings power and love back into your life."

Added on October 15, 2003