Why *I* Travel: My Thoughts on Paul Theroux's "Why We Travel"

I’m now going to admit something scandalous: I hate Paul Theroux. Not the man himself–I’ve never met him; he might be lovely in person. I hate Paul Theroux’s writing. Yes, that pretty much revokes my membership to all travel writing guilds. Theroux is the golden boy of post-20th century travel writing. With his overblown verbiage, highfalutin literary references,  and eye-crossing self-indulgence, Theroux’s work embodies everything I despise about travel writing as a literary endeavor.

In his recent essay for the New York Times, “Why We Travel,” Theroux makes his ever-present case for backpacking across war-torn deserts, climbing ugly mountain ranges, and strolling through criminal-infested cities. He spends a full page using half his Roget’s to describe the “joys” of visiting Baghdad, Russia, and Pakistan (among others). Then he says, and I quote: “But unless you are in delicate health and desire a serious rest, none of this is a reason to stay home.”

Well fuck you and the stinky flea-bitten camel you rode in on, Mr. Theroux.

I bet it’s never once occurred to Paul Theroux that there are, quite literally tens of millions of travelers out there who are in delicate health, as he so snarkily puts it. I certainly am. Physically weak, in constant pain, and prone to unpleasant bacterial infections in personal places, I don’t need to travel to Somalia or Tibet to overcome adversity. I overcome adversity every time I travel to the supermarket around the corner.

Read more at www.travelswithpain.com


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