Travel writing and writers

Travel Writers & Books — By on October 31, 2006 at 12:18 pm

If you enjoy travel writing, you might want to check out Rolf Potts’ collection of interviews with travel writers on his website.  He’s been publishing an interview with a different writer every month for six years now.  It’s an interesting site to wander through, reading interviews with your favorite travel writers and with others you may not have heard about.  Here is a sample from an interview with Sarah Erdman, author of Nine Hills to Nambonkaha:

How did you get started traveling?

Probably something happened in utero – my parents were living abroad until a few months before I was born, came back to Washington for my birth, and then shuttled me straight back to the Mediterranean, making me a global nomad before I hit six months. My parents are in the Foreign Service, so we moved every couple of years, and traveling was a natural state of being early on. I distinctly remember moving back to Washington DC at age three and wondering why we had no goats in the backyard.

Every place we lived, my parents were hell-bent on seeing and doing everything. My brother and I were sometimes whisked, sometimes dragged into all their adventures – from drinking gritty tea with a Berber family in a lightless stone hut in the Atlas mountains, to tramping through one picturesque little village after another, to riding camels across the Negev.

My own path, as soon as I was old enough to tread it, naturally led me overseas again. I studied in Paris during college, and moved to Israel after graduation because I was fascinated by its passion and its conflict. At that point, I had already spent eleven of my 23 years abroad, but I wanted to push my limits further. I wanted to work for everything I had, start from scratch, suck the marrow out of life, as Thoreau put it. I also wanted to be absorbed as much as possible into a different rhythm of life, and forced to look at my own life from a different perspective. And I felt that the only way I could be of real use to people was to understand them first, and work from there. So I joined Peace Corps.

What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?

The fact that somehow the story of my tiny, insignificant village in the African savanna has struck a chord with high society North Carolinians and ranchers in Montana. That suburban moms have said to me, “Tell us how we can help your village, because we really want to.” It’s a good antidote for cynicism to know that people are hungry for each other’s stories, and want to find similarities despite all our differences. I’m honored that I get to be one of the storytellers. And then there’s the magical rush of fusing writing and traveling, the two things I’m most passionate about, and calling it my career.

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