Eight Great Stories on the Travel Writing Life

Lists: To mark our eighth anniversary, we've collected eight favorite stories from our archives that explore the wanderlust-inspired literary life

04.30.09 | 4:01 PM ET


Travel stories have always been at the heart of World Hum, so we’ve been eager to explore the art and craft of travel writing, as well as the life of the travel writer. Among the highlights over the years, Tom Bissell has meditated on truth in travel writing, Rolf Potts has deconstructed the building of a travel story, and Jeffrey Tayler—perhaps the most fearless travel writer working today—has reflected on the hazards of the vocation. Here, from our archives, are eight great stories.

Where the Roads Diverged
After searching all her life, Catherine Watson felt she’d found home on Easter Island. Then she heard a whisper in her ear: Be careful what you wish for.

Insanity and the Traveling Life
In an essay adapted from a talk to writing students, Jeffrey Tayler makes the case for a life of mad (but not unhinged) adventures

Killing Yourself to Make a Living
Jeffrey Tayler, who has undertaken harrowing expeditions in remote Africa and Siberia for books like “Facing the Congo,” explains how to turn “thrilling inklings” into epic journeys—and live to tell the tale.

The Art of Writing a Story About Walking Across Andorra
He traversed an entire nation in a long weekend. Now Rolf Potts shows how you can impress members of the opposite sex and write a textbook-perfect travel article in eight easy steps.

The Procession of Black Hats
Jonathan Levin hadn’t lived up to his father’s expectations. But when he moved to Mexico City, he was told something he thought he’d never hear.

Kerouac! Kerouac! Kerouac!
Matt Villano grew up wanting to be a writer, but he lived in a town where Jack Kerouac once resided. The incessant references to the Beat legend pushed him to the edge. Then he read “On the Road.”

Truth in Oxiana
James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” sparked a debate about the rules of nonfiction. Here, Tom Bissell explores the notion of truth in travel literature, from “The Road to Oxiana” to his own book, “Chasing the Sea.”

A Writer’s Port of Call
Adam Karlin went to Indonesia to work as a reporter. But after a visit to Jakarta’s old wharf to see the aging Makassar schooners, he left with a calling of a different order.

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