Paul Theroux: ‘The Cross-Country Trip is the Supreme Example of the Journey as the Destination’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  08.24.09 | 2:37 PM ET

Yet one of the most intrepid travel writers alive had never driven across the U.S. So when the Smithsonian asked him and five other travel writers to take on their dream assignments, he picked the cross-country trip. He delivered a beautiful story. He writes:

In my life, I had sought out other parts of the world—Patagonia, Assam, the Yangtze; I had not realized that the dramatic desert I had imagined Patagonia to be was visible on my way from Sedona to Santa Fe, that the rolling hills of West Virginia were reminiscent of Assam and that my sight of the Mississippi recalled other great rivers. I’m glad I saw the rest of the world before I drove across America. I have traveled so often in other countries and am so accustomed to other landscapes, I sometimes felt on my trip that I was seeing America, coast to coast, with the eyes of a foreigner, feeling overwhelmed, humbled and grateful.

The other five writers involved are Susan Orlean (Destination: Morocco), Francine Prose (Japan), Geoffrey C. Ward (India), Caroline Alexander (Jamaica) and Frances Mayes (Poland). Here’s Jan Morris’s introduction to the project.

1 Comment for Paul Theroux: ‘The Cross-Country Trip is the Supreme Example of the Journey as the Destination’

TambourineMan 08.25.09 | 1:56 AM ET

Thanks for the link, sir. A great story indeed. But I was sorry to read Theroux dismissed Santa Fe, NM and left the next day. I understand it’s disheartening to drive in and see the Santa Fake adobe Office Depot. Your first instinct is to drive away…fast. But you’ve got give Santa Fe a few days. There are some good people there, just as sickened by the adobe Trader Joe’s as you are. 

Theroux lives in Hawaii, right? If I judged any of the major islands by their tourist trappings, I’d be gone the next day, too. Obviously, a mistake.

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