William Least Heat-Moon on Travel, Twitter and the Call of the Open Road

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  07.16.09 | 12:19 PM ET

The author of Blue Highways theorizes why the United States is “the most mobile nation the planet has yet seen” in an intriguing essay in WSJ magazine. Here’s the part where he addresses Twitter and our era of self-absorption:

For the past three decades, travel—especially when it gets written down—often has at its center a defining solipsism: the Self in search of itself in strange places promising to cast a different and edifying light on the Quest. In an era of self-absorption and self-gratification—Facebook and Twitter may be the ultimate in narcissism—such is to be expected. On a stretch of open road, a driver can roll along with his window reflection laid over the landscape ahead so that he must see through himself to see the territory—call it windshield therapy (it’s probably as effective as any couch counseling and certainly cheaper and more accessible, no appointment necessary). On the road, where no one knows your name or your past, the miles can efface one’s identity and make a traveler ready for reception.

I love the kicker to the piece: “In America, our prayer wheels come with vulcanized nonskid treads.”

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