As I’ve mentioned here before, Paul Theroux’s travelogues have long inspired me, making clear how traveling can be about so much more than a trip from here to there and back again. When it comes to traveling, it is always worth considering this man’s thoughts. As he writes in this past weekend’s New York Times Travel section, we travel for “a change of air, for edification, for the big vulgar boast of being distant, for the possibility of being transformed, for the voyeuristic romance of gawping at the exotic.” So we know why Theroux built a career based on traveling, but where does someone with decades of customs stamps cluttering his passport go when the itch comes on these days?
Theroux has sought out the remote pockets of the globe by design, and enjoyed them immensely, but he seems to have just as much regret about the places he hasn’t experienced. For one, the American Midwest is a blind spot for him: “Yes, I have been to Patagonia and Congo and Sikkim, but I haven’t been to the most scenic American states, never to Alaska, Montana, Idaho or the Dakotas, and I’ve had only the merest glimpse of Kansas and Iowa.” While it is surprising that he’s never passed through these places, it is not at all surprising that someone as romantic about travel as Theroux would include these states on a list of must-visits. America and the road trip go hand-in-hand, and Theroux wants to take the back roads and let the country yawn out in front of him, stopping when the spirit strikes or just keep on keeping on. He did just that, apparently, last year when he finally explored the American South.
Even more surprising than the lack of experience in the U.S., is the fact that Theroux has never been to any part of Scandinavia. Because it is relatively accessible and easy to travel around, he’s been saving it for when treks to the nooks and crannies of the planet just aren’t any longer possible for him. He’s never been to the Galapagos Islands, and admits there are parts of Italy and Turkey he’s only ever heard about. Theroux writes of a kayaking trip through the Pacific, “There are close to 1,000 islands in the Solomons; I paddled around six. . . . On that long Pacific jaunt of the future (I’d bring a kayak again) I would include New Caledonia, which is still a French territory, the atolls of Kiribati and the outlying islands of Vanuatu I hadn’t seen on my first trip.”
Of course, this is one of the consequences of traveling so much, you know just how big the world is and how much of it you can never see. So where would you like to visit? I, for one, want to go to Fiji, and the Japanese island of Hokkaido; I’ve never been to Slovenia, and fancy the idea of visiting Petra in Jordan.