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  1. The Tao of Travel
  2. The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux
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I wanted to find a new self in a distant place, and new things to care about. The importance of elsewhere was something I took on faith. Elsewhere was the place I wanted to be. Too young to go, I read about elsewheres, fantasizing about my freedom. Books were my road. And then, when I was old enough to go, the roads I traveled became the obsessive subject in my own books. Eventually I saw that the most passionate travelers have always also been passionate readers and writers.

And that is how this book came about. It begins, "All serious pilgrims go on foot to their holy destinations—Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims stand for so many others. On the other hand, some of the best observations and stories come from Paul Theroux's own books—twelve listed. On trains, for instance: His own contributions fittingly prevail in the end chapters, particularly in "Five Travel Epiphanies" that are published here for the first time.

But with its handsome faux leather cover, rounded corners, and elastic bookmark, it is also ready to go somewhere. Hagen Oklahoma Baptist University. Skip to main content. Jul 18, Raghu rated it really liked it. Author Paul Theroux looks at travel as a way of life and a way of thinking as well.

The Tao of Travel

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his many books, which display his scholarship, wit, humor and irreverence. This book, however, is not a new one on his travels. It is an anthology of travel in general, a collection of insights and observations on life and travel, a sort-of guidebook on ways to view travelling, a reminiscence of travel and a reading list of great works on travel. At times, it is even philosophica Author Paul Theroux looks at travel as a way of life and a way of thinking as well.

At times, it is even philosophical and metaphysical. For example, Theroux says in the first chapter itself that we can look at travel as a state of mind, as something that is entirely an inner experience. Travel can be a solitary experience, where solitude is positive, reflective and meditative. Travel can be anonymous, adventurous, an ordeal, optimism in action, a waste of time, voyeuristic, intrusive, transformational and even a love affair.

I found it a delightful and educational book. It makes me want to keep it as a reference book on Travel. In this review, I would like to touch on some extracts from the book which caught my fancy.


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Paul Theroux was mostly a solitary traveller and a great believer in travelling alone. He says that it is hard to see clearly or think straight in the company of other people. He quotes Freya Stark on the subject as saying that Solitude is a deep necessity of the human spirit. It is the ignorance of this need which is the cause of decline in poetry and many other deeper affections of the spirit in our culture. I have myself done a lot of solitary travelling around the world in my life.

The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux

I have often wondered about solitude and how it promotes thinking. There are those, even Paul Theroux perhaps, who criticise our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet. They say that this makes us forget carving out spaces for solitary contemplation. On the other hand, I feel that solitude means being alone with your thoughts and being able to reflect on them deeply. If so, then, being on-line is a retreat for reflection and solitude, a place to think and ponder important social, political and personal issues!

Exotic food is another colorful aspect of travel. For a vegetarian like me, it was often bordering on the macabre! Theroux writes about eating sparrows in Burma, snake and turtle in China and ordering an owlet for a meal in China, but setting the bird free once it was taken out of the cage to be cooked. I suppose one has to be an adventurous non-vegetarian to appreciate this chapter fully!

Theroux writes about Mort Rosenblum, who was covering the Biafran civil war in the s as a foreign correspondent. Mort was an extensively travelled man. The young Paul Theroux asks him to provide him with some rules of the road that have served Mort well in over forty years of writing in distant places. Mort gives him ten rules out of which I thought one rule that would be very useful for modern day intrepid reporters who venture behind terrorist sanctuaries.

But he shows that he is able to appreciate many distinguished writers and thinkers, who never left home and never really wanted to be elsewhere. For those who feel that they missed out a lot in life by not exploring the world through travel, one chapter in the book comes as a welcome palliative.

This chapter reflects on the fears, neuroses and other conditions of people which make them compulsive travellers.

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A large number of travellers have been depressives or bipolar types capable of serious gloom. I find that I adhere to nine out of these ten in my travels. An enjoyable book both for the couch potato and the compulsive traveller. This was not your typical travel book, or Theroux book. Rather than a work on travelling through space, this was about travelling through time and space in the company of interesting travellers from the past.

It made me think about how I travel, who I travel with, and why I travel at all. It is a philosophical look at travel in that it seems to involve a lot of thinking about travelling. There were some interesting similarities and differences with Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel which I This was not your typical travel book, or Theroux book. There were some interesting similarities and differences with Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel which I also enjoyed. Just what is it about travelling that is so important to so many people and so unimportant to others?

How did our current desire to travel evolve? Is there a right way to see the world beyond your doorstep? Read this book, not to answer these questions, but to think about them in company with great travellers of the past. Jul 19, Meera Sapra rated it really liked it. This doesn't feel like one book but a collection of books, since it reflects the authors' love for travel and the travel books he's read. I really like how he combines his own personal travel narrative with that of other travel writers' experiences.

And I like how he does this across a variety of themes such as the hardships of travel, traveling solo versus with other people, train travel, travel and food and so on. This seems more than just a travel book considering the different kind of life a This doesn't feel like one book but a collection of books, since it reflects the authors' love for travel and the travel books he's read. This seems more than just a travel book considering the different kind of life and travel experiences and the depth at which these have been explored.

I read this book while I was traveling for a month and I would recommend it to everyone who loves to travel.

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Oct 12, Kristin rated it liked it Shelves: A little dry and choppy, but good insights into the world and history of travel literature. Hopefully has inspired me to read more "proper" travel lit above and beyond just "Eat, Pray, Love" and the like As much as I love it Jul 10, Terrell Plotzki rated it did not like it Shelves: A book of mostly Paul Theroux quotes by Paul Theroux.

Jun 25, Kate rated it really liked it. Dec 08, Connie rated it it was amazing. Love travel, love travel writing, and love reading from the best. Paul Theroux nails it for me every time. There is a lot of humor and a lot of truth in the quotes of those who have gone before! May 12, Scott Nelson rated it really liked it Shelves: A smart survey of travel lit. Dec 18, Melody rated it it was ok. I felt like the book jumped around a lot and the author patted himself on the back too much. Sep 02, Hugh Roberts rated it liked it.

Paul Theroux selects excerpts from some of the best travel writers in his Enlightenments but tops and tails them with perceptive analysis about why people travel and what they gain from the experience. The best travel books are not always about travelers as su Paul Theroux selects excerpts from some of the best travel writers in his Enlightenments but tops and tails them with perceptive analysis about why people travel and what they gain from the experience. The best travel books are not always about travelers as such, but rather people whether the authors themselves or others with a task to do.

Tao of the Traveller (English version)

Their readability stems from how they got to connect with the people who helped them achieve their task, from research needed to write a book, to the survival techniques within an alien culture. I am not sure that Theroux always achieves this while his perception of place remains culturally specific to his own frame of reference, but they are always a good read.