As summer commences, our thoughts naturally turn to vacation and adventure. This week, to celebrate The New Yorker’s Travel Issue, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about fascinating journeys.
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In “Facing Ka‘ena Point: On Turning Eighty,” the novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux looks back on a life of constant searching. Like so many before him, he still yearns to discover other cultures, and unplumbed aspects of himself. “The term ‘travel book’ is hopeless,” he writes. “ ‘Chronicle’ is a truer word for it. I wrote ten more of them, and there are many places I still wish to go, and especially revisit, because returning to a place where I’ve lived or travelled in the past is the best way of witnessing the important forces at work in the world.” In “A State of Nature,” Jennie Erin Smith reports on the remarkable history of tourism in the Darién Gap, a zone of rivers, mountains, and jungles in Panama and Colombia that is known, she writes, for its seeming impassability. In “A Tale of a Tub,” Patricia Marx recounts an intrepid transatlantic voyage aboard a freighter. (“Being a passenger on a cargo ship seems a lot like being an inmate in a prison, except that on a ship you can’t tunnel yourself out.”) Finally, in “A Ride Through Spain,” Truman Capote writes about a leisurely excursion across the Iberian countryside. “Certainly the train was old,” he begins. “The seats sagged like the jowls of a bulldog; windowpanes were out, and strips of adhesive held together those that were left; in the corridor a prowling cat appeared to be hunting mice, and it was not unreasonable to assume that his search would be rewarded.”