Best Travel Writing: Timeless Articles from the Interwebs

best travel writing articles

I first created Wanderlust Dispatch as a basic Tumblr blog to share the best travel writing from around the web. I wanted to do more with the website and finally created the present-day version of the blog, but my love of trolling the interwebs for great travel writing—both old and new—remains a foregone conclusion each and every week. I even keep a Google Docs spreadsheet with the best of the best and now feel compelled to share some of its highlights; call it a slow week for new content, but I’m truly excited to re-read some of the pieces for excerpts and share the post with readers. Without further adieu…

“Why We Travel”, by Pico Iyer

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. (Link)

Perhaps my favorite article on the meaning of travel and truly timeless piece of writing by one of the best travel writers on the planet.  

“Being There”, by Robert D. Kaplan

I am not saying information is now harder to come by. I am saying the intensity of the experience of foreign places has been diluted. The real adventure of travel is mental. It is about total immersion in a place, because nobody from any other place can contact you… Real conversations require concentration, not texting on the side. The art of travel demands the end of multitasking. It demands the absence of bars on your smartphone when you are in a café with someone. That’s because travel is linear—it is about only one place or a singular perception at a time. (Link)

Another piece on the meaning of travel as it applies to today’s modern world. I completely agree with the writer’s take on ditching the smartphone and even apply the advice to everyday life on countless occasions. 

“The Roads Between Us: A Journey Across Africa”, by Frank Bures

The rage inside the bus was palpable. All the bottled up frustrations, all the anger, all the helplessness seemed to bubble up at that moment. Yousuf, the business man from Timbuktu, got in one of the Nigerian’s faces and screamed. Aliwaliou yelled at the other. Soon everyone was yelling, and it felt as though the crowd was on the edge of becoming a mob. (Link)

It was a real challenge to pick a favorite from one of my favorite (current) travel writers, but Frank Bures’ five-part series on his travels through Africa are highly enjoyable and create a real sense of place in one of the few regions of the world I still haven’t explored. 

“Inside the Cafes and Salons of Morocco”, by Paul Bowles

In those days Tangier was an attractive, quiet town with about 60,000 inhabitants. The Medina looked ancient, its passageways were full of people in bright outlandish costumes, and each street leading to the outskirts was bordered by walls of cane, prickly pear and high-growing geranium. Today, where this thick vegetation grew, are the cracking façades of new apartment houses; the Moslems have discarded their frogged Oriental jackets and enormous trousers of turquoise, orange, pistachio or shocking pink, to don Levis, and second-hand raincoats important by the bale from America; the population has augmented at least threefold, and I’m afraid the city would never strike a casual visitor as either quiet or attractive. There must be few places in the world which have altered visually to such an extent in the past quarter of a century. (Link)

Another article on Africa, but this time by an all-time legend who needs no introduction for avid readers of travel literature. Let this article serve as a primer before immediately rushing out to purchase Bowles’ great collection of travel writing

“The Country Just Over the Fence”, by Paul Theroux

In a lifetime of crossing borders I find this pitiless fence the oddest frontier I have ever seen — more formal than the Berlin Wall, more brutal than the Great Wall of China, yet in its way just as much an example of the same folie de grandeur. Built just six months ago, this towering, seemingly endless row of vertical steel beams is so amazing in its conceit you either want to see more of it, or else run in the opposite direction — just the sort of conflicting emotions many people feel when confronted with a peculiar piece of art. (Link)

Paul Theroux is one of the most prolific travel writers of our generation; this post portrays the dynamic between Mexico and the United States from the mindset of a traveler. Any fan of travel can get lost in Theroux’s extensive body of work and find insightful reading on virtually any region on the world. 

“Lost in the Amazon”, by Matthew Power

Perhaps more than any other landscape, the Amazon jungle is steeped in myth and mystery, looming over the human imagination as a symbol of both untamed wilderness and environmental vulnerability. The mind shudders at its enormity. The river that begins as a trickle of glacial meltwater at 20,000 feet in the Andes discharges 32 million gallons a second. Twenty percent of all freshwater flowing into the world’s oceans passes through its mouth, which gapes 150 miles wide. For five centuries the river has been the obsession (and undoing) of countless outsiders, from the lunatic conquistador Lope de Aguirre to the vanished 1920s explorer Percy Fawcett. The lore of Amazon exploration is filled with starvation, madness, disease, and murder. (Link)

Much like Matthew Power, I too am fascinated with the Amazon and have read books on the aforementioned Percy Fawcett—among others. Power’s long-read on the Amazon is a adventurer’s dream come true and serves as inspiration for anyone considering the jungles of South America. 

“Playing by Heart”, by Emma John

The music is flighty, cheerful, virtuosic. Snatches of a tune percolate from a thick cloud of improvisation, and the notes themselves seem to move around the group in a swarm, settling for a short while on a banjo, next buzzing gently in the strings of a mandolin. Once in a while, they recede, and the ancient’s voice sings out among them, some simple melody with a keening edge and a lyric about an un-faithful woman. A thin, bespectacled bassist keeps the pace swift. The music seeps out into the street, coloring it with nostalgia. (Link)

I felt compelled to include an article on domestic travel and no better example is available than Emma’s wonderful writing in Afar Magazine. The publication is hands-down the best travel magazine today and this article on a part of North Carolina showcases the type of writing typically found in Afar. 

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Best Travel Writing: Timeless Articles from the Interwebs
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Best Travel Writing: Timeless Articles from the Interwebs
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Check out some of the best travel writing from around the interwebs as chosen by Wanderlust Dispatch.
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