Good Travel Writing

Exactly what it says. Also, pictures sometimes.

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“He gave the impression that very many cities had rubbed him smooth.”
-Graham Greene

The pool at the Grand Hotel del Paraguay is, best as I can tell, unused. Maybe it’s the heat—and the humidity—which are considerable and relentless. Or the lack of a bar, or towels, or staff. But nobody else…

Jesus CHRIST Bourdain! YES.

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A manicurist to the stars


The other night, when I got in to Chicago, I wasn’t feeling too great. I had a terrible headache and upset stomach, probably from flying, but who really knows. Anyway, I decided to grab some dinner and get a manicure, because I had a presentation the next morning and wanted to look professional. I…

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Some weeks ago I crossed over the mountains from Chile to Argentina. It was a pretty sweet way to make a land border crossing. Along the way, a beagle puppy belonging to the Chile border guards started to follow me. She walked with me 7km up the mountains before the ONE guy who lives inbetween Chile and Argentina saw us, recognized the puppy, and said wait a minuto. Otherwise, I think she would have followed me all the way to Argentina. At the actual border, I ran into some friends who were making the crossing on horse! One day, I will have that much style. Eventually, we made it to Lago del Desierto, a beautiful long skinny lake at the top of which is the Argentina border patrol.

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Then, after a while, the sun was in my eyes, for I was driving west. So I pulled the sun screen down and squinted and put the throttle to the floor. And kept on moving west. For West is where we all plan to go someday. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and see the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.
Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (via jesseharding)

(via montrealmighteatitsyoung)

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Sunrise on the Island


Landing at JFK early in the morning means catching the sunrise from the AirTrain out to the Long Island Railroad. In case you were wondering, it takes exactly as long as the trip from Terminal 4 to Jamaica station for the sun to go from an oozing sliver of fire on the horizon to a fully formed orange balloon hanging over the houses of Brooklyn.

All the bleary-eyed travelers turned their heads out the windows to watch it rise, squinting at the sudden brightness. It doesn’t come up slowly, but it is ever so certain, moving along a steady path it has taken for millennia. Seeing the sun like this is the only time I really grasp that it is indeed a huge ball of fire, burning my eyes when I try to look directly at it.

It’s a nice greeting after a long haul, something real to look at after navigating long hallways full of coffee stands and duty free shops and all the other crap humans like to build. I ought to catch the sunrise more often, I always think.

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julia2j0 asked: What did you study in school to become a travel writer? And what did it take to have a career in the industry?

Hi! I have a BFA from NYU/Tisch, so I can’t say that what I studied helped me at all, except to teach me how to write convincingly, on a deadline, about shit I couldn’t care less about.

As for a career: I mostly write about non-travel stuff for money. When I am hired to write about travel, I write the shit out of it, never miss a deadline, and maintain genuine, personal relationships with writers and editors I respect. It helps that I am “known” among those writers and editors for a specific niche, and so more often than not I am approached to write about that niche, rather than needing to pitch. But it also helps that I am a journeyman (woman?) rather than wanting to be the next, like, Bourdain or whatever. In other words, I’m not particularly ambitious. LOL

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Dear Coquette: On even more cities


Palo Alto?
Palo Alto isn’t a city. It’s a suburb that won the lottery.

Sacramento is the most self-deprecating state capital in the country. Everyone I’ve ever met from Sacramento has been super cool, and yet no one seems proud to be from there.

What about San Diego?
San Diego is an ignorant douche-bro in a backwards baseball cap who deserves to get stabbed in the face by Tijuana.

What about Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City is that girl in church camp who everyone thinks is a goody-two-shoes, but secretly smokes cigarettes and gives blowjobs behind the cafeteria.

Savannah, GA
Savannah is a spoiled little rich girl who calls herself an artist and thinks she’s being rebellious by dating a black guy.

Portland feels like cheating, like it would be too easy to live a happy and healthy life surrounded by quirky and intelligent people.

I hesitate to ask: Omaha, NE?
It’s a little known fact, but much like the Vatican in Rome, Omaha is actually a sovereign city-state ruled by Warren Buffett.

Come on, darlin. Tell me about Vermont.
I love Vermont. It’s my secret fantasy to move there one day. You think I’m joking, but I’m not.

Paris is the only city.