Thomas Swick on the true meaning of travel.

Essay by sanasattar February 2006

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"Today, I think of travel as anything that extends one's realm of experience or expands one's lexicon of acquired convictions -- and occurs beyond the backyard (thus distinguishing it from reading). It is a moment that comes when we are out of our element and allows us to see, or feel, or think, anew. I grow weary of people who declare that travel is dead, who complain about McDonald's in Paris and go off to Namibia in order to avoid being a tourist. It's like saying experience is finite. Yet, if you go to the McDonald's and meet some locals, maybe wrangle a tour of the city or an invitation for coffee, you're more of a traveler than those who fly into Windhoek and book a group safari. A vivid, childhood travel moment for me was visiting the home of a friend who lived, not as I did in a leafy suburban development, but on a narrow street of modest row houses a block back from South Main.

As we walked through the living room, his father put down the evening paper and told his younger brother, who was sprawled on the floor struggling with his homework, 'Spelling is bullshit.' The language, and the sentiment, were so alien to everything I associated with parental guidance and middle-class home life that I felt as if I were in a foreign land. And I was; and it was exhilarating."

--Thomas Swick, A Way to See the World (2003)

Note: Thomas Swick, who I interviewed at late last year, is in my opinion one of the best travel writer-editors in America. He edits the travel section of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and his second book, A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania with a Maverick Traveler was released...