Ten Travel Books by People of Color

My latest for Paste Travel is a mad important resource for those of y’all (most of us) who are sadly unacquainted with travel lit by POC. Hopefully this list will serve as an intro for folks to get into it more. Read it here (and share the shit out of it!)

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Breaking Night

The virtue of travel is that it purges life before filling it up.” Nicolas Bouvier

All I wanted was to go back home. After spending a dope month in the East Bay for a writing workshop, I had to catch a plane to New York to pick up the rest of my stuff before hopping on another flight to Ecuador, where I live, the next morning. But after layovers in Las Vegas and Detroit, my flight was cancelled. That blasphemy of an airline, Spirit, got me on a plane to New York two days later, effectively making me miss my Ecuador flight, which cost an arm and a leg to reschedule. I had 2 days in the Clarion in Romulus, Michigan to kill, in which I fought and pleaded with airline officials and subsequently downed a case of Angry Orchard in the bathtub.

The only gleaming nugget to come out of that pile of shit was that Avianca, who were flying me to Ecuador, upgraded me to business class, and, as Joan Didion would (probably never) say, the term that came to mind was: BALLIN’. I’ve got a bad back that keeps me from sitting for too long and it’s made flying a nightmare, but my business class seat transformed into a twin bed and I was gifted with a real blanket and pillow, lots of wine and plenty of other free shit.

In the morning I had a layover in Bogotá. In the morning I had an intense migraine and a sinus thing that flared the whole right side of my face up in pain. In the morning I had some sort of muscle relaxer hangover and could barely function. My luck comes in spurts and then reverts back to its default state.

In the morning, our plane curled skyward like a rebellious strand of hair.  The flight was short, and we were soon descending into a heavy swell of clouds, thick and amorphous, as if all the shadows in the world had been sucked into a mass in the sky. After a bit of turbulence, a dark city emerged on the underside, glittering in the civil twilight, surrounded by the crooked spine of mountains that make up the Andes. I tried to look for my home amongst the lego-like squares, and then realized, with no surprise whatsoever, that I thought of Quito as home. The words that came to mind were: worth it.

Lost in Quito

Got lost in the Centro Historico – the Old Town – riding past crumbly colored houses stacked on hillsides, smushed breathlessly with a million other Quitenos on the bus. Accepting that I had no idea where I was, I tried to get off, but the doors shut sooner than I could finish climbing my way through the forest of thick sweaty limbs tangled together in the limbo between stops, reaching for steel poles and gasping for air. I got out at the next stop and walked who-knows-where – along a busy road strangling a vacant mountain – no people around except for in cars. Reminded me of long stretches of roads all over the U.S. with sidewalks unwalked on for ages – 15 miles to the next stoplight, islands of forest breaking up the homes from the roads – except that walking along the road in Quito I saw some abandoned building in the valley to my right; nothing really keeping me from the fall. About three walls survived whatever destroyed everything else – reddish, sandy pillars cascading in linear ruins overgrown with a wild green, hugged by a frothy river. The road curved to a bus stop and I waited there in the sun. Tons of buses passed by, men swinging by their open doors shouting destinations like superfast spoken word poems –Chillogallo Quitumbe Eugenio Espejo La Mayorista El Trebol todo el Colon; they stop and start with the coming and going of clients leaving great black clouds and whirlwinds of dust in their wake, all of Quito a terminal, the following stops all foreign; titles of books not yet read.

Anti-Travel Writing: A Thing

“Tourism is about the consumption of place. Like every other form of consumption, it is dependent upon brands. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, we live in the golden age of branding, and Majorca and Amsterdam and Hawaii and New Zealand are brands, as much as Levis or Calvin Klein.”
“Tourism today may be widespread, but it is subject to certain constraints. We may be able fly to a distant location for a holiday, but we are often able to spend only a brief period – a few days or a couple of weeks – there, before returning to dreary jobs and mechanical day to day routines. Travel has become the ‘other’ of work. Because we are often so busy at work, we choose to be indolent on holiday – to switch off cell phones and brains and lie on a beach. If we are obsequious at work, trying to impress or placate workmates or customers, then we can be selfish and demanding on holiday. Our interactions with the people and places we are visiting are often carefully mediated and commercialised. The inhabitants of the places we visit are more likely to be pouring us drinks than sitting talking to us over a drink. Life on a typical package holiday is as unbalanced, in its own way, as life in a modern workplace often is.”
– Scott Hamilton. Read the whole thing here