The Small World of Travel Writers

6 02 2009

It’s a huge world out there. And no one knows that better than travel writers.  And yet, in the travel writing world one learns quickly (as I did at a party last night for World Hum) that the world of travel writing is rather a small one. There, crammed into the tiny basement of the fantastic Lolita Bar, were countless writers and lovers of travel from all  publications and areas. The fascinating thing is that most know each other, and the even better thing is that, in the world of travel writing, even if we don’t know each other, there is that common bond of world exploration that is a constant and inexhaustible topic of conversation.

But the small world gets even smaller as so: First, I finally met Mr. David Farley, curator of the Restless Legs Reading Series, with whom I had only before emailed since he was a part of the first Lit Crawl (and very popular, I might add). But second, there I was, meeting new people, when I spotted a familiar face and yet could not place how it was familiar. It was driving me crazy trying to figure out how I knew this guy at the party, until I finally approached and he recognized me, though also did not know from where. Finally after a few moments we realized: we had been in the same travel writing class last year in Buenos Aires! Now if that isn’t a small world, I’m not sure what is. And then, of course, we both got to swapping travel stories and then pining over how much more there is to explore in that bright big world out there.

Tomorrow it’s off to the NY Times Travel Show for more of the big (small) world of travel.





Small, Small World – And a Conundrum

18 07 2008

For people who love to travel, the world seems like a very big place. Massive. As in, It’s-so-huge-that-I’ll-never-possibly-get-to-all-the-places-I-want-to-go GIGANTIC.

But then there are times when something will happen to make you realize how small the world really is. Like, for example, when you meet a girl in Buenos Aires (who happens to be from London), and she then becomes a great friend. It’s an even smaller world when that initial girl emails and says that her friend (who happens to be from Brazil) is going to be in New York.

And so one Sunday afternoon you find yourself in the Lower East Side (of New York) drinking beer (from Belgium) with Marina (from Brazil) who met Liz (from London) at Carnaval (in Brazil)—and you’re all linked through Argentina (from which no one involved happens to hail). Whew. Looks like travel makes it a small world after all. Sorry for annoying song reference. It was inevitable.

True story? Funny you should ask. Yes. It most certainly is a true story. I showed lovely Marina around New York on Sunday, and marveled at her marveling at New York (and the fact that she had yet to meet a New Yorker who was actually from New York). Then on Tuesday I went with Marina to see the New York Philharmonic play (for free) in Central Park. Through her met numerous other small world souls (from all over the world) through an organization called Couchsurfing, which requires a blog all its own but for today’s purposes helps travelers meet people and find free places to stay (making the world less expensive and thus smaller).

And now for the conundrum. The great thing about having someone in town who isn’t even from America is that you really get to see New York (and the US) through a different lens. And you find yourself explaining things that seem so commonplace, such as leaving your credit card at the bar to keep a tab open and what is a Zagat.

But then there was a question I couldn’t answer. “What types of food are very American?” Simple enough, right? Hot dog. Apple pie. Watermelon? (And then I get stuck in things like hamburgers that seem repetitive.) But it turns out there was more to the question: one goes to Italy and brings home Limoncello; you get champagne from France, alfajores from Argentina (you didn’t think I’d not mention those, did you?). But what should Marina take back to Brazil from America?

And hence the conundrum. I have no answer. She surely wouldn’t bring back hot dogs. Or apple pie or watermelon for that matter. Bourbon is American, but who wants to bring that back? If she were in San Francisco I would suggest Ghirardelli chocolate, but given we’re in New York that won’t do. And thus I’m stumped. So. Thoughts? If anyone can shed light on this little dilemma, please, please enlighten me. And Marina.