The Road Within, edited by Sean O’Reilly, James...

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Road Within, edited by Sean O’Reilly, James O’Reilly, and Tim O’Reilly

The Road Within reviewed by Rick Price


"We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

And all shall be well . . .

T.S. Elliott

Four Quartets: Little Gidding




This quote from T.S. Elliott is a cliché by now and you may get tired of seeing it. But it rings true for me since my travels in the late ’60s and early ’70s took me back to "my home town" on the Oregon coast and taught me to look at the place that I thought I knew so well in a totally new light. Having lived there for twenty years, I got to know Newport, Oregon only after having traveled the length and breadth of Europe and North Africa.

So this book of travel essays and excerpts from longer works speaks to the similar experiences of scores of other travelers. In the words of the editors, "It is a book of transformation, of lessons learned, maps drawn and burned, and spiritual blessings bestowed by that great and hard teacher: travel."

Let me say right off that I don’t like collections of literature clipped from longer works. I would prefer to read the entire piece. If it’s a book give me the book, not the Reader’s Digest condensed version. But I’m willing to compromise on occasion with a volume such as this since I would never find many of these travel pieces on my own – I just don’t have time to look for them!

I will also say that some of these pieces fall far too much on the "spiritual" or "mystic" side of travel for me. Yet there are so many great pieces of writing here that speak to the travel experience itself, to the urge that so many of us have to travel, and to the long-lasting impacts of travel, that I recommend it to you enthusiastically.

Here’s one example that takes me back thirty years: "Monk without A Robe," by Mike McIntyre, abstracted from his book, The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America. McIntyre quit his job at age 37 (an early mid-life crisis, I suppose) and hitchhiked across America. (Yes, Paola and I spent a good deal of time hitchhiking across Europe in the early ’70s). The brief essay included in this collection is enough to send me off to the library to find the book so I can see how his journey ends and what he learns about himself during his trip!

Annie Dillard has an essay on social interaction and the ritual of drinking in China and Barry Lopez contributed a short piece about listening to stories of hunting wolverine in Alaska. But you won’t have heard of many of the contributors to this volume. And that’s the value in it. It is an opportunity to discover some new writers and to build your armchair travel reading list for the winter!

Gerard Wozek’s piece "Paris Angels" speaks to the wonder of falling in love and Scott Erickson’s "Wake Up Call" to the need we all have to undertake a personal odyssey at some time in our lives (he writes of walking 1,620 miles around Lake Superior). There are essays set in Barcelona, Cairo, and Rome as well as Turkey, Germany and Mexico. In short, you’ll find you can spend hours wandering through this book and you’ll find a fine launching pad for further reading. After my summer travel every year I always look for such a book to help me plan future adventures!


Happy reading!


For more of Rick’s reviews of collected travel essays see: