studies in travel writing

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Katakis, Michael, Traveller: Observations from an American in Exile (San Francisco: Burton & Park, 2009).

'How could I have known then with no maps acquired and my bags not yet packed that my journey had already begun? The tools of a traveler are compass and map. They calculate distances covered and destinations sought but cannot measure the consequences of experiences on a human heart,'writes Michael Katakis in his introduction.

Traveller is a collection of letters and journal entries that bring the immediacy of experience together with perceptive reflections of the authors own past. The entries in this volume are not travel guides. They are personal, like letters from the most desirable sort of friend. This friend carries you with him as he meanders through the medina in Fez or into the hills of Gallipoli. His voice is such that you can almost smell the herbs and dusty soil of Crete. Always you are introduced to the people he meets along the way.

In his foreword, Michael Palin writes:

In both his letters and in his journal, Michael has the infectious ability to sense the essence of a place and transmit it to the reader. Whether on the dusty roads of Sierra Leone, in a cafe on the Bosporus, in a Chinese village without a map, in Dallas, Texas or on the Paris Metro, he makes a place for us beside him.

Michael has two other vital qualities for a good traveler, curiosity and a conscience. I've seen his curiosity in action. He goes up to people, says hello and asks where they're from. And does it with such charm and obvious good intent that soon he has friends around him like the Pied Piper had children. At the same time he worries and he cares. Frustration, disillusion and indignation burst out of these pages, undisguised and deeply felt.

Traveller is the work of a decent and honorable man in a world where the deceitful and dishonorable have far too much influence. If you want to be reassured that the word humanity still means something, look inside.”

For anyone curious about the world, Traveller is sure to delight, infuriate and, perhaps most importantly, inspire thought about the complex world around us.


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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