For me, there is nothing quite like travel to freshen my perspective, inspire me artistically, and remind me of all the interesting ways and places there are to live. Recently, I’ve read three books in which travel plays (at least) one of these three roles to the main character.
The Lower River by Paul Theroux
The pacing of this book was superb. By page 16, we learn that our protagonist, Ellis, longs nostalgically for the time he spent as a young man teaching and building a school in a remote African village. He has spent the years since in a business and marriage he didn’t care much about. Now, business closed and marriage dissolved, he intends to return to Africa and revisit the village and his youth. He brings along plenty of cash to help out the villagers.
However, the one thing he decides he doesn’t need to take a is a cellphone because the phone had “uncovered his entire private life, shown his as sentimental, flirtatious, dreamy, romantic, unfulfilled, yearning. What did all those emails mean? What in all this emotion was the thing he wanted?” After a series of events leave him the unromantic and all-too-real prisoner (and bank) for the village leader, the bubble bursts, and he sees that his nostalgia has been foolish. It still takes about 300 pages to extract him from his jail without walls — which would’ve taken much less time if he’d brought a cellphone (and not been such an ass). Continue reading