Good Travel Reads

By Brian Spencer

Just under 16 months ago I stuffed my confused cat in her carrier and schlepped down three flights of stairs to a waiting taxi, goodbye Brooklyn, goodbye United States, not sure when I’ll see you again, not really in any hurry, wish me luck. Turns out Singapore isn’t a half bad place to live for a spell, and that as when I lived in Bangkok I haven’t missed the States much, save for its cheap craft beers, its late-night NBA games on the West Coast, its cheap craft beers, and a handful of other fringe benefits that, shall we say, are generally not found here.

This all goes to say that I have one foot out the door today as I get set to head to the States for an extended visit, my first since leaving in July 2012 and one that’ll take me to the metropolitan Detroit area for a few weeks (one home) and back to Brooklyn for another week (another home).  It should be… interesting, and at the very least it’s hoarding my head space at the moment.

With that said, in the absence of my regularly scheduled programming I thought it appropriate to instead shine the limelight on five wonderful travel reads, each decidedly more lucid than anything I’m capable of this week. Enjoy.

5 Reasons to Go to Detroit Right Now, by Dana McMahan for Fodor’s Travel
Given my Detroit state of mind, this lovingly crafted, action-oriented spotlight of Detroit literally hits close to home — and spares you the absurdity of such travel advice as “know that you haven’t left civilization” and “remember people are people” in this little doozy on CNN Travel.

I’ll add “booming craft beer scene” as a sixth reason to McMahan’s list, and plan to check in later this year or early next with tales from my planned Michigan microbrewery crawl. In the meantime, “The Myths and, More Importantly, Magic of Detroit” is my lone Perceptive Travel Blog feature on the place I called home for 18 years.

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!, by Tim Kreider for The New York Times
Though more an insidery call to arms for writers than a travel feature, Kreider’s piece is an important one, not only for writers but also for those of you who may not be writers, but have friends of family members who are. Here Kreider, with what you might call tempered indignation, tackles one of the most inexplicable injustices increasingly plaguing our profession: being asked to do one’s work — work which by the way is very difficult, to say the least — for free.

The Tweakers or the Ghosts, by Lauren Quinn for Vela
If I had a gun to my head (told you I’m preoccupied with the States) and had to name the single essay that most resonated and impressed this year, this moody pseudo-travel feature on going home to kinda-sorta look in the mirror at a past life would be near the top of my list. In many ways I see Quinn’s Crockett, CA, as my South Lyon, MI, the place in which I grew up, the place I dream about more than anywhere, the place I’ll be this time next week, the place that makes me feel 17 again and, at the same time, older than 35.

One of many wonderful passages:

“And standing there on the sidewalk, under the highway and behind the C&H, it all starts to feel like too much. Too distant, too close—like everything we did in Crockett and the people we were then were simultaneously a hundred years ago and five minutes ago. Like a part of us were still out there, riding in those trucks and on those roads, taking the turns and bends of this landscape. Like one of those trucks might rattle past any minute, all of our younger selves piled inside, stoned and laughing.”   

The Brits do Barbecue, by Eliza Mackintosh  for Roads & Kingdoms
Who needs fish ‘n chips in London when you have a twentysomething Brit cranking out what Zagat recently called the city’s “best value menu,” and a transplated Texan whipping up “killer” cowboy brisket?  This well-researched and breezily written (in a good way, of course) account of what you might call London’s “hipster-barbecue” moment is a great read.

JetBlue’s Family Pool: A Cautionary Fable, by Alison J. Stein for The Perceptive Travel Blog
Okay, I’m cheating a little by dipping into the Perceptive Travel Blog’s own pool, and though I know that all of you are diehard readers who never miss a single feature, our own Alison J. Stein’s most recent contribution is not your average, everyday review of a frequent-flier program feature — it’s more F. Scott Fitzgerald than Johnny Jet. Bravo, Alison.

Photo Credit to State Library of Victoria Collections on Flickr