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Those letters were then fashioned into books.

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She insists it is not a political work, that the politics of the Six Counties are too complicated for her to fully understand. Women travel writers such as Freya Stark copy the male template in both travel and writing style.

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But the frame differs for travel writers in the masculine mode. It seems that after A Place ApartMurphy realized she is capable of having thoughts and opinions about politics and history—and that she is allowed to voice them in print. His work can be exhausting to read, as he did not seem to know when to stop writing. The travel writer sells not only lovely prose and insights into a new land but also the lifestyle of the rootless and adventurous.

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Jessa Crispin. Burton was the first white European man to enter Mecca in disguise and report back.

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It is a risk, becoming Elizabeth Gilbert. I mean being an obnoxious white lady in brown places. Bird was a Victorian lady; one look at her portrait—tightly wound with hat, scarf, petticoats, corset, and scowl—and you know this is not a woman deeply in touch with her feelings.

From there, she goes to Bali and tries to rescue a poor Balinese woman by raising money to buy her a house, and then criticizes that same woman for not playing along. Bird was a product of her era and did not seem to possess an untimely wealth of perspective and compassion.

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But it also sequesters us. Many of these s show the inhabitants of exotic lands in need of a steady British hand or American Christianity to bring them into true humanity. That the market has not sustained their work may have more to do with our expectations as readers than with any faults of their writing. What she is doing is not strictly travel writing—it has more in common with memoir.

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In this genre, the focus of attention is the self, and the beautiful locale becomes the backdrop of the real action, which is interior psychodrama. She does not hold back, and she does not become the expert; she reports. Stark, who died in at a hundred years old, was more an heir to Burton than Bird, traveling into remote regions of Iran before any other westerner dared and working as a spy during World War II.

That compassion resists both the notion that the people you meet would be happier if they were more like you and the modern impulse to turn these people into daemons helping you on your journey toward enlightenment. Nor do we still need women to tell us it is fine to set up a life outside of marriage and family. These writers position themselves against the iconic travel writer who is, of course, male.

There is not much pleasure in reading either of them today. And when women are still burdened—by publishers, by men, by each other—with doing things as women rather than as people, it can be difficult to find a new maneuver.

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Chatwin finds his origins in the likes of Burton, the nineteenth-century British explorer and writer who was always getting into scrapes—starting African tribal conflicts, taking a spear through the face—but also wrote movingly on the emotional aspect of his travels. Traditional travel writing surely needed to be infiltrated and broken apart, its masculine tropes challenged.

She is primarily an observer. This absolves the writer of responsibility for her choices—where she goes, what she does there, or how she writes about it. Like Burton, she worked for the government, and both read as though filing reports for the home office. Yet his contemporary and fellow Briton Isabella Bird, who enjoyed great popularity in her time, does not. But the popular female travel narrative has overcorrected in a serious way; these writers are experts only on their own selves.

Another expedition saw him seeking out the source of the Nile. In contrast, Bird was simply writing to her sister with observations from the American West, Japan, and China. It should be what every travel writer does. Her subsequent work is bolder. Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Her books are in the process of being reissued by the publisher I. Tauris, and putting aside the great charm and energy they possess, one can still see why interest in her work might be growing.

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Every interaction is sculpted for its eventual presentation, and the aim of every presentation is to show how wonderful your life is. After all, they obey their gender codes: men go on adventures, women on journeys of self-discovery.

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The critique of Gilbert emerged after the publication of her massive bestseller Eat, Pray, Love She may travel to India, but she remains tucked away in an ashram, conversing almost exclusively with westerners, more interested in relaying the details of her recent breakup than noticing anything about her host country. It turns out the inhabitants of the far-off reaches have voices of their own. This travel writer not only goes off to see what he can see but also becomes a kind of expert witness who explains the natives to interested parties at home.

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That makes her more of an adorable feminist anachronism than an adventurer. Nineteenth-century travel writing carries a bad stink of colonialism; its tendency is to present the wilds of the earth as an entertainment and to focus on the madness of the uncivilized. After all, I am vaguely middle class, equally blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and come from a nation with imperialistic aims. Image: notnyt. To learn more about the program and our fellows.

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There is a strong intelligence at work, always trying to fit what she is seeing and experiencing into a historical and political context. Listening is less important when readers no longer rely on written s to transport them vicariously to places they would never have the opportunity to see for themselves. Maillart traveled because she was trying to understand something in herself; Stark traveled because she was trying to understand something in the world.

Not the international fame and money and showing up inexplicably and briefly on Project Runway All Stars. Her writing restores humanity to people who have otherwise been stripped down to news reports, reduced to death tolls and photos of open-mouthed weeping.

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But now she works more like Stark, in the listening mode. Almost every trip he took resulted in a multi-volume. But these books are not so much transgressive as regressive. The prolific Irish writer Dervla Murphy started her career off like Bird, posting easygoing narratives about the interesting things she saw while riding her bicycle to India.

She remembered to talk to women, not just men. The secret to her success was listening to the people she visited and letting them tell the story. Our gender can become a quick marketing hook, a way to move our work away from the towering male influence. Any travel writer who deviates from gender-defined roles risks being overlooked.

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Yet, when you establish your life and yourself as goals to aspire to, you take yourself out of the world. There are elegant, striking passages, but little about her emotional state. Stark was in the world with her writing, not above it like Bird, not in herself like Gilbert. From Sir Richard Francis Burton to Bruce Chatwin to Paul Theroux, the traveler is an essentially masculine force, driven by the need to conquer, to experience life at its extremes, but most of all to explain.

Instead there is great empathy as she talks to all sides, from the pacifists to the preachers who advocate violence, and she argues with each of them.

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So many of the writers, or the ideas of them, outshine their work. And even if you know the male travel writers were not the men their legends would have you believe, it can be difficult to negotiate a way around them. His passage explaining that he cries every time he departs on a journey, that he must hide his face whenever his ship leaves shore, is memorable.

The myth of the male travel writer looms large, eclipsing what we know: that women have always been travel writers and not necessarily like Gilbert. If your life is an aspiration, you are a beacon, not a human, and you talk rather than listen.

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But, as many have observed, the purpose of travel writing has changed as travel itself has changed and become more accessible. I wonder if it is a trade-off. On the other side of this dehumanization are compassion and the will to listen.

It gives a person the icks, and it unconsciously echoes so much literature written by missionaries, here on this island to save the savages if only they would allow it. We still look to men to tell us about what they do and to women to tell us how they feel. She is confident in her research, and she allows people to tell their stories. Indeed, there are no sweeping generalizations or proclamations as one would expect from a political work.

The story is built of action; feeling is a kind of decorative embroidery.