Summer technically doesn’t start until June 20, but with school ending and weather warming all over the country, we’re ready to dive into some summer reads. Here are three great pieces of travel journalism that caught our attention this week.
Good satire is an art form, and Joe Veix has a winner in his recent essay for The New Yorker about quitting a job to travel the world. Veix firmly plants his tongue in his cheek as he tells the story of a trust-funder who travels the world, Instagrams scoops of gelato, and makes lifelong friends with everyone (or at least everyone who speaks English). The piece serves a hot dish of snarky commentary on the travelers Veix refers to as “wandersluts” who embrace what they perceive to be a “No Reservations” lifestyle. Do the people skewered in this caricature exist? Undeniably, yes. Thankfully, however, there are still plenty of authentic voices out there too.
Wendell Jamieson’s New York Times feature about searching for a 19th-century landscape artist’s version of Japan is a masterpiece of an entirely different nature. In the article, the author describes a journey to find the scenery that inspired Hiroshige, a renowned Japanese painter. Jamieson’s pilgrimage (made with help from an outfitter that arranges self-guided hiking tours) followed the Kumano Kodo, a series of trails along the Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka. Jamieson describes shrines, towns, scenery, wildlife, and people. Ultimately, in addition to being changed by the landscape, he ends up transformed by the other humans he meets along the way; it’s a wonderful commentary about the magic of travel.
Details reign supreme in Kelly Phillips Badal’s recent feature for BBC Travel about a place that Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has dubbed “Asia’s cleanest village.” As the author explains, in the Mawlynnong village everyone—from toddlers to elders—tidies up constantly. And at a time when India has launched a national effort to clean up garbage in cities across the country, this is a big deal. Badal’s story paints an enthralling portrait of the place and reminds us that pride in a community can make a destination special, no matter how small or remote it is.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.