I heard an interview with the author on Living on Earth on NPR and it sounded interesting, and linking reading the Power of Maps and other things I’ve been thinking about when traveling.
From the interview:
GELLERMAN: It’s interesting on airplanes now, on the backs of the seat in front of you, you can see, you know, a map and you see yourself traveling virtually over this place. But, for all intents and purposes, you’re just in this hermetically sealed airplane.
SELF: Yes, and I think it’s a virtuality. I mean, everything about modern flight, which I’ve expatiated on elsewhere in that book, is in fact designed to make the experience boring and dull, it’s designed to virtualize it within a corporate environment. You know, there’s no reason why they couldn’t put much bigger windows in planes. There’s no reason why the stewards and stewardesses shouldn’t wear, you know Ride of the Valkyrie helmets and the captain shouldn’t shout over the P.A., ‘wheee!’ as you take off. You know, they don’t want you to be excited. They don’t want you to know where you are. And in a sense, nobody really wants to know where you are or wants you to know where you are. You know, people who travel for business especially, may go to many different cities in a year, and apart from a tiny little grid of streets around their hotel, they’ll have no real sense of orientation.
GELLERMAN: This line jumped at me, actually. I was surprised to read it. You write that ‘the place chooses you. It’s not so much that you choose a place.’
SELF: I’m not sure whether I mean that literally. But what I think I do mean is that – again, we live in a culture where place is sold to you. We’re kind of accessorized by place. People say ‘oh, I went to x,’ or ‘I went to y,’ or ‘the beaches are fabulous at z,’ or ‘they’ve got fantastic ethnic jewelry in p,’ and ‘why don’t you go to m?’ You know, they’re products. Places are products and travel magazines and travel journalism is by and large a catalog of these products that’s sold to us. And people acquire place as they might acquire any other object in that way, you know, their memory, their digital cameras, you know, they’re loaded up with these vignettes of place just as any collector might show you their Sevre pottery or their beer labels or whatever it is they collect. And I think that, you know, in order to have a profound relationship with place, again coming back to this idea of kind of knowing where you are, you have to look for those places that choose you in that way and say, ‘you know, you’re not going to be here for a day or so or a couple of days, you’re going to have an evolving, perhaps a lifetime relationship with me. I’m a place that you want to know about.’ And I think, you know, for all of us who, who think about, about the world, and who think about our place in it, that that’s true. That has a resonance. And when I look back over my own life, I mean – you know, a couple of the places that I’ve come to think of as kind of ‘my places’ over the years, I didn’t even like them when I went there. It wasn’t about liking. It wasn’t necessarily about having a good time. There was something more profound going on there.
Link to LOE interview.