Tim Cahill writes in his introduction to The Best American Travel Writing 2006, “‘Story’ is the essence of the travel essay. Stories are the way we organize the chaos in our lives, orchestrate voluminous factual material, and — if we are very good — shed some light on the human condition.” Here are twenty-six pieces that showcase the best travel writing from 2005, filled with “keen observations that transform ordinary journeys into extraordinary ones” (Library Journal).
Mark Jenkins journeys into a forgotten valley in Afghanistan, Kevin Fedarko takes a wild ride through the rapids of the Grand Canyon, and Christopher Solomon reports on the newest fad to hit South Korea: downhill skiing. For David Sedaris, a seemingly routine domestic flight is cause for a witty rumination on modern airline travel. Alain de Botton describes the discreet charms of Zurich, and Ian Frazier recalls leaving the small Midwestern town he called home. Michael Paterniti gives a touching portrait of the world’s tallest man — eight and a half feet and growing, while P.J. O’Rourke visits an airplane manufacturer to see firsthand how the French make the world’s biggest passenger plane. George Saunders is dazzled by a trip to the “Vegas of the Middle East,” Rolf Potts takes on tantric yoga for dilettantes, and Sean Flynn documents a seedier side of travel — the newest hotspot in the international sex trade.
Culled from a wide variety of publications, these stories, as Cahill writes, all “touched me in one way or another, changed an attitude, made me laugh aloud, or provided fuel for my dreams. I wish the reader similar joys.”