Reclaiming Travel

Reclaiming Travel

Book Pages: 168 Illustrations: Published: April 2015

Cultural Studies, General Interest > Travel, Latin American Studies

Based on a controversial opinion piece originally published in the New York Times, Reclaiming Travel is a provocative meditation on the meaning of travel from ancient times to the twenty-first century. Ilan Stavans and Joshua Ellison seek to understand why we travel and what has come to be missing from our contemporary understanding of travel. Engaging with canonical and contemporary texts, they explore the differences between travel and tourism, the relationship between travel and memory, the genre of travel writing, and the power of mapmaking, Stavans and Ellison call for a rethinking of the art of travel, which they define as a transformative quest that gives us deeper access to ourselves.

Tourism, Stavans and Ellison argue, is inauthentic, choreographed, sterile, shallow, and rooted in colonialism. They critique theme parks and kitsch tourism, such as the shantytown hotels in South Africa where guests stay in shacks made of corrugated metal and cardboard yet have plenty of food, water and space. Tourists, they assert, are merely content with escapism, thrill seeking, or obsessively snapping photographs. Resisting simple moralizing, the authors also remind us that people don’t divide neatly into crude categories like travelers and tourists. They provoke us to reflect on the opportunities and perils in our own habits.

In this powerful manifesto, Stavans and Ellison argue that travel should be an art through which our restlessness finds expression—a search for meaning not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. It is not about the destination; rather, travel is about loss, disorientation, and discovering our place in the universe.


“Skewering Disneyfied shantytown experiences in South Africa and cruise ships docking in hurricane-ravaged Haiti, Stavans and Ellison argue that tourism is a way to escape oneself while remaining oblivious to the surrounding world. Travel is, or should be, they say, a way to find one's truest self by navigating the challenges of the unknown. A thoughtful examination of how we got here but an incomplete reclamation of a grander vision of travel, this title is a gently academic introduction to the topic for a general audience.”  — Emilia Packard, Library Journal

“The best thing about this smart book, which does a fantastic job of pointing out that the historical precedents established by travelers years ago have carried forward into the present age; that the seeing the world through the lens of a camera is a problematic issue; that cultures that overvalue long work weeks have a tendency to turn leisure time abroad into time to continue working, just in different countries.” — Lorraine Berry, Card Catalogue blog

Reclaiming Travel emphasizes the fantasy and reality of travel over the centuries. Readers can explore the allure of travel, and discover why many of us are always packing a bag, eager to go somewhere, anywhere, several times a year for the pleasure of being away from home. . . . Bouncing freely from modern travel issues and fascinating historical comparisons, Reclaiming Travel offers a look at international literature by some of the best known writers.” — Helen Gallagher, Blogcritics

Reclaiming Travel is not so much a guidebook on how to take a vacation or go on holiday, but rather an intellectual journey about what we may have lost and why we would benefit from searching for different ways of relating to work and leisure. By reflecting on what travel has meant from ancient times to the 21st century, Stavans and Ellison offer encouragement (“an invitation to take risks”) to explore and channel our own innate restlessness and curiosity.” — Linda Straube, Book Talk . . . A Conversation

“In Reclaiming Travel, rather than draw on personal adventures to share their ideas, Stavans and Ellison offer stories from literature, including Homer's Odyssey and Jamaica Kincaid's Small Island. This helps make their book accessible to any audience because, while it's difficult to experience another person's vacation, these clear, well-written narratives resonate.” — Justus Joseph, Shelf Awareness

"Throughout Reclaiming Travel, the authors deftly make connections between present-day mass mobility and subjects as diverse as self-transformation, map use, globalization, work, photography, and (in)authenticity....  Stavans and Ellison also explore unanticipated relationships such as those that connect travel and tourism with exile and nationalism.... In Reclaiming Travel, Stavans and Ellison offer a provocative and far-reaching exploration of mobility."
  — Adam Weaver, American Quarterly

"[A] highly original reflection on travel, ism and the making of meaning the twenty-first century." — Jim Butcher, Tourism Planning & Development

"One of Reclaiming Travel's unique contributions is that it becomes a guide for how to think about the way we write about the experience of traveling. The erudition in this text is sweeping and incredibly impressive. The wide range of authors Ilan Stavans and Joshua Ellison comment on include Freud, Spinoza, Said, Camus, and Neruda. They enter into the cosmological world of Santería, of the Kabbalists, and of classical Greek mythology. Stavans and Ellison's ability to express their passionate curiosity about our humanity in all its wonder and indecency makes for a very provocative read. The idea of reclaiming travel is fascinating, and Stavans and Ellison make a persuasive case for the need to meditate deeply on what travel means in the twenty-first century."
— Ruth Behar, author of Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in Between Journeys

"This is a travelogue through our planetary time and space that enlarges our sense of who we have been, who we are, and what we might become. I savored every page, fearing its end. Reclaiming Travel will prove a journey unlike any other. Extraordinary!" — Frederick Luis Aldama, author of Analyzing World Fiction: New Horizons in Narrative Theory

"Reclaiming Travel is itself a most marvelous journey, and far more than a search for how best to travel.  It is a search for how best to recover true wonder." — Gish Jen, author of Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. A Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author, editor and translator of numerous books, including Thirteen Ways of Looking at Latino Art and Mutual Impressions: Writers of the Americas Reading One Another, both also published by Duke University Press. Stavans' television series for PBS, Conversations with Ilan Stavans, was nominated for three Emmy awards, and his writing has appeared in, and his writing has appeared in publications including the Washington Post, Newsweek, the Village Voice, the Nation, Salon, and the New York Times.

Joshua Ellison is Executive Editor of Restless Books and the founding editor of Habitus, a journal of international Jewish literature. His work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Restlessness  1

Part I. Why We Travel

1. The Motion of Myth  9

2. Inward Voyage  23

3. The Endless Atlas  37

4. The Cosmos and the City  57

Part II. How We Travel

5. The Serious Business of Leisure  77

6. Transported  91

7. Traveling Outside the Frame  109

8. The Industry of Fake Experience  121

Epilogue. Home is Where  139

Acknowledgments  147

Index  149
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5869-5
Publicity material