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Five Tips For Making Travel Meaningful

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Five Tips For Making Travel Meaningful

Author Interviews

Five Tips For Making Travel Meaningful

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NEAL CONAN, Host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. As the summer travel season approaches, we look forward to time away, the lure of the open road and the delights of difference, but we can also get bogged down in finances and logistics, especially if there are children involved.

We have two writers with us today to remind us of the special pleasures of even short trips. Pico Iyer focuses on destinations in the "100 Journeys for the Spirit" - yes, cathedrals, temples and mosques, but breathtaking bays and unexplored wilderness, as well - while writer Paul Theroux focuses more on the journey in "The Tao of Travel," which excerpts great travel writers from Flaubert and Twain to Theroux.

Not everybody can spend weeks walking Spain's Camino de Santiago or climbing the monasteries of Lhasa, but there are ways to transform the ways you see the world, both at home and far afield.

G: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the consequences of Internet masquerades, as Gay Girl in Damascus and Les Get Real turn out to be middle-aged white guys. But first, let's hit the road. Pico Iyer's numerous books include "The Open Road," "The Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama" and "Falling Off the Map." He edited and contributed to "100 Journeys for the Spirit" and joins us from a studio in Santa Barbara. Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

PICO IYER: Nice to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And I wanted to start with a destination quite close to your home in Kyoto, the most famous rock garden in the world, and the description of it includes this line: It is the nature of places of the spirit to present questions more than answers.

IYER: Yes. And that's a description of Ryoan-ji, just down the road from me in Japan. And I suppose, you know, when I travel, I want to be moved and I want to be transported, and I want to be sent back a different person. So I do like places that present questions more than answers and that keep reverberating in me long after I've returned home.

CONAN: One of the questions it raises, it's an arrangement of 15 rocks - some say the 15 islands of Japan, others say no, no, no. It's something else entirely. And yet one of the mysteries of it is you cannot stand in any one place and see all 15.

IYER: Exactly. And I think that's the lure of anything in life, whether it's a beautiful stranger or a certain job or a destination, that there's some of it - something in it that is always elusive, that you can't get to, and that keeps bringing you back again and again and again.

And I think places are very much like people, and it's lovely to spend time with, you know, an attractive or glamorous person, but it's even better, I find, to be with a provocative person or an eccentric person or a mysterious person. And those are the people who get you - get into your system and get under your skin, and then you can't get them out of your head.

CONAN: And we'll leave you to decide which of those adjectives might apply to our next case - next guest, author Paul Theroux, who's been writing about travel for decades. His latest book is "The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from the Lives on the Road," and it draws on insights from his own adventures, from centuries of travel writers, including Pico Iyer. And Paul Theroux joins us now from member station WCAI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. And nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

PAUL THEROUX: It's lovely to be here, and I want to say hello to my friend, Pico. Pico, namastae.

IYER: Hi, Paul.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: You're both in each other's books. It's interesting.

THEROUX: That's the nature of travel, the convergence of people you meet on the road. Not only - Pico made a cameo appearance in my last book, which was "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star." So - and he's in this book, "The Tao of Travel," which is a book, an anthology, and Pico makes a significant appearance.

IYER: a book. I couldn't agree more. Leave your toothbrush home if you must, but don't lose - don't forget a book.

CONAN: Well, Pico Iyer, it's interesting, the contribution Paul Theroux makes to your book is a place you know very well, Lhasa.

IYER: Yes, absolutely, and one of the things that's so moving about Paul's essay on Lhasa is that I think the last thing he does is pray that he gets a chance to go back there and that good things will happen to Lhasa. So I share that prayer.

And one of the things that I enjoyed reading in Paul's recent book is that he ends with a statement from Camus, which is that what gives value to travel is fear, and that's the very same sentence that I began my last travel book with. So clearly, we're walking along the same road.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Paul Theroux, I wanted to ask you about a writer you admire greatly, another writer you admire greatly, Dervla Murphy, the Irish writer who traveled by bicycle through Asia, Africa and South America, starting in the 1960s. And, well, she sort of puts the - she will make us rethink our ideas of what appropriate forms of travel really are.

THEROUX: She's a very admirable woman, Irish woman. She's now around 80. I think Pico could correct, 79 or 80. Her first book was called "Full Tilt." She got on a bicycle in Dublin and then rode to India and then stayed in India. And she rode through Afghanistan, of course, through Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan.

And she's written many books since. And there's a chapter in my book, which is "Murphy's Rules of Travel," where she has 10 rules of just things that you might think of if you travel, and one of them is very unexpected, which is that she says: If you have a child with you, say you have a five-year-old child, take her along on your bike or have, you know, on her - on your back. Travel with your child.

If it's four or five or six years old, she says people are very hospitable. If you're in India, if you're in Africa and you have a five-year-old with you, you'll find that people welcome you, because they'll see that you're not a threat. You're traveling with your child.

Most people would say, leave the kid home and then, you know, when they're 18 take them with you - or 16, or something like that. She says the opposite. She's also a humble woman. She travels like a Mendicant monk most of the time. So, you know, I admire her a lot.

CONAN: I like her rule: Invest in the best available maps, and whatever you do, don't forget your compass.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

THEROUX: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And she also says: Forget the plane(ph). Get a pack animal. Make sure you get the right pack animal. She went across Ethiopia on a mule. This was in the '60s, early '60s, "Across Ethiopia by Mule" is the book, actually.

IYER: Was it difficult for a woman to travel across Ethiopia then. She said: I didn't go as a woman. I went as a man. She just dressed as a man and went. No one inquired. She thought, you know, I'm Irish. I can do this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We're talking with Paul Theroux and Pico Iyer about their new books, and we want to hear from you, about your most meaningful vacations and your most spiritual destinations. Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. We'll start with Joe. Joe's calling from San Francisco.

JOE: Hi. I took a one-week backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe, and after about a day and a half, our sleep cycle fell into a natural going to sleep when the sun went down and getting up when the sun came up. And our needs very quickly became simply just finding water and securing a place to sleep for the night and exploring the outdoors.

And it was a very restorative trip, simply being able to unplug from being an officer worker. And that was a very sacred experience for us, and it was a very new experience. It was a physical experience, as well as emotional.

CONAN: Have you gone back?

JOE: Unfortunately, it's been many years since I've been able to take a whole week off, all by myself, now that I have kids and a house and more of a job.

CONAN: Well, perhaps you'll take the Irish writer's advice and put them on the back of your bicycle.

JOE: It would be lovely.

CONAN: Okay, Joe. Thanks very much for the call. And Pico Iyer, as mentioned, yes there are an awful lot of monasteries and places like that in your book about "100 Journeys for the Spirit." I was particularly moved, I thought, by the description of a place called Morvern in Scotland. This is written by Alexander McCall Smith, who describes this as an almost unpopulated place of great loss.

IYER: Yes. And I love what Joe said, because I find that the more the world moves towards movement and acceleration and data, the more something in us cries out for silence and stillness and spaciousness. And so when I was listening to Joe in the Sierra Nevadas, I was remember how I've been to monasteries for 20 years just to get away from the cell phone and get away from the laptop. And it's amazing how liberating it is, and luxurious, in fact.

When I went into a monastery first, I heard the three principles there were poverty, chastity and obedience, and I felt that it was really about richness, sensuality and freedom. It was, you know, wonderfully nice to be away from distraction.

So, as you were saying, even in many parts of the world, I spent a lot of time in Big Sur, California, and as with Morvern, all you have to do is just leave the road signs and skyscrapers and golden arches behind, and suddenly something in you really opens up.

THEROUX: I agree with that. I mean, I think that what Joe is saying is - it's true. Joe is also describing an experience in travel which resembles being transported to the Neolithic. I mean, he was talking about just getting water, walking. He's like, you know, one of the earliest humans on Earth.

IYER: walking, looking for water, and just an experience of the simplicity and primitivism of life, which you can find in travel.

CONAN: Hunter-gatherers, though, don't make many - too many railroad engines and train trips.

THEROUX: Zerzan is against railways. That's true. But he says the hunter-gatherers are - you know, they're people who live at peace in their surroundings. I think that, in travel, you can find that. You might find a place that you truly love for that reason. Pico might find it in a monastery. I might find it on a train, or perhaps in a part of the world where you see this is how people once lived, and it's the best way to live.

When I joined the Peace Corps, I went to Malawi, and I found that I loved living in Malawi because I lived in a village, and there were mud huts, and people were learning English, and they were all studying, but it was simple. Everything was something that I could understand. Since then, it's sort of regressed to modernism in a way that it's harder to understand.

CONAN: I wanted to read this excerpt from Alexander McCall Smith's piece of Morvern in Pico Iyer's book: Movern, then, is a place of loss, a place where a whole culture becomes fragile and stumbled, perhaps fatally. In this part of Scotland, one comes across houses long since tumbled into ruin, sheep enclosures lovingly built of stone now mere mounds in the earth, places where boats were kept, fish smoked and cured, paths where barefoot children walked long miles to tiny schools.

JOE: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road."

TALK OF THE NATION: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. There are adventure vacations and beach vacations, luxury villas and sleeping bags under the stars. No matter your preference, we're talking today about how to become a traveler rather than a tourist, how to make your vacations meaningful.

So what was your most meaningful vacation, your most spiritual destination? Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We've gathered a who's who of travel writers - Pico Iyer, who's written several books about travel, transnational identity and spirituality. For his latest, he edited a collection called "100 Journeys for the Spirit."

CONAN: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road." And we've also posted an excerpt from that book. Read more about the importance in history of the travel narrative. Again, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's see if we can get Lindsey(ph) on the line, Lindsey with us from Stony Brook in New York.

LINDSEY: Hi. Can you hear me?

CONAN: You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

LINDSEY: Yeah, when I was in college, I had this amazing opportunity to travel to the monastic community of Taize in France. It was subsidized by the Lilly Foundation, and so as a 20-year-old, I only had to pay I think it was $200 for the whole thing.

And basically what we did is we lived with the monks for a week and experienced the monastic lifestyle, going to church, you know, six times a day and eating with them and spending periods in silence, and it was just definitely something that I've thought about a lot even 10 years later.

And one of the really distinctive things about Taize is the music, and I think maybe some of the listeners have perhaps experienced it in their church. It's very simple songs that are repeated many times. And any time I hear the Taize music, I'm immediately brought right back to that trip in college.

CONAN: And have you made other trips since college?

LINDSEY: Back to the same place?

CONAN: Yeah, or other similar places?

LINDSEY: Yeah, I've actually been back once. I brought my parents, which is unusual, and usually it's just young adults that go to Taize. But I brought my parents there for Easter, and that was just really neat to share that with them.

CONAN: That's interesting, to make it a family experience.

LINDSEY: Yes.

CONAN: And how did they enjoy it? Did they enjoy it as much as you did?

LINDSEY: They did. I was lucky enough, I didn't have to sleep in a tent since I was there with real grownups. They make the young people sleep in tents.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LINDSEY: We got a nice little cell, you know, a little monastic cell instead. It was kind of cold. So I was glad of that.

CONAN: You sound like a real grownup to me, Lindsey.

LINDSEY: I am now. I wasn't then.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

LINDSEY: Sure, thank you.

CONAN: And Pico Iyer, Paul Theroux, you've both spent time in monasteries.

THEROUX: Yes, I have. Sorry...

IYER: No, go ahead, Paul.

THEROUX: No, I was going to say my monastery experience was actually in Tibet, in Lhasa, and then on the way (unintelligible) in driving from Chinghai up to Lhasa was a four-day trip. I stayed in monasteries on the way. But I was going to say that what Lindsey says is - her monastic experience is interesting.

It seems like a vacation, though, to me. It doesn't seem like travel. It seems more in the area of dilettantism, of you go, you sample it, and you go away. And you have - it's a good experience, but my notion of travel is slightly more harrowing than that, and I think of it as something that, well, is meaningful in retrospect, that you have a spiritual experience which isn't spiritual at the time necessarily, but you're tested by it the way monks are tested.

A monk is not just singing, getting up and praying and having a frugal meal. They spend years, decades, you know, many years, scores of years, living humbly. It's not just a holiday of a week. And I would say that's the distinction between having a holiday in a monastery and actually being a monk.

CONAN: Let's see if we go...

IYER: I mean, I think what I was going to say, it follows on from that very much, which is that the destination is much less important than the spirit with which you approach it. And one thing I liked about Paul's book is that he has a lot of Thoreau in it, who famously said it doesn't matter how far you go - the furthest commonly the worst. All that matters is how alive you are.

And I like what Paul was saying about being harrowed, though I must say I've been to my monastery 50 times now, and I often do feel harrowed there, even though I'm not a monk. You know, sometimes you're sitting in this very simple place, the electricity has gone out, you're alone on a hillside, the storm is blowing all around you, and you're pushed back to some very essential, almost primal kind of fear or isolation that is, as Paul was saying, part of the beauty of the experience.

I've been spending a lot of time in Jerusalem recently, and that really bears out the difference between a charismatic place and a pleasant place, because I would never call Jerusalem beautiful or comfortable or consoling, but there's something about it that you can't turn away from.

THEROUX: Yeah, I would also say that in one of my, say, 50 favorite travel books, which I quote in "The Tao of Travel," is "Tristes Tropiques" by Claude Levi-Strauss. There's a chapter in that, I think it's chapter six or seven, early in the book, where he - the whole chapter is a seven-and-a-half or eight-page description of a sunset. He just describes a sunset.

He said if I can't describe this sunset, every detail of this sunset, then I won't be able to describe the people that I'm going to be traveling among. So he's an anthropologist. He says as a trained anthropologist, I'm going to describe a sunset.

Well, anyone can - you can stay home. Henry David Theroux stayed in Concord and described sunsets. But it's an intensely spiritual experience, this eight-page description of a sunset in "Tristes Tropiques," and I would say that that - he hasn't - he's on a ship approaching the coast of Brazil when he sees it, and he describes it, as I say, in every detail. That to me is an intensely spiritual experience.

CONAN: For me, writes Stuart(ph) in Minneapolis by email: For me the South Pole. I've stood there four times. I'd go again in an instant, otherworldly, transcendent and numinous, universal. When you're there, you know great clarity and feel a profound sense of being out in the firmament.

IYER: One November day I chased rainbows in southwest Ireland, and I have never since felt such exhilaration. It felt both familiar and strange at the same time because I kept getting lost but then found my way to where I needed to go, no map. The light was more beautiful there than anywhere I've been before or since.

And speaking of light, Clayton(ph) in San Francisco emails: Going far north to see the Aurora Borealis has been my most spiritual and meaningful trip. There is something awe-inspiring to see the threads and sheets of colored light dancing across the sky. And Pico Iyer, the Aurora Borealis as seen from Norway is mentioned in your book as well.

IYER: That's right. it's one of the 100 sights. And one thing that makes me very excited listening to those emails is that I sometimes find myself a bit of an evangelist for travel here in California because I still feel that ours is the only developed country in the world that's not full of travelers, that as Paul knows, whenever you take yourself to some magical space, you meet lots of Canadians and Australians and Koreans and nowadays Chinese and Indians, but the one people you tend not to see are Americans.

So I'm so glad that we have a lot of Americans on this show who are taking the time and trouble to seek out these transporting places across the planet.

CONAN: Let's go to Steve(ph), Steve with us from Las Vegas.

STEVE: Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

STEVE: Hey, yes, I just want to communicate something that happened to me in Costa Rica. It kind of started out bad. I was going to - from the main city to see a volcano and had my bag stolen being careless. And I ended up in a small town on the edge of San Jose.

And as I was checking in, I heard music. So I go to the little town square, and the town band is playing, and people were kind of promenading around. Anyway, after the concert - I used to play French horn, so I got together with the French horn player and a couple of musicians, and we had a few drinks and talked, and they missed their bus home.

IYER: What the heck is this?

IYER: Well, this is how we propose here. The groom hires a band, and they go to the house and serenade them before he asked her to marry him. It was just magical. It was so out of the ordinary. And of course it never would have happened if I hadn't gotten my bag stolen and ended up in a town I didn't plan to go to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, Steve, it sounds like a wonderful experience, and...

STEVE: It was. It was just magical, out of the middle of midnight, driving the guy home, and there's a full mariachi band serenading somebody in front of their house.

CONAN: Did you ever find your bag, and did you ever get to the volcano?

STEVE: No, no, no, it was gone. It was (unintelligible). But it was a wonderful trip. I got to the Arenal Volcano, and it erupted so violently that I actually had to leave.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, okay.

STEVE: It was a wonderful experience.

CONAN: It sounds like a fun trip, Steve. Thanks very much for the phone call.

STEVE: It was, thank you.

CONAN: And Paul Theroux, you, as in many of your books, in this one cite many examples of keeping your eyes and ears open and taking the advantage of meeting people you wouldn't ordinarily meet.

THEROUX: Yes, that's true. Actually, Steve mentioned Costa Rica, and it was - I was on a train in Costa Rica going from San Jose to Limon in 1978, and I was looking out the window of the train as the beach went by, and I was thinking: Wouldn't it be a great idea for a story, a story of castaways, just of someone landing up on this beach, which is contiguous with, you know, the whole of the Gulf of Mexico, going up to the - someone could leave Massachusetts and get here.

IYER: What's that called down there? He said, oh, this all the Mosquito Coast. And I thought, there's a (unintelligible)...

CONAN: That's got a ring to it.

Yeah. Yes. Yeah. So I said, the Mosquito Coast? He said, yeah, the whole thing up Nicaragua and the Honduras and all - and I went back with the idea for this novel. So it - that's something you travel can stimulate the imagination and you can often come back not only with a travel book, but with an idea for a novel, which has happened to me a few times.

Let's go next to Louise(ph) , Louise with us from Oakland.

LOUISE: Hi. I just got back from biking through Palestine and that was a profoundly change-your-life experience in both spiritual - and spiritually challenging and physically challenging. I forgot that it was a bank and therefore would be giant hills. And so I did pretty poorly on the hills after eight hours. But as an American Jew, I was so accepted. I was so welcomed. And people had a lot of fear going in and there was some violence around the time I was there, of course. And, you know, it was really interesting to just trust that I had something to find out and I found the most incredibly gracious welcoming people.

CONAN: Do you speak the language?

LOUISE: No. I don't speak Arabic. Most people spoke some amount of English. And certainly, the speaking of riding a bike really helped. Every time we stopped - there were five of us - every time we stopped, all the kids would come out and people would send food down from the villages. And, you know, I was shocked about some of the, you know, the occupation is so present and that really affected us as bikers. But I don't think - I think the language was that we had come and they were just so grateful that there were tourists there. And there weren't other - there was one another American in the group, but the others were Europeans.

CONAN: I just wanted to go back to where we started with Paul Theroux and Dervla Murphy, the Irish writer, he writes "Murphy's Rules." Don't be inhibited by the language barrier. Although ignorance of the local language thwarts exchanges of ideas, it's unimportant on a practical level. I've wandered around four continents using only English and a few courtesy phrases of Tibetan, Amharic, Quechua, Albania or - Albanian or whatever. Our basic needs: sleeping, eating, drinking can always be indicated by signs or globally understood noises.

I thought that was pretty interesting. Louise, thanks very much for the phone call. We're talking with Paul Theroux, author of numerous travel books and novels, including the "Mosquito Coast." And also, Pico Iyer, a writer and journalist and his book - most recent book is the "100 Journeys for the Spirit." And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can go next to - this is Michael(ph) , Michael with us from Spearfish in South Dakota.

MICHAEL: Hello.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air, Michael. Go ahead, please.

MICHAEL: Great. Well, I (unintelligible) from college last winter. I went - in the spring, I went down to Guatemala to work for a nonprofit organization down there called (foreign language spoken) . And so, you know, I got there, got my bags in, moved in with my cute, little Guatemalan host family. And then, not two had passed when the hurricane hit. So all of the sudden, I am, you know, in a place - devastation like I've never seen. You know, there's mud 10 to 15 feet high, you know, between the roads. There's rocks the sizes of cars that we're taking out of people's homes. And I have just never seen such devastation.

CONAN: And...

MICHAEL: And yet the people were so resilient and they were joking around, I mean, people who had lost absolutely everything, you know, people who didn't trust banks and had all their money in their homes.

CONAN: And...

MICHAEL: And they somehow had a good, you know, they somehow managed to have a really positive attitude. And at that time, I was really, sort of, feeling sorry for myself and it really, really put things in perspective.

CONAN: I was going to ask if that totally changed things from being one kind of an experience to completely another.

MICHAEL: Yeah. It's interesting. Because I got - went down there I thought I'd do this sweet little thing, you know, helping out, you know, kids and schools and doing a lot of, you know, sort of, you know, distributing food and things like that. But, I mean, you know, I got thrown into that all of the sudden. I've never been as depressed as I was the first day, but, you know, within a few days of doing that every day, I was just amazed at how resilient the people were, how hard they were willing to work to, you know, kind of take their lives back.

And the fact that they were able to - you know, I did see one man with the saddest eyes I've ever seen looking out of his house that was completely filled with mud, you know, right after they dragged the body of his, you know, granddaughter out of there.

CONAN: Hmm, that's terrible.

MICHAEL: And - but I - as I said, sort of lost a little perspective. And I was starting to think my small problems were really large and it was just - the Guatemalan people are truly amazing. And, you know, I spoke Spanish pretty well, so I really got to get in touch with them and sort of - yeah, it was a pretty - it was a harrowing and really the most eye-opening experience in my life. One more thing, isn't it tao? I've heard you and your guest saying tao. Is it not tao? Am I wrong on that?

IYER: It's both. It's both.

CONAN: All right.

THEROUX: Yeah. Both are accepted. By the way, can I comment on that? I was going to say, the earlier caller, Louise, was biking in Palestine and Michael in Guatemala enduring, obviously, a natural disaster. Both prove how important it is to travel just to see things that you won't find if you Google it. If you look at Google or (unintelligible), you know, sit home with your computer looking at a blog. You go and you verify and you actually experience and you see how the things that people actually face.

Obviously, everyone in the States has an opinion of Palestine. To go there, you would see what is actually happening. And suddenly, the experience of it can help change you and give you a perspective that you wouldn't ordinarily have had. I often think that if Dick Cheney had joined the Peace Corps - well, I'm his exactly his age - if he joined the Peace Corps with me and been with us in Africa, he would not have had the opinions that he had by just staying inside the Beltway in Washington, but he would have been so enriched by that - we - and enriched, informed and enlightened, and that the world is slightly different when people look around and see how other people live, and particularly in places like Palestine, Africa and Guatemala.

CONAN: We just have a few seconds left. Paul Theroux, where do you plan to go next?

THEROUX: Where I'd like to go. I'd like - I have a dream of going back to Africa and just - I would like to go to Angola, actually, Namibia, Angola, the Congo. I would like to see West Africa. I don't know when it'll be, but it's - you know, the idea of having a travel in your future is like having a book that you haven't read by an author that you love, so.

CONAN: Pico Iyer, where's your next trip?

IYER: I'm on my way to St. Petersburg and Estonia and a whole cluster of places I've never been to before. And I find the world is inexhaustible. So as fast as I go to places I've long wanted to see, new places open up that now I start plotting to see.

CONAN: Pico Iyer's book is "100 Journeys for the Spirit." And Paul Theroux's new book is "The Tao of Travel." They joined us Paul Theroux from WCAI, our member station in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Pico Iyer from a studio in Santa Barbara, California. Thank you both very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

THEROUX: Thank you, Neal.

IYER: Thank you.

CONAN: And when we come back, we're going to be talking with Brian Spears about, well, misrepresenting yourself on the Web, in this case, as a lesbian. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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