Travel

Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon is an Australian woman’s account of her four years living and working in Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar. In 2012, Jessica Mudditt arrived there with her Bangladeshi husband; they were looking for adventure and a way to pay for the experience. This is Jessica’s story: how she found work with an English language newspaper, her experiences as a foreigner, her fractious relationships with expat colleagues, the struggle to find suitable accommodation, the shock of her summary dismissal, her money and visa problems, and her subsequent work with the British Embassy, before freelancing and working as foreign editor at the much-derided state-run newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar.

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The closest I have ever come to expiring from heat exhaustion was not during one of Melbourne’s oppressive summers. It was not in north-east Victoria as bushfire smoke choked the air and even the kangaroos abandoned the grasslands. The closest I have ever come was not even on the continent of Australia. It was on the number 26 bus as it crawled up the Rue des Pyrénées on a sweltering June day in Paris. 

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Where We Swim takes the broad view on each component of its title: the ‘where’, the ‘we’, the ‘swim’. Wellington-based author Ingrid Horrocks explains that her original idea – to record a series of solo swims – was transformed when she realised such deliberate solitary excursions were ‘bracketed moments held deep within lives’ and that their contrivance ‘felt too close to the act of an explorer, or an old-school nature writer’.

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For some of us, love for a work of literature brings with it a desire to learn about the work’s gestation. All the literary theory in the world can insist that a piece of writing is not a question to which the author holds the answer, but whenever a book or poem or essay catches our interest, we want to know more about the person behind it. 

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‘The tourist travels in his own atmosphere like a snail and stands, as it were, on his own perambulating doorstep to look at the continents of the world. But if you discard all this, and sally forth with a leisurely and blank mind, there is no knowing what may not happen to you.’ Thus, in 1928, British writer Freya Stark, an intrepid traveller, described the distinction between a traveller and a tourist. British historian Peter Furtado’s new anthology, Great Cities Through Travellers’ Eyes, is squarely aimed at the former. In it he collects the writings of a diverse group of writers about thirty-eight different cities, over a period dating from ancient times to the 1980s (more on that later). Some writers, such as Marco Polo, Hans Christian Anderson, and Simone de Beauvoir, are well known, others less so.

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At seventy-six, Paul Theroux drove from his home in Cape Cod to Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican road trip is his account of this adventure, at times misinformed, on occasions tedious, with moments of entertaining, well-researched discussions about the scintillating complexity of Mexico.

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Meredith McKinney, our pre-eminent translator of Japanese classics – among them Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book, the poetry of Saigyō Hōshi, the memoirs Essays in Idleness by Yoshida Kenkō, and Kamo no Chōmei’s Hōjōki (Record of the Ten Foot Square Hut) – has delivered another marvel of absorbing, elegant scholarship. Travels with a Writing Brush crosses the country of old Japan, from north to south and from east to west, and is a quintessential travel book. It goes to places, and shows them – except that the latter is not quite true; you would not go to this book to see things objectively so much as to cue to them imaginatively.

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Before his first Brazilian sojourn in 1936, Stefan Zweig – the Viennese author who enjoyed fame as the most widely translated writer in the world between the two world wars – deemed the South American country 'terra incognita in the cultural sense'. Once it had also been unknown in the geographical sense, this 'land that one should hardly call a country ...

The streets of New Orleans double as scented gardens for the blind. Round any corner in the Vieux Carré – known to most as the French Quarter – and experience the assault of sensory details. It might start with a spicy tang of boiling seafood, crawfish, or shrimp or crabs plucked from the amphibious Louisiana land. Maybe it's frying beignets or praline mixture ...

The traveller, as V.S. Naipaul describes that role in A Turn in the South (1989), 'is a man defining himself against a foreign background'. Over the past forty years, Paul Theroux has built his career writing books, nearly fifty novels and travelogues, to become an exemplar of that definition. He seeks always to go farther and deeper, often journeying, to b ...

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