Travelogues tracing historic routes
December 20, 2007 4:52 PM   Subscribe

What are some good modern travelogues where the author is retracing a historic route? Especially ones where the original traveler wrote an account that the author weaves into the narrative.
posted by rasputin400 to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
There's this book where a journalist retraces the journey taken by Che Guevara in "The Motorcycle Diaries".
posted by champthom at 4:57 PM on December 20, 2007

Peter Hopkirk's "Quest For Kim" follows the trail of the fictional protagonist of Rudyard Kipling's "Kim". Excellent. The route is the Grand Trunk Road in modern-day Pakistan and India.

Also Amitav Ghosh's "In An Antique Land", his account of living in the Nile Delta as a Ph.D.-candidate Indian-at-LSE juxtaposed with the stories of a Jewish trader and his Indian slave living and travelling in 900BC.
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 5:10 PM on December 20, 2007

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart.

Stewart walked across Afghanistan in 2002, following the route of the 15th-century emperor Babur. If I remember correctly, there is text from the account of Babur's journey at the beginning of each section or chapter.
posted by nobodyyouknow at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2007

Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods follows the Appalachian Trail. It's more of a memoir than a travelogue, but he drops some history on the towns through which he passes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2007

... If you aren't familiar with "Kim", it's set in the late 1800s, in British India. Kim is an orphan, raised in the streets of Lahore, a polymath. Is taken on as a chola (assistant/helper/mentee) of an itinerant Buddhist monk seeking enlightenment. Walks the Grand Trunk Road to Ambala. Finds his father's old regiment in the army. They send him to school in Lucknow for several years, he spends his summers in Shimla, after graduation he rejoins his monk. It is the legendary Kipling at his finest elbow-shine of the Empire, height of his powers, etc. Kipling built more of the "history"/lore of British India through his writing than any real account of the period, and in some ways Kim and his other works are all the more real for having been the skilled composites of desires and feelings moreso than realities on the ground in this period. Peter Hopkirk retraces Kim's steps in present day Pakistan and India. Having lived this route I was thrilled to find this book (after getting over the avalanche of disappointment that he'd stolen my idea in the first place).
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2007

"From the Holy Mountain" and "City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi" by William Dalrymple
posted by cwhitfcd at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2007

In "Blue Latitudes", Tony Horwitz travels around the world to the locations visited by Captain Cook (sometimes on a replica of the Endeavour), reading and recounting Cook's journals along the way. I highly recommend.
posted by barnacles at 5:29 PM on December 20, 2007

Travels with a Tangerine
posted by miss lynnster at 5:29 PM on December 20, 2007

Sarah Vowell followed the Trail of Tears in this This American Life episode episode. I think it's in essay form, too.

Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days, if the original travelogue being fictional is okay.
posted by lemuria at 5:51 PM on December 20, 2007

Alan Booth's Looking for the Lost is exquisite.
posted by chihiro at 5:56 PM on December 20, 2007

Looking for the Lost
posted by chihiro at 6:01 PM on December 20, 2007

Out West: A Journey Through Lewis & Clark's America by Dayton Duncan. Excellent.
posted by 14580 at 6:11 PM on December 20, 2007

There was a great set of articles in the Atlantic monthly about two years ago where a French author revisited Toquville's trip in America in search of meaning about the American physche. No time to research this right now, but you can fill in the missing information with google.
posted by sleslie at 6:14 PM on December 20, 2007

Sleslie is referring to the book American Vertigo by Bernard-Henri Levy, which must have also been excerpted/featured in the Atlantic.
posted by cushie at 6:30 PM on December 20, 2007

In Arrow of the Blue Skinned God a journalist follows the path of the characters of the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic, through the Indian subcontinent. It recounts the story of the epic and ties it in with the modern Indian cultural and political scene.
posted by bookish at 6:33 PM on December 20, 2007

From The Holy Mountain is along these lines.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:35 PM on December 20, 2007

Second the Amitav Ghosh book.
posted by mattbucher at 7:49 PM on December 20, 2007

Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban is his travelogue of sailing from Seattle to Juneau via the Inside Passage; a good part of the journey retraces the path of Capt Vancouver's expedition to map the route. If memory serves, there were some excerpts from Vancouver's log describing the sights and efforts and impressions of the native people they interacted with.
posted by tentacle at 8:21 PM on December 20, 2007

Walking the Bible was a fascinating travelogue through the Middle East and Israel, offering up some really amazing secular insight into the stories in the bible. For instance, there's a natural salt formation that the locals call Lot's Wife, and there's a whole, wonderful history about how the formations came to be, and the history of the region, so you could see the parables being formed. I really enjoyed it.
posted by headspace at 9:21 PM on December 20, 2007

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
posted by HotPatatta at 9:48 PM on December 20, 2007

nthing From the Holy Mountain, a book that I've bought four times and lent forever/given away three times. In Xanadu is worth reading, too: Dalrymple made the trip from Jerusalem to Shengdu, following Marco Polo's route, when he was in his early twenties.
posted by holgate at 11:27 PM on December 20, 2007

Also, Tales of a Summer Henro is about a foreign pilgrim following Kobo Daishi's route through Japan. I can't remember if I really liked it or not (I think I did), but it answers your description.
posted by chihiro at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2007

Response by poster: Adding an answer of my own, there is Shadow of the Silk Road, an extensive travelogue by Colin Thubron, running from Xian to Antioch.
posted by rasputin400 at 7:25 AM on December 21, 2007

Michael Palin also wrote a book/filmed a TV series tracing the travels of Ernest Hemingway during his life and career. I've seen a couple episodes of the series, and I recall him referring directly to Hemingway's personal accounts, as well as some parallels in his fictional works.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:55 AM on December 21, 2007

The Five Foot Road by Angus MacDonald.

Traces the Silk Road through China using using a previous travelogue as a guide. Includes old photos and comparisons from the original publication. Not a bad guide/commentary, quite short, and a quick easy read.
posted by elendil71 at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2007

Tony Perrottet's Route 66 A.D. traces the routes of the ancient Roman tourists to Greece and back--very conversational and charming voice, lots of quotes from the original travelers, and his own travails while following their paths are hilarious. Definitely a good read.
posted by eve harrington at 4:17 PM on December 21, 2007

Speaking of Lewis and Clark, there's also Westward Whoa by W.Hodding Carter.
posted by Rash at 5:13 PM on December 21, 2007

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