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Authors: Don George

Tags: #Travel

The Way of Wanderlust


“These stories made me fall in love with the world again.”

—Isabel Allende, author of
The House of the Spirits
Eva Luna
, and
Maya's Notebook

“Don George is a legendary travel writer and editor.”

—National Geographic's Intelligent Travel

“What shines with crystal clarity through all of these wise and wonderful essays is Don George's irrepressible generosity of spirit. He loves the world he finds, and the world loves him back in equal measure. Those of us lucky enough to know him have long recognized Don as a seriously life-enhancing kind of fellow: this marvelous collection serves amply to reinforce the notion. And no: no favors were sought or offered for this message. Not a one.”

—Simon Winchester, author of
The Map That Changed the World,

“If you meet Don George on the page or in the flesh, you quickly see that he's always tilted toward the sun, as a perpetual singer of yes to life, to fun, to innocence, to vulnerability, and to surrender. All his writing, and much of his being, seems to be about rendering oneself open, daring to listen, and putting forward one's best and most hopeful side, in the conviction that it will be answered in kind.”

—Pico Iyer, author of
The Lady and the Monk
Video Night in Kathmandu
, and
The Art of Stillness

“Don George, the acclaimed and award-winning editor of ten anthologies of travel stories, has finally produced a collection of his own and it's everything you'd expect from a Don George project: passionate, insightful, and humorous. What can I say? The brilliant editor is a brilliant writer.”

—Tim Cahill, author of
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh
Pass the Butterworms
, and
Hold the Enlightenment

“Don George is an inveterate adventurer and master storyteller, with the biggest, most generous heart on the open road.”

—Andrew McCarthy, actor, director,
and author of
The Longest Way Home

“Don George describes himself as a ‘travel evangelist' but he is much more than that. Yes, he loves to talk about the life-changing possibilities of travel, but he is also a bestselling author, regarded by many as the preeminent travel writer of his generation.”

—Christopher Elliott, consumer advocate,
journalist, and author of

' T

Country and Regional Guides

30 Days in Italy, 30 Days in the South Pacific, America, Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, Central America, China, Cuba, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Spain, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey; Alaska, American Southwest, Grand Canyon, Hawai'i, Hong Kong, Middle East, Paris, Prague, Provence, San Francisco, South Pacific, Tuscany

Women's Travel

100 Places Every Woman Should Go, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, 100 Places in Greece Every Woman Should Go, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go, 50 Places in Rome, Florence, & Venice Every Woman Should Go, Best Women's Travel Writing, Family Travel, Gutsy Mamas, Gutsy Women, Mother's World, Safety and Security for Women Who Travel, Wild with Child, Woman's Asia, Woman's Europe, Woman's Passion for Travel, Woman's Path, Woman's World, Woman's World Again, Women in the Wild

Body & Soul

Adventure of Food, Food, How to Eat Around the World, Love & Romance, Mile in Her Boots, Pilgrimage, Road Within, Spiritual Gifts of Travel, Stories to Live By, Ultimate Journey

Special Interest

365 Travel, Adventures in Wine, Danger!, Fearless Shopper, Gift of Birds, Gift of Rivers, Gift of Travel, Guidebook Experiment, How to Shit Around the World, Hyenas Laughed at Me, It's a Dog's World, Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana, Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, More Sand in My Bra, Mousejunkies!, Not So Funny When It Happened, Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel, Sand in My Bra, Soul of Place, Testosterone Planet, There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled, Thong Also Rises, What Color is your Jockstrap?, Whose Panties Are These?, World is a Kitchen, Writing Away

Travel Literature

The Best Travel Writing, Deer Hunting in Paris, Ghost Dance in Berlin, Shopping for Buddhas, Kin to the Wind, Coast to Coast, Fire Never Dies, Kite Strings of the Southern Cross, Last Trout in Venice, One Year Off, Rivers Ran East, Royal Road to Romance, A Sense of Place, Storm, Sword of Heaven, Take Me With You, Trader Horn, Way of the Wanderer, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

Copyright © 2015 by Don George

Foreword copyright © 2015 by Pico Iyer

Travelers' Tales and Solas House are trademarks of Solas House, Inc. 2320 Bowdoin Street, Palo Alto, California 94306.

Credits are given starting on page 271.

Art Direction: Kimberly Nelson Coombs

Cover and Interior Illustrations: Candace Rose Rardon

Page Layout: Howie Severson, using the fonts Centaur and California Titling

Author Photograph: Jennifer Nunn Tarbutton

Production Director: Susan Brady

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

George, Donald W.

The way of wanderlust : the best travel writing of Don George / by Don George. -- First edition.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-60952-106-6 (epub)

1. Travel--Anecdotes. 2. George, Donald W.--Travel. I. Title.

G151.G47 2015



First Edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Printed in the United States of America

For Mom and Dad,

Kuniko, Jenny, and Jeremy,

and all the pilgrims who have enriched

and enlightened my journey

Table of Contents

Foreword: Saying Yes to the World by Pico Iyer


Prologue: Every Journey Is a Pilgrimage

Part One: Pilgrimages

Climbing Kilimanjaro

A Night with the Ghosts of Greece

Ryoanji Reflections

Connections: A Moment at Notre-Dame

Conquering Half Dome

Impression: Sunrise at Uluru

Castaway in the Galápagos

Machu Picchu Magic

A Pilgrim at Stinson Beach

Japan's Past Perfect

Home for the Holidays: A Thanksgiving Pilgrimage to Connecticut

Part Two: Encounters

In Love, in Greece, in the Springtime

A Day in the Life of Dubbo

A Passage to Pakistan

Insights into Nice at the Musée Matisse

Treasures of Dubrovnik

Letters from Jordan

Baja: Touched by a Whale

Building Bridges in Mostar

Into Africa

Making Roof Tiles in Peru

Living-History Lessons in Berlin

Part Three: Illuminations

At the Musée d'Orsay

California Epiphany

Japanese Wedding

Prambanan in the Moonlight

In the Pythion of Time

Finding Salvation in the South Seas

The Intricate Weave

Unexpected Offerings on a Return to Bali

Spin the Globe: El Salvador

French Connections in Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Piecing Together Puzzles in Cambodia

Epilogue: Travel Writing and the Meaning of Life


Story Credits

About the Author

Saying Yes to the World


it was one of those piercing, radiant early autumn days in Japan that leave you exultant and strangely wistful all at once. The sky was a richer, deeper blue than you'd see in California; the sun was so warm, even shirtsleeves seemed too much; most of Kyoto was spilling out into the leafy lanes, to enjoy yuzu-flavored “soft creams” and aloe-and-white grape juice cordials and the exhilarating buoyancy of a “second summer” Sunday afternoon scented with what smelled like daphne. Don and I sat out by a stream, the blaze of the sun beating down on us, and spoke of some of the wandering heroes—Peter Matthiessen, Jan Morris, Donald Richie—who had sent us out into the world to be transformed.

Both of us, in our twenties, had chosen Japan as our secret home; both had married women from western Japan and raised kids on Doraemon, the 22nd-century blue robotic cat from Japan who has a “
” (or “anywhere you want”) door in his stomach. Both had found in Japan a way of making gentleness, courtesy, affirmation, and robust public cheerfulness seem not the stuff of childishness, but something seasoned and mature. But Don spoke perfect Japanese, as I could never dream of doing; Don had taught English here and appeared as a talk show host on Japanese TV. Don could open the door of any Japanese person we met along the streets, with his idiomatic, unaggressive, always smiling manner; it wasn't hard to imagine that he had taken the optimism and openness of his longtime home in California and somehow wed it to a natural sweetness and unintrusive sympathy I associate deeply with my home near Kyoto.

As we sat in the sun, drinking tea made from maple leaves (seasoned with apple and apricot), as we meandered through the 19th-century European park that leads toward the tiny lane on which our favorite tatami tea house is hidden—Don had come here ten months earlier to collect himself after his Japanese father-in-law died—I thought how distinctive Don's relaxed and responsive spirit can be. I'd walked these same streets with other friends for twenty-seven years now, many of them celebrated travelers; they'd fired questions at me, shot out theories, spun this notion about Japan and that judgment.

Don, by comparison, hung back. He seemed eager to take in as much as he possibly could. He didn't have agenda or preoccupation, and in that regard appeared to rejoice in the rare traveler's gift of allowing the day and the place to take him where they wanted him to go.

He recalled for me the dorm advisers at Princeton who had opened the door to Asia for him, forty years before; the way he'd read
This Side of Paradise
before going to university, and still remembered his first reading of
Tender is the Night
. He reminded me of his early travels to Paris and Greece and then to an M.A. writing program in the hills of Virginia; by the time he was barely thirty, he had a lovely Japanese wife, a new perch in San Francisco, and a job that allowed him to call up writers as established as Jan Morris and invite them to write for his newspaper on the places that had changed their lives.

“How's your mother?” I asked him, as we walked along the narrow, willow-lined lane of Kiyamachi, in central Kyoto, sidestepping girls in pinkly flowering kimono sipping at Starbucks's seasonal frappuccinos.

“She's ninety-eight!” he said with an astonished laugh. “But she doesn't complain about a thing. She has this way of greeting everything that happens to her, and not getting sidetracked by what she's lost.”

“So that's where you got it from,” I said, and he laughed again. “
” The Japanese, not surprisingly, have a word for the strip of light the sun makes on otherwise chilly days, akin to the one where we had been sitting, by the stream.

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