Dream to Learn is shutting down...

We are very sorry to say that Dream to Learn will be shutting down as of December 28th, 2019. If you have content that you wish to keep, you should make a copy of it before that date.


Chris Tennant

Chris Tennant

Eugene, Oregon

&
Linda Howard

Linda Howard

Eugene, OR

1COMMENTS0RECOMMENDS

The Old Patagonian Express

02
POSTED IN: Thoughts on travel

My impression of Paul Theroux came mostly from reading the Old Patagonian Express.  I read it at the same time that I went on a six month backpacking trip through South America.  This was in the mid-1980s, and I traveled through Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.  My total budget for the six months was less than $2,500, so it was far from a luxury trip.  

I'm going now on what I remember of my impression of Theroux's book.  I'm sure that if I re-read it now, my reaction would be different.

My impression of South America was of a vibrant, welcoming place.  I remember for example being at a tiny town of about 20 people in the jungle at the intersection of the borders of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.  I was waiting for a plane to get back to Lima and on home.  The plane nominally came once a week, but I waited a couple of weeks before realizing that the plane didn't always stop at this town, depending on the weather, and I ended up having to walk 60 kilometers through mud to get to the next town to catch the plane.  But I remember how friendly people were.  The local police officer was a kind, warm man, and he and I would walk in the evenings around the 'square' (a muddy field), talking.  I don't even remember what we talked about, just how thoughtful he was.

By contrast, my sense of Theroux's persona in the book was of a grumpy American, with no real sense of the people who surrounded him, of who they were, what they cared about.  It didn't help that I mostly didn't see Americans on my travels -- there were Canadians, Israelis, French, but not a lot of Americans.  Then one day I was in Cuzco, and I saw a tour group of Americans going by in a tight knot inside a barrier -- maybe they were getting onto a plane?  But it was like being on the wrong side of the aquarium glass and seeing the aquarium visitors file by.  

I should re-read Theroux.  But my problem with him was only that he was negative, and critical, it was that I didn't find that he *saw* the people who were around him.  Being able to see past superficial impressions -- poverty for example -- to the creativity and life beyond that is the great privilege of travel, in my opinion.  And I found that Theroux didn't appreciate that.

Interested in more content by this author?

About the Authors

Linda Howard

Linda Howard

I love to learn about the world through the travels and experiences of others. I'm primarily a memoir reader, fascinated by what others choose to do in life and how they feel about their choices.

Chris Tennant

Chris Tennant

I co-founded Dream to Learn in 2013. I love the outdoors, growing and building things, and the challenge and beauty of writing computer code. I live in Eugene, Oregon with my wife Giuditta, my two kids Joshua and Rebecca, and our cats Sprinkie and Hugino.

About this blog

Created: March 26, 2018

English

You might also like