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The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,087 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journ ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 19th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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Apr 09, 2011 Birgit rated it it was amazing
I have a confession to make – the reason why I wanted to read The Tao Of Travel was simply because I love traveling and I love writing. To find these two themes in one book lured me in and admittedly I started reading with a slightly more critical eye than I usually do.
One of the best known travel writers of our time, Paul Theroux, takes the reader on a wonderful tour of the genre in this collection of not only his own, but of other writers' works, ranging from the well-known, such as Mark Twain
Aravind P
The essential Tao of Travel (according to Paul Theroux)
1. Leave home
2. Go alone
3. Travel light
4. Bring a Map
5. Go by land
6. Walk across a national frontier
7. Keep a journal
8. Read a novel that has no relation to the place you are in
9. If you must bring a cell phone, avoid using it.
10. Make a friend

Interleaved with travel wisdom tidbits, Theroux has compiled every nuance of a traveling, sourcing from various travel literature including his own. Essentially traveling is a rebellion against our u
Ryan Murdock
Jan 17, 2013 Ryan Murdock rated it it was amazing
The world’s greatest living travel writer does it again. But this isn’t like any of Paul Theroux’s other books. Rather than take you on a journey to the world’s forgotten corners, he’s taking you on a trip through travel literature.

The book examines travel through many different lenses, and through the eyes of some of the greatest literary travelers in the genre. Well chosen excerpts explore themes like travel by railway, travel as ordeal, imaginary travel, bizarre foods, and the fears and neuro
Tyler Hill
Jan 05, 2013 Tyler Hill rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm not generally the type of person who is inclined to break out the highlighters while reading, or circle favorite passage to revisit of quote at a later time, but this book screamed for me to do that, so I gave in. Part retrospective, part exploration of the vast and varied world of travel writing, the Tao of Travel attempts to distill the essence of travel (or more importantly the essence of good travel writing) down in a single tidy volume. It's an ambitious task, and while I'm not sure The ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
a hard to classify travel book, sort of an annotated notebook of theroux's reading, notes, life-thoughts, life-learnings and reminisces from his many years traveling and thinking. publishers weekly and library journal gave it lukewarm recces, but this is destined to be a treasure of the age and will reward dippers, re-readers, notetakers, bibliography miners, arm chair travelers, home-tourists, and theroux lovers. has many many excerpts of other travel writings and theroux's considered commentar ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Treena rated it liked it
I love Paul Theroux's travel books (not so keen on his fiction except for The Mosquito Coast) but this is a bit of a swizz. It is essentially a collection of quotes from his and others' books. A great 'snippet' read, maybe okay for bed if you're sleepy but can't be read for too long at a time as it would be like reading a dictionary in one go.
Sep 30, 2011 Lize rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, travels
This is a fascinating collection of travel writing, from a vast array of sources--Paul Theroux’s own books as well as authors as diverse as Evelyn Waugh, Fanny Trollope, Jack London, Jon Krakauer and William Burroughs. It’s all cleverly arranged into a variety of chapter topics dreamed up by Mr. Theroux, such as “The Things They Carried,” “Travelers Who Never Went Alone,” “Perverse Pleasures of the Inhospitable,” and “Evocative Name, Disappointing Place.” It must have been quite an organizationa ...more
Jan 22, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it
When I learned that Paul Theroux, one of my favorite travel writers, had written the Tao of Travel I rushed to get a copy. At first I was disappointed that Theroux would waste his considerable talent on a compilation of other travel writers of note. But, as I got into his very personal critiques and reflections on the greats like Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry David Thoreau, Sir Richard Burton and Joseph Conrad I looked forward to eaves dropping on the “long conversation” about travel writers. Th ...more
Gary Davis
Jan 16, 2013 Gary Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not your typical travel book, or Theroux book. Rather than a work on travelling through space, this was about travelling through time and space in the company of interesting travellers from the past. It made me think about how I travel, who I travel with, and why I travel at all. It is a philosophical look at travel in that it seems to involve a lot of thinking about travelling.

There were some interesting similarities (and differences) with Alain de Botton's 'The Art of Travel (which I
Meera Sapra
Jul 19, 2014 Meera Sapra rated it really liked it
This doesn't feel like one book but a collection of books, since it reflects the authors' love for travel and the travel books he's read.

I really like how he combines his own personal travel narrative with that of other travel writers' experiences. And I like how he does this across a variety of themes such as the hardships of travel, traveling solo versus with other people, train travel, travel and food and so on. This seems more than just a travel book considering the different kind of life a
Dec 29, 2014 Connie rated it it was amazing
Love travel, love travel writing, and love reading from the best. Paul Theroux nails it for me every time. There is a lot of humor and a lot of truth in the quotes of those who have gone before!
Eugene Miya
A couple years ago. I think I saw this new book, but did not pick it up. Just too busy for such a cute title.

Then 2 days ago, I heard Paul Theroux speak about travel on the radio, and he brought this book of his up, as well as his sons, their writing, etc. I've not yet read any other books authored by him. He mentioned living in Hawaii, visiting London as a small town, solo travel (not really; I think he might not know many real solo travelers), and other topics like various historic writers.

Dasha Slepenkina
Aug 06, 2015 Dasha Slepenkina rated it it was ok
Really a 2.5.

There were two reasons I rated this book so low, and neither one of them has much to do with the quality of the book itself.

1. I expected it to be a lot more interesting than it was, although that is a matter of preference (I disagreed on a lot of the topics and tend to see travel differently in some core ways than Theroux and his chosen authors seem to)

2. I would rather read the books mentioned than excerpts from them. This book offers a great reading list and I took a bunch of n
Scott Nelson
Jun 11, 2014 Scott Nelson rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Loved. A smart survey of travel lit.
Jan 23, 2012 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
A little dry and choppy, but good insights into the world and history of travel literature. Hopefully has inspired me to read more "proper" travel lit above and beyond just "Eat, Pray, Love" and the like (As much as I love it...)
May 28, 2014 Koa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marking this book as "read" is kind of a lie. I did read parts of it, but definitely not all or even close to that. I was looking for more of a cover-to-cover read about travel and philosophy and didn't realize that this more closely resembles a reference book. Each chapter has a theme, like say trains, and then is essentially just a gathering of quotes about traveling on trains from various works and various authors. I'm not saying they aren't worth reading or aren't interesting, but it's just ...more
Mar 07, 2015 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book exists less to convince people of the value of travel and more to remind those who already know. Besides providing some of the best quotes from books and authors of travel writing, it forms a reading list of books and authors to explore. The chapter on "Ordeals" is particularly great, where Theroux shares the stories of people who have found themselves undergoing true hardship abroad.

Some chapters were less interesting to me and seemed out-of-place, in particular the chapters on author
Jan 17, 2012 Melody rated it it was ok
I felt like the book jumped around a lot and the author patted himself on the back too much.
Terrell Plotzki
Jul 10, 2012 Terrell Plotzki rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
A book of mostly Paul Theroux quotes by Paul Theroux. Indulgent much?
Jun 25, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Cannot resist Mr. Grumpus Theroux...
Tom Dale
Apr 10, 2016 Tom Dale rated it really liked it
A light tour through some of Theroux's favorite travel writers. The selections are hardly exhaustive, with many of the same works reappearing throughout, but Theroux's curation does give a very vivid sense of what he values most in traveling.

I enjoyed this book very much as I spent a month traveling non-stop, and was so jetlagged I barely had any focus left. But this book was fun, inspirational, and because each section was relatively short, was perfect for the starting and stopping that accompa
Randal Schmidt
Jan 05, 2015 Randal Schmidt rated it it was ok
Not quite what I expected. Too much Theroux and not enough of other writers. Occasionally Theroux will spend pages describing a certain book by a certain author, and then provide no quotation at all from the book itself. Far too much commentary and too little direct quotation. If you like Theroux, you will probably like this book. If you like travel, you won't hate this book, but you may not enjoy all of it. There were a few gems that I highlighted, but a very few. Not a complete waste of my tim ...more
It wasn't bad, really, but this seemed to be a largely unnecessary book. Theroux's original content is great, as always, but his quotes, brilliant as they were, seemed largely out of context. Similarly, all of the cobbled together bits of travel writing seemed somehow wrongly assembled. Again, I won't say it's a bad book-- it's not-- and indeed it turned me onto a few travel writers I otherwise wouldn't have known about it, who are now added to my reading list, but it seems like hastily cobbled ...more
Gaylord Dold
May 06, 2014 Gaylord Dold rated it really liked it
Mifflin Theroux, Paul. The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, Houghton Harcourt, New York, 2011 (285pp. $25)

Before too much of the 19th century had exhausted itself in revolution and bloody war, travel, which had once been the province of solitary wayfarers, was being transformed into an industry, thanks largely to the efforts of Cooks in London,

Travel, from the times of Herodotus and later the Romans, was a dangerous undertaking, only for the intrepid who would voluntarily en
Grace Tjan
A Quiz
Who Says What: Writers on Travel and Travel Writing

The Sayings

1. “Any country which displays more than one statue of the same living politician is a country which is headed for trouble.”

2. A country’s pornography is a glimpse into its subconscious mind.

3. A nation’s shitting habits are the key to all its citizens’ attitudes.

4. “Literature is made out of the misfortunes of others. A large number of travel books fail simply because of the monotonous good luck of their authors”.

5. “The subjec
Manu Prasad
Sep 19, 2012 Manu Prasad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Whenever I take a vacation, I arrive as a tourist and like to think that I leave at least partly converted into a traveler. I am forever envious of travelers, many of whose journeys serve as a purpose in itself. This book is an excellent little guide to what the author mentions in the preface - paraphrasing the Buddha - "You cannot travel the path before you become the path itself", and how travel is also a way of living, and thinking.
In addition to excerpts from various works by different trave
Sep 08, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It has the right ingredients, writers and their travels, complied by a writer who has travelled and written about it for a good portion of his life, the mixing was thorough, sections such as The Pleasures of Railways, Travellers who never went alone to Imaginary Journeys and Travellers Bliss, with nuggets of travel wisdom from luminaries such as Evelyn Waugh, Freya Stark and Samuel Johnson sprinkled in. But in the end it didn’t turn out to be quite as enjoyable as I hoped.

I think Theroux is a gr
Dec 19, 2011 Lee rated it liked it
This is an interesting mix of observations about travel and travel writers. It is a good introduction to some travel writers whose books I can add to my to-read list (Dervla Murphy, Pico Iyer).

Some chapters are of more interest than others, but there's nothing to stop readers from picking and choosing. For me, some of the most entertaining topics were found near the end of the book.

Some favorite quotations from the book:

In conversation with Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer said this is what he brings w
Feb 28, 2012 Betsy rated it did not like it
Paul Theroux, a travel writer for more than four decades, recently published this book, a compilation of his own thoughts on how travel is best accomplished and the writings of other travel writers. Each chapter covers a theme of traveling such as using trains, traveling alone, items a traveler must have and strange foods travelers have encountered around the world. Those writers quoted in the book include many I've heard of and many I haven't. And truthfully, I hadn't yet come across Theroux in ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Chelsea rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Book 2/50 in 2013.

Rebecca West on the divided self, "'Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blacke
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown..” 88 likes
“A river is an appropriate frontier. Water is neutral and in its impartial winding makes the national boundary look like an act of God.—OPE” 0 likes
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