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There’s Nothing Else

By Andrew McCarthy

I once heard the ebullient travel writer Don George say, “There’s one trip that changes every traveler’s life.” He was referring to that sojourn that marks a reckoning of life “before,” and then “after” – a journey that changes the way we see the world, or see our place in it.  A five hundred mile walk across the north of Spain along the Camino de Santiago was such a trip for me.

I began my journey the way most of us enter upon life’s momentous transitions – with no awareness, no preparedness, of what was before me. Yet how could I possibly have known what was to come? Isn’t the purpose of entering the wilderness of our life a journey into the unknown with the intent of emerging from it altered?

Paul Theroux, the man who rewrote what the modern travel narrative could be, once claimed, “You come back, but never all the way.”

Travel changes us, that’s the point.

That singular moment of discovery by the side of a barn in the high meseta under a blistering Spanish sun outside the dusty village of Castrojeriz changed my perception of everything that had come before, and equipped me for life after, in a way that might never have happened had I not left the supposed safety of home. I saw, in an unwitting flash of emotional light that went to the center of my being, precisely the way that fear had ruled me—and to a degree that I had never been previously aware. With that insight, I was liberated to choose a different way to walk through time.  There was before, and then there was after.

Bold travel has the power to obliterate our fears and preconceptions if we allow it. Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” In this complex moment in our history, it would be difficult to find more openhearted and practical wisdom.

So take the plunge into the unknown, make that Grand Tour around the edges of your comfort. The great American playwright Tennessee Williams summed it up for us when he wrote, “Make voyages! – Attempt them! – there’s nothing else…”

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Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Union Square In conversation with Gayle Forman 33 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003 Wednesday, March 29 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Vernon Hills Shopping Center 680 Post Rd., Eastchester, NY 10583 Thursday, March 30 at 7pm Books & Greetings 271 Livingston St., Northvale, NJ 07647 Saturday, April 1 Texas Teen Book Con | Houston, TX Sunday, April 2 Alamo Drafthouse | Austin, TX Monday, April 3 at 7pm Books, Inc Opera Plaza Not Your Mother’s Book Club 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107 Tuesday, April 4 at 7pm Book Passage 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925 Wednesday, April 5 at 8pm Live Talks LA In conversation with Pico Iyer Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre, New Roads School 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404 Thursday, April 6 at 7pm Elliott Bay Books 1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122 Friday, April 7 at 7pm Powell’s Books 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR 97005 Sunday, April 9 at 5pm Politics & Prose 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 Monday, April 10 at 7pm Boswell Books 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211 Tuesday, April 11 at 7pm The Book Stall at Chestnut Court In conversation with Betsy Bird 811 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093 Wednesday, April 12 at 7pm Talk of the Stacks Series Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Central Library 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401 Thursday, April 13 at 6:30pm Parnassus Books Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center 3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215 Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30pm Rainy Day Books At Woodneath Library 8900 N. Flintock Rd., Kansas City, MO 64157 Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm St. Louis County Library With The Novel Neighbor 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131 Thursday, April 20 at 7pm Georgia Center for the Book With Little Shop of Stories Dekalb County Public Library 215 Sycamore St., Decatur, GA 30030 Friday, April 21 at 7pm Books & Books 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33134 Tuesday, April 25 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Market Fair, 3535 US-1 #400, Princeton, NJ 08540 Wednesday, April 26 at 7pm Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446 Monday, May 1 at 7pm Darien Library In conversation with Dani Shapiro 1441 Post Rd., Darien, CT 06820