Book Review: 30 Reasons to Travel–Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia

Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Travel Books & Movies, Vietnam — By on March 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

by Blair Hickman
LG Books Editor

Why travel? Why halt a career to sleep in dirty hostels and lug 40 pounds of stuff around on your back, suffering through Montezuma’s Revenge because you don’t speak the language and can’t find a bathroom? And why, despite knowing all of this, do travelers around the world still succumb to never-ending wanderlust?

In an attempt to answer these questions and provide inspiration for those who haven’t mustered the will to get on a plane, Joel Carillet has compiled 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia. Part memoir, part photo essay and part philosophy dissertation, the book is a compilation of photos and snapshot memories, guided by the philosophy Carillet in the introduction:

Traveling, when done well, is nothing less than learning to love-learning to love people with names like Sikander, Tsering, Yangyang and Balram; learning to love places in all their complexities and contradictions; learning to love our connectedness.”

The ensuing reasons explore the themes of love and shared humanity through a combination of text and images. He lumps them together without regard for time and place to create 30 concrete reasons to travel, most of which are things that Carillet has come to love–candles, babies, Bangkok hospitals, (a problem with) newsprint.

Some of the reasons work, and some don’t. At times, the book feels self-indulgent, and Carillet tends to impose unnecessary significance to inanimate objects, creating metaphors that feel forced and grandiose.

For example, he writes of a candle’s power to remind us that “darkness is no match for the humblest of lights” and skews its existence into a metaphor for humanity’s strength; “It didn’t recoil before the darkness,” he writes. “It didn’t seem to mind that it was alone. It didn’t call retreat and put itself out. It simply burned.”

However, as a seasoned traveler and interculturalist, Carillet’s photos and stories that revolve around people shine. When he talks about the old Vietnamese man he met on a train who loved Abraham Lincoln, or the young boy in a field in Vietnam who screamed “What time is it?!” to say hello, or the waitress in Hue who listened about his bad day and gave him better advice than most Americans can dream up, you begin to understand Carillet’s philosophy.

With beautiful photographs and region-centric tales, the book is probably best suited for South East Asia buffs. And though the photography is by far the highlight, all lost girls will identify with at least part of this book. Anyone who enjoys thinking about reasons and motivations, about why we do the things we do, about why we travel, will enjoy reading Carillet’s answers.

Click here to order the book, and to learn more about Joel Carillet!

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