En route with preparation

In Writers on the Road (1), The Travel Habit by EsabelleYCLeave a Comment

The trip of the writers is not like an interview or even an investigation. No questions asked, so no questions answered. They only learn and assimilate from observations and communications. After an unknown period of time, one can write his own version of the story of the America.


The trip is supposed to be by bus, according to Asch. He says that train travelers could rarely be well connected with the strangers – really the people across America that represent America – because the train traveling form is too formal for the travelers to “be themselves” on the road. They would become “special” and “strained.” How could they reveal the realness of the people they meet when they can’t be true themselves? Truly, only when one becomes unbothered by his or her own “formal” concerns and be mentally unwound, he or she starts to pay attention to the surroundings. This is what the buses are for. The writers hope to connect with the suffering people at the bottom of the pile, so they shall not trouble themselves with any formalities.

Asch thinks the conveniences in new transportation don’t in fact encourage people to get en route, as he says “for all the marvelous new conveniences of transpiration, people in different regions know each other less than they used to when voyage was an event and an adventure.” However, I think the write would agree himself that when traveling serves a purpose other than event itself, people in different regions know each other for different reasons beyond pure leisure or adventure, as he says later in the Foreward that Arkansas cotton growers would know the growers Georgia way better — a business purpose. Therefore in fact, I don’t see why the new conveniences would make the regions seem more isolated. If we look at the world today, not only does new transportation not isolate the regions, but it certainly removes some concerns when people decide if they should go on the trips or not. After all, an 8-hr flight from New York to Europe is just the time for some shut-eye.


The travelers in the buses at the time were the true travelers, according to Asch, as he says “so no one, except for those in buses, travels today.” These perhaps should include the pretty Jerry heading to Miami who the writer met before Richmond. However, how well connected were their minds and souls really? The writer and Jerry became very “friendly”, held hands, talked and talked. It would even look like the beginning of some soul-searching conversation or even romance. However, Jerry still left so soon without hesitation, without even waving goodbye. For her the trip was just a distance traveled and never the purpose. And seemed like this short bonding with Asch didn’t leave a mark on her life. To her the trip and the people were temporary.

For the authors on the road, however, the purpose is the trip. Their task is to observe and analyze. In order to connect the temporary dots and create a picture after X amount of time, they must begin with a plan, an agenda, and preparation. “First he [I] has [have] to read.” Like the “little old lady” says, the younger generation were not “perpetuation the traditions of the South” because they hardly read. For a foreigner to understand the strange South, the write certainly must read. The writers take off en route; they don’t know what they could find but they must know what they need to look for before they start.

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