Inspired Journeys: Travel Writers in Search of the Muse
Brian Bouldrey, Editor
Book Review by Stacey Wittig
Inspired Journeys is a diverse collection of essays by real travelers who move the reader through both time and place. Much of travel writing is simply about place or what to do once you arrive. But as we pilgrims know, often the real stories lie within the journey rather than the destination. Editor Brian Bouldrey, a Santiago pilgrim himself, understands this well and has compiled seventeen stories of pilgrimage to places as divergent as Varanasi, India; Ross Island, Antarctica; El Centro, California, and Santiago, Spain. These tales are told by American writers and mirror both their inward and outward journeys, a theme that the editor describes as “telling the way within.”
The name Brian Bouldrey may be familiar to many American Pilgrims on Camino (APOC) members as he was the lauded keynote speaker at the APOC 2016 conference. The 2016 annual gathering was themed “Telling the Way Within,” and included a pre-conference travel writing workshop presented by the editor/writer who teaches creative writing at Northwestern University.
Bouldrey admits that he casts a wide net around his definition of pilgrimage by including stories of both spiritual and secular pilgrimages. While introducing us to the stories he explains that each author addresses what pilgrimage is and that he orders the anthology to give the definitions “encouragement, space and incrementally growing meaning.”
While some writers share journeys to religious shrines as in Sharman Apt Russell’s “Buen Camino” and Russell Scott Valentino’s “An Accidental Pilgrimage,” others move along Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairie (Kimberly Meyer) or the Grimms’ fairy-tale road (Raphael Kadushin.) Though some stories read like raw, black-and-white documentary film footage of the writer’s experiences, others like my favorite essay “The Terriblest Poet” (Brian Bouldrey), and Kadushin’s “Driving the Fairy Tale Road” feel like they were shot for the big screen in panoramic Technicolor.
After reading these essays that are not just about place, but also about the inward journey and outward movement of getting to that place, you’re sure to find several that will move you as well. The engaging, 280-page book is available on Amazon at www.amazon.com .
Brian Bouldrey has written eight books, including Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica, and edited six anthologies, including Traveling Souls: Contemporary Pilgrimage Stories.
Stacey Wittig is author of three books including Spiritual and Walking Guide: Lourdes to San Jean Pied de Port, a guide for both the inward and outward journey.
This review originally appeared in La Concha, the quarterly publication of American Pilgrims on the Camino.