Jessa CrispinBack to OpinionJessa Crispin

Postcards from the edge of the world

On occasion, you need to live vicariously. Stuck in winter climes, or sitting at work waiting for your stockpile of vacation days to renew after the holidays, one might stare out the window at the endless wintry landscape and wish for a job that suddenly needed you to be in Spain. Or Egypt. Or India.

I recently checked in with some of the best contemporary travel writers, whose jobs do suddenly fling them across the world. But for every trip to Egypt that brings escape from the endless Berlin gray, sometimes your editor sends you to an even colder place. Like Montreal. In January. Proving that travel writing is a job like any other.

Some writers were off in the more glamorous corners of the world. And others were enjoying an unusual stay at home. But wherever they were, they were all at work.

Andrew Curry

I recently traded the slushy gray of Berlin for a short stay on the eastern side of the Red Sea, at a remote dive resort about 55 miles south of the resort town of Hurghada. While Hurghada is a trashy beach destination for Russian and Ukrainian tourists, the coastline to the south is lined with coral reefs and empty desert. 

The reefs, it turns out, have been a shipping hazard for 4,000 years. One of the oldest travel stories in the world is the “Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” a 4,000-year-old account written in hieroglyphs of a seafarer, an island, a serpent king and “an abundance of incense.” The wrecked yacht I spotted off the beach looked serpent 
king-free, but I didn’t swim out to check.

Next up: Writing about the high water mark of the Roman Empire before heading out again, this time to Madrid and Barcelona.

Andrew Curry is a foreign correspondent based in Berlin. He has written for Smithsonian, Wired and Discover, and is a contributing editor for Archaeology magazine.

Susan Orlean

I’m just revising my book [at home], which is a cultural biography of Rin Tin Tin, the dog actor. I’ve been working on it for six years and am just finishing the last bits of tinkering — phew!

Susan Orlean is the author of “The Orchid Thief,” “My Kind of Place” and “The Bullfighter Checks Her Make-up.” She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992 and has written for Vogue, Esquire and Rolling Stone. She currently lives in Columbia County, N.Y., with her husband, son, dog and two chickens.

Rolf Potts

I’m looking at Montreal through the lens of art — specifically that of Beatriz Herrera, a protege of the legendary Bill Vorn, who specializes in robotic art. The great thing about Herrera is that she doesn’t outsource any of her tasks to engineers or mechanics or assistants: She is completely hands-on about every step of the creation process, which means that her 21st-century robotic sculptures are created with a self-contained, DIY-craftsman ethic that hearkens back to the 19th century. I’m exploring this for a new book project about the landscape of imagination in North America.

Rolf Potts is the author of “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” and “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer.”

Jason Wilson

I’m in Andalusia, Spain, learning about the history of their sherries. Pictured here is Manuel Louzada, from Numanthia winery. It’s named after the legendary Spanish city destroyed by the Romans after 20 years of bloody resistance. In this photograph is a vineyard in Toro, Spain, on a very foggy January afternoon. These vines are some of the oldest in Europe, more than 140 years old, which means they predate the phylloxera scourge that killed off so many vineyards in Europe in the late 19th century.

Jason Wilson is the drinks columnist for the Washington Post and the author of “Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure and the Overrated in Spirits.” He is the founding editor of The Smart Set and the series editor of The Best American Travel Writing. He teaches at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

 

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