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What Am I Still Doing Here?

Travel, Travel Writing, and Old Age

Robin Jarvis

Keywords: Morris; Murphy; Naipaul; old age; Theroux; Thubron; time; travel writing

This article offers preliminary thoughts on travel writing from a gerontological perspective. Gender, race, and sexuality have provided important analytical frames for travel writing studies, but age has yet to function as a topic or point of reference. Through a consideration of five travel books by respected modern authors—Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy, V. S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux, and Colin Thubron—the article asks what motivates travel writers to stay “on the road” into their seventies and beyond, and what the distinctive features of travel narratives written at this life stage might be. The article aims to demonstrate the intrinsic fascination of travel books in which a strong abiding curiosity about the world coexists with an acute—and often melancholy—awareness of the passing of time and personal mortality.

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