There’s travel writing, of the informational sort, which you may read in order to get an idea of what to do and where to go in a particular country. Then there’s travel writing, of the literary sort, which you read to find the essence of a place and its people—it may not help you much with sightseeing, but it transports you so completely to the place in question you literally feel as though you have circumnavigated the globe by reading it.
Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia falls firmly within this second category. Rather than describing the physical geography of Patagonia, Chatwin tells the region’s story—physical, cultural, social, and political—through its people. Since I’m interested in Patagonia as a place, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of landscape description, but the superb characterizations basically made up for it. The character descriptions were some of the best I’ve ever read, anywhere; creative and extremely effective. Aside from being a classic travelogue, In Patagonia should be required reading in every creative writing class as a perfect example of how to write people.
It’s a definite must-read for any wanderer/traveler/adventurer/writer/dreamer.