I just had a travel essay called Death by Preservation published in Issue #34 of Post Road Magazine, a literary magazine over in the U.S. It’s about the tourist project of fantasy construction and the curious correlation between UNESCO World Heritage status and spiritual death.
The essay starts in the medieval theme park of Tallinn’s old town, before moving across the continent and asking why some places get preserved and others don’t, anyway. And what are we looking for and why? What qualifies as picturesque for the tourist, and what is that reality like for the local people?
But don’t worry, Death by Preservation is not all negativity and shitting on tourists. I also propose another mode of travel, in places where there is no fantasy, just real life. Places like Belgrade and Tartu and Oujda, which will never make it onto a list of “X Places to See Before You Die!!!” I like those places. I’m in one now, as it happens—Iasi, a Romanian border town with very few tourist sights. And sometimes, in places like Iasi, you get surprised when you look out of the window of a shopping mall where you’re eating a boxed salad, and you see something like this:
I find those moments generally more satisfying than the moments when I fight through the crowds to find something that I’ve already seen and take a photo that matches the ones that other people have taken.
Other Highlights of Post Road Magazine
I’d encourage you to check out some of the other pieces in the magazine too. There are short stories, like Blood Moon by Donna Gordon, which had me hooked by its first line:
In Mississippi they thought they were melting. But it was only the song of opiates slinging arrows through their brains, plying marionette dreams upon the wind, their tongues tasting of death in drones, the rush of butterscotch shot through their veins like sugar in the raw.
There’s also poetry, criticism, art, theatre, and a nice feature called “Recommendations” where people recommend books you should read. They’re more personal than the standard book review, and I like the feeling of the author pressing a book into my hand and saying, “You gotta read this!” I particularly liked Devin Murphy’s piece on Mink River.
And there are other nonfiction pieces too, like Beth Peterson’s essay that weaves back and forth between a summer in Wyoming and a discussion of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The print edition has even more pieces that are not available online, but I haven’t seen it yet—because I’m in Romania right now and my copy has been sent to me in London, I won’t see it for quite a while.
If you want to know more about my travels, read this post I wrote on living on the road, or explore the Travel category in general.