Notes from Pico Iyer

Last night National Geographic Traveler’s contributing editor and Trip Lit columnist Don George hosted the third event in his ongoing series of talks with fascinating authors. George spoke with Pico Iyer, a writer whose perspectives on globalization and modern day travel have been amassed in several beautiful books, among them, Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, Falling off the Map, The Global Soul, and The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Their wide-ranging conversation focused on the challenges and rewards of travel in the 21st century, the nature of home, and the abiding allure of the planet’s far-flung places.

During the event, Iyer mentioned that he is a prolific note-taker, seeking to capture his experiences before his memory fades. So it was fitting that as a Twitter-friendly event, we were able to capture the “notes” tweeted by attendees using the hashtag #nglive. Here are some of Associate Editor Amy Alipio’s (@amytravels), Senior Researcher Marilyn Terrell (@Marilyn_Res) and Editorial Marketing Director Lynn Ackerson’s notes from last night. First, from Amy:

  • Dalai Lama has 2 questions when traveling: what can he learn, what can he give.
  • Writing is a way to make a clearing in the wilderness.
  • Pico Iyer great believer in taking copious notes as things happen; after few mins. memory fades.
  • Act of note-taking means I’m paying attention. Travel to foreign place like flipping switch, all senses suddenly alert.
  • Iyer at home in rural Japan: greatest luxury is freedom from laptop, cellphone, TV. Allows stillness, clarity, spaciousness.
  • Home is less a piece of soil than a piece of soul.

Next, from Marilyn:

  • Iyer: having time & freedom much more important to me than expensive stereo or health insurance.
  • Iyer: if I want to engage in a culture, I always go alone. Travel to leave daily self behind. Only possible when alone.
  • Iyer: Kyoto McDonalds: Moon-Viewing Burgers, Armani clothing. Delhi McD: cardamom tea, raucous. La Paz McD: $$$, Seiko watch display
  • Pico Iyer described 3 places he’s lived: NYC = all stimulation; SoCal = all narcotic calm; Kyoto = mix of energy + stillness.

And from Lynn:

  • Loved interplay of two thoughts: “What do I have to learn from this place?” and “Who are we as pilgrims?”
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  • Loved his story of getting up at 2:00 a.m. one night in Jerusalem to go up on the rooftop and look at the city and that when he “experienced all religions from the rooftop” it seemed possible that they could co-exist.  It’s when you get down in the nitty-gritty of everyday life that it becomes difficult.
  • He mentioned that he has very vivid dreams when he travels and that he feels compelled to write about the people who “haunt” his dreams afterward. I talked to him for quite a while at the end about how we can use our dreams as a door to understanding our reactions to a place. I translate my dreams into the photos I choose to take and he translates his into words.  He compared making notes immediately after talking to someone or experiencing a place to writing down your dreams while you’re still in a semi-conscious state because they evaporate if you don’t.
  •  The McDonald’s story was intriguing because it showed the interesting mix of local flavors and traditional American fare as it plays out in each country.
  • Liked his example of Orhan Pamuk writing honestly about his city (Istanbul)and ending up in exile.  Hard to tell the truth about a place.

Do you record notes from your travels? How do you keep your memories of a place from slipping away?

Photo: Lynn Ackerson

and ending up in exile.  Hard to tell the truth about a place.

Do you record notes from your travels? How do you keep your memories of a place from slipping away?

Photo: Lynn Ackerson

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