In the land of giants

by Sandra Foyt on May 4, 2012

in Arts and Culture

Fair warning, I may gush. This weekend I have the honor of joining leading travel editors and writers at the Society of American Travel Writers Editors Council in Brooklyn. An event I hadn’t planned to attend, and that, frankly, I knew little to nothing about.

But in the spirit of what the hell, I registered anyway, including all the events, even one nondescript item with a curious name – “The Restless Legs Reading Series” by David Farley. Looking around, as I sat down on a folding chair in the grand European-style chamber-music hall of the ISSUE Project Room, described by the Village Voice as “one of the best venues to see experimental artists in the city…,” I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

But I had been wined and dined, a savory 3-course dinner at The Strong Place followed by all the Brooklyn Republic vodka I could stomach, and in that pleasant afterglow, I was ready for anything.

Maybe almost anything. I wasn’t ready to have my mind blown.

For nearly four years, David Farley, author of ‘An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,’ has been hosting a semi-regular event in New York’s Lower East Side that asks travel writers to read their work aloud.

Accustomed as I am to the quick and informative, but not always eloquent world of blogging, witnessing these performances was eye-opening. Veering from the cautionary to the cringe-worthy, each of the readings demonstrated the transformative power of great writing.

Jim Benning shared excerpts from a book that may or may not be autobiographical about a young man who faces shifting barriers of mind and body in various places, but most notably in the quick but startling jump from San Diego to Tijuana.

Spud Hilton bared all, literally and figuratively, but thankfully not in Brooklyn, with his account of a visit to a clothing optional resort.

But it was Don George who blew my mind. You know how sometimes you sort of know something, but you need someone to verbalize nebulous thoughts that haven’t quite jelled enough to reach the light of day? Well, I’ve felt for a long time that there is a higher purpose to travel writing, that at its finest, it has the power to change hearts and minds, and as corny as it may sound, it will change the world.

Don George calls travel writing a “high and daunting calling” whose lofty ambition is nothing less than a revelation about the meaning of life.

Now that’s a valiant quest worth any sacrifice. Even sleep.

David Farley

Jim Benning

Spud Hilton

Don George

| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email:, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

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