In his thought-provoking and witty introduction to The Best American Travel Writing 2004, Pico Iyer explores American travel writing from the viewpoint of a non-American. He writes, "For many Americans, living in a country that borders few others ...
and at a time when only one in three fellow citizens holds a passport, travel is the only way to get a living, human sense of the world around us . . . The best American travel writing is still lit up, I think, by that spirit of transcendence less visible abroad." Iyer has chosen twenty-six pieces that revel in rich discovery and brave experience both near and far away. Roger Angell remembers a sense of adventure during childhood car trips in New York (one taken with E. B. White, his future stepfather). Tim Cahill describes the joy of trekking in Patagonia, his "new favorite place on earth." Heather Eliot writes of a fevered love affair in the South Pacific, and Tad Friend hilariously tells of introducing Segways to Paris. George Packer recalls his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa and the swirl of political unrest there. These varied and fascinating travel pieces show that the search for understanding is alive and well in this country, and that Americans are more eager than ever to search for, as Iyer writes, "something deeper and more lasting."