The Experience of Travel
By Tony Hiss
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780679415978, 352pp.
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
In this extraordinarily wide-ranging, insightful, and revelatory book, Tony Hiss—the much-praised author of The Experience of Place—delves into a unique and instantly recognizable (though previously undescribed) experience that can happen to us when we travel, a special understanding and ability that can leave us feeling exhilarated. He illustrates how throughout human history—from our ancestors walking upright for the first time to astronauts walking on the moon—we have repeatedly availed ourselves of this seemingly elusive quality, which he calls “Deep Travel.”
The sensation of Deep Travel can overtake us, Hiss says, whenever we tap into a sophisticated, wide-awake awareness we all possess. With a wealth of examples—from evocative accounts of his own journeys to celebrated travel writing across the centuries—Hiss identifies and rescues this powerful capacity and sets out simple techniques for accessing it no matter where we are.
And this is only a jumping-off point for an original and penetrating explanation of how Deep Travel radically alters our perception of not only where we are but also when we are, by placing us in an “extended present,” and how it acts as an open-sesame to enlarge and enrich the world around us. Going even further, he investigates how we can remain absolutely still but travel in time itself, as our horizons move backward to include layers of nature and human culture that have gone before, or project us forward to consider what our actions will mean to those who will inhabit our spot on earth a few generations from now.
Whether travel takes you around the corner or around the world, once you’ve read In Motion, no journey will ever feel the same.
“The Experience of Place has gone on to become a modern-day classic . . . In his new book, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, Hiss revisits his earlier technique: Take a proposition that appears intuitive, then slowly tease out its implications for the way we live now, and how we should live going forward. 'Deep Travel' begins with the assumption that when we take a trip, something sublime can change the way we perceive the world . . . Hiss takes the principle a step further, arguing that this same sense of transformation—what he calls 'Deep Travel' —can also be enjoyed in the more modest trips we take every day: running to the store, commuting to work, walking within our own neighborhoods . . . In search of source material, Hiss embarks on his characteristically ambitious survey of science and the humanities, quoting everyone from Lewis Thomas to Thomas Mann, Henry David Thoreau to E.O. Wilson, Copernicus to 'Bugs Bunny' director Chuck Jones . . . In Motion is itself an example of the author's recurring point—that the mind can even travel deeply when its owner is at rest.” —Danny Heitman, The Christian Science Monitor
“Interesting and ambitious . . . In Motion ranges widely over continents and time frames, leaping from idea to idea. . . Like [Bruce Chatwin’s] The Songlines, Hiss’s book is full of evidence of his impressively wide reading and intelligent speculation, replete with strange discoveries and serendipities . . . [It] has an enjoyably erratic and discursive structure, moving from anthropologists studying the first human footprints in the grasslands of Africa to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.”—William Dalrymple, The New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing and immediately connected to our lives today . . . In Motion will certainly set minds in motion, heading deeper into the roving nature of humanity.” —Christine Thomas, The Miami Herald
“In Motion is an unusually ambitious book: an attempt to explain not only why humans travel, and how Deep Travel can transform us, but how Homo sapiens’ awareness evolved during the past 3.6 million years.” –Jeff Greenwald, San Francisco Chronicle
“Crowded airplanes and their lack of customer service, packed subway cars on a hot day, and daily commutes to and from work that take longer now on average than at any other time in history and add up to much frustration with travel itself. Hiss (The Experience of Place) suggests, however, that all of us have an innate capacity to enter a different part of our minds during our travels and to begin to make use of an awareness that has its own range of interests, concerns, and methods. When the mind and not just the body is in motion, our experience of our ordinary world changes, and we can look with new eyes on the details of the world around us as we walk to the local coffee shop. Hiss urges us to embrace the innermost dimension of travel (its ability to lift the wings of the human spirit) as a way of transforming our time spent in motion. Hiss calls this ground-shifting waking consciousness “Deep Travel,” that is, something that surprises us when we least expect it. For example, as biochemist Katy B. Mullis drove through redwood country north of San Francisco, his waking consciousness traveled along a wildly different path as he invented the technique that makes it possible to copy billions of pieces of DNA in a few hours and later brought him the Nobel Prize in chemistry. In the end, Hiss shares his own enlightening experiences of the mind in motion, acting as our Virgil of Deep Travel.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I found In Motion absolutely fascinating: well researched, well written, and very readable. I read it in London, and found it affected how I experienced a familiar but unfamiliar place. The capacity Hiss describes had the effect of pointing out to me something that had been right in front of my eyes all the time without my noticing it. Such an interesting and important book.” –Lisa Alther, author of Kinflicks
“In Motion is a brilliant, mind-opening book that will change how you see your world. Tony Hiss takes you to places that are both out there and inside your own mind, and offers a strikingly new perspective on such basic questions as ‘What makes us human?’ and ‘Why do we explore?’ I recommend that you read it before you take another step.” —Andrew Weil, M.D.
“Dramatic evidence for humankind’s bipedalism is at least as old as the footprints discovered in the volcanic ash of Laetoli, Tanzania, and it extends in distance to Neil Armstrong’s still-preserved boot prints on the surface of the moon. However, we have become so habituated to this business of upright walking, to travel in general, that we have buried the capacity to connect with the extraordinary opportunity for insight that travel offers. Long occupied with matters of design, environment and regional planning, Tony Hiss turns his attention to the possibilities of larger understanding inherent in traveling or, more precisely, what he calls Deep Travel, that ‘ground-shifting variant of ordinary waking consciousness.’ Much more than simply moving from place to place or simply changing scenery, Deep Travel is a parallel journey that sharpens our perceptions, altering space—creating a larger ‘here’—and time—extending it, making a larger ‘now.’ As we immerse ourselves in Deep Travel, insights previously hidden or otherwise unavailable are revealed to the off-balance mind…An intellectual walkabout filled with arresting, wide-ranging perceptions—quite unlike any other ‘travel’ book.” —Kirkus
“The high excitement of In Motion comes from the way Tony Hiss can present so much cutting-edge information in a pattern that creates a fuller and more articulate understanding of what we are. His reporter’s nose for a good story combines with a tremendous breadth and depth of vision; the result is both fun and mind-altering, a real eye-opener, a changer of consciousness. It’s a book not only to read but to live.”—Kim Stanley Robinson