Tickets. Money. Passports. There are a million things to consider before we go traveling, so much so that the experience often overwhelms what we’d hoped would be a relaxing break from the everyday.
When Kevin Oderman travels, he does it a little differently.
“Wherever I’m going, I know there will be people there with access to the essentials,” said Oderman, professor of English at West Virginia University. “So I travel light. I’ll take an extra pair of glasses. A good pair of shoes, because I’m a walker, and I know when I get there I’m mostly going to be on my feet.”
In his book of travel essays, “Cannot Stay,” Oderman shares his experiences from many years of travel.
“The great thing about travel is the element of surprise,” he said. “If things are as you expect, they make very little impression. If you’re surprised by something, it strikes a little deeper.”
Don’t mistake this book for a travel guide, with must-see tourist stops, restaurant reviews and promotional material. Such travel, Oderman said, is fine for vacations and for leaving the stress of everyday life to unwind.
His journeys, however, are often less planned.
“Cannot Stay” features a rich collection of experiences, cultures, and explores the transformative power of travel over a dozen essays.
For instance, while teaching in Lahore, Pakistan, Oderman said he often found himself with weeks of free time due to cancelled classes. He seized these opportunities to explore the region, asking a travel agent where he could go with just a visa on arrival.
“I flew to places like Sri Lanka without knowing much about Sri Lanka. That turned out to be fascinating,” he said. “I flew to Nepal the same way. I flew to Burma knowing almost nothing. I had a travel book that was 20 years old and everything in it was out of date. That was fine. You just stumble into more things.”
Oderman began to travel widely 20 years ago, when he was living in Greece. From his base in Thessaloniki, he traveled throughout the Greek mainland, its islands, and to Bulgaria and Turkey. In the years since, he’s trekked the globe.
“Experiencing other cultures helps us see our own,” he said. “There’s a shock in travel that’s very useful; it encourages us to see there are other ways to live as good as our own,” he said. “Too often we judge other cultures that aren’t like ours. I’m more interested in seeing the limits and strengths of our own culture than in judging theirs.”
“Cannot Stay” is an Etruscan Press book.
CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Marketing and Communication, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, 304-293-6867, Devon.Copeland@mail.wvu.edu
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