Graeme Wood first visited Iraq in 2004, hitching rides from taxis, trucks, and military vehicles as he crisscrossed the country. For the next two years, he had an uncomfortably close view of the violence and mayhem plaguing that country. A few months ago, he started planning a return trip—this time, during a period of relative calm. Embedding with U.S. Marines, he’d see what Iraq's Anbar province looks like after five years of carnage.
Graeme, an Atlantic writer since 2006, landed last week in Kuwait, his first stop on a months-long journey that will take him to Iraq and then to Afghanistan, the Arabian peninsula, the Caucasus, and the Horn of Africa. “The news we read from the places I'll visit is typically impersonal, perhaps about wars and rumors of war, or about coups and dubious elections,” Graeme wrote to me in a note just before he left. “It concerns big events and important people. I'll concentrate instead on the view from the ground—what the reader would learn if he were in my place, rucksacked and on the move through many of the worst, and most interesting, places in the world.”
He’s a good man for the job. Wood speaks local languages, and he has traveled in nearly a hundred countries. You can read his posts about the current trip on Prepared for the Worst, his blog on our Correspondents page.
Closer to home, writer Christina Davidson also left last week on her own kind of masochistic summer vacation. Driving west out of Washington in a rented silver Prius, Christina had on the passenger seat a map charting a 4-month-long 7,000-mile trip that will take her to every state but Alaska and Hawaii. The goal: to chronicle the impact of the recession on ordinary Americans.
Christina, a writer and blogger who has done stories for the Atlantic, began nursing this idea late last year, when the economy was spiraling downward. A resident of Washington, she was spending lots of time in small-town southern Indiana, where her mom was undergoing chemotherapy. “I was constantly amazed at the people I met who had lost the better part of their life savings, but still maintained a kind of positive resignation about the circumstances,” she recalls. “Most seemed to take a 'no use crying over spilled milk' attitude. And these weren't wealthy people, but farmers, teachers, and construction workers who'd invested their pennies.” It was when Christina was looking at Depression-era photos by Dorothea Lange that she settled on her plan, and in late winter she approached me with the idea. Her new blog, Recession Roadtrip, is also on our Correspondents page.
I hope you’ll stop by every day or two to see where Graeme and Christina are taking you next.
—Bob Cohn, Editorial Director, TheAtlantic.com