Hairpin Travel Essays Read Like a Best Friend's Letters

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Edith Zimmerman thinks everyone should travel, even if it's not to a "big romantic place," as she tells The Atlantic Wire. "I think everyone discovers parts of themselves through travel. Even if it's like, 'I hate this part of myself; may it never surface again.'" The Zimmerman-edited essay series An Experience Definitely Worth Allegedly Having, released Tuesday, doesn't shy away from the ugly, funny parts of getting away for a while. The essays read like a bunch of letters from your good friends in distant places.

Zimmerman recruited six women and one man (all of whom have contributed to The Hairpin, which Zimmerman used to edit), to share personal travel stories for the series. The result? It's all the messy, good parts of Eat, Pray, Love without any mawkish philosophizing. Zimmerman told The Wire, "I guess I didn't think about the driving idea for this series very much beyond 'what could be the funnest thing I could try to make.'" She also set up a companion Tumblr for the series, which features writers' personal photos to go along with the essays.

Kindle will release the essays one at a time, week by week — Carrie Frye's "Let Us Go Then" is up first. She details her travels around South America, including one romantic encounter that starts with the phrase, "I heard you had diarrhea and bed bugs." In her forward to the collection, Zimmerman calls the opener "one of the tenderest things" she's ever heard.


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Many of the essays arrive at the idea that when you travel, you usually don't find what you were looking for. Jenna Wortham, a New York Times tech reporter, gets to the heart these expectations in her contribution (it will be released third in the series), "The Last Great Adventure":

The thing about traveling is that you think you’ll come back a changed person, a new you, simply by virtue of leaving your comfortable nest and getting into some real shit, enlightened by the ways of the rest of the world. Maybe you want to relax or hope to accrue some intangible wisdom about life and what it all means. You might buy some new clothes or even get a haircut that suits this future you, preparation for the version that will come back reshaped, changed, different. It could happen. It might not. 

After editing the series (and writing an essay herself), we asked Zimmerman if there's anywhere she'd still like to go. She said she wants to go to Idaho soon "because there's a thing there I want to see, but I can't talk about it yet because it is a secret." Sounds intriguing. Until then, there's no shortage of revelations big and small in An Experience.

You can get An Experience Definitely Worth Allegedly Having here, and you don't need a Kindle to read it, just a Kindle app. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.