Moments of Intimacy on the Road
This 12″x12″ book of photographs has pictures of people I met in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, India, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tibet, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. Each is accompanied by a bit of text.
Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World:
Wandering the Globe from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar
Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World: Wandering the Globe from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar is the first book in a series of travel stories I am calling At Home in the World. It includes anecdotes from Albania, Argentina, Azerbaijan, China, Guatemala, India, Iran, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malawi, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland (Eswatini), Tanzania, Tibet, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. (Links to galleries.)
From the publisher:
Tom Lutz is addicted to journeying. Sometimes he stops at the end of the road, sometimes he travels further. In this richly packed portmanteau of traveler’s tales, we accompany him as he drives beyond the blacktop in Morocco, to the Saharan dunes on the Algerian border, and east of Ankara into the Hittite ruins of Boğazkale. We ride alongside as he hitches across Uzbekistan and the high mountain passes of Kyrgyzstan into western China. We catch up with him as he traverses the shores of a lake in Malawi, and disappear with him into the disputed areas of the Ukraine and Moldova. We follow his footsteps through the swamps of Sri Lanka, the wilds of Azerbaijan, the plains of Tibet, the casinos of Tanzania, the peasant hinterlands of Romania and Albania, and the center of Swaziland, where we join him in watching the king pick his next wife. All along the way, we witness his perplexity in trying to understand a compulsion to keep moving, ever onward, to the ends of the earth.
And the Monkey Learned Nothing:
Dispatches from a Life in Transit
The second volume in At Home in the World, this book contains stories from some of the same countries, but also Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, French Guiana, Gibraltar, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Suriname, Tunisia, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
From University of Iowa Press:
“Tom Lutz is on a mission to visit every country on earth. And the Monkey Learned Nothing contains reports from fifty of them, most describing personal encounters in rarely visited spots, anecdotes from way off the beaten path. Traveling without an itinerary and without a goal, Lutz explores the Iranian love of poetry, the occupying Chinese army in Tibet, the amputee beggars in Cambodia, the hill tribes on Vietnam’s Chinese border, the sociopathic monkeys of Bali, the dangerous fishermen and conmen of southern India, the salt flats of Uyumi in Peru, and floating hotels in French Guiana, introduces you to an Uzbeki prodigy in the market of Samarkand, an Azeri rental car clerk in Baku, guestworkers in Dubai, a military contractor in Jordan, cucuruchos in Guatemala, a Pentecostal preacher in rural El Salvador, a playboy in Nicaragua, employment agents in Singapore specializing in Tamil workers, prostitutes in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, international bankers in Belarus, a teacher in Havana, border guards in Botswana, tango dancers in Argentina, a cook in Suriname, a juvenile thief in Uruguay, voters in Guyana, doctors in Tanzania and Lesotho, scary poker players in Moscow, reed dancers in Swaziland, young camel herders in Tunisia, Romanian missionaries in Macedonia, and musical groups in Mozambique. With an eye out for both the sublime and the ridiculous, Lutz falls, regularly, into the instant intimacy of the road with random strangers.”
“Each short essay captures the feeling of wonder that drives many travelers to continual exploration. Whether they’re seasoned travelers or not, readers will find stories that remain with them well after they finish the book.”—Booklist starred review
“At a time when travelers are hitting the road hoping for some kind of personal transformation, or a fantasy to match a postcard in their heads, Tom Lutz is an old-school adventurer, seeking out the world as it is. He opens himself to the random encounter in corners of the world few would embrace and most would go to some lengths to avoid. Whether it’s parsing the bribery etiquette at a jungle border crossing or befriending a street tout—and Lutz has a bit of the trickster about him, so surprises are often mutual—each small encounter speaks volumes. Emotionally stirring, courageous, outrageous, and laugh-out-loud funny, And the Monkey Learned Nothing is an unqualified delight.”—Janet Fitch, author, White Oleander
“Slip in between the cracks of the world, wiggle through borderlands of language, symbols, and undetermined and frazzled cultural archipelagos, surf on the knife-sharp fractures of people’s hopes, starvations, desperations, wisdom, luxuries, and desires and you will be ambling with Lutz. I am astounded at Tom’s ethnographic fragments, his deep knowledge of the regions and peoples, his relentless openness and outer-inner descriptions, the ways in which he finds meaning in nods, keywords, and gesture, cultural performance, and how he is taken by the human rush of lives as he meets it head on. Elaborating on the analyses of Geertz, Marcus, and Rosaldo, Lutz angles new ways of seeing, encountering, and melting thought and experience into social life; I love this book—it leaves me devoured by a vast borderless humanity.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States
“To read And the Monkey Learned Nothing is to experience the thrill of visiting new places coupled with the pleasure of personal and cultural reflection. The sensitivity and moral intelligence that Tom Lutz brings to his writing allows us to discover the unity to be found in our wondrously diverse world.”—Laila Lalami, author, The Moor’s Account, finalist, Pulitzer Prize for fiction
“An inherently fascinating, informative, compelling read from beginning to end, And the Monkey Learned Nothing is a unique and thoroughly engaging kind of travelogue. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, And the Monkey Learned Nothing is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library collections.”—Midwest Book Review
Frank Baltimore never thought he would get farther from his native Massachusetts than Pennsylvania, but he ends up in Taipei, Tokyo, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and a dozen other ports of call. A globe-trotting literary thriller, Frank is decidedly unprepared for where he is headed….
Published this year by Repeater Books.
A philosophical essay that practices what it preaches, Aimlessness is about wandering, indirection, getting lost, waiting, meandering, lingering, sitting, laying about, daydreaming, and other ways to be open to possibility, chaos, and multiplicity. It considers aimlessness as a fundamental human proclivity and method, one that has been vilified by modern industrial societies but celebrated by many religious traditions, philosophers, writers, and artists.
I include it here because it discusses some of the great wanderers of all time, including Basho and Ibn Battuta, and has some sections from my travels in Mongolia, Bhutan, and elsewhere; the map is of their journeys, mine that I discuss, and the homes of the other writers I quote.
Aimlessness was published in January 2021, by Columbia University Press. It is available here.
The Kindness of Strangers
The third volume of At Home in the World. This book has chapters on the Philippines, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Brazil, Peru, Madagascar, Nepal, Bhutan, New Zealand, La Reunión, Taiwan, Nicaragua, Tajikistan, and Bangladesh. It was published in 2021, available here.
I was on my way to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in March 2020 when the Covid pandemic made me turn around and come home. I had plans to visit West and Central Africa during a sabbatical in 2020-2021, and those plans were put on hold because of the pandemic as well. In 2021-2022 I am on sabbatical doing research and writing in Europe, and visiting a number of places I’d never been before—Malta, Crete, Mallorca, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily—and many I hadn’t been to for fifty years, like Portugal, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, and Switzerland. Travel outside Europe has been tricky because of ongoing pandemic restrictions and coups and wars breaking out in a number of places I had been planning to visit—Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, Chad, and Mali. But I went to five new countries on the Saudi peninsula, and hope to head to Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa soon. The other unvisited spaces on the map beckon, too…..