John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” Evokes Vacationers
At the age of 58, John Steinbeck set off across the United States with his dog Charley in tow. His goal was to gain a better understanding of a changing nation. The result was the 1962 book Travels With Charley: In Search of America. While there are questions about the accuracy of some of the encounters described in the book, it remains one of Steinbeck’s most enduring works.
However, Travels With Charley not only made people enjoy writing in the book – it also made some people literally follow in Steinbeck’s footsteps. Earlier this year, the Mercury News chatted with high school English teacher Bryan Starchman, who was traveling to all 50 states on a Steinbeck-inspired trip.
The interview offers a fascinating look at what has and has not changed in the years since Steinbeck’s journey. One big difference, according to Starchman, is that Steinbeck’s preferred method of starting calls – asking for directions – doesn’t work nearly as well in the age of smartphones.
In the Washington Post, Melanie DG Kaplan wrote about another way she cited Steinbeck: traveling with a dog in tow. “Since  I’ve traveled west on average every two years, always with a Beagle – first Darwin, now Hamilton. “
Kaplan writes about the way travel has influenced her and her travel companions. “Hammy, a trauma survivor who is more shy and cautious than his predecessor, has become an equally avid traveler,” she notes. “He has now visited 44 states. Until the pandemic when Hammy and I longed to travel, we never missed an opportunity to scratch each other. “
The country has changed a lot since Steinbeck set out on his journey all those decades ago, but his words still resonate with many readers – and many travelers too.
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