Review: Roads Less Traveled


For those of us who can’t afford a jaunt to Africa, Asia, Europe and the other four continents, I would like to recommend Catherine Watson’s _Roads Less Traveled_. As an armchair traveler, I find Watson to be the perfect guide. Watson first wrote for the travel section of the newspaper that was then the _Minneapolis Tribune_ in 1978. This collection of essays reprinted with permission of the _Star Tribune_ spans her thirty years as the newspaper’s chief travel columnist.

This summer, I have traveled with Watson to see the polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba, to have my fingers bitten by penguins on the white continent of Antarctic, and I’ve traveled to touch the baby whales in Baja, California—all without moving out of my temperature-controlled, bug-free living room.

Watson and I have been to the top of Kilimanjaro, we’ve fallen in love with Istanbul, “the city [that] was like a great beauty turned bag lady,” and we’ve experienced Paris’ New Year’s Eve without tourists. All our travels have had one thing in common: they aren’t very common at all.

My favorite trip was to Machu Picchu, the ancient and mysterious lost city of the Incas located in the Peruvian Andes. My favorite person was Rosario Lobo, a mother of eight, whose philosophy of life, to “accept, go forward, love,” became very evident as the story of their rather too eventful trip through Costa Rica unfolded.

Watson’s essays always include ethical and political undercurrents, a sort of guide to her way of looking at the world. We get to know her through her choices of places to visit. She also sprinkles the book with some of her meditative meanderings, such as the essay “Travels with Freud,” in which she ponders a recent nightmare.

Wherever she travels, we are privy to her connections with the real people underneath all of her travel stories.

While I was reading Watson’s essays, I also discovered some wonderful websites that connected me visually to the places she was writing about. The one I most recommend is, which has photos and the music of Allan Lafitte from St. Pierre et Miquelon, an almost unknown little archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland.

I plan on returning again and again to my favorite essays, returning to those places I created in my imagination with the help of Catherine Watson’s travel essays.

_Mary Alterman is a free-lance writer, artist, and homeschooling mom. She lives in Burnsville with her husband and two sons._