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A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller
by Mayes, Frances
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1. Mayes opens her book with this quote from W.S. Merwin: "...we are words on a journey not the inscriptions of settled people." Why do you think she has chosen this quote? What does it mean?

2. Throughout the book, Mayes talks about her lust for travel, using the German word Wanderjahr (their year of wandering in their youth). Do you think everyone should indulge in a year of youthful travel? Would it be better to experience this type of travel while young and impressionable, or at an older age, with more experience and wisdom?

3. Even though this is a book about travel, the concept of home is a consistent theme. Mayes writes, "The need to travel is a mysterious force. A desire to go runs through me equally with an intense desire to stay at home. An equal and opposite thermodynamic principal." What does she mean by this? Deep down, do you consider Mayes to be a traveler or a homebody?

4. Mayes describes Andalucía as an "ancient quest" for her because some of the music and poetry she enjoyed in her youth conjured up strong images of this place in her mind. So Andalucía is the first place she visits on her journey. Do you have a "first memory" of a place that you have never visited?

5. While in Andalucía, Mayes falls prey to a scam. She is surprised but not outraged. Would she be so tolerant if this happened on her home turf? Have you ever made allowances for behaviors or attitudes while traveling that you would not normally have tolerated if you were at home?

6. Mayes describes herself as "a doubter," and yet she is fascinated by churches and other religious customs. She wears an ivory horn and other religious amulets under her skirt to ward off the "evil eye" and lights candles in Catholic churches for her sick friends. What do you make of this? Is Mayes a religious person deep down?

7. Favoring to live like a local when she travels, Mayes makes obvious her disdain for tourists and how upsetting it is to her when a place is geared so obviously towards tourists. Isn't Mayes herself a tourist?

8. Mayes talks about being driven to visit places by the books she reads. How do you decide where you'd like to travel?

9. People love to buy souvenirs to help them remember a place they've visited. In Naples, Mayes buys a Neapolitan cookbook and her husband searches for a CD of local music. What do these purchases say about the buyers? What souvenirs have you purchased in the past that evoke special memories for you?

10. Mayes and her husband choose many of their lodgings in order to more fully experience the local flavor. Some of the places they select turn out to be fairly undesirable, cold, cramped, sometimes even hazardous. When you travel, do you prefer to stay in a local dwelling or a touristy hotel?

Additional discussion questions from: Reading Group Guides : The Online Community for Reading Groups
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