What follows is a passage from Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country,” a travel narrative about Australia, published in 2000 and which I recently read. (The text below was all one paragraph and for ease of reading here I’ve taken the liberty to break it up.)
Bryson is writing about being an American in a foreign land, but his comments are applicable, I think, to anyone traveling anywhere:
“I bought a morning newspaper and found my way into a cafe. It always amazes me how seldom visitors bother with local papers. Personally I can think of nothing more exciting — certainly nothing you could do in a public place with a cup of coffee — than to read newspapers from a part of the world you know almost nothing about.
“What comfort it is to find a nation preoccupied by matters of no possible consequence to oneself. I love reading about scandals involving ministers of whom I have never heard, murder hunts in communities whose names sound dusty and remote, features on revered artists and thinkers whose achievements have never reached my ears, whose talents I must take on faith.
“I love above all to venture into the color supplements and see what’s fashionable for the beach in this part of the world, what’s new for the kitchen, what I might get for my money if I had A$400,000 and a reason to live in Dubbo or Woolloomooloo. There is something about all this that feels privileged, almost illicit, like going through a stranger’s drawers. Where else can you get this much pleasure for a handful of coins?”