In the 20th century, travel literature gained a revised status due to travel writers adding some literary techniques to their works. Inspired by this resurgence, our new course introduces different types of travel literature and the travelers’ ways of interpreting people and cultures. Through the use of diaries, journals and various other documents, instructor Charles Leahy will have students read texts that help to discuss the nature and meaning of what travel is.
Leahy recently retired from the corporate company Alorica after nearly 40 years as vice president of global education and curriculum development. However, his academic background is in English literature. He sought inspiration from his passion of learning and teaching to go for a second career. He is a highly-regarded teacher with over 20 years of educational work.
“I was looking for an encore career and I saw my love of literature and my passion for travel potentially wedded,” he said.
His work in countries all over the world led to his interest in adventure travel. Charles has gone gorilla trekking in the East African highlands and white water rafting on the Nile. He went to Papua New Guinea to experience the primitive tribes and found Komodo Dragons in Indonesia.
One of the most important lessons Charles learned throughout his travels was the importance of reflection: the ability to reflect on oneself along with understanding and appreciating others.
One of his fondest memories took place when he lived in Scotland as a young man. He made a wager with his friend that he could walk up to anyone in any pub in Edinburgh and they would be able to cite a poem or a literary story from British literature. When they walked into a local pub, his friend pointed out three men drinking pints at the bar.
“They instantly turned around in unison on their stools and they smiled at each other. Then, without a pause, a lead voice spoke and they quoted, ‘To a Louse, On Seeing one on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church’ by Robbie Burns. I used my earnings on a round of pints for the gents in praise of the Scottish poet, a national hero!” he reminisced.
For his students, Charles hopes they expand their view on what travel literature entails while having fun. “There is a word the Scots use, ‘Ken,’ meaning to see and to understand. I hope we can see and understand ourselves and the other as we travel — that benefits all of us.”