An Irreverent History of Travel
by Shahnaz Habib
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Pub Date 05 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2023
The conditions of travel have long been dictated by the color of passports and the color of skin.
The color of one’s skin and passport have long dictated the conditions of travel. For Shahnaz Habib, travel and travel writing have always been complicated pleasures. Habib threads the history of travel with her personal story as a child on family vacations in India, an adult curious about the world, and an immigrant for whom roundtrips are an annual fact of life. Tracing the power dynamics that underlie tourism, this insightful debut parses who gets to travel, and who gets to write about the experience.
Threaded through the book are inviting and playful analyses of obvious and not-so-obvious travel artifacts: passports, carousels, bougainvilleas, guidebooks, trains, the idea of wanderlust itself. Together, they tell a subversive history of travel as a Euro-American mode of consumerism—but as any traveler knows, travel is more than that. As an immigrant whose loved ones live across continents, Habib takes a deeply curious and joyful look at a troubled and beloved activity.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR AIRPLANE MODE
A Debutiful Most Anticipated Book of 2023
“A memorable and unique travelogue that explores what it means to explore the world through the lens of colonialism, capitalism, and climate change.”
—Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
“I read Airplane Mode while traveling for work and was thrilled to find it reignited my love for travel memoirs. In interweaving the personal and political stakes of traveling as a migrant, Habib gives us an urgently needed reimagining of the genre.”
—Jessica J. Lee, author of Two Trees Make a Forest
“Airplane Mode is a captivating and comprehensive history of travel. Part cultural study and part personal account, it engages with the troubling legacy of colonialism and the particular experiences of brown and Black people traveling. I know of no other book like it, a thrilling read that feels like a whole education in the history of why and how bodies moved across this not-so-lonely planet.”
—Kazim Ali, author of Northern Light
“Nuanced and thought-provoking, Airplane Mode is an exemplary piece of work that asks important questions about our current concept of ‘travel writing.’ Shahnaz Habib expertly blends personal anecdotes with external research to interrogate typically romanticized ideas of travel and immigration, and how our personal definitions of those subjects change depending on, amongst other factors, the passports we are born holding. I will be recommending this book to anyone I know who’s ever set foot on a plane, in another country, or has dreamt of a life of ‘traveling’—so essentially, everybody.”
—Pyae Moe Thet War, author of You've Changed
“Shahnaz Habib’s Airplane Mode incisively explores, and exposes, the assumptions and prejudices that underpin so much of documentary and travel writing. This elegantly written, erudite collection acts not only as a much-needed corrective but as an exemplar of what the travel essay can truly accomplish.”
—Hasanthika Sirisena, author of Dark Tourist
“A fascinating, wide-ranging and insightful travelogue that poses some of the biggest questions of all: who gets to travel and what is it that makes us so keen to travel in the first place?”
—Annabel Abbs, author of Windswept