Seth Stevenson was coasting into his 30s when he began to get that feeling many of us get. You know, the one that makes you want to take your life by the lapels and shake it, to heave all anchors weighing you down. It’s the urge to get out on the road.
Stevenson and his girlfriend gave notice. They tied up loose ends. They turned in the keys to their apartment. Then they packed two backpacks, went down to a harbor on the Delaware River, and got on a boat to begin a circumnavigation of the earth—without leaving its surface.
Stevenson writes about the trip in his new book, Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World, a great read and a fascinating look at the globe from a perspective few people see it nowadays: from freighters, ferries, bikes, buses and trains. “We’ve forgotten the benefit of surface travel,” Stevenson concludes. “It forces you to feel, deep in your bones, the distance you’ve covered; and it gradually eases you into a new context that exists not just outside your body, but also inside your head.”
Stevenson is a contributing writer for Slate, has received multiple Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and has been included three times in the “Best American Travel Writing” anthologies. I interviewed him via email.