Thursday, November 16, 2006

In Pursuit of Perfection

Classical Pursuits: Beyond Tourism to Meaningful Travel

In researching my book on the Irish Literary Revival, I came across the itinerary for a trip to Ireland titled "Irish Literary Genius." It was with a program out of Toronto called Classical Pursuits. Although the timing didn't quite work out for me to go on that trip, I stored the information away for future investigation. Now, I'm intrigued. After a few conversations with founder Ann Kirkland, I see how Classical Pursuits is one of the leading programs in the growing movement in literary travel; the programs offered bring inquiring adults together to explore life's big questions in the context of the world's greatest wriers and artists.

Classical Pursuits founder Ann Kirkland

Kirkland's outfit essentially runs two programs: one brings much of the world's literature and culture to Toronto and the other brings travelers into the world to experience culture first hand. Toronto Pursuits is a six day immersion in the stuff you wish was part of the curriculum when you went to college: fear of colour in contemporary art, Egyptian novels, Iranian cinema, alongside the classics you wish you had payed more attention to: Shakespeare, Russian fiction, Moby Dick. Around a hundred, fifty people from all over flock to Toronto each summer for the engaging conversation and camaraderie.

The other arm of the program takes travelers to the places that make this art come alive. With literature and art-based trips to places like Mexico, Georgia, Italy, Spain and New Mexico (this year's destinations), Travel Pursuits aims to offer an experience that will last long after travelers return home, marrying high ideas with high adventure. Kirkland offers some half-dozen trips each year, fueling literary and artistic investigations worldwide.

As a writer of literary guidebooks, I find programs like Kirkland's Classical Pursuits (, and Francis McGovern's Literary Traveler( encouraging signs. People are starting to demand more from their travels and are looking for programs like these to help them engage their minds beyond what they find in their guidebooks.


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