The Nostalgic Traveler #10: The Greenhouse

Last June, I started this column by writing about my collection of vintage Paris travel guides. I wanted to think about travel without going anywhere and to think about the past and how a city was imagined for tourists over the last one hundred-plus years.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #9: The Red Caboose

A scenic drive goes nowhere. This is part of its appeal. It cuts through space and it crosses vast expanses, but it doesn’t connect towns or serve any real practical purpose; it exists to reveal landscape. The Blue Ridge Parkway goes nowhere. This black ribbon of a road unwinds across fields and mountains.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #8: Your Ocean City Memory Starts Here

I had been in New York City for the summer, and I was driving home to North Carolina. I often stop in Maryland when I make this drive because it’s a perfect midway point, a place neither south nor north. On my drive up in June, I had stayed in Annapolis, in a hotel room overlooking a military cemetery.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #7: The Incredible Christmas Place

I went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for Thanksgiving, but it was already Christmas there. To enter this town is to leave the natural world behind. I drove along a two-lane highway, through the Great Smoky Mountains, under trees that stretched over the road like grasping gray fingers. Tourists stood in piles of fallen leaves, taking pictures of vistas.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #6: In the City of the Dead

It was fall in New Orleans, but it felt like summer, and the streets of the French Quarter smelled of stale alcohol and vomit. I knew the Quarter would be touristy, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Endless t-shirt and bead shops, stocked with boob beads. Store windows filled with cheap voodoo dolls and feather boas.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #5: The Hauntings of Vincent Van Gogh

I was drawn to Auvers-sur-Oise because I wanted to stay on a houseboat, not because of Vincent Van Gogh.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #4: Souvenir Shop

One afternoon before I moved away from New York City, I wandered into a midtown souvenir shop. I had always been attracted to these perverse places when I was traveling, but it had never occurred to me to walk into one where I lived – at least not on my own, not without someone who was visiting. Souvenir shops were everywhere in the city, but they had always been invisible. Then I started to see them.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #3: The Dresser

People who know High Point, North Carolina know about the dresser. I had heard it was on the side of the road: a marvel for road-trippers. Visitors describe it on travel sites as fun, hilarious, and whimsical. It is so random, they say. But really, it is a domestic monster.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #2: Hotel Normandie

In 1942, the SS Normandie ocean liner caught fire in the Hudson River and capsized at Pier 88. She sank into the mud. She had been seized by U.S. authorities during the war and renamed the USS Lafayette, so she was not the SS Normandie anymore when she sank. Although she was salvaged, she was too expensive to restore, and so she was thrown away.
Nowhere Link to Story

The Nostalgic Traveler #1: Old Paris by the Book

Over the last few years, I’ve amassed a small collection of vintage travel guides for France: a Baedeker, a Michelin, a Fielding Guide. A few others. They are all blue or red: the colors of travel, it would seem. The books have come from flea markets, antique malls, and used bookstores at home and abroad.
Nowhere Link to Story



Susan Harlan is a writer based in Winston-Salem, NC, who is particularly interested in the relationship between place, memory, and objects. Her essays have appeared in publications including The Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Roads & Kingdoms, The Morning News, The Awl, Curbed, Racked, Atlas Obscura, The Common, The Toast, Nowhere, Literary Hub, The Bitter Southerner, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Avidly, and Public Books. She also writes about feminist issues for venues such as Jezebel, Literary Mothers, The Feminist Wire, DAME, Skirt!, The Hairpin, The Establishment, Queen Mob's Tea House, The Belladonna, The South Carolina Review, and The Manifest-Station. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University and an M.A. in English Renaissance theater history from King’s College London and teaches English at Wake Forest University. Her book Luggage was published in the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March 2018. Her book Decorating a Room of One's Own, a humorous mash-up of home design reportage and literary homes based on her column for The Toast, will be published by Abrams in October 2018.

She is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management.

Photo credit Sarah Torretta Klock.



  • Teaching
  • Writing