Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel – A BUST Review

by Robyn Smith

Airplane Mode, Shahnaz Habib’s exploration of the history of tourism and its consequences, is also a retelling of the author’s own personal experiences as a traveler. For example, Habib details the history of the passport while also revealing her own experience exchanging her Indian passport for an American one as an immigrant who’s been all over the world. Her prose erases the pencil-thin lines between refugee, immigrant, and tourist. And she’s especially effective when describing her hometown in India—its shift toward tourism that is bringing work and prosperity to the region, as well as the rising prices that make it nearly impossible for long timers to remain. Stateside, she writes lovingly of Brooklyn as seen from within its interborough buses—a nice way to catch an unfamiliar glimpse of monolithic New York.

Habib is great at establishing a sense of place and crafting damn good sentences. Airplane Mode asserts that traveling is both learning and unlearning, that it can be a selfish-yet-grand act of decentering, and that it requires packing and unpacking our assumptions about the way the world works. 

Image via Catapult 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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