This may seem a cruel jab at those of us returning to school and those who blew through carefully guarded vacation time the very second summer reared its sunny head. But I was a late bloomer in making it abroad this year and anyway I’m writing this one for Susan who chained herself into her cubbyhole like a redemption-seeking prisoner in that beige and slate prison some call the office after learning that everyone else in Accounting had submitted their vacation requests ages ago, claiming most of summer behind her back.
Don’t worry, Susan. It’s your turn now. Pack your efficient flight attendant’s suitcase, make sure you left the contact information for the nearest veterinary hospital on the fridge for the cat sitter, stow your fetish gear in that bin in the closet in case the landlord schedules a surprise inspection while you’re away, and for god’s sake bring some books.
Now here’s the tricky part. There exists this ideal where the bookish travel to a desert island with stacks they’ve been meaning to power through all year, or those books specifically curated for the conduction of healing energies through bodies war-torn by the antics of passive aggressive bosses and petty coworkers.
But vacations don’t always bend to lofty reading goals. Susan may have wedged 10 books among her sensible shoes and PVC harnesses, but she faces the danger of getting caught up in Ibiza foam parties. By vacation’s end, she might turn a resentful eye on the books taking up space needed for obligatory souvenirs blindly purchased in bulk at the local artisans craft fair. Her sturdy bookmark might travel the length of one pithy chapter hastily read while making that pivotal decision between the in-flight romantic comedy or the R-rated thriller.
Having experienced this reader’s tragedy numerous times in my own travels, I’ve used my late vacation to unlock the secrets of reading abroad. I offer them to you, and to Susan, in no particular order, for the next vacation you plan many, many moons from now.
- Fly economy. And when I say economy, I mean that option where the flight attendants laugh when asked if they offer any entertainment or food during the length of the 12-hour flight. These limitations may destroy your neighbor in 14B and send him into a violent fit calmed only by a Benadryl washed down with two shots of free whisky, but you have your books and all the time in the world.
- Speaking of time, give yourself as little of it as possible to transfer planes. After the adrenaline rush of racing all the way to the other end of the city-length airport to the correct gate, having read the wrong line on the flight information display system, and making it to your seat right as the plane taxis, you will undoubtedly and with shaking hands reach for a book to soothe your addled nerves.
- Choose an island vacation. Find the tiniest golden dot on the globe, one surrounded by water for days. Check a travel site to ensure that only the whiff of civilization and an astoundingly discrepant wealth of beach bars and thatched umbrellas exist there. You will never need to leave your shaded reading nook except to refresh your reading senses with a dip in the crystalline sea.
- Travel alone. Now is not the time for talk. Now is the time for read. There’s nothing worse than a human being distracting you with silly talk of itineraries and romance. If you do look up from your page with a curious feeling that may or may not be loneliness, find a nice island cat or stray dog and convince it to be your friend courtesy of leftover Catch of the Day. Animals can’t talk–that’s why they’re perfect.
- Choose engaging books. Ones that will contend with the sight of a pirate ship traveling across the sparkling blue sea past a setting sun. For instance, I chose The Hike by Drew Magary. Who needs adventure abroad when you can read it without having to actually deal with smart-mouthed crabs and sociopaths sharing your journey?
- Find the one bookstore. There will always be one bookstore and a blip of a shelf dedicated to books in the language of your preference. It stands to reason that if you’ve been too much of a champ and burned through all of your books, you must seek out a temple to help you find your way back to reading heaven. And if, on the way out, you end up with more books than you shoved into your suitcase on the way in…
- Don’t worry about the souvenirs. Nobody wants them.