Traveling Everywhere (Through Books) But Going Nowhere This Summer

I’ve written about my affinity for travel guides here before, and four years later, this hasn’t changed. (Hey, at least I’m consistent). I’m a homebody, and I’ve never really been a huge traveler. It was never a goal of mine to globetrot (although there are definitely places I want to go one day), and I’ve never been bitten by the travel bug the way some of my friends have. This summer feels different, though, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s seeing friends take epic trips country-hopping for months or rewarding themselves with major world travel after working 24/7 for so long, or maybe it’s just being stir-crazy after tending to a toddler day in and day out for the last several years, but this summer makes me want to go places.

Let’s be real: I know that I can’t take the epic trips some of my child-free friends can take, because of the aforementioned toddler. I also can’t take a month or three to travel because of work, speech therapy appointments for my son, his camp, and other life responsibilities. That’s not even what I’m aspiring to. I’ve been trying to plan a road trip to my beloved North Carolina, and that might even still be in the works. A week or (gasp) two would be enough. But even then, I kind of have the thought of wanting to do even more in the near future. I’ve never been to the West Coast, for example. The farthest I’ve been is Texas. I’ve been eyeing Southwestern destinations like Colorado, thanks to several friends’ Instagram accounts, and also Zion and Bryce Canyon—which then led me down the glorious rabbit hole that is the National Park system. But when you’re a single parent with a toddler, travel to places like these can get tricky. And highly anxiety-producing. And expensive.

Actual stack of my travel books, sans the USA National Parks one.

So the next best thing for me are my trusty travel guides. It had been a while since I’d read them, because life. But have you seen the Lonely Planet guide to Zion and Bryce Canyon? It is absolutely gorgeous. The pictures alone were worth it. I may have gone overboard with my travel guides for my potential Carolina trip (did I really need a North Carolina guide, South Carolina guide, and two different guides to Georgia and the Carolinas, especially since I used to live in North Carolina?), but as opposed to getting travel guides to places I know are a dream for now, there’s something thrilling about picking up a travel guide that holds the possibility and potential of actually going there. (Rereading that, it’s also entirely possible that I have spent way too much time at home, alone with said toddler, and desperately need a vacation). It’s not just the pictures or the descriptions of the sights (although good ones make a world of difference, and guides that provide insider tips and traveling on a budget are always welcome), but it’s also the things we project onto these guides that I think make them so appealing to me. I’ve never skied or rock climbed in my life, but you know you’ve got a good travel guide when it makes you want to go out, get all the gear, and do the thing. Or when a guide makes you want to go somewhere you’ve never even thought about going. I mean, I do NOT camp. I hate bugs and like indoor plumbing and electricity. But these National Parks travel guides make me want to go to REI and buy all the things and go camping and hiking. (And thanks to my googling each park, I’m now getting helpful ads on Facebook and Instagram for hiking/camping trips and REI offers).

I’ve spent so much time dreaming about going to places around the world that I’ve largely ignored what’s right in front of me—which is kind of exciting, because traveling domestically is a lot more doable at this stage of my life. So while I love seeing everyone’s pictures of worldwide travels on social media, I’ll be curled up in my living room with my travel guides to different places in the U.S., and planning a possible trip—or at least looking into it. Will I end up taking the trip? Maybe. Maybe not…for now, at least. But there’s always the possibility—and in the meantime, if I start to get wanderlust, I can always crack the cover of a travel guide and read about other places. That’s one of the benefits of reading, right? To transport you to somewhere else? While we don’t usually think of travel guides as doing so, at least not like a novel, for me they end up doing exactly that.

Jaime Herndon @http://twitter.com/IvyTarHeelJaime

Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

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