On Travelling Vicariously Through Books
In the Northern part of the planet, it is definitely summer at the moment. And summer is often equated with holidays and road trips and vacations and many other forms of travelling away from where you usually call home. But maybe, like me, you have no such plans. And maybe you’re looking at the travel guides and maps and travel literature on the bookstore shelves with a growing itch of wanderlust.
But perhaps there are other ways we can get our fix of travel and road trips and new places, from the comfort of our sofas, air conditioned libraries, and office desks. Books can offer many options for all sorts of trips. Trips more thrilling than anywhere you could get to with an aeroplane or a camper van.
I can travel into space and across the galaxy with no need for the large amounts of money required to afford space tourism, or the years of training to become an astronaut, or the limitations of current technology, simply by opening a copy of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. This also works if you want to try hitchhiking without any of the personal risk.
Reading The Hobbit or The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien offers the equivalent of a walking holiday, camping and backpacking in Europe, but without the blisters, or the insect bites, or the threat of being murdered by Orcs. There are mountains, and forests, and lakes, and all sorts of natural beauty to experience.
N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon (and the rest of the Dreamblood series) can feel like walking in beautiful desert cities thousands of miles away, but I won’t be getting sunburnt.
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is (within the pages) very literally a road trip across America. A road trip where I can sleep in my own bed, and with no need to be able to afford the petrol to fuel a car. But with far more exciting happenings than are likely if I were to go on a trip that involved actually leaving my house.
If I were to want a holiday sleeping on a train I could read Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express. The luxury of the Orient Express without the cost, and it seems unlikely that I’ll be the victim of the murder mentioned in the title.
Or if I wanted a holiday on a cruise ship without the seasickness, there is The Voyage Of The Dawntreader by C.S. Lewis. Or for a Mediterranean cruise, Homer’s The Odyssey.
I can visit tropical islands, or ice caps, or ancient cities, or mountains, or rainforests, just by opening a book- and for a fraction of the cost of the other ways to experience them. And maybe it isn’t the same- probably it isn’t the same- but it has to be better than to never experience these journeys and these places, both remembered and imagined, at all. Reading does feel like the safer, and in the summer less unpleasantly warm, option, and with the books mentioned here being a tiny selection of the wonderful books to travel vicariously through, this could keep us going for many summers to come.