February 1st, 2010
I love to travel—to experience the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, traditions, and attitudes of someplace new. I’ve been all over the USA, and in my lifetime I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in England, Italy, France, and a few other countries in Europe, but there’s always more I want to do. I get the travel bug on a regular basis, but these days there are some downsides. Money and time are tight; flying is a hassle; gas prices are going up again; it seems sometimes it’s easier to just stay put.
Fortunately I’ve found a much easier and cheaper way to experience another place, and that is to go there by way of a great book or DVD. I love to find an author who makes me feel like I’ve been transported to some other locale, whether it’s a fast-paced thriller set in Brazil, a cozy mystery set in Pennsylvania, or a nonfiction work about Pompeii. Many years ago when I moved to Maryland from the West Coast, one of the first books I read was James Michener’s Chesapeake. As a newcomer to this state, it helped me understand the lay of the land and also the history of the area. More than two decades later I picked it up again, and found that it was still satisfying and informative.
In fact, I find that reading about historical events is a wonderful way to “time travel.” There are lots of great historical fiction books, but my preference is nonfiction. One of my favorites is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Not only does it provide keen insight into the mindset of the people in the years leading up to the American Revolution, but he also gives us glimpses into what daily life was really like in those days. Here’s one such passage:
“Our city [Philadelphia], tho’ laid out with a beautiful regularity,…had the disgrace of suffering those streets to remain long unpav’d, and in wet weather the wheels of heavy carriages plough’d them into a quagmire, so that it was difficult to cross them; and in dry weather the dust was offensive. I had liv’d near what was call’d the Jersey Market, and saw with pain the inhabitants wading in mud while purchasing their provisions.”
Other books may plop you down in the middle of a dust bowl storm, or lift you up to the top of a mountain peak in the Himalayas. There’s no limit to the places you can go.
And what about other ways of traveling? Maybe you want to visit places that don’t exist anymore, or never existed? Where else in the world or in your imagination do you want to go?