Reading awakens a thirst for the world.
Most of my first visits to centuries-old cities, cerulean cities, and chilled cliffs didn’t take place via airplane. I didn’t have to stand in lines, spend money, or even miss classes. Instead, my original obsession with lands far away came through the written word, which I coincidentally now translate to you.
I’ve never stepped foot within 20 miles of Palmetto, Florida, but through As Hot As It Was You Oughta Thank Me, that didn’t occur to me until right now. I stumbled upon The Likeness long before I took a flight to Dublin, but I barely knew the difference. I probably will never get too close to Death Valley, but when I read Born to Run, I felt like I too conquered an ultra marathon over the terrain.
It saddens me when I meet people all day long who brag that they haven’t picked up a book since they were 15. Movies are pretty cool and TV is alright I guess, but reading a book alone at the end of the day when there is nothing else to do and no one else to see and even the world is finally quiet is a special experience in itself. How can you limit your influences of worldly travel to one form of communication? Why do you think that those drones on the screen are providing you with all the necessary information? How could it be that what is worthy is only being produced in this way?
I love reading so much that when I went abroad, I was deathly nervous that I would quickly run through the books I had brought to read while waiting in airports and wasting time in cafes. These fears quickly came to fruition. However, the cinching of this (obviously) didn’t bring the end of my habit – instead, it made it into a game.
Instead of pulling my next novel out from under my bed (or popping in a DVD) I now had to seek out food for thought like some kind of hunter. I scoured the dilapidated bookshelves in my Florence apartment, cautiously snagged books from friends’ places, raided piles of material from boxes at hostels, and always kept an eye out for roaming novels at airports. I was unstoppable. When I found another book that turned out to be weird, terrifying, comforting, or even enjoyable, I felt like I had cracked the code and I was a real bona fide traveler.
Now when I run amok, whether it’s at the local university, a lonely bakery, or just nearby an empty park bench, I always return the favor my fellow faceless travelers paid me – I leave my conquests behind for the next uninspired, bored kid. I know I’m not the only one, because I still frequently find these treasures every which way I turn and I often like to consider where this person was going and where they are now. Next time you find a book, pick it up, and consider choosing it instead of the TV today. You never know who loved it last.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” - Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451