The only thing I love more than travel is reading
If I could only describe myself with one word, it would be “reader”. I am a reader. I've been reading since I was 4 years old and, as much as I love being a writer and feel that writing is at the core of who I am, I would never have written a word if I didn't love reading so much.
When people say that they haven’t had the time to read anything lately, that they don’t have a favourite book, that they find reading dull, or that there’s never been anything interesting to read, I immediately recoil. Who are these mutants? I feel it would be easier to connect with some of the case studies on Criminal Minds before I could trust, love, confide in a non-reader.
Books save lives, they help people fall in love, they spark revolutions and they guide the way to peace. But there’s nothing interesting enough for you to read? I’ll be in the other room, thanks.
Reading, of course, is a source of pleasure, entertainment, education, and thought provocation but it is ultimately a form of escape. I remember reading and re-reading Iggy’s House by Judy Bloom again and again and again one summer, oblivious to nothing else but the compelling words on the page. During the cold winter nights in my attic room in university, I snuggled down with a hot water bottle and the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery, entrusting only her to whisk me away. I think authors like J.K. Rowling deserve some kind of humanitarian award for the millions of children they saved, give hope to, rescue from drudgery.
When I travel, I always try to spend some time in a bookstore. I love absorbing the local flavor and discovering new authors, as well as handicrafts and stationary. Whenever possible, I try to visit independent bookstores, but I’m not adverse to chain shops as well. I confess to being that girl who curls up in the reading chair for hours, absorbed in a stack of magazines, or stealing away a few chapters of the new John Grisham novel (don’t laugh – his work makes for perfect travel fare!).
I remember entering Shakespeare and Co in Paris and thinking “I’m home”. It felt safe, cozy, intuitive, and right. In Cork, Ireland, there once existed a wonderfully atmospheric shop named “Mainly Murder” and I asked the elderly proprietress for her best recommendations for backpackers (Minette Walters, in case you’re wondering).
In Malawi, I discovered just one bookstore in Lilongwe and ended up spending a small fortune on Jeffery Deaver novels, the two Jane Austen’s I brought from home having been long read and passed on. In Dublin, I sat in WH Smith and tried to gather my thoughts about my research project –which was easier said than done!
For me, travel is about relaxing, enjoyment, getting to know yourself, and getting to know a community. While it might not sound very exciting, there’s no place I’d rather visit than a bookstore to realize these goals. As a writer, my relationship with books helps me improve at my craft and visiting bookstores is a source of great inspiration.
Discovering bookstores has led me to explore writers’ museums (Dublin and Edinburgh are great for this, as well as the British Library in London). I have learned about great community events through their notice boards, met local authors, and consumed more than my fair share of cookies at the in-house cafes.
Traveling doesn’t have to always been adrenaline fueled, extreme adventure, always doing something new and exotic every day. Just do what makes you happy and the rest will follow!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Do you have a favourite book?
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