One of my great travel joys is reading. A 5 hour train ride? A 2 hour delay? A tropical rainstorm? They all mean the same to me. Reading time. You’re never bored when you’re possessed by a good book. I have this childish thing where I drag the book I’m reading along to every place I go. I could go hiking the entire day without really having time to read one minute, yet I’ll still bring it along. My precious.
But reading isn’t just a pastime for me. It also becomes this song in my head that colours my travel experiences, and my memories afterwards. I remember that 15-hour flight to Vietnam when I read ‘The Rosie Project’ and chuckled like a little girl while everyone was sleeping. ‘The Signature Of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert in Sevilla. ‘The Zahir’ by Paulo Coelho in Paris. ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts in India totally rocked my world. Milan Kundera in Prague. Kerouac in Australia. I could go on, but that’s not the point.
The reading I remember most, is ‘Barbarian Days – A surfing life’ by William Finnegan. I read this autobiography while I was traveling by boat and it was sensational. It’s almost an ethnography about his surfing life around the world. Finnegan kept describing the intrinsic workings of waves, reefs and beaches and I was looking at waves the whole time from my balcony. I remember I kept thinking: “I’ve never thought about waves that way“. Waves are so mysterious now!
And so, when I think of that trip on the water, I think of Finnegan. Sometimes, I want the story I’m reading to connect to my travels, my life or the country I’m visiting. ‘Memoirs of a princess’ by Gayatri Devi really taught me a lot about Indian culture and it really added to my experience there. But I might as well read something unrelated and fictional as well. I read ‘Beautiful Ruins’ by Jesse Walters (which takes place in Italy) and while the book and I shared the Mediterranean sea, it had nothing to do with Corsica, where I was at the time.
I don’t think travel would be the same without reading. But then again, reading makes me travel as well. It creates context, perspective, empathy and understanding for other people’s lives, stories, and creativity. Reading is the easiest way to meet someone new. And I guess traveling is the easiest way to read even more. I can’t wait for the next story.