There are different ways of travelling, different tools to leave behind our temporal and spatial location. The most obvious may be buying a ticket, whether for a train, a plane or a ship. After preparing a little suitcase – you probably have filled it with a kind of survival kit (which changes according to the needs and interests of each traveler) – you open the door to discover a new place with new people. When we choose that type of journey, it is through physical senses that we experiment it: we see the Morocco desert, we hear the portuguese fados, we touch the hot waters in Iceland and we taste the italian pasta. But there’s actually another way to travel and immerse yourself in alternative realities, using an ethereal sense: it is reading books and using imagination. Instead of baggage, there are words, phrases and pages. Instead of a ticket to a destiny, you have a title and some characters.
Both options lead you to unknown territories and different states of mind, not only the New York ‘s one described by Sinatra. If they are both useful and effective, why not combining them? Why not carrying with us in our little suitcase not only toothpaste and a pyjama, but also a book? Are not imagination and creativity as necessary as knowing countries and cultures?
Reading when travelling allows us to have a larger and more profound experience
It’s a usual image to see at no matter what kind of boring route somebody with a book in his hands. I’m talking about that distracted passenger, as much concentrated in his reading as out of the world that surrounds him, who stands in the metro. He manages someway to not collide with the others. But I’m also talking about the “long-travel reader” who, before leaving home for a journey, spends more than thirty minutes looking for the perfect book. It must be related somehow to the place where he is going. He may choose Dostoievski when his destiny is Russia or Joyce when it is Ireland. That book will accompany him during the whole experience and will also have an influence on it. He will then see Japan through Pearl S.Buck’s eyes and Uganda under Chimamanda Ngozi’s gaze. Also, he will probably keep between its pages that strange bill or that aged photo. We can then build a memory mosaic in our library when we come back home.
Nevertheless, there’s also the opposite option: letting a literary trail wherever we go. Some people take a book with them in their journeys but it never comes back. They leave it in a bench or maybe in a coffee shop. Then it’s the book who becomes an independent traveler, jumping from one person to another and keeping their footnotes and those strange-coloured stains (coffee or blood?). Anyway, reading when travelling allows us to have a larger and more profound experience. It let us combine a physical travel with a mental or spiritual one.