“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are
the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life
There’s that one phrase in the English language that every adult loves to ask, and every teenager learns to dread: “And what do YOU want to be when you GROW UP?”
At three, my answer would have been: “A dog!” As I disappeared under the table and hid behind my parents’ legs, giving a few growls if anyone challenged my answer. At that age, that can still be considered cute by some.
At five, I would have said: “A fireman!” And was outraged when someone pointed out that I couldn’t ever follow that dream, because I was just a GIRL!
Then came my formative years with all its angst and pain, but by then I had my answer down pat: “I want to travel!” Even in the face of my parents’ despair at my total lack of ambition and unrealised “potential”, I never had any doubt that there was a hidden recessive globetrotting gene inside me that had obviously skipped several generations of stay-in-your-own-village type people, but which now needed attention. “But there is no money in that!” people would say, usually accompanied by a frustrated eye-roll and a pitying glance at my parents, because in the last two years leading up to high-school graduation, totally unrealistic answers are no longer considered cute. “Money?” I would ask, with a vacant stare, because this reality had never occurred to me. Why would I need money? I would travel on donkeys over mountain passes, sleep on the ground surrounded by members of yet undiscovered Amazonian tribes, forage grasses and seeds and wild grubs out of hollow trees and give a big fat middle finger to Western society and its materialistic culture.
I think your childhood ends the day that you finally come up against those very barriers of money and responsibilities and find that you lack the courage to trade in your life as you know it for a donkey ride over some wild Andes mountain. Suddenly that fire in your belly gives way to a resigned sigh: “Ah well, that’s life,” as your childhood dreams go up in a big fat puff of black smoke.
I have travelled, even though nowhere near as much as I would have liked. But you are looking at the girl who, at the age of twenty, moved to the opposite side of the world, only taking the few possessions that fitted into a small backpack, and started a completely new life away from everything she had previously known. Who, in previous centuries, would have been the “black sheep”, like the distant uncle in America who had broken family convention and whose name was only spoken in furtive whispers at family gatherings. Compared to the adventures I had in mind as a child with an overactive imagination, mine have been relatively sedate, but they were adventures nonetheless and make for a few good stories around the campfire.
To cut a long story short, this is where books come in for me. I may have to leave my physical body behind when travelling to faraway exotic places, but I still do so with the help of BOOKS! There is nothing better than a bit of armchair travel whilst your body is comfortably wrapped in a warm doona and the kettle is on. I love the dazed and somewhat confused feeling when I emerge from one of my armchair travel adventures, totally disorientated, still ensconced in a world so alien from my own reality. That’s the true magic of books, that Aladdin’s carpet quality that can create a portal into another world just by opening a book and turning the first page.
So far this year, I have armchair-travelled to 20 different countries. Since the list of ARCs I have read have controlled most of what I have read, I have been a bit like a loose leaf in the wind, letting them carry me wherever they wanted to, with no itinerary and no plan.
But there are a few locations on my radar I would love to visit in the second half of 2017: Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Russia, China and Japan are foremost on my list. With the help of the wonderful members of the Crime Book Club on FB I have found the website TripFiction, where you can look up books by location and leave reviews. Another site where I can spend hours browsing whilst my husband yells from the other room: “What are you DOING on that computer?”
My armchair travel map, complete with links to the books which took me there, can be found here. I am hoping to add a lot of new markers to the board in the second half of 2017!