Travel used to have a purpose – to find trading partners, to cure disease, to scout out fertile land to homestead on. According to my favorite modern philosopher, it still should. Travel should be about more than gaining social media followers and checking items off a clichéd bucket list. It should feed your soul and help you grow as a person. Living in India for five months when I was 21 years old certainly changed my entire being in a number of ways and while I have taken some trips since then that were purely for fun, when I travel internationally, I usually seek out places that offer novel experiences I believe I can learn from. Continue reading →
Against my own personal rules for how best to take advantage of a life that is far too short to absorb everything the world has to offer, I have traveled to an international destination twice. Two weeks ago, I went to Spain. Fourteen years ago I lived there, working in a summer camp in Andalusia with kids who by now are somewhere around the age I was during those brief moments when we knew each other, young adults out in the real world.
I didn’t feel like much of an adult at that age, but I certainly do now, which is why I didn’t mind retracing my steps a bit. That summer camp job was a lifetime ago and I was another person. I have only a few handwritten notes and photos printed from film to remind me of my previous adventures in the land of valiant conquered and intrepid conquerors. This time, I’m transferring what I jotted down into this blog post, structured according to the chapters in Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. De Botton is a modern day philosopher whom I greatly admire. The Art of Travel was the first book I read with Ironman, who accompanied me on this trip, for our long-distance book club, one of the many ways we have of staying close while we are geographically distant.
July through December 2017
Title: Four Seasons in Rome
Author: Anthony Doerr
Date Finished: 7/23
Format: Hard cover
Ranking Out of 10: 9
Notes: Ah, so beautiful. Every sentence of this book was lovely. It’s a memoir of the author’s year in Rome while writing a novel, just after his wife gave birth to twins. I am not at all interested in children or parenting, yet even though the children are featured prominently in this story, I loved it and felt I could relate. That’s how well it was written. I was immersed in he and his wife’s experiences as foreigners trying to make Italy their home. And Doerr’s use of words made me pause many, many times to consider my own feelings or form elaborate mental images of what he was seeing.
Title: Hillbilly Elegy
Author: JD Vance
Date Finished: 7/25
Ranking Out of 10: 8
Notes: This was worth the wait in the library queue. This book is a unique look at the experiences of someone growing up poor in America, someone who should have been a failure and made nothing of himself. What makes it unique are the takeaways, what the author attributes to his ultimate success in life. So many decisions, big and small, combined with circumstance. His honest yet non-judgmental look at everyone around him is refreshing and valuable too. It’s a good sociological exploration of Appalachia written in a relatable and ingestible way.