Monday, July 26, 2010

A Travel Companion

"Travel is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with distance or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience. My particular way of getting to Nantucket - alone, almost blindly over water - seemed to transform the destination. The Nantucket I had arrived at was a different place from the Nantucket of the ferry passenger, and I was different, too - happier, for one thing. The trip had done what all trips ought to do. It had given me heart."- Paul Theroux,  Fresh Air Fiend

Finding the right book or reading material to take on a trip can be a bit of a dilemma. The length of a trip, destination, purpose or modern airline vagary such as baggage allowance can determine the choice of reading material – be it a book, magazine, trade journal, laptop or all of the above.

onely Planet or Go Trekking seem to be popular among travelers seeking that inner experience Paul Theroux described in his kayaking trip to Nantucket. Airport bookstores do brisk business in paperback fiction and popular magazines for light reading in-transit or on long range flights where one is vertical much of the time.

ifi adds a new dimension to one’s choice of a carry-on: laptop, iPod, or any other hand held device. As long as one can find a signal, a whole new world opens in soft copy from emails to a street guide to the next destination.

Paul Theroux’s Fresh-Air Fiend has traveled a few times with me since 2002. It makes a perfect companion in between stops or down times while on the road. The short insightful chapters make the book easy to read, one can put aside and pick up another time.

Some publications may be so engrossing they are asking to be devoured cover to cover on a single night in a hotel or plane ride. Michael Palin’s Sahara was thoroughly entertaining as one can expect from a Monty Python alumnus. His funny observations on the world and the visuals were truly the comedian himself. Fast Food Nation wasn’t meant to entertain but it kept me well-informed. The Book Seller of Kabul was an unassuming piece of non-fiction by a Norwegian journalist that started on the plane and ended in my hotel room the following night.

Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote is also ready-to-go at a moment’s notice. Each chapter is a story in itself but it’s over a thousand pages in fine print. I guess it will have to travel with me a few more years. Back copies of National Geographic don’t lose their luster, and more entertaining than trade journals, English language foreign newspapers and airline magazines I pick up along the way.

Paul Theroux wrote, "so much of travel is self-delusion." For that reason, travelers take a favourite travel companion to keep their delusion in check.