On the Importance of Books for the Traveler

There are those of us who are never, or rarely, without a book, no matter where we are or what we´re doing.  Sometimes we´ll carry it around even though we know we aren´t going to have a chance to read it, our own little personal totem, if you will, that marks and protects us and reveals us to kindred spirits.  And while we increasingly fill those interstitial moments these days with social media as delivered to us via our pocket-sized electronic umbilica, we can´t always get a signal, and even if we can, there´s something to be said for the pleasures of immersive single-tasking, and books come in really handy at times like that.

But there´s something about traveling that turns almost everyone into a reader.  Now, part of that is probably due to the fact that we are often unable to use our precious devices while we are actually in transit.  But even when we can get a signal, that urge to disconnect and engage and escape remains.  I mean, isn´t that why we go other places in the first place?

But books are more than a way to pass the time in transit.  For the traveler (the vacationer, too, though for different reasons, I think), having a good book onhand is essential, because being in new places and having new adventures is hard.  It wears on you, and if you can´t check out of it, you have no time to process it, no space to rest and recuperate and restore your mind´s essential limberness, and believe you me, you need that shit when you´re eating, sleeping, and moving around in a strange and at least partially incomprehensible place.  It´s as essential as sleep, but not as disjointed, because a book provides you with a consistent thread you can follow, and go back to.  It gives you a measure of stability outside your regularly-scheduled existence, and, unless you´re reading certain strains of twentieth-century avant-garde experimentalist lit, books usually make a lot more sense than life, because stories hold together in a way that real life rarely does.

Sometimes you need to get lost in another world, I guess, especially when you actually are lost in another world.

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