People travel for a myriad of reasons. It makes me wonder if humans are designed to stay in one place for a long time. Perhaps not. Our history is steeped in stories of travels or adventures or yearning for both. Fortunately, our century has made it much easier to quench our thirst for travel. Wherever we turn, YouTube and TikTok videos bombard us with people sharing their sides of the world. Still, it’s rare to read about traveling in different contexts—beyond food, nightlife, shopping, and sightseeing spots.
It takes me only a few minutes to find out about hotels and flights, but I usually hit a wall when I look for essays, articles, and blog posts that pose different questions or tell their readers what their travels and adventures mean to them. On a quest to find out about people who made their dreams real, I devour memoirs and travelogs. Anything remotely adventurous is enough to capture my attention. Yet, I feel there is a void in the literature nowadays in a world where seeing has never been that easy.
Of course, I’m aware of many well-rounded authors whose writings reveal how a particular culture or place deepened their understanding of humanity—we are blessed with an abundance of them. However, I feel we lack personal experiences far from being sterile or identical to others’ works today. Having said that, I’m in no way dissing travel YouTubers or bloggers. On the contrary, I believe they are irreplaceable since they offer practical advice and solutions to common travel problems. I’m perhaps in search of a niche: personalized reality, as I call it.
I remember having a roommate back in university. We would endlessly talk about traveling the world and embarking on new journeys. And one day, she said to me, “We aren’t regular people because we don’t limit ourselves to what we have. We want more; the more we see, the bigger our appetite!” I don’t know if she ever read Jack Kerouac, but her insatiable wanderlust reminded me of him during our two years together. When I heard she settled in Istanbul to become a banker, I couldn’t help but grieve for what she lost: her appetite. Or should I say she developed an appetite for new things over the years?
As for me, I’m still the same; I have never stopped reading about people whose journeys crossed countries and continents. And I’ve certainly never stopped admiring people who wrote about them. Most people I know read more sci-fi or fantasy to escape the smothering reality of the pandemic. In contrast, I needed to hold on to others’ experiences and stories and read more memoirs because I’m a reality fiend.
I love it when people see the world beyond their own homes and seek ways to redefine themselves without attachment (or never define themselves, to begin with) whether or not they are acclaimed travel writers. While these people’s journeys to self-fulfillment and the traditional sense of belonging are like polar opposites, they still devise ways to be in touch with the world. They yearn to discover more about themselves and how they perceive the world in various surroundings and settings. As Walt Whitman would say, they are after the multitudes they contain. And what is a better way to do it than traveling and writing?
I also read memoirs that aren’t limited to geographical travels because I believe that traveling within one’s city and mind is tantamount to traveling across cities and countries. So today, I want to ask for recommendations.
What books helped you see the world beyond your own home? What genre comforts you during dark times?
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