Sunday, December 18, 2011

Literature While Abroad

A recent blog about Great Books from one of my favourite travel bloggers has inspired me to write about my own literature while abroad experiences.

view from the balcony in Quepos, Costa Rica
My first memory of reading whilst on holiday is from my 2006 trip to Costa Rica.  I was spending a week in a rural village on a volunteer vacation.  I read "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" with a headlamp, underneath mosquito netting.  Afterwards, I detoxed at a resort for a few nights and read "The Time Traveler's Wife" on a balcony, with an amazing view of the Pacific.

For some reason, the combination of reading while travelling created a deeper memory for me and I remember aspects of that trip because of those books that I would've otherwise forgotten by now.

At Shakespeare and Company
A more recent example of this would be my trip to Paris over Christmas 2010 and New Year's 2011.  Reading "Gertrude and Alice" provided me with a whole new level of understanding of my new location.  After reading it, I was able to visit their grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery and stopped in at Shakespeare and Company fully aware of its history, allowing me to feel more connected to the city; like a resident rather than just a tourist.

Similarly, reading "Down and Out in Paris and London" and "The Sun Also Rises" while in Paris allowed me to see a different side to the beauty that I was experiencing.  I remember both the books better because of where I read them and I remember Paris better because of the books.  Plus, every time I think of those books I'll think of my trip to Paris and vice versa; they are forever entwined in my mind, allowing me to visit Paris again simply by picking up one of those books.

As I prepare for another trip, this time to Rome, the books I decide to bring are as important as any other item I pack.  After consulting with Geraldine at Travel Oyster, I've decided to bring "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" and "A Traveller in Rome".  I'm looking forward to discovering how these books will wind up impacting my experience and my memories.

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