Roughly translated, this phrase means “From Books, Freedom.” In our house, this is a mantra. My husband tells all the significant young people in his life to get a library card. His constant refrain is that the whole world can be yours for the price of a library card (i.e. free). It is a badge of honor for him that he still has a 20-year old version of our local library system’s membership card. It has been taped together more than once. When the staff ask him if he would like a new one, he is horrified.
Language has always played a central part in my life. I was a practicing English teacher for a while. I teach English as a second language online to students in China now. Besides that I try on a regular basis to put my thoughts down in writing for others to enjoy. I do this as a shy person, who knows that these thoughts can be dissected and judged. That’s a vulnerable place to be . There are times when I let life get in the way and I don’t read as regularly as I once did, but language and books are always there. Yes, I believe in starting young with reading and travel. Thanks Mom & Dad for that.
Books with an underlying travel theme are often a hit with me. When someone asks me why I travel or what I like about it, I think about whether to give them the short answer or the long answer. The short answer is, of course, because it’s fun and I like seeing new places.
The long answer has a lot in common with how I explain the value of reading . When I travel and I see a new place or hear a new language or try a new food, my heart and my mind expand. I see how large the world is and yet how small. I see what a tiny place I actually occupy in the world and I understand that no matter how small my place is, it is invaluable… just like everyone else’s. Reading about another culture or place has the same effect. It makes me want to see more and learn more.
Readers never say, “There. I’m done. I’ve read everything I need to read.” Likewise, travelers never say, “There. I’m done. I have traveled and met all the people I need to meet and had all the experiences I need to have.”
When I walked into Sacre Coeur in Paris and the choir was rehearsing a hymn (in French or Latin), I cried at the beauty. I understood why Catholics would be moved by it. I did not fear that my Jewishness was being threatened and I did not worry that loving that experience made me any less a Jew. Instead, I understood someone else’s point of view.
When I read Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, I am reminded of my hometown in New Hampshire so powerfully that I think he must have gone there. I am also reminded that there are people in the Mississippi Delta and in Wyoming and in California who love their hometowns just as much. I also hope to find books about all of their hometowns to read one day and I hope to see their hometowns in person so I can compare them to the books.
If we want to connect to our fellow man, we need to read more and we need to travel more. It seems to me that these are the simplest (most accessible) two ways for most people to grasp the interconnectedness of all of us. Sometimes freedom comes from a suitcase and sometimes it comes from between the pages.
How has reading shaped the way you travel? Or traveling shaped the way you read? Let us know on Twitter!