Commenting on one of my blogs, a reader suggested I needed more friends. I replied that I have many friends, it’s just that they’re imaginary. As for real flesh and blood friends, I’ve taken Jiminy Cricket’s advice my whole life: “Books are your friends, my friend.” Of those, my closest friends have become travel books of late. A couple of those have become friends of both Carol and me, as our morning coffee is a read aloud of Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux. The other two travel books I’m reading on my own are by a pair of Millennials, about which a word or two later.
Carol and I are fonder of Bryson. Theroux is an intellectual for whom my Kindle dictionary gets a robust workout. I like him though, because he disdains planning, sightseeing and most people as much as I do. He travels alone for the same reason I once did: who else would put up with the way we travel? Theroux once arrived at the Albanian border not realizing he needed a Visa to enter the country. He imagined the conversation he would have had, if he’d traveled with a companion:
“Why didn’t you think of this before?”
“I don’t know.”
Carol has an innate sense of when I haven’t thought something fundamental through to a
necessary conclusion, and has steered me back on track well before the train wreck I had us heading for could occur. Once, she reminded me I’d boarded a train without my backpack, which I”d left on the platform. (How do you board a train without your backpack, you might ask?
To quote Theroux: “I don’t know.”)
Bryson, on the other hand, is just funny, funny in a way my blog readers probably wish I was. He also travels alone, save for perhaps his most famous travelogue A Walk in the Woods, where his companion, one Stephen Katz, was the train wreck Bryson kept having to save themselves from. But Bryson’s draw is to discover some of the most objectionable souls, and make them seem like people you’d like to meet on your travels. Almost. (Theroux’s characters, for the most part, you definitely don’t want to see again.)
For all my readers still wishing I might one day meet some characters, let me direct you to either Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux.
Which brings me to the two Millennial travel books I’m reading. Since I’m not a fan of either, I won’t identify them by name. It’s not the overall whiny tone I object to - I expect them both to grow out of it. It’s more the realization that the banalities of travel are raised to matters of import simply because they’re happening to them while traveling. My lifetime of experience has taught me to avoid that trap, though I have noticed, looking back, that matters of serious importance would have completely passed me by without notice had Carol not been along to point them out to me. (Like that backpack episode at the train station.)
Of course, all this reading is done with the hope of making me a better, more informative and interesting travel writer. So far, none of it has made a dent, as you all continue to witness.