Tuesday, June 03, 2008

travel, envy, and escapist reading

When I got in to work this morning, a copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was on my chair. Last week at our staff recognition luncheon I chatted with a colleague who had recently finished the book, had good things to say about it, and offered to loan it to me.

Getting this book on the heels of a weekend spent with 78 high schoolers who'll be leaving this summer on exchange (I think I've mentioned before that I volunteer for Youth for Understanding) made me think about our collective love of books written by people who take a break from their lives, travel, and then write about the experience. (When I say "our collective love" I'm referring to the fact that these books end up on bestseller lists)

I wonder why we like these books so much. Yes, we all enjoy armchair traveling to some extent, but the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that we read these books because we want to live vicariously through these authors and their stories. I bet many of us are secretly jealous of those people who had the courage to do such things (yes, some people do things we'd never even consider doing, but I'm not referring to them) and fantasize about being able to take a break from our own humdrum lives.

I know I do. Being around all those teenagers last weekend as they prepared themselves to go to Japan and Finland and a whole host of other foreign lands, I couldn't help but get nostalgic and a teensy bit jealous.

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