Reading: an alternative to travel
Thanks to budget flights, people travel more now than ever before. Tourists often see all the sights and travellers try to experience culture. Unfortunately, time and money limitations normally mean we only visit a country for a few days. Therefore we don’t understand what life there is really like. Without living somewhere, how can we understand life there? By reading!
Reading may not be the perfect replacement for travel, for seeing natural wonders or exotic animals, for tasting local cuisine or learning traditional dances, but you can learn a lot about life for different people in different places. As A Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin said, “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.” Reading allows the reader to live different lives in different places without getting out of bed. One day you’re a Tsar in Russia, the next a slave on a boat to the Americas, and sometimes you explore places that don’t really exist.
The autobiographical novel The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson tells of the American author’s move to Cairo, Egypt. She shares stories about her life there and about her choice to become a Muslim. I experienced what she experienced. I breathed the hot, dusty air. I paid too much for meat at the busy market. I was woken up by the call to prayer. I have an idea of what life in Cairo might be like, an idea of what G. Willow Wilson’s life in Cairo was like. I’ve never been to Cairo.
If I visit New York, I can see the Empire State building, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. If I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I can live in New York for a short while. Not only can I travel to a different place, but also to a different time - I can learn about the life and glamour of New York in the 1920s without any history books.
Sometimes you can’t travel even if you want to. When you have to go to school or work, or you can’t afford to travel, you can still read. Books give you somewhere to go when you have to stay where you are - and you can be someone else when you get there.