Books + Travel = Love

Camping at the Grand CanyonDo you like to read? or travel? Or read about traveling?

If you’ve spent any time reading my blog in the past year, you’ll know that I like to do all of the above. There’s something exhilarating and life-giving about traveling, about seeing a different way of life or even just some fresh scenery.

When I can’t travel, I tend to live vicariously through books and blogs that other people have written about travel. My favorite travel blog details the story of a couple who have spent the past couple years traveling around the US with their dog. They write about the National Parks they visit, the restaurants they enjoy, and what their dog Knox gets to get after his owners have enjoyed their latest restaurant.

Edie and Scott say on their site One Sixty K

There are approximately 160,000 miles (or 160k) of road in the National Highway System of the United States. These highways touch nearly every inhabited part of the nation. We plan to travel along as many of those miles as possible.

We were both born & raised in Louisville, KY. We each have graduate degrees and have worked in the corporate world, but neither of us was completely happy in our jobs, so we decided a change for some adventure was the next step. But we needed to do it fairly inexpensively so we could do it as long as possible.

On November 7, 2011, we set out with Knox, our quirky, big-eared dog, in our Ford F-150 loaded up with tons of camping gear, cooking gear, books, and our laptops. Now, we’re effectively homeless while we travel the United States seeing small towns, camping in National Parks, meeting new people, and working on organic farms. We’re truly living the dream.

I love it. Part of me really wants to follow what they’ve done, especially now while I’m young and the world still looks like a playground. I have dreams of someone walking up to me and saying, “Let’s go on a road trip all around the country. I’ll meet you in a week, and we’ll head out.”

When blogs just won’t do, I read books about travel. This past year I immensely enjoyed reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, William Least-Heat Moon’s Blue Highways, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I’d enjoyed Bryson’s discovery of the Appalachian Trail so much that I sought out a second book of his, The Lost Continent. 

I read The Lost Continent this past weekend, and I found myself mightily disappointed. His sarcasm oozes from every page like mold from indistinguishable containers in the back of the office fridge. His scathing commentary is mixed with reluctant enjoyment of the places he visits,  and in the end, I don’t know that I believed he enjoyed his trip at all. Writing in 1989 about my beloved Yosemite (80 miles from home), he says,

Yosemite was a letdown of monumental proportions. It is incredible, mouth-gapingly beautiful…But then you drive on down into Yosemite village and realize that if this is heaven you are going to spend the rest of eternity with an awful lot of fat people in Bermuda shorts. 

Hiking in YosemiteWith that slanderous statement, he loses me completely. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if you go to Yosemite and the only thing that makes the biggest impression on you is the tourists, there’s something seriously wrong with you. I wish Bryson would let go of his ego a bit more and allow himself to enjoy the beauty around him instead of fixating on how thin or shapely the people around him are.

Adventures like this seem perfectly suited for our 20s. We have more flexibility and freedom than a lot of other age groups, and typically our standards for accommodations are lower so we can travel on the cheap. let’s celebrate life and see the world!

This year I’m hoping to see more of the Eastern US, with travels abroad in 2014. Do you have any plans set for adventuring this year? What cities or countries are you aiming to visit?

And, also, any more travel book recommendations? They’re greatly appreciated!