Hit the Road, Jack – Tripping Along with Travel Writers
By Jamie Hazlett
Sun Star Columnist
Let’s face it – traveling can be absurdly difficult. When you have the money to travel, you generally don’t have the time. Everyone has a dream vacation, be it to sandy beaches, windy mountaintops, or glitzy cities. For the true trekkers out there, there’s no end to the places you’d like to see. Regardless of your passport status, we all get the urge every now and again to escape, to run for the hills, to do different things in different places. How, though, does one manage an escape to Tahiti or the Swiss Alps mid-semester?
The answer is cheap and as close-to-hand as the library – travel writing. Travel writing has evolved from the stereotypical dry journal entries of explorers past into a genre that ranges from pure comedy to spiritual discovery. It lets you sink into another place and time for little to no money, allows you to return anytime you want or need to without cavity searches, and can offer a taste of your next destination or a glimpse of a place you may never go to in real life. Today there is such a wide selection of works available that you can find something to fit nearly any mood.
Consider, for instance, Polly Evans’ “It’s Not About the Tapas: A Spanish Adventure on Two Wheels.” This book chronicles the six-week bike trip of non-athlete, sort-of Spanish-speaking Evans’ through the Pyrenees and into southern Spain. If Spain, biking, or bar food aren’t your thing, try out one of her other works, as she’s traveled the world and lived to write uproariously about it. Alternately, do a little sleuthing of your own to find something that fits your fantasy. Go to Amazon.com and type in “travel writing” followed by a place, activity or theme. Pretty much any interest short of hula hooping is covered. F.Y.I.: I tried “travel writing hula hoop,” and much to my dismay, I found that no one has yet recorded their experiences swinging a bit of plastic tubing about their waist as they wandered across America.
You can add to your at-home adventure with some easy ambiance. If you’ve picked up “In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide” for some light reading, light some candles (go with flameless candles on campus) and pour yourself a glass of red wine (if you’re of-age). Kill the lights in your dorm room and you can look at the fake candlelight flickering off of your walls and imagine that you really are in Vlad the Impaler’s castle. It probably won’t take all that much imagination, come to think of it. If your read has a beach setting, do a quick search for ocean background noises online and mix up a mocktail. Those of you favoring faux-holidays in polar climates need only pull up a chair outside to get really into “Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places,” which serves up several snippets featuring Fairbanks, as well as travel briefs and science-y bits about the world’s chillier destinations. If you have enough imagination to get into a good book, you have enough to enhance the experience by altering your normal reading surroundings.
The point is, even if you’re eating three squares of ramen and typing this term’s English essays on last semester’s biology notes, you can afford to travel. Your body doesn’t have to leave Fairbanks for your mind to visit far-flung destinations, and there’s no excuse for letting a cash-flow crisis restrict your ability to explore. Next time you’re antsy, bored, or counting the days to spring break, swing by the library or head to the bookstore and crack open a good travelogue; your pocketbook (and perhaps your cabin-fever-plagued sanity) will thank you.