The Real joy of travelling with physical books

Who needs lots of clothes if you have books? (Washington Post)

While traveling through parts of North Africa and the Middle East 20 years or more ago, I experienced a moment of familiar shock to travelers over the years: in just a few weeks of travel, which could take up to seven months, I completed these two. the books I brought with me.

At the time, I was learning Arabic and renting a room in Giza, Egypt. Looking at his small stock bookshelf, I saw an old sturdy edition of TE Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. “Take it, take it,” he insisted. An outsider had left her, she said, and it didn’t help her at all; although he spoke English fluently, he could not read it at all.

Among the many things that impressed me about this remarkable work were Lawrence’s descriptions of Ward Rum, Jordan. He wrote of a stone wall “flowing about a thousand feet [1,000 m] in the center of the valley”, of sharp hills forming a “great red wall”, of stone and stone houses and of “accompanying storms” that “run along. in the way of miles. ” He declared, “an unstoppable place”, “a way of greatness beyond imagination … Our little caravan imagined itself, and died silent, frightened and ashamed to show off its smallness in front of the amazing hills. Places, in the children’s dream, were large and quiet.

Although I had no plans to visit Jordan, mainly because I had very few plans, I knew I had to see the place myself. After traversing most of Egypt, I crossed the Sinai Peninsula in a public van and crossed the Red Sea by boat. When I arrived at Wadi Rum, the 4×4 driver dropped me off in the middle of the desert where Lawrence had been sold, if any, he had. Armed with a map, local advice and my background as a guide in the wilderness, I spent a whole week traveling alone over the salmon-colored mounds and among the large plateaus, from one irrigation ditch to another, until I returned to the main town. .

Focusing on this beautiful world and sharing tea and food with the Bedouins I met was among the most important and uplifting aspects of my early travel experience, which heightened my desire and put the mental infrastructure for future trips on foot – and on a camel – to a distant land. places. And I found my way only because I had run out of reading materials.

The story continues

Bedouin guide leads desert camels to Ward Rum (The Washington Post)

Since the coronavirus epidemic began to temporarily halt travel, there has been time to reflect on how you can better navigate if you feel safe enough to get out of there again. Growing numbers of travelers, for example, are taking steps to reduce their natural effects. Others rely on traditional travel, to know the place and its people while investing directly in the local economy. And new hygiene requirements have become commonplace.

In addition to that list, I would suggest leaving e-readers at home and the smartphone libraries empty at all but on a short trip, and instead take visual books.

At first glance, this advice might seem contradictory. After all, the biggest selling point for e-readers is their ability to store tons of books in one small device, making it easier to pack light. But physical literature has some real benefits. They cannot be broken, they do not need to be charged, they are unlikely to be stolen and, if they are lost, it is not more than a few dollars. And, with a twist, you can use the pages you’ve read to start a fire.

Benanav in germ in West Mongolia, where he traveled alone for three weeks in the Altai mountains in 2002 (The Washington Post)

The best reason to love paper over pixels, however, especially on long journeys, its related distractions, the fact that you will run out of reading materials and you should look for a new book wherever you are in the world. This creates an unpredictable aspect of the journey, indicating openness to both the search and discovery of any book that happens by crossing your path.

The tranquility involved represents an important aspect of the art of tourism: not having to control or plan your information in advance, letting things happen in a lively way and giving yourself a chance for unexpected excitement. The most memorable moments of any trip, those that give us stories that can be told beyond the recurring list of visuals and food, are usually not planned. Because long-distance travel involves traveling to our inner spaces beyond the places we visit, and because the books we read influence the state of our thoughts, I want to leave a place of wonder in a writing journey similar to the one I am. to do on the ground.

Visitors boarded trucks in the desert near Ward Rum in 2011 (The Washington Post)

Although the times of Wadi Rum – when a randomly received book changes the course of a journey and, perhaps, a person’s life – do happen from time to time, they are rare, and they are not really the point, however. Acceptance of automation and where it can lead truly adds value to a person’s journey. As it happens, I am often satisfied with the books I come across, which I would often not have thought of packing in an e-reader, if I had brought them.

After finishing the Seven Pillars at Egypt’s Siwa Oasis, I approached a British traveler at a restaurant and asked if he had any books he had just read. I traded Lawrence for Thomas Pynchon (V) and formed a bond with the man I would travel with for a few days. In Morocco, I broke into a dusty bookstore in a suburb of the Sahara, which sold mainly Arabic and French titles, and somehow I came up with Geek Love.

A copy of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ by author from Ulaanbaata (The Washington Post)

I once met young Americans who had their relationships with tags that looked like

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