In the spring and summer time, countless lists online and in magazines recommend what constitutes the best, sexiest, most thoughtful, timeless, etc., vacation read. These lists focus on the whereabouts of where you will have your holiday, or how much time you have to dive into these books and nooks. They also accommodate all escapes—a backpacking European exploration, a weekend visit to the beach, and a countryside bed & breakfast included. Whether this piece of writing is a collection of seaside poems or the latest fantasy fiction, or even a self-help book, these sources encourage us to read when on holiday. But a trip is already a diversion from personal reality, so why be distracted by a paperback? This summer, avoid reading while on your great American road trip and at your cabin by the lake and pay attention to the new surroundings and, rather, live in the moment and one day create some work of your own.
Day-to-day life can either be so mundane or stressful that diving into the fantasies of literature when finally at home or during your commute is an easily reachable departure from reality. More vivid, accessible and stimulating than your Netflix account, these biographies, anthologies, or epics provide mini-ibreaks throughout weeks of continuous schedules, routine relationships and all your regular places. On the subway after a long day of work, opening up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” can transport the reader to the South of France in such a successful manner, that they can feel the sun and the breeze on their cheek. At home on a weekend afternoon, opening up a book of June Jordan poems will take you to the streets of New York where you can feel the rhythm of a country experiencing great social change as well as brutal oppression. These words turn into daydreams that can even influence where we want to escape. A trip to New York City to feel and smell the streets where chaos occurred or a luxurious stay in a seaside art deco hotel may have been inspired from your favorite books.
Don’t at all get me wrong, the value of literature—in almost any form—is more important to me than most things, but the point of literature is not lost when you skip reading “On the Road” while on the road—reading “On the Road” while on the road, actually hinders it. We read to learn and explore; we read to escape. What happens when we are in the midst of our escape? Do we check in with Kerouac to make sure to find the right mad ones and adventures? Do we consult Jane Austen to remember to keep an ear open for a pianoforte? Probably not. When we are away in our escapes, holidays, vacation, explorations etc., we should be using all our senses to fully experience the physical changes and sensations in these new surroundings, not with our heads stuffed a book.
Living in Southern California, I easily visit different beaches on a regular basis. Some are tropical, with clear water and silver fish, while others are more commercial and crowded with rainbow colored umbrellas. In any case, these trips to the beach are my current and most common escape. When I sit on my towel after I pretend to know how to body surf or even swim well, I lay back down in the sand and I don’t pick up my current read. I lay there, listening to nearby conversations and listening to the waves. I watch the way children interact with the scene and meditate on childhood and beauty. My experience is as relaxed as it is active. Filled with inspiration, I can take notes, write down quotes or feelings and capture these sensations, rather than hide from them. Only so many moments of our lives are spent in fresh and stimulating places and we should take advantage of them while we are there. Pack a book for a long flight sure, but leave it in your luggage once you’ve arrived.