My sister suggested to me earlier this week that I should consider travel blogging. I thought this was a weird and random suggestion because I don’t travel. Not because I don’t want to but because since I left my previous job, I can’t really afford to travel. My luck might hopefully be changing this year as my lovely Minister of Tourism has found ways for Jamaicans to travel to Europe and vice versa on the cheap. Well, so mi hear, I haven’t tested it yet but I know quite a few Europeans who have come to visit on charter flights for very reasonable fares. Fingers crossed I will be able to take advantage of this at some point this year.
Back to the topic at hand. When my sister made that suggestion and I pointed out I don’t travel, I remembered that saying or one of the many that float around on the internet from time to time.
I do travel extensively, through the books I read. Depending on the week, I could spend my nights in rural India or a small village in England. Isn’t that one of the joys of reading? To immerse yourself in a different place? I know it’s one of my favourite things about reading. What makes it even better is you don’t just “travel” to that place, you see and learn so much about the culture of that place. You can connect with the characters and observe their lives. I’ve read books where I swore I could reach out and touch the surroundings, where I felt I could even smell the food, the people, everything. All of this is of course assuming that the book is well researched and written by an author who actually knows what they are writing about. We all know what can happen when this isn’t the case but that’s a separate blog post entirely. Hell, it could be a series.
Books can also become the inspiration behind my travel bucket list meaning, if I’ve read of a place in a book, I want to travel there and see what’s real and what’s fake, what’s changed and what has remained the same. I fully admit that my dream to live in a country cottage in a small village in England is probably inspired entirely by Jill Mansell.
Like actual travelers, I do have places that I like to travel to the most and I imagine I would love them in real life as well. These include:
Jolly Old England
Let me be more specific and say it’s not just England but the U.K. (but with brexit, who even knows what’s going to happen to the U.K. long term?) I have always loved books set in the U.K., mostly quirky romance novels. They are my absolute guilty pleasure. People who I’ve said this to always tell me that it’s a random choice but for me it isn’t. My mum was born and raised in London and while she has pretty much abandoned all things England, she did raise me on a steady diet of British pop culture. While some people’s weekend mornings consisted of cartoons, mine had shows like Changing Rooms and Ground Force. When people were gushing over Friends, I was deading over Absolutely Fabulous (Classic). She also exposed me to British literature at a young age. My Enid Blyton collection was worthy of praise, she bought me my first Jane Austen in High School (which I still have) and other classics such as North & South & The Lonely Londoners. I’ve been fortunate to visit England a few times and besides the cold, I absolutely love it, to the point where I’m pretty sure I’m going to live there one day. I could never be bored there. Through my mum and her family that still lives there, I’ve always felt connected in some way to England so maybe that’s why I tend to gravitate towards books that are set there. Writers like Jill Mansell, Jojo Moyes, Cecelia Ahern and Wendy Holden all provide places for me to visit to live out my fantasy of U.K. living. I’m not naive enough to believe I will ever have a life exactly like those in these books, but they’re a fun read nonetheless.
India holds a special place in my heart. After high school I received a scholarship to study In Pune, Maharashtra and I always tell people it was two of the best years of my life. I haven’t been able to go back since I graduated because it is so expensive but I know I will make it back one day and for now I will settle for visiting through my books. To this day if I see a book by an Indian author or one set in India I will more than likely purchase it. These books help satisfy my feelings of nostalgia. They take me back to places I traveled to and let me see places I didn’t. I get to feel like I’m immersed in the this colourful, complex world again full of so many different people and cultures. Like my experiences while living there, not all these books tell the happiest of stories but I’m okay with that too. I saw firsthand the hardships that way too many people in India face and I appreciate these stories more when they are authentic.
Of course I love to read books about my own island. People have asked me if that qualifies as travelling and to that I loudly say, Yes! Reading books about my own country is like being a dry land tourist. I admit that I have lived a fairly sheltered life here. I’m one of those people that can move pretty easily through different social circles without really feeling like I belong to either one. I guess that’s what happens when you are raised in a quiet community with your grandmother who raised herself out of poverty, an English mother and an uptown, biracial Jamaican father who left the uptown city life behind but not the privileges. I love observing my country through the lenses of people who have had completely different life experiences than I have. You can live on this island in a bubble and never really know the true story of the person you interact with everyday. For me, if I want to learn about what’s happening in my country and understand other people’s reactions to these happenings, sod the news. I read blog posts, forums, song lyrics and books by Jamaican authors from yard and abroad. The news will never really tell you about the downsides of tourism but Nicole Dennis-Benn will. Politicians will say they don’t want Jamaica represented in a negative way (Anyone remember the local backlash against Damian Marley’s, Welcome to Jamrock?) Marlon James will show you the underbelly. Trevor Rhone will teach you about racism and colourism in a way that will have you laughing while acknowledging the seriousness in his play, Old Story Time. Jamaica is an amazing place to explore, both in person and through the written word.
The world is a big place and there are many more places I would like to visit, bookish and in real life.
I’ve never been to another Caribbean Island but I am hoping to visit Cuba soon. Books wise, besides the books I read in school I don’t think I’ve read much books set in other Caribbean islands or by Caribbean authors. *hangs head in shame* This needs to be rectified. I don’t think it’s entirely my fault though. The Caribbean section of bookshelves, much like traveling to other Caribbean countries is so expensive! Why? Well, again that’s a whole other blog post. As I speak to more local book fanatics, I’m learning so much about the Caribbean literary scene. Fortunately, since that big sale I went to last year, making new bookish friends and with Novelty Trading Bookstore in Kingston completely revamping their Caribbean novels section, I should be good to go in the coming months. I’m actually considering only reading and reviewing Caribbean based books and those by Caribbean authors in 2020. I’ve even already started making the list. Talk about previous.
The Middle East
Another place I’ve never visited outside of Khaled Hosseini’s, A Thousand Splendid Suns and Sea Prayer. I don’t see these books too often but thanks to Bookstagram, I do now have a few saved to my wish list. I don’t really want to read stories from and about the middle east from authors who aren’t from there. Like I said, I want authenticity.
Does every person of colour say they want to read more African literature to, “connect to their roots/the motherland”? I think I’ve been guilty of saying this at some point in my life. Have I actually done it? Nope. I’d like this to be more than something I just say to sound profound or some shit. After reading Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo in 2017, I had said I wanted to read more novels from African writers. It was nice to read a book set in an African country where it dealt with real human relationships and not war, disease and famine. Again, thanks to bookstagram and accounts like @kenyanbibliophile I have been able to see and learn so much about books from different African countries that I otherwise would have never heard about. Also, African female authors are kinda killing it right now, respect due. The internet is such an amazing place when used for good and not evil.
After reading The Children of Blood & Bone last year and Black Leopard Red Wolf this year, I have decided to really give fantasy a try. It’s a genre I really never enjoyed and avoided with the exception of Harry Potter but I don’t think those really count… After some self reflection, I don’t think I had anything against fantasy, it’s just, those books are usually so big! It’s intimidating. I can’t be the only one who feels this way right? I dunno though, there is something about escaping into a world that is the product of someone’s imagination that is just…I’m not sure…indescribable I guess. It really is a talent, one that I’m glad people share with the world. Special shout out to Douglas Adams who created worlds within worlds that are just out there and ridiculous but so brilliant. No, I don’t want any of whatever he might have been tripping on but I did work, “I’ll be at the restaurant at the end of the universe” into my vocabulary for awhile. It helped me weed out the non weirdos in my life in high school. Also, who knows, my father might be able to persuade me to read some of science fiction books. We’ll see.
I think at the end of the day, I don’t really mind where I travel to in books, as long as the author takes me on a great journey and I make it back safe and sound. That means no wanting to throw the book out of a window when I’ve finished reading it. Yaa Gyasi’s, Homegoing pretty much set the standard for me when it comes to epic journeys. This book took me across oceans and numerous lifetimes and touched my heart in a way that I still continue to feel.
I want to see and experience the world. I would love for that to happen in real life and I think it will in time. In the meantime, it gives me comfort to know that any place I may not make it to physically, is really just a book away. I just hope the authors & the artists from those places get to tell their stories. The real world and the literary world will be better for it.
Til next time 🙂