Will travel for books
Reading a book is, for me, like taking a mini-vacation. Even when life is good, who couldn’t use a little escape from days filled with writing deadlines, appointments, carpool, kids’ homework, grocery shopping, and cleaning (assuming I were inclined to clean)?
What I like even better is to combine reading with travel. I don’t just mean reading on the beach—though, don’t get me wrong, I’m fully on board for that any time—I mean reading about places you’ve been and visiting places you’ve read about.
It’s fun when an author sets a book in a town or region you’ve lived in or visited, and you can clearly “see” every location the characters move through. One of the many reasons I love to travel is for that extra layer of familiarity with a book or movie’s setting that makes you feel like an insider. And nothing beats visiting a place you’ve read about dozens of times and finally seeing it with your own eyes.
There’s a reason why people flock to Harry Potter-themed tours of London and DaVinci Code tours of Paris and London. We love to connect with the books we read, and setting helps us do that.
Now that I’ve been to New York City, I can picture the financial district, Central Park, and Brooklyn and understand where they all are in relation to each other.
I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. suburbs twice now, which is a great place for fans of thrillers to live or visit. Just about everything Vince Flynn or David Baldacci has ever written is centered in and around D.C., not to mention our very own Rachel Grant’s book Concrete Evidence.
Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries became even more enjoyable after I lived on California’s central coast. Once I’d spent some time in Santa Barbara, I understood how her fictional town of Santa Theresa could be so small (by my suburban girl standards anyway) and yet have so many wealthy residents and so much crime. And I loved it when Q Is For Quarry took lead character Kinsey Millhone to Lompoc, and up my way to Santa Maria.
It’s rare to read a romantic suspense with Navy SEALs without getting some San Diego highlights. I lived there for two years in college and have visited several times since. I can picture most of its beaches, imagine walking by the famous Hotel Del Coronado, and—thanks to my Navy dad and Air Force husband, even remember strolling on the sands of Naval Air Station North Island.
I did not, unfortunately, encounter any Navy SEALs. Sadly, I didn’t even know they existed when I lived there. 😉I’m a firm believer that it’s not a great year unless I’ve used my passport, so I get a special thrill out of reading books with foreign settings that I’ve visited. And this summer was especially fun because I’m such an avid reader of Regency historical romances set in England.
Not only was it my second visit to London, but this time we did a whole UK tour. Ever wondered what Gretna Green—where lovers often eloped in the early 19th century—looks like?
Or the fashionable Mayfair district where all good families seem to reside during “the Season”?
Just after returning home from our trip in August, I read The Arrangement by Mary Balogh. In the very beginning, the hero “hides out” from his family for several weeks in the Lake District, specifically Lake Windemere. Hey, I was just there! Maybe you can imagine my excitement.
When Regency ladies take leave from their country estates to visit the milliner in York, or dowager aunts head off to Bath to “take the waters”, I can picture the narrow streets where they shopped and the yellow stone of the quaint city along the Avon.
And speaking of the UK, fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series should take a trip to Edinburgh. I couldn’t have imagined what a fabulous mixture of ancient and modern, urban and wilderness this seaside town would be.
Reading books about places I haven’t been opens new worlds to me. Reading about places I have been enriches the experience and the memories, taking me down new streets and giving me a deeper understanding of the city or landscape.
I’d love to hear your own experiences of favorite trips that enriched your reading, or books that made you feel like an insider.