Do Readers Grow Up to Be Travelers?

Since I was a child, I’ve been entranced by two things: books and faraway places.

Though I didn’t leave the country until I was 15, I explored as much as possible without going anywhere. I read stacks of books. I took my red wagon to the library. I called an empty closet my ‘travel room’, where I pasted up a world map and stacked shelves with my parent’s old National Geographics.

I’ve always been a bookworm, delving into worlds I’d never know — from Tolkien’s Middle Earth to the American prairies of late 19th century. But as I grew older, I became increasingly interested in the world outside my Midwestern bubble.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, one of the sites I most wanted to see as a child

Once I became a teenager, I traveled as much as time and money would allow. I backpacked the Andes and lived with a Spanish family in Andalusia. I hopped on and off trains throughout Europe.

I couldn’t get enough. Travel set me on fire — I was as desperate for it as I was for books when I was a kid.

Over the years, I’ve noticed I’m not the only reader-cum-traveler. I’ve met many travelers who also happen to be readers. Which makes sense. After all, being immersed in a book isn’t that different from being immersed in a foreign country; they both offer portals to new worlds. Both require imagination and empathy.

20 unique photos of Scotland

I don’t really travel for the sites or scenery (though they can be wonderful, of course). I travel to understand how other people live; to speak foreign languages and try new foods. To learn about a new way of life.

When you’re in a faraway place, even the mundane can captivate you: French street signs, newspapers written in Cyrillic, Italian voices on the radio. I’m endlessly fascinated by this — how when you’re in a foreign place, the quotidian becomes novel. In a way, it’s like being a child again.

Are you a reader and a traveler, too?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

10 thoughts on “Do Readers Grow Up to Be Travelers?”

  1. this speaks to me so strongly. i have definitely found that my most well-read friends are also the ones with the strongest urge to wander and see as much as they can. and i was definitely the child who would get in trouble for staying up too late reading on school nights :)

  2. This is such an interesting idea, I also love both travelling and reading but never made the connection between the two. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a nostalgic post :) I don’t think I was quite as travel-hungry as you as a kid (the “travel room,” so cute!) but this is definitely relatable. I think Harry Potter had me wanting to go to the UK above anywhere else until I was probably in high school. (Btw, thank you for putting a non-listicle travel article in my Feedly today! They seem sort of hard to come by lately.)

    • Glad you enjoyed! I miss old-school non-listicle blog posts too. And yes, I think Harry Potter definitely sparked my interest in the UK as well! :)

  4. This is certainly the case for me. Thanks to my dad who instilled the idea of being knowledgeable is fun I grew up reading a lot of books, magazines, and encyclopedias. Looking back, I remember how early I learned about Potala Palace in Tibet, the capital of Mauritania, and the ancient city of Persepolis. My dad and I used to have a tradition where we would watch the world news on TV every night at 9pm, and that’s how I learned eveb more about the world. My mom, on the other hand, said she was rather displeased when I read film magazines than NatGeo. Today people I know who travel for understanding other cultures are usually those who grew up reading a lot as well.

    • Wow, it sounds like you got an incredible education as a child. My dad was also super interested in history which is where I got my love for it.

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