Ever since I could remember, books were my best friends. It may sound sad because it looks like I didn’t have any ‘actual’ friends, maybe I didn’t but I really enjoy living in the world of stories. My brother, my cousin and I spent our spare time at Kyobo Book Store, which we could read as much as we want at the store (which was a BIG sensation in 90s Korea). Sometimes we competed for each other who read more. I’m starting to think we were really a good (and nerdy) kids. The best gift anyone could ever give when I was growing up was a book certificate. They usually came with 5,000 – 10,000 won ($5 – $10), and it allowed me to buy books in most of the bookstores in town. It was a great system that we don’t have anymore. I ran a project with myself in high school to read 100 books a year. The closest I could get was 80 something in the first year of college.
The subjects of all the reading were diverse: science, astronomy, biology, novel, essay, cartoon, fantasy novel, Greek and Rome history, religion, history, UFO, anthropology and something else I don’t remember. I dreamt to be an astronomer, anthropologist, writer, and somebody famous so I can put my own name in the encyclopedia (Wikipedia, these days). But, I don’t remember reading much about ‘travel’. I’ve always interested in the world outside of Korea, but not because of the adventures I’ve read in the book nor staring at the world map.
I felt kind of embarrassed when I first invited myself to the world of travel writing. For a person who wants to be a writer in travel field, I found out that I haven’t really read anything ‘important’. The closest travel book I’ve read (and left me a big inspiration) was ‘The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World’. I feel really good about that because I liked the book so much. Two of my travel writing inspiration, Stephen, and Katie, can talk about travel writers about their styles and all sorts of jargon I don’t really follow. They just wow me so much. Me? I can’t do that. I can make you so bored so you don’t want to talk to me anymore if you ask me the history of writers and important people in science and astronomy, but not travel books. I guess the embarrassment came from the urge to follow the mainstream and feeling of I have to do what everyone else does.
I’ve tried to induce myself to read more travel-related books, starting from famous ones. You know, like books you have to read if you are interested in travel. Of course, there was a big challenge since I wasn’t used to reading a book in English. My very first English book was the last book of Harry Potter, simply because I couldn’t wait for the translated version. I tried, and I found some easy-enough books for second language speakers like me during my Tour Asia 2012. I widen my field of reading by doing that, and it occurred to me, very slowly, that I don’t have to restrain myself to do something. It’s always good to learn and try something new, but I don’t have to replace it with the interests I already have. I have a broad knowledge of pretty much everything in the world, and why stop now?
You don’t have to change yourself to be a traveler. I certainly don’t have to limit myself to only read travel books. I’ve read thousands of books that were not specifically about travel, but I still became a professional traveler. All the books I’ve read in different genre allowed me to imagine what it is like to visiting the places in the world of books. I want to go Greece because of the Greek myth I’ve read, I want to visit places that I can see Aurora Borealis (and I did), the dream of seeing Southern Cross lead me to New Zealand, and I still have to go England to do Harry Potter tour. There are so many things can trigger traveling. Everyone has their own purpose and has a different comfort level.
Travel in comfort is what I want to say to all the travelers (or traveler-to-be). We don’t have to do ‘cool’ things to just because that’s what everyone does. It doesn’t make you any less of a traveler. I don’t have to feel bad because I haven’t read many travel books than others. No matter where it started, my interests lead me to travel the world, and I’m making the dream come true every day – in my own way. And it doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a traveler of a writer.
My kindle book list is full of inspirations – starting with many books by Carl Sagan, Bossypants by Tina Fey (which I finished in a day), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, a few travel-related books (The World’s Cheapest Destinations, Medellín Travel Guide, etc), and dozen other varieties.
Read what you like, not what you have to.