The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” …
- St Augustine
However it was the world of books that inspired me to travel. I was quite a bookworm as a child, devouring pages and losing myself in not just stories but in places as well. Every book took me to a world that I had not heard about and I found myself wandering in the mystical landscapes and mysterious stories. Be it fairy tales of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or the Lilliputs and Giants of Gulliver’s Travels or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, every book took me into a magical realm. Every page was a journey by itself. Travelling took me into many different worlds and it became a way of life for me. However, during the lockdown, I took refuge in a world of books and quelled my wanderlust. I downloaded a lot of e-books. As we entered the unlock phase, I went to the neighbouring park or the lake in the afternoon and read a bit. Reading made me unwind and even discover new places. As an armchair traveller, I learnt even a little bit of different concepts and philosophies as well. Here are some of the top 5 books to read during the lockdown that helped me get over the angst of the pandemic and made me travel virtually:
- Ichi go Ichi e – Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia
The first time I heard this phrase was from my Japanese guide in Kyoto. He said the Japanese believed in making every moment special. And he explained that when they met someone – be it a friend or a stranger, a business associate or a colleague, they would treat it like it’s the very first and perhaps even the last meeting and would go all the way to make it special. “This is probably one of my lifetime experiences, to have met you and I intend to make the most of it, “ he said. I was so overwhelmed by what he said that I wanted to pick up this book written by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia and learn the Japanese way of making the most of every moment.
I had also picked up the book Ikigai , one of the top 5 books to read written by the same authors, which was all about the Japanese version of purpose. It simply means, what is the one thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and gives you a sense of meaning and fulfillment in life, a balance, a secret to a long life. An ideal book to pick up, especially during the pandemic that helps you rethink your priorities in life.
- A beginner’s guide to Japan – Pico Iyer .
I am pretty much fascinated by everything Japanese and I even dabbled in learning the language as a teenager. I was in Japan on a very brief trip a couple of years ago and I was planning to visit it again this year. But the pandemic put a hold to my travel plans. However, I became an armchair traveller by visiting Japan through the eyes of my favourite travel writer, Pico Iyer who has made Japan his home for over two decades. There are so many experiences packed in the book, from the quaint to the charming and even a glimpse of the sublime to the ridiculous. A perfect book to get some Zen during the lockdown blues.
- Lagom by Linnea Dunne
Besides Japanese concepts, I have also been fascinated by the Scandinavian way of life. Words like Hygge, Sisu and recently Lagom have become more than just buzzwords to me. Lagom is the Swedish expression for balanced living. The lifestyle phrase literally means “not too little, not too much, just right“. Apparently, it owes its origins to a Viking tradition of passing a mug of mead and there was just about enough for everyone to have a sip of it. The catch phrase is to focus on “just enough” and focussing on the same. This is one of the best travel books and I strongly recommend as one of the top 5 books to read this year.
- The Travels of Marco Polo
Some days I really wanted to escape from the real world and enter a realm of fantasy. And following the legendary medieval Italian explorer on his journeys into Asia was the perfect distraction. The Venetian traveller had written about his adventures and had called it ‘The Description of the World’ which later became known as ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’. During the medieval era, few people even believed that Marco Polo had actually travelled through the Asian continent, but eventually many decided to trace his footsteps like William Darlymple in Xanadu along the legendary Silk Route. Its one of the best travel books I have ever read
- A walk in the woods – Bill Bryson
Sometimes you need a humorous companion on your travels, even if it’s just a virtual journey. And I needed was my dose of Bill Bryson, to pull me out of my lockdown blues and take me on a hike in the mountains, into dense woods. As Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz traverse through the Appalachian Mountains, they share their weird and wonderful experiences in the wilderness, but it is the trademark humorous style of the celebrated author that keeps you smiling all the time, as you flip through the pages. If you ask me, almost all of Bryson’s books will make it to the top 5 books to read at any given point of time.
I picked up many more eBooks, from murder mysteries to self-development but the travel stories are my eternal favourites. I love bookstores and I can spend hours combing through the pages and losing myself in the old familiar smell, but as the pandemic raged through, my world turned digital. And I bought a tablet with my