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You guys, I am a proud literary traveler and so far, my experience has been amazing. Books have always been meaningful to me. I’ve been an avid reader since I was four years old. Yes. Four. William Shakespeare is one of my heroes. J.K. Rowling is too. And let’s not forget Oscar Wilde. Or Jane Austen. The names of my writing role models could fill a novel on their own. Impressive, huh?
So, unsurprisingly on my trips, I keep a special eye open for neighborhoods, experiences, and buildings that inspired some of the greatest masters of the written word.
When I started Blond Wayfarer in 2015, the phrase “literary travel” flashed through my mind and I’ve tried to stay true to my vision over the years.
I wanted to put together this comprehensive post on literary travel to encourage you to tap into your “inner book nerd” on your own adventures. To find that cool independent bookstore on the corner. To learn about that poet whose statute you saw in the city square. To discover that public “slam poetry” reading in the library. To read a local author’s new novel.
Us literary travelers exist.
But that’s not all. I also want to emphasize that I wrote this post for you too if you don’t like to read or even if you avoid books like the plague.
Believe it or not, I come across a lot of people who say things such as “I don’t like reading” or “I haven’t read a book since high school.”
And I completely understand. We all have different interests and passions. But I hope to encourage those people to open their eyes to the ways literature has politically, socially, and culturally impacted their home countries and cities. It’s remarkable, really.
Without wasting more time, here is why I am a super proud, geeky, knowledge, and fun literary traveler.
Let’s go, book lovers!
1. Combining My Two Passions Makes Me Happy
We all know I love to travel. I mean, look at how much time and energy I invested into this blog, haha. Travel is a great priority for me throughout the year, and I adjust my lifestyle accordingly. For example, I’ll buy clearance sale clothing instead of ignoring a lowly priced fare to a new destination. It’s obvious travel plays a great role in my identity and daily life.
But I have another passion. Books.
Lumping my favorite things together makes me deeply, deeply, deeply happy.
Even when I’m NOT traveling or reading, I still think of different ways to connect my two favorite hobbies. I mean, I even make connections between my traveling style and literary characters. How cool is that?
Happiness in life is valuable. Keep your passions close to your heart. And combine them if possible.
2. Travel Breathes New Life into My College Degrees
Regardless of what anyone says (lookin’ at you “liberal arts are worthless” crowd), your education and subsequent degrees are very valuable entities. Education is one of those few things that no one can ever steal from you.
As for me, I hold a Masters degree in Literature from a Public Ivy. During my studies, I wrote my thesis (re: a big, big, big research paper) on William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. I would also look forward to my Romanticism seminars every single Tuesday night.
Needless to say, the cultural and historical influences on the world’s greatest literature fascinates me. I mean, I ramble on here about the best travel poems and ways Romanticism creates better travelers.
By being a literary traveler, I feel like I’m putting my degrees to valuable use outside of my day job. My college studies also feel far more real whenever I see where the greatest authors lived and wrote their works.
3. I Learn About a Country More Deeply
A country’s authors and books reveals its culture and history to you. By being a literary traveler, you’ll have a greater understanding of a country’s prominent sites and come home with more knowledge tucked inside your back pocket.
For example, I didn’t know very much about the Spanish Civil War, a bloody conflict that happened in the 1930s. As I walked through Madrid’s trendy Barrio de les Letras, I came across a statue of Federico García Lorca who was a prominent poet and playwright. Later learned he was executed at the height of the Spanish Civil War. Tragically, his body was never recovered. This bit of history was a chilly reminder that poets (and all artists) don’t always have the pure freedom to express themselves, but do so anyway in the hopes of achieving a greater good.
A valuable lesson.
As a literary traveler, I feel like a better informed traveler and find myself wanting to know even more about the places I’m visiting.
4. I’m Introduced to New Authors
As a literary traveler, I discover new authors on a regular basis and continue to grow my “home” library as a result.
While my degrees focused on English literature, traveling has opened my eyes to global authors and my reading list has exploded over the last five years. No wonder I need two separate library cards, haha.
Ultimately you’re never too old to stop learning. Sometimes I like to think of myself as a student forever, except I create my own curriculum and assignments through literary traveler rather than a physical classroom.
5. I’m Inspired to Write Beyond the Blog
I write a lot on this travel blog. Most of my posts are close to 2000 words. What can I say, I love to write.
Literary travel pushes me to go beyond my comfort zone. For example, one of my major goals is consistently writing a travel journal so I remember my trips better.
Furthermore, as a literary traveler, I feel more confident about writing a book one day. Perhaps even a novel. I used to get nervous, worrying about negative feedback or reviews, but through my travels, I’ve learned my goals don’t exist to appease everyone else, especially people who I’ve never met once in my entire life.
How YOU Can Be a Proud Literary Traveler!
Are you an avid reader too? Awesome! You’re on your way to being a proud literary traveler like me! Join the club. It’s a great place to be. Here are my best tips for you to transform into a great literary traveler.
- Research Sites Ahead of Time: You should do your research anyway, but, as a literary traveler, research is key. See what literary tours are available. Any cool homes famous authors once lived in? What about bookstores? Where are they located? Figure out the details beforehand.
- Read Works by Authors in Your Destination of Choice: As a literary traveler, you expand your book tastes. So are you visiting Spain? Check out some Spanish authors. Going to Japan? Track down some Japanese poetry.
- Support Libraries – Historical and Public – on Your Trips: Even better, supporting public libraries are a great thing you can do as a literary traveler. For example, the New York Public Library is free to explore, take pictures, and learn. Promoting them helps strengthen the support for these institutions.
- Attend Author and Poetry Readings: If you’re traveling alone, these readings might help you make new friends in your new city.
- Bring a Journal with You: Remember what I said about writing a travel journal? Have something to write in. Your memories will exist forever.
My Favorite Literary Sites & Experiences
I have been a very lucky literary traveler so far. I experienced many cool things that would make a dedicated librarian or English teacher crack a smile.
Don’t worry. I’ll continue to update this list on a regular basis.
- Europe’s Best Bookish Cities: Literary travelers will fall in love with Europe’s bookish cities. Here are a few of my favorite ones to visit.
- Exploring Barrio de las Letras: Madrid’s Neighborhood of Letters is where the Golden Age poets lived. The written word is everywhere. In the street arts and in the sidewalks. Amazing.
- Literary Festivals Bucket List: If you’re a serious book lover, then try to go to a literary festival when you’re traveling the world. You might see a famous author give a stirring lecture or discover a new favorite book. Plan ahead!
- My Failure to Kiss Oscar Wilde: Ahhh, I went all the way to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris to give Oscar Wilde a big kiss. Too bad I was in for disappointment.
- The Strand Bookstore is a Reader’s Paradise: My absolute favorite independent bookstore is The Strand located in downtown Manhattan. All tourists in NYC should visit it.
- Stratford-Upon-Avon (A Photo Essay): I’m a huge lover of William Shakespeare. So, of course, I had to construct a photo essay of his birthplace.
- Edinburgh or The UNESCO City of Literature: We all know Scotland’s one of my favorite destinations. But did you know Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature? Edinburgh should top your literary bucket list!
- Visit the Morgan Library and Museum: The Morgan is New York City’s most beautiful library. You’ll feel like you’ve entered the famous library from Beauty and the Beast. Be still my beating heart.
I definitely hope to add more as my travel bucket list grows and grows and grows some more.
Are you a literary traveler? What are some of the greatest literary sites you have seen? Share in the comments.