Autumn bookish adventures

 

At 8 o’clock yesterday morning, throughout London, commuters could be seen wearing coats. Not fluffy parkas or thick woollens, but still, this can mean only one thing: the summer holidays are officially over. For most people, daylight, warmth and annual leave will be in short supply for the rest of the year; the prospect of long summer nights and bank holidays, and the seemingly infinite potential they contain, has vanished. But if the daily grind is feeling a little heavier, it’s worth reminding yourself that September does have the odd redeeming feature.

In my first post as the new resident bookworm at Natbee’s, I must admit that I’ve always loved the back-to-school atmosphere of September. Summer’s great for lazing around on beaches, exploring new cities and hiking up mountains, but early autumn fills me with energy for other kinds of adventure. In particular, the kind of adventure that takes place when you curl up on a chilly evening and lose yourself in a good book.

I know what you’re thinking: Anastasia’s website is all about how to live your most adventurous, most glamorous, most picturesque life; where does sitting in your pyjamas with an old paperback come into it? Why does Natbee’s need a bookworm? Well, I’m here to show that my two favourite pastimes—reading and travelling—have quite a lot in common.

I’m not unusual in pointing out this relationship. There’s plenty of evidence—from proverbs to TV programmes—that writing and travelling are often thought of as interrelated, complementary activities. One motto that appears quite often these days, on postcards and pencil cases and passport covers, is a quote attributed to St Augustine: ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page’. This phrase sees travelling widely and reading widely as symbolic of one another, suggesting that to get the most out of life, we must do both. After all, a library is a world, and those who do not read see only one town.

Travelling can be expensive and tiring and sometimes overwhelming. It’s great to spread your wings during the summer months, but it can be equally great to hole up for the winter with a pile of paperbacks. Diving into the world of a book can be a way of exploring even if you can’t leave your house or your city. This week, for instance, I’ve been escaping the stress that goes hand-in-hand with moving by escaping into the glitzy world of high-society Singapore, as described by Kevin Kwan in Crazy Rich Asians.

In our globalised society, where an individual’s worth is so often judged based on their social media feed, personal growth is equated with what is photogenic, exotic, extroverted and unprecedented. Travelling can certainly be fulfilling, but we mustn’t overlook the—in many ways comparable—personal growth that can happen when you’re alone, in silence and in a familiar place, spending no money and taking no photos.

Besides, when we read, we sometimes come to understand a place far more deeply than we would after visiting it on a weekend break. I don’t have the time or the money or any reason to go and live in rural Jutland for a year, but fortunately Helen Russell’s written a book about doing just that. I learned far more about Denmark from her memoir, The Year of Living Danishly, than I did from four days in Copenhagen.

Fiction can have the same effect. I’ve visited Naples, but I’ll never be able to understand the city like a native. However, I can read the Neapolitan Novels of a native, Elena Ferrante, and thereby vicariously live what I can never experience: coming of age in a complex, turbulent, southern Italian city. Books even give us a sense of places we will or can never visit. I’ve never been to Mumbai, but I feel as though I have a deep sense of the city, from Salman Rushdie’s fantastical accounts of it in Midnight’s Children. Marjane Satrapi let me travel back in time to 1980s Iran: reading her graphic novel Persepolis allowed me to glimpse a place that is now history.

So, reading can be a way of taking yourself out of your comfort zone, like a long-haul trip to a city where the culture is very different from in the place you’re used to. It can turn your perspective upside down and make you rethink your assumptions.

But reading can also be comforting, like a weekend break to a seaside town you first visited when you were six weeks old. I turn to Eva Ibbotson’s young adult books when I want to relax into a familiar setting (I first read them a decade ago.) She describes Vienna, Northumberland and the Amazon rainforest with ease and affection, making them sound like magical lands of beauty and promise.

Whether it’s relaxing and familiar, or challenging and new, both travelling and reading can be a way of escaping the humdrum of daily life, and combatting stress. If you’ve had a summer of travel, reading is the perfect way to keep adventuring in autumn, even if your funds are low and your time is scarce. As the days get colder and the nights get longer, snuggle up under a blanket, with a hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other. I’ll be posting on Natbee’s regularly, in case you need help deciding what to read next.

For more book recommendations and literary thoughts, take a look at my blog, whattobeyoungis, or follow my Instagram @tobeyoungis

*Featured image via Instagram from Haley (@mylittlebooktique)

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12 Comments
  • Lindsey Higgs
    September 7, 2018

    I read to mentally take myself to different places when I cannot physically be there.
    I loved your post is this your first one? Welcome to Natbee’s 🙂

    • Freya
      September 7, 2018

      That’s exactly what I do. Last month I was thinking about how much I’d like to go back to New York, and then I read ‘Heartburn’ by Nora Ephron, and she loves the city so much, and describes it so well, that it was like visiting (but without paying for the airfare!)
      Yes, this is my first ever post, but there’ll be plenty more!

  • Rena
    September 7, 2018

    Yes, summer holidays are really over 🙂 Thanks for this post!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

    • Anastasia
      September 10, 2018

      I am so glad you enjoyed it Rena!
      Freya is one of Natbee’s contributors and this was her first post so I am glad to know people like her writing as much as I do 🙂

    • Freya
      September 10, 2018

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Anastasia
    September 7, 2018

    I loved this one Freya-

    ‘In our globalised society, where an individual’s worth is so often judged based on their social media feed, personal growth is equated with what is photogenic, exotic, extroverted and unprecedented’ because it’s so spot on!!!

    I am guilty too, if I visit an exotic place and post on my Instagram and the pictures won’t reach the ‘likes’ or engagement I had in mind I feel like I am not doing something right because my job is based on numbers, which is so wrong! I’d much more spend my time in the beach with a good book than try to get the perfect Instagram shot for the likes-a total ego food- and you summed it perfectly here! Give me a book and I am happy 🙂

    Thank you for this brilliant article!
    x

    • Freya
      September 10, 2018

      Thanks Anastasia! This is something I’ve thought about so much — I actually went away for a month this summer by myself and decided not to put any photos on social media, and it was so liberating… but when I’m travelling with other people I looooove making photo shoots a part of the holiday, so I definitely think there’s a balance to be struck.

      • Anastasia
        September 11, 2018

        I know what you mean. My dream is to go to Australia but none of my friends can join me at the moment so I am always torn between the idea of just doing it alone, but then I am thinking how much I want to share these moments with others and stay behind once again…

        • Freya
          September 11, 2018

          I’d really recommend solo travel!! It was so empowering to be able to spend time on my own. And then I saved up all the photos I took and showed them to my loved ones when I got home.

          • Anastasia
            September 11, 2018

            Now, if only I wasn’t afraid of taking offs!!!

  • Fiona
    September 7, 2018

    “After all, a library is a world, and those who do not read see only one town” I loved your article Freya, you paint such a vivid picture with your words. I can’t wait to read more and see what your book recommendations are.

    • Freya
      September 10, 2018

      Thank you for such kind words! I will keep the book recommendations coming.