Author Paul Theroux identified ten items in his list, The Essential Tao of Travel, beginning with 1. Leave home and ending with 10. Make a friend.
I am following number eight because this trip needs an alternative route, a string to a balloon or a cloud or a seagull that lifts me, even if only my feet drag.
Theroux suggested to “8. Read a novel that has no relation to the place you’re in,” and so, as I start a month-long visit to Chattanooga, I start reading Where the Rain is Born, a collection of essays, fiction, poetry and images about Kerala, a region in southern India.
I bought the book in Kerala while staying a few nights in Varkala, a town above the Arabian Sea, and seven years later, I am reading it during my first visit to my hometown in three years.
A narrow mud path cliffside links the images of Varkala, Kerala that I remember: Waves crashing below the horizon, the sound one of many languages. Shiny vines over roads. Tasting the coarsely-ground spices in fish curry. Mosques, temples and shrines. Large families standing and sitting along the shore at sunset. Sleeping in a small room in a white building between the jungle and sea. Women in turquoise saris slicing through feisty and crowded bushes, kids at a pep rally. Brown. Blue. Green.
I am reading to learn more about a place I want to revisit.
I am reading to be inspired by good travel writing.
I am also reading to be reminded of memories other than the ones everywhere now.
Driving to the grocery inevitably involves a resurrection of a high school night or a cousin or a conversation that had been tightly folded and packed away.
I am reading to bring back and ward off spirits of a place.