This past weekend when Andrea, her sister, and I went walking around in hopes of digesting lunch so as to gorge on dinner, we came across a garage sale.
I haven’t been to a garage sale in the longest time, so even though the people were packing everything up, we couldn’t say no when they invited us over to take a last look.
I’m so very glad we did because lying spread out on the blankets on the lawn were something like twenty-five different travel books.
Seeing the cover of a travel book is like seeing the face of a person you instantly (though inexplicably) want to get to know. Somehow you know that beneath the surface, there’s something inside that you crave – something that until this point you didn’t even realize you’d needed.
That very feeling overwhelmed me as I scanned the covers, each bright and beckoning. Croatia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Italy, Venezuela, China…And yet when my eyes fell upon the Moon Handbooks: South Pacific, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
While Andrea and her sister looked through other stuff, I paged through the maps of these distant isles, absorbed and with a tug of longing in my chest.
I ended up putting it down in favour of getting some shoes for my mom instead (two brand new pairs of Toms in her size, what what!), figuring that I really didn’t need it when I have too many books already and can’t take what I have with me as it is. But as I didn’t have the money on me to pay for the shoes (nor Andrea and her sister the money for the things they found), we had to go and come back.
Thus, when we returned I’d had time to think over how much I regretted not putting it aside the first time around.
Sure, as a guidebook it was out of date, but the historical background information – the maps of these micronations – that was all still relevant. My geographical knowledge of the South Pacific is shoddy at best, so what better way to correct it than a compact little paper brick?
You don’t have to keep it after, I told myself, but while in Montreal it’d be a great way to spruce up my world knowledge. Right?
I picked up the shoes at the garage sale, then hesitated. The books had been packed away in boxes and my eyes wanted to climb inside and look for it. Shyly, I asked if they’d mind very much if I grabbed the South Pacific book too.
They dug it from the box and my heart leapt as if it was already mine and I was reclaiming a lost pet. It was $3, and just for good (impulsive) measure, I asked if they’d throw in Frommer’s China as well for a rounded $5. After all, China is yet another place which I know little about aside from its Great Wall and the more famous cities (what’s all that giant inner landscape like??).
Needless to say I left the garage sale glowing with happiness. It’s been great being home, but as much as you might long for home when on the road, home just makes you long for the road again in turn.
After reading the Moon Handbooks: South Pacific that night until my eyes crossed and blurred with fatigue, I thought about why I’d been compelled to buy these books a great deal – perhaps simply to justify the spent money. Sure I have no immediate plans to go to these places. Honestly, the South Pacific has never even been particularly on my radar.
But there’s something exciting in deciding, “Hey, I’m going to check it out anyway!” It’s kind of like playing the Yes Man, except with countries. It’s picking up a book with no expectations, a blank slate, and choosing to fill yourself in.
If you’re passionate about travel, then finding some cheap guidebooks might just put a salve on the itch to move for a short time. Especially if they’re older editions, you can usually pick them up for next to nothing. You don’t need something published in the last year if you’re not planning on going for a while anyway.
But in the meantime, read, read, and escape.
You might just find something that inspires you.