Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s much-loved novel of sisterhood, sprawling manor houses, and gossipy rich people turned 200 last week! In celebration of this literary birthday, tourists have been flocking to Austen landmarks, like the town of Bath.
Like most Austen-ites, I love Lizzie and Mr. Darcy (and I even have a place in my heart for boring Bingley and goody-two-shoes, Jane). Hey, who wouldn’t love a story about a smart, sassy heroine who likes to read and has no patience for mean girls or stuck-up dudes? When I first read Pride and Prejudice, I dreamed of strolling through the genteel English countryside and visiting grand old houses, of sipping tea and attending fancy dress balls. And seeing the miniseries/movies based on the book only solidified those desires.
That book was one of the reasons I chose to study abroad in London.
I’m not ashamed to admit that as soon as I could travel on my own, I chose my destinations largely according to literary and cinematic inspiration. Grimm’s fairytale castles in the Black Forest? Check. The Sound of Music bus tour in Salzberg? Definitely check. Salem, Massachusetts to do a little sightseeing a la The Crucible? You’d better believe it. My most recent trip, to Colorado, was inspired by several things: The Shining, every Western I’ve ever seen, and ski movies. I figured ONE of those things was bound to be right on the money.
Travel based on books is nothing new. Literary works have always inspired travel, ever since the first person got off at the Baker Street Tube stop looking for Sherlock Holmes. Maybe literary tourism is so appealing because we connect so deeply with our favorite literary creations, because we feel we know them. Seeing where their lives are set brings them to life in a way we never could in our minds, sitting on our couch and devouring the words that form and shape them.
So, say you’ve been hit with a light bulb inspirational moment and have decided to set off in search of your favorite fictional setting. What happens when you get there? Are you disappointed if/when it’s not exactly like you thought? Travel expectations aren’t just limited to literary travel, but it’s a special brand of disappointment to realize that the place you’d imagined for so long isn’t exactly as you’d pictured it. Any time you see a gorgeous photo of a hotel, for example, and arrive to find that its “convenient location” description translates to “adjacent to a highway off-ramp” you’re faced with how to manage dashed hopes.
The best advice I can give you is, to shrug your shoulders and embrace the surprises. As long as it’s not sketchy or unsafe, then I say, roll with it. You’ll always have the book or movie, and now you’ll have your own (hopefully funny) story to tell about “the real” wherever.
So, you may ask, what’s inspiring me now? I’ve been to Italy but I want to go back and explore the Under the Tuscan Sun countryside. I’ve also been wanting to get all Blue Lagoon on a Caribbean island for a while now. And of course, I’ve wanted to go to California ever since I saw Elliott’s kick-ass neighborhood in E.T. (a far cry from my suburban Pennsylvania neighborhood, growing up).
What literary or cinematic settings inspire you to travel?
Let’s tweet about all things travel (and hot chocolate) related, @StephSpitler
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