The Traveling Reader

At 15, my parents put me on a train at 3 AM and sent me off to New England for a long weekend with my older brothers who were both in college in New Hampshire.

Don’t worry. They didn’t hate me. It’s just, I’m from Cleveland and the only time that Amtrak goes through Cleveland is at 3 AM because it’s just about halfway from Chicago to New York City or Boston, and it only goes through once every 24 hours. The train station is in a notoriously bad part of town, and it is really only for the sense of adventure that any of us use it anymore. It’s probably actually cheaper to fly somewhere than to take the train these days anyways.

Anyway, my parents put me on a train for what equated to a four day trip – three days in New Hampshire with my brothers on their idyllic college campuses and 12 hours each way on the train.

Not to date myself, but this was before iPods were even invented, and I still had a super fancy AOL email account that played this noise whenever I checked it.

That was 12 hours of a train ride – twice – with no iPad to entertain me and no iPod to distract me. But it was okay. I could read.

And I loved to read, even back then.

I loved to read so much that my parents put me on that train – for four days total – with two Adidas duffle bags and as hearty a wave as parents can muster at 3 AM. One bag was filled with clothes. The other bag was filled with books.

Needless to say, my brothers cursed my parents when they came to pick me up. That bag was filled to the brim with paperbacks – about 40 – and it was not light. The car they had driven down together was not large, and one of them spent the whole trip back with that bag on his lap. It was very nice of them to let me sit in the front seat and gawk over the beautiful New Hampshire landscape. It was my first totally solo trip, and I was pretty excited.

This problem is not one that I have gotten over in the intervening years. I am still a hardcore reader, and I still pack way too many books. Having an e-reader has not solved this problem for more than one reason.

First of all, I have a never-ending stack of books on my floor that I swear I am someday going to get through. The family’s annual beach trip to Cape Cod always feels like the absolutely perfect moment to grab a few that I have started and abandoned and force myself to finish them.

Second, there is always the possibility that the e-reader will break. WHAT WILL I DO WITH NOTHING TO READ? Never mind that the house we stay in has a few books I could read if I really went through withdrawal but I always conveniently forget that. This second point also falls under: what if I lose the charge cord; what if I forget the charge cord; what if I forget to charge it; and what if I get there and there is no internet, and I finish everything I already have downloaded? All valid concerns in my book.

Third, e-readers, no matter how delightful and convenient in the dank underground tunnels of the New York City subway, are a pain to take to the beach. You risk getting them wet. You risk getting them sandy. You wish completely burning them out by leaving them forgetfully in the sun and totally messing up their screen. And if you don’t have certain types of e-readers, there is a terrible glare anytime bright light hits them. Sometimes a paper book is just better, and one of those times is at the beach.

And finally, the real reason I bring a bunch of books, is that there is always the potential for some trading and bartering with my family. We are, after all, total and complete nerds, and I am liable to go home with a completely different selection of literature at my fingertips if I bring good trades.

I’m actually writing this from the back porch of said rental home. I’ve just pulled up the familiar driveway, past the nodding heads of purple and pink hydrangea, and have killed my first wasp of the season. I will have you know that I controlled myself this year.

I only brought one bag of books. You can see it in the picture below. We will only be here for one week but I full expect to read all of them, and allow myself one purchase for the train ride home.

What do you mean I have a “problem”?

Feature Image via Fairfield Families

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