Nostalgic For Places I’ve Never Been

Growing up, I remember spending hours flipping through magazines and not just any kind. I was infatuated with travel or political magazines with their large spread images in perfectly captured, glistening pages. Later, I would have a developing obsession with typography and graphic design. Arts that I admired from afar.

But if the images were what drew me in initially, the accompanying travel essays are what created a pack rat. As my mother will swear to you to this day, I could not bear the thought of parting with my magazines. They would get stacked in dusty corners, in colorful bin, or even under the bed. I would cut stories, quotes, and images out of them, only to put these into a draw for safekeeping (no safer than the magazine piles). On slow nights, I would re-read the magazines and find new articles to save and more reasons I could not recycle these paper treasures.

Jingtong, Taiwan, photo by distributedinternationally.wordpress.com
Jingtong, Taiwan, photo by distributedinternationally.wordpress.com

The authors of those travel essays were my role models. Forget the Britney Spears and NSYNCs of my childhood, I wanted to be those adventurers.Β  I crushed over their writing, how they depicted a culture, a moment, or a thought so reflectively, yet so emotionally intuitive. As a reader, I experienced their journeys as if they were my own. Their ability to translate the spiritual into the tangible for my younger (and rather naive) mind was parallel to none. At the heart of the connectionΒ  with their readers was a desire to authentically share while being open enough for the readers to also have their own feelings apart from the piece. There was no underlying command from the author to feel this, see that, laugh now. It was effortless prose.

Skimming through the endless amount of travel Iiterature available today, I feel like we’ve lost the Greats. Instead of gaining more travel essays, we’ve lost so many. Instead, we’ve gained more do-this, see-that, feel-like-this. While these are important contributions to the field in general, simply ask anyone who needs to know how to get to the Louvre or what to bring for a visa into Laos from Bangkok, they do little justice to the wanderluster sitting at home with a cup of coffee. What motivates me to save every last penny, pence, Taiwanese dollar are the articles that move me, spiritually and then eventually physically: the ones that make it difficult to sit planted on my kitchen table chair. Travel guides tell me what I’ve missed so far but they don’t show me what awaits. As the saying goes in writing, “Show me, don’t tell me.”

Chepstow Castle, Wales, backpacksandblackboards.com
Chepstow Castle, Wales, backpacksandblackboards.com

I know what an African safari looks like, that Machu Pichu is not to be missed, and that the grand canyon by helicopter is amazing by way of my computer, but I do not know what stepping out in a Swiss town feels like in August, what sounds can be heard during prayer in Tibet, or what translates the sensation of that winning goal and its Latin American football stadium.

Either way, I lust for essays, plus a good English Breakfast tea and scone set, that make me nostalgic for places that I have yet to travel.

Wulai, Taiwan, Photo by distributedinternationally.wordpress.com
Wulai, Taiwan, Photo by distributedinternationally.wordpress.com
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11 thoughts on “Nostalgic For Places I’ve Never Been”

  1. I feel the same way! When I was younger, National Geographic was one of my favorites! All the articles and pictures from all around the world!

  2. I’m moved by this one! I love it! I feel the same way too. I enjoy reading the same kinds magazines. It’s like, even though I’m just sitting at a cafe or my room, in my mind I’m traveling. I love that feeling.

    I do write “how to get to this place” after going some place beautiful. but only to hope that other people can go to the same place to enjoy and appreciate what I saw. I’m not that good a writer to describe sceneries, everytime I tried (though, i describe a little bit) it doesn’t do justice on how beautiful the place was.

    Thank you for this piece.

    1. For me, sometimes I have to jot down little notes as a travel with adjectives or metaphors to help me when I get home. A lot of times, I simply connect an experience or a moment with another. it helps me sort my feelings out or use the dynamics of something I know well to describe something new!

  3. Thank you for this piece, Christian. Growing up, I remember reading and saving my fair share of travel essays and photos, while easily being filled with wanderlust and nostalgia for places I’ve never been. Maps and atlases have always intrigued me, and I’ve wanted to go everywhere. To do, must see, and informational articles and posts have their place, but I also believe that we cannot lose the travel essays that breathe life into places that places we’ve never experienced.

  4. I don’t think I have spent a single day in the past few years not thinking about where I want to travel next! I am obsessed with it. So when I am in the planning stages of my next trip, I am always on the look out for a good book (or nowadays a good blog) to give me some extra ideas!

    1. I’m the same. I find that when I’m on a trip, I start thinking of another trip to a place very different than where I am. Instead of staying to similar regions, I’m ready to do something completely different than what I am doing at the moment.

      1. Yep, although after the recent MH370 incident, I am starting to scale back any unnecessary flights. That KUL-PEK route is the kind of point-to-point route that I sometimes do when in the area… Oh well, there’s always overland travel!

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