“Please turn off all electronic devices,” the flight attendant says over the speaker as we begin taxiing toward the runway. For the first time in weeks, I shut off my phone and tablet. Reaching into my backpack, I pull out my book. A calming sense comes over me and I can finally remember that I have no place to be, but here. I’m on vacation.
The thing about reading in New York City is distraction, whether it’s on the subway or hanging with your roommate. Whether your phone’s blowing up or there’s a new Netflix series awaiting your stream, attention deficit can be imminent. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone, but it certainly is for me. And when ascending into the air, an electronic free environment soothes my eyes into the pages. Lost in a new book while drifting away from the earth below, is there a better way to travel? Flipping open the pages I look down and begin a renowned modern classic, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Housseini.
What makes a vacation read innately special? Is it the entertainment or the diversion from downtime? Maybe. But I like to think that reading a book in a new environment is an individually moving experience. Without daily routine or familiarity, a book on vacation is a constant. Your imagination reaches new heights. No one around but you and these words. While away in a distant place without cell phone service, you may seek solace in your book, your companion. It’s an adventure within an adventure. Adventure-ception?
And so, my vacation began in Umbria, Italy. Umbria is a region outside Tuscany that looks like every Italian portrait you would ever paint. Surrounded by vineyards, poppy fields, and medieval castles, I was paralyzed by beauty and history. After arriving at our villa, we put our stuff down and took time to relax. I was ready to take out my book and get back to where I left off. Our new home for the next week was an 800 year old farm house converted into a dreamy, rustic home atop a mountain with breathtaking views. Enveloped by culture, this was the perfect location to read.
[Images: (left) Reading in the garden, (right) Spectacular view from my bedroom window]
The Kite Runner is a book that relishes in culture and ethnic pride. Reading this novel alone in the pristine country, I felt at peace. While this wasn’t nearly the middle east, I was in a new land abroad. This helped me connect with the story and its characters on a personal level. Housseini taught me about self identity and the importance of contentment. Without it, you will carry this weight until the end of time. A story, one focused on love, family, redemption, and fate is meant to be learned in the midst of a journey.
* * *
“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything–that’s how it is between people who are each other’s first memories…” -page 133
“‘She said, ‘I’m so afraid.’ And I said, ‘Why?,’ and she said, ‘Because I’m so profoundly happy, Dr. Rasul. Happiness like this is frightening.’ I asked her why and she said, ‘They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you…’” -page 271
“I set my hands on the rusty bars, remembering how I’d run through these same gates thousands of times as a child, for things that mattered not at all now and yet had seemed so important then.” -page 283
“And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir Jan, when guilt leads to good.” -page 326
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