Not the Only One: Finding Companionship in Travel Memoirs by Fiona Ellis
When I was ten years old, my family and I went to Ireland for a summer month to visit family. It was my first big trip and my very first time out of the country. I returned home in late August with a mountain of stories and memories. The stories and memories manifested into a five page essay for a school assignment entitled: “What I Did This Summer.” I remember getting reprimanded by the teacher in the computer lab for printing out two copies of my long story: one copy for my teacher and one for my parents. I couldn’t understand why the teacher in the computer lab was upset; didn’t she understand how important my story was to tell? Obviously not.
Travel memoirs are my addiction; specifically the ones written by women. They pile high on my nightstand or jostle around in my bag on the way to work. I know the travel section of my local library by heart; where to find the books on Mexico or why a certain travel memoir is mixed in with the guidebooks on China.
I too am a traveler. My wanderlust is unquenchable. To define wanderlust is to simply say: the more I travel the more I want to see. But I have reached the age where I am told I am supposed to settle down, get married and start thinking about children. The pressure can, at times, be stifling. And yet, I feel very far removed from that world. The idea of being unable to travel because of obligations at home feels as though someone is holding a pillow over my mouth and nose and I cannot breathe. So I turn to the travel memoirs to find companionship in the women who, at one time, felt the very same way I do.
I seek out the women writers who agree and understand. I take comfort in their travels abroad; perhaps how they handled a scary situation and what they learned from it. But I also look for the sentences that feel as though they have been taken from my thoughts and dreams. I hunt for the words that describe exactly how I feel when the reality of a trip takes shape or as I take the first steps in a new city. These are the words I need to tell me I am not alone in my voracious and never-ending wanderlust.
One of my personal favorites is Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves. I came across a publicity blurb for this book in a magazine and immediately sought out to purchase it. I read the book at a time when I was unsure about my future; I had been laid off from my job and returned home to live with my parents in Connecticut. It was also a time when, despite living in the same room as I did when I was ten years old, I suddenly felt very grown-up. My friends were getting married and my sisters were having babies, yet I didn’t know where I was supposed to be in life. I did know that I had unusual views on traveling, feeling that I wanted to do more of it and do it all of the time. I preferred spending money on a plane ticket than on a mortgage for a house. But I felt alone in these feelings, until I read Eaves’ book.
Eaves’ story spans several years, taking the reader on journeys to Europe and Egypt, Australia and Papua New Guinea. She also tells the reader about her actual love affairs with men, how she moves from relationship to relationship and country to country. But through the book it remains true that her real love is for travel and her own wanderlust. She sometimes sees it as a curse yet it is primarily a very genuine and deep-rooted desire.
After reading Eaves’ book I no longer felt alone in my yearning to continue my travels as opposed to settling down. However I still often wonder if I am not a grown-up or if I am being too selfish, too absorbed in my deep longing to travel instead of settling down with a family and a house. But then I remember it is my life to live and so I continue to seek out the books written by women, the ones who get it, the women who understand me. A short list of these books sits on my nightstand and I turn to them in comfort, re-reading the specific passages that remind me of myself.
Fiona Ellis is a freelance writer and essayist living in Connecticut. She recently escaped the corporate jungle to focus on her writing career. You can read more of her humorous, embarrassing, and always dramatic stories on her blog or by following her on Twitter @fionaellis30.
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