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Bibliotherapy - Literary Treatment for the Traveler's Soul

July 31, 2011

 

Bibliotherapy - is a term describing an expressive form of therapy where an individual's relationship to the content of specific books, poetry and/or other written words is used as a means to treat anxiety, depression and to improve one's over all mental and emotional wellness. I aptly came across this philosophy while on an airplane last week, browsing through an otherwise boring in-flight magazine (one I once aspired to write for) and the brief synopsis of the treatment not only jumped off the page but stuck with me well passed baggage claim and into the topic of the article you are now reading.

 

Most of us have experienced the phenomenon over the years, as far back to a beginning where a potentially arduous grade school book report became an adolescent life changing assignment when the words on the pages mirrored our own identity crisis, turmoil or pre-teen angst. The author was speaking to YOU and inspired an awakening. What you chose to do with that catharsis was up to you. For some, inspiration became whimsical fantasy and ultimately stayed perched on the bookshelf with thousands of other dewey decimal categorized dreams. For others, the written passages led them down a path following a direction far from their original plan (often the blueprint of one's parents). I can guarantee that more than a few post-grad backpacking escapades through Europe can be blamed on Mark Twain, E.E. Cummings and D.H. Lawrence. This brings me to the point of why this topic has found its way into this specific editorial. Literary treatment comes to life most often in the form of literal escape from one's current predicament. Travel, and all its wonderful appendages (new experiences, friends, opportunities, etc...) is arguably the most common side effect of prescribed or un-prescribed bibliotherapy. It most certainly was for me.

 

The Art of Travel - Alain De Botton                Kook - Peter Heller                West of Jesus - Steven Kotler


As with countless of other lost souls I was a decade deep into a career I despised - Marketing Consulting. Sure it was fun in the beginning and I was good at it. I put on a brave face, shook hands, kissed cheeks and signed contracts, but behind the scenes the gig was bringing me down. My escape from a day of leading horses to water that refused to drink (perfect metaphor for consulting!) involved diving into various travel magazines that transported my senses to the tropics and other exotic lands. Islands, Hawaii Magazine, and Caribbean Travel + Life were my solace until I could no longer wait the weeks between subscriptions, prompting me to browse the Travel Literature section at Borders. Alain De Botton's The Art of Travel title caught my attention. On numerous occasions my poor travel companions have endured impromptu lessons - titled the same as the above mentioned book - while next to me in line at airport security, customs and on 6 hour flights. The itinerary included helpful items such as "Picking the best customs agent booth" and "How to score free upgrades on airlines and at hotels". So when the words "The Art of Travel" found its way into my line of vision, I knew I had found my soul mate on paper.


In the first chapter Mr. De Botton expressed playful frustration with how shops on Caribbean islands keep Christmas decorations up all year, as if to say (in island patois) "why take the effort to take them down when you have to put them back up again in 11 months?". I thought I was the only one to ever ponder this aloofness to social protocol. I was hooked. Alain proceeded to drop minuscule, seemingly insignificant observations one makes while traveling to unique locations that indeed rang true as each page turned. It was the genius of Seinfeld in print for the travel enthusiast, exposing the quirks of a foreign culture and our skewed perception of them. My treatment had begun.


Next was to unearth works of non-fiction even more specific to my interests. My love for the ocean dares to be rivaled and my passion for waves feels about the same, however my skill level far from matches the vision I have in my head when I surf in my day dreams. So after uncovering two separate book flaps telling tales of men in mid-life crisis packing their bags and attempting to become competent surfers for the benefit of their own souls, the works found their way to the cash register within seconds. Here were two separate experiences with similar themes (minus the mid-life crisis. Mine is more like one third) I could relate to, but this was not the therapeutic part. It was not the adventures these authors had per se, but their ability to communicate it to readers, finding a common ground and even inspiring them to take similar journeys. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be responsible for yanking people out of their cubicles, freeways, and mortgages. I wanted to become the wake up call for the weary in the same manner that De Botton, Peter Heller (Kook), and Steven Kotler (West of Jesus - not a religious work) did for me the minute the final page of each was turned.

 

Smile When You're Lying - Chuck Thompson


I wanted to travel, write about it, and somehow make it pay for my annual coffee bill. I fine tuned my "craft" with other important additions such as "Smile When You're Lying - Confessions of a Travel Writer" by Chuck Thompson which aided in avoiding the pitfalls of yet another industry wrapped in red tape. I was prepared. I walked away from consulting, bought a cool looking moleskin journal and now maintain nice 3 day facial hair stubble 7 days a week. I wear flip flops as often as possible.


So what does this auto-biography have to do with you? Well, if you are reading this column the chances are that you have that same travel "bug". In fact I hope that you are neglecting work to read it. I want you to do the irresponsible thing, throw caution to the wind and go on adventure, as far away as possible and possibly forever. The more kids you may have the better, bring them with you and change their little lives too, even if starts with just a 7 day all inclusive at a time, until you are ready to take the leap as the newest expat in Costa Rica or volunteer worker in Indonesia. Photographers toss aside your wedding portfolios and snap the Galapagos Islands, bartenders open a Tiki Bar in Bora Bora, teachers teach overseas, fashionistas open a boutique shop in Cabo, lawyers...well, it's probably too late for you. The rest get the idea.


I far from assume that these written words are the ones to spark your next journey, perhaps they exist somewhere in the Travel Literature section of your closest bookstore or within another website domain name, but they're out there somewhere so pack up your figurative and literal personal baggage and start searching.

 

 

Wish You Were Here  -  Editor, YAHglobal.Com

post by : Editor - YAH Yaps

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