“There’s so much more that I could be. So many places that I’ll never see. So many lives that I’ll never meet. I’ll just dream until we get there in the end.” – Amy Macdonald
When I was a phone book editor, working in a converted warehouse with no windows, I covered my cubicle walls with pictures of the places I dreamed of visiting. Greece, Ireland, Italy, England. Looking forward to vacations where I could see the world, dreaming of the countries and cities where I could go, helped me with the day-to-day tasks that made up my work.
Fifteen years later, I still haven’t visited any of those places, although there are places that weren’t on that list that I have seen. My dreams look different. My work looks much more different, too. I still find relief in pictures of calming places, but I don’t necessarily plan to visit all of them. Like the lyrics to Amy Macdonald’s “In the End,” I have accepted that I will never be able to see all the places I want to see.
It’s not just the beautiful landscapes I want to see, though. I want to meet the people who inhabit those places, who bring the streets of foreign cities to life. I want to know what their days look like, no matter how simple and mundane. Of course, meeting one person wouldn’t be enough, just like spending one day in a city wouldn’t be enough to experience all its wonders. I want to meet everyone and see everything.
It doesn’t help that I was cursed with shyness.
This is why I place so much value in books. When I read a book, I like to think I’m learning a little bit more about the places of the world that I will never see. I like to think I’m learning a little bit more about people whom I will never meet. With a book, I can see the world. I can see its history, its present, and the possibilities of its future. Books open a window on human nature and human experience.
I think this feeling of wanderlust is also why I write. I want to share a little bit of my view of the world. I want readers to see a place they themselves may never be able to see. I want people to see that I, and the culture I live in, are not so strange or different after all.
I believe most writers feel the same way. A book may teach us about human nature, but it isn’t just the nature of the subject or characters. It is also the nature of the writer. When an author writes a book, they are inviting you to see into their own mind—into the world where they live and breathe and create. For me, one of the saddest thoughts is that a writer’s invitation will go unanswered.