“We all become travelers in a different way. … I became a traveler through reading,” said famed travel writer, Paul Theroux, at an address at the University of Maine.
I remember being fascinated years ago by his book, The Great Railway Bazaar. Maybe I was encouraged by his advice not only to go on vacation, but to make a home in a different country, learn the language, and immerse myself there.
From an early age, I had the same idea as he did. In the introduction to my book, A Million Sticky Kisses, I wrote the following:
They told me that I’d been “vaccinated with the phonograph needle,” meaning I talked too much, and that I’d “never met a stranger” which meant that I’d talk to just about anybody. How else was I supposed to get information? A curious little girl, I wanted to know what was out there in the big, wide world.
At night, I’d lie awake and listen to the whistle of the midnight train as it passed through like clockwork. I always pondered where it might be going. In my imagination, it was always somewhere “exotic” and exciting. Where to tonight? Chicago? New York? Out West?
I wanted to hop onboard that train and discover all those places, to find out what was out there, to be somewhere, anonymous, where it was up to me to mind my own business.
Our house wasn’t in a neighborhood full of kids. It was on the outskirts of town, and my little sister was six years younger than I was. Most of the time, I ended up playing alone, lining up my dollies and reading to them or “teaching” them from old school books. I made up stories, mostly about traveling to faraway places and what those places, and the people I’d find there, might be like.
I don’t remember how old I was when the idea came to me. One day, I’m going overseas…