Bill Bryson saved me $1888

For a long while now, I’ve had a strange sensation of wanderlust. A desire to travel that could not be quelled by a short trip to someplace warm and tropical. No, this desire was not for the typical vacation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to travel to Britain. Could it be my distance English roots? Maybe, but whatever the answer, this desire exists. There is really only one thing stopping me from satisfying this breed of wanderlust, the cost. After a quick google search, the cheapest flight to anywhere in Britain I could find cost around $1900, and that’s not including lodging. Too bad I’m a college student, without a disposable income. And luckily, books only cost about $12. Hear me out.

   Reading, at least for me, is a form of escapism. Not to say I’m escaping from something, but escapism, here, is to relieve myself of stress. Some read high-fantasy or hard science fiction novels to escape to faraway lands and planets. I read books about a bespectacled man with a beard traveling around Britain. One of my favorite authors is Bill Bryson. Bill is known for his travel memoirs. Most famously for Notes From a Small Island. Notes From a Small Island tells the story of his last trip around Britain before moving to the United States. My first exposure to this book was, oddly enough, on vacation. When I was younger, my dad and I would take road trips to different cities around the country. I, not yet the reader I am today, would have my nose glued to a Gameboy. My father, a huge reader, would be, seeing as he could not read and drive at the same time, listening to an audiobook. On one of these road trips, the location of which escapes me, he was listening to Notes From a Small Island. I usually did not listen in on the audiobooks, as they usually were books about business. However, I was listening and I immediately requested a copy of the book. Luckily, my dad had a copy on hand and passed it back to me. Having heard only snippets of the book, probably from somewhere near the middle, I started from the beginning. Wherever we were headed: Cleveland, Orlando, or Louisville. In my head, we were headed to Liverpool. I wanted to reread it years after that trip. After a drive to the bookstore, and a short walk to the travel section I found it. A quick check on the back reveals the book only cost $12, well within my budget.

One thing to note about Bryson is his descriptive imagery and specificity. Not only does Bryson provide in-depth, photographic-like descriptions of his surroundings, he provides the reader with a comprehensive history of the location. At the time of that first read, I did not fully appreciate the history. A few years ago I was flying somewhere I did not want to go. As I was standing in line to buy a pack of gum for the plane, a book appeared in my periphery. The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island by none other than Bill Bryson. I calmly alerted the gentleman behind me in line that he could take my place, and I walked to the book display. I picked the book up without hesitation. A few moments later I was at the front of the line with the book and gum. The cashier scanned them both. The book was $30, which is more than $12, I know, but still cheaper than a flight to anywhere in Britain. When the I sat in my designated seat on the plane, wishing I was anywhere else in the world, I opened the book. No longer was I on a plane to who knows where. My new destination was Bill’s destination.

Bill’s books are not all about his travels across the pond, and my dreams of travel are not exclusive to it either. Aside from reading, one of my other hobbies is hiking. One of the greatest trails one can hike is the Appalachian Trail. Funds are not the only thing stopping me from attempting this great hike. Time and my physical condition are. Luckily, there’s a book for this too. A Walk in The Woods is Bill Bryson’s memoir that details his attempt at hiking the entirety of the  Appalachian Trail. It is filled with the same descriptive imagery, specificity, and comprehensive history. I am able to live vicariously through Bill as he hikes his way through the trail. I’m able to live vicariously when I read of his travels in Britain. I’ll always want to travel to Britain, and someday I will, but for now, Bill’s experiences will suffice.

Patrick Crowley


– Patrick Crowley

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