I had the unbelievable pleasure of spending the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 traveling in Thailand and Cambodia. I am a huge travel fanatic- along with acting and writing, it is one of my life’s greatest passions. And while traveling, I always like to have a book or two for the plane/train rides and downtime after the days’ adventures.
I know many people are Kindle or Nook advocates, especially because large, cumbersome books (Haruki Murukami’s 1Q84, for example) can be transported so easily. I’ve tried Kindle and yes, it was convenient, but I missed the feel of real books. Plus I love physically building my library by buying books- and supporting local book stores! So paperback it was.
For this trip I brought along Maragret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Geoff Dyer’s Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It. On this trip my boyfriend and I had a LOT of travel time from America to Asia and back, so two books seemed safe.
I’d heard wonderful things about The Handmaid’s Tale, which is about to become a new Hulu series (trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDqEfnCEWfI !) The trailer looked amazing but I knew I’d want to read it before it comes out, and I’m so glad I did. The story is thrilling and addicting and the perfect travel boredom killer. Narrator Offred leads you through her world in the dystopian Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, where women’s roles in society have been reduced to one or two sole functions each. The characters are so well imagined and the plot endlessly hooking. The time spent waiting at airports and flying between cities went by faster than I could have hoped thanks to this book. I mean, there were times when a part of me didn’t want the plane to land so that I could keep reading (but in the end I was very, very happy that the plane did land). A fascinating and suspenseful novel, the world sucks you in and makes it nearly impossible to leave.
As for the second book, my mom met author Geoff Dyer at the Las Vegas Book Festival and gave me Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It for Christmas. Yoga is a collection of personal essays about Dyer’s own travels all over the world and the people that influenced his journeys. He has a dry, sardonic wit and the essays are great bite-sized pieces of literature that make you think about the nature of humanity, and how we fit in the world at large. Dyer is very smart and has all sorts of experiences catalogued: some crazy, some intellectual, some ironic. Though at first I wasn’t sure if I jived so well with his voice, I couldn’t keep myself from wondering what and where he’d write about next, and so though different, it was a similar page-turner for me as Handmaid’s Tale was.
We had an amazing time on our travels (apart from contracting some sort of food or water poisoning at the very end), and met some of the warmest, friendliest people with the brightest smiles. If you’re planning on traveling to that part of the world, my biggest recommendation is to find an ethical elephant habitat and spend a day with them. Other than that, as with traveling to any foreign country, learn how to say “thank you,” and try all the food. We had the best meals for crazy cheap prices in totally hole-in-the-wall places. We met some wonderful people at each of our destinations as well, and I’m tempted and inspired to write my own Yoga-esque essays about my time away.
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Tallie Gabriel is an actor, writer, and BookHive social media maven. She’s a member of InViolet Theatre and Artistic Assistant of BEDLAM Theatre in NYC.