Traveling Companions: Reading On The Road

written by ashley rubell 

"We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.” 

― Thomas MertonNo Man Is an Island

     When I’m traveling - whether internationally for work, across the country for the holidays, or upstate for fresh air - I always seek a break from fiction. Fiction can be so consuming. I consume fictional stories the same way most of my peers binge watch Netflix. But when I encounter a new physical environment, I always crave something that provokes a little soul searching. 

I yearn for that life altering reflection that brings forth new perspectiveand inspiration that will stay with me when I return to the mundane day-to-day idiosyncrasies of life back home. No matter where I go, my tendencies, my preferences, my tastes never change. In my opinion, the only thing I really have the capacity to change is the way I digest my days. I soak them up differently when I travel because my surroundings are unusual and uncomfortable. 


“Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity. Intellectual” 

-Mary Oliver, Upstream


Perspective is an easy thing to forget about when you wake up on a Monday morning, returning to your desk job or walking to your local coffee shop again. When nothing in your day feels new, we forget this amazing power we’ve been gifted with - this ability to change what we have control of (which is so little) -shifting our perspective. No matter what our rhythms look like, each day is brand new. It has just as much potential at home on an ordinary day as it does when you wake up in an ocean front hut in Tahiti or in a secluded cabin in the woods or a five star resort in the mountains. When I’m traveling around, I desire thought provoking insights at every corner because the outlook is what engrains itself as a memory into my mind for years to come. 


“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.” 

― Ralph Waldo EmersonSelf-Reliance and Other Essays


Here are my favorite authors and their insights - my travel companions - that have remained by my side in multiple chapters of life, in various places around the world. I hope they can influence your journey as well. 

  1. Upstream by Mary Oliver
  2. Works of Love by Kierkegaard
  3. Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  5. Essays in Love by Alain de Botton
  6. The Dignity of Difference by Jonathan Sacks
  7. No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton
  8. The Naked Now by Richard Rohr 
  9. Tao Te Ching by Laozi 
  10. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

What stories or authors serve as your traveling companions? Share with us at #wildfolkreads