Book Adventures

To All the Books that Stayed in My Suitcase

Reflections on a week vacation in Aruba

A quick glance at this blog might lead one to believe that I’m an experienced traveler, but the truth is that before 2022 I hadn’t been to that many places far away from where I live.

My family vacation to Aruba felt like a hazy dream in the middle of a chilly northeastern November. Normally I spend my Thanksgiving at a family member’s house and eat too much pumpkin pie. This year, though, we wanted to do something special. The holidays have been not so great these past few years due to the pandemic, and I think that’s increased our desire to celebrate the time we get to spend together.

Sometimes books are the adventure and sometimes they’re just a part of it. Normally on my family vacations at the Jersey Shore I get a lot of flack for tucking myself away and reading book after book. When packing my suitcase for Aruba, I agonized over what books to squeeze in. The newest bestseller? My assigned class reading? The book that’s been sitting on my shelf for months? All of them? My record for number of books read on family vacation currently sits at seven, but I settled for packing three because my carryon only had so much room. Picking books for vacation is no easy task. I’m always torn between bringing lighter beach reads to fit the mood but also wanting to bring some denser books because I’ve got more time to dedicate to reading. That being said, I agonized over my choices and struggled to decide what three books t bring.

And then I didn’t finish any of them. I slowly made my way through Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day for a class assignment, but most of that reading happened on the plane. The other books sat in my suitcase for seven days and I didn’t come close to having the time to read them.

If you haven’t read The Remains of the Day, I recommend that you do. Ishiguro’s storytelling is masterful and moving. As I read about the butler driving around England and reflecting back on his long career, I felt frustrated and grieved for him. Even when ‘big life moments’ occurred in the Butler’s life, he always chose his work over his own self. If there’s anything I walked away with from this brilliant novel, it’s that you’ve got to go out and live your life.

I love books and I love reading, and sometimes I think all the monthly challenges and yearly roundups can be dangerous for my relationship to something I love so much. Sure, I could read seven books on a one week vacation, but what’s the reward? Stories will always be there. My TBR pile will always be a bit too long, and skipping out on a week of heavy reading isn’t going to be what changes the fact that there will always be more books than there is time for me to read them.

So while I took my time to explore Ishiguro’s emotional and riveting novel on the plane and while waiting in the airport, this week’s adventure was about letting myself throw the worries out the window and experience what was happening right in front of me. I snorkeled over a shipwreck and saw a turtle in the water. I drank wine and explored a cave and joked around with my siblings and cousins. Almost every night, I swam out into the ocean and watched the sun set from the water.

We ate ribs, turkey, pizza, and PB&J sandwiches. I did a handstand in the pool and got water up my nose. The jeep that drove us through Arikok national park played Fleetwood Mac. No, I didn’t finish the books stacked in my suitcase like I intended and I won’t have a ‘vacation reading roundup,’ but I made a lot of memories. And I’ll be ready to enjoy those there books when the time is right.

Having the time to reset and recharge is a privilege and a gift. I feel so blessed to have spent time with people that I love.

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