Several days ago I began reading “Good Morning Everybody, From Cripple Creek to Samarkand” by Lowell Thomas. In the forward to his autobiography he cites an old Turkish proverb that says “books impart knowledge; only travel imparts wisdom.”
Initially, this certainly seems true, but I have a dislike and mistrust of either/or choices. So I’ve been thinking about the important interplay of reading and traveling.
While talking about his childhood in Victor, CO Lowell Thomas relates a story about meeting Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt, who was attending a luncheon at the Gold Coin Club. This was “a block long edifice built by the millionaire Woods brothers and patterned after the New York Athletic Club.”
By itself, this information is very flat on the page. However, it came to life for me. While wandering around photographing the semi-ghost town of Victor (this was before gambling was legalized there) numerous times, I usually found myself drawn to the boarded-up shell of the Gold Coin Club, and often wondered what it must have been like in its heyday.
Now I can embellish my memories with the story of Lowell Thomas’ memorable first encounter with Teddy Roosevelt, and also wonder about the Woods brothers who left this inspirational New York City replica at almost 9,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies.
Today I have been entering a number of families who lived in or near Milford and Wilton, NH in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Keying-in information about them triggers memories of pleasant summer evenings listening to live music performances in Milford’s town square, enjoyable time-warp dining experiences in the Wilton Diner, seeing movies in the old theater on the second floor above Wilton’s town offices and police station, and many more.
Having experiences in those places adds value to the recorded history I’m reading, and reading adds value to both past and future travels.
Just reading or just traveling, without the benefit of the other, is an unfortunate compromise. The combination of reading and traveling is a great example of a situation where the whole can be much greater than the sum of its parts.