It’s been an odd summer for my family. The longest we have all been able to make our schedules match up this year has been two days (over the Fourth of July) so we took a mini-vacation together to the Ozarks. Beyond that, we are all taking separate longer vacations. My daughter went to Greece (lucky girl!), my son is planning on going skydiving, and my husband just got back from visiting family in Denver (with gorgeously cool weather). Me? I’m heading to Texas in August, but it’s for my mother’s 82nd birthday so I won’t complain about the 100+ degree weather. But since we can’t all take an actual vacation together, I thought we could take a virtual vacation through the library!
I asked my husband where we should go for our virtual vacation and ran into an immediate snag. We have completely opposite vacationing styles. He likes islands; I like mountains and woods. He likes drinks on the beach; I like coffee shops in bookstores. He likes bungalows; I like historic hotels. He likes sand volleyball; I like strolling through museums. We did find a compromise, however — the Galapagos Islands. He gets sea and sun and I get science, history and adventure at a World Heritage site.
The library has several travel books about the Galapagos Islands — some that are utilitarian and some that are just gorgeous. But I wanted for us to be able to delve into a little something more. I wanted something that might give us the sense of being there.
“Voyage to Galapagos” is a DVD in the library’s collection in which Alan Alda guides you through the archipelago following in Charles Darwin’s footsteps. He meets with scientists and discusses efforts to protect the life that struggles to survive against foreign invasion, including would-be eco-tourists like me.
“Galapagos: Preserving Darwin’s Legacy” was published in 2009 for the 50th anniversary of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation. This book is stunningly illustrated and includes essays and stories by 30 leading Galapagos researchers.
But as great as those resources are, there is nothing like fiction to absorb you into a place and time. For me, I chose “Enchanted Islands” by Allison Amend which draws on the true memoirs of a Minnesota woman by the name of Frances Conway. She and her husband, an undercover intelligence officer, were sent to the islands at the brink of WWII. The vivid descriptions of life on the islands provide the backdrop to what is ultimately much more than a spy novel.
For my husband, it’s Kurt Vonnegut’s “Galapagos.” This novel is dripping with darkly funny satire and Vonnegut takes us BACK one million years to A.D. 1986 after an apocalypse. Vacationers stranded on the island become the progenitors for a new world in which humans evolve into a seal-like creature. As with most satire, the book actually looks at OUR world and what is valuable and worth saving.
Although I would love to actually visit the Galapagos Islands, this might be the best way to experience them considering the ecological toll that tourism places on them. But still … maybe someday. And in taking a virtual vacation, I can throw in a little Caribbean cooking and steel-drum music for my husband.
Where would you like to go?