I was born and raised in Illinois. I have had the pleasure of seeing New York City, Washington D.C., and many parts of Wisconsin. In college, I was able to study abroad and see England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, and France. One of the most sudden realizations I had was that I knew very little of my own country.
Very few Americans I have talked to have seen much of the United States. There are a lot of reasons for this. People have jobs and families, traveling can be expensive, and the United States is a massive country (3rd largest behind Russia and Canada). The United States has a very diverse landscape and diverse people. In an effort to learn more about my country, I began reading travel books.
I have a bad habit of buying more books than I read, and Travels with Charley was one of those books that had been sitting on a shelf untouched.
The books begins with Steinbeck talking about his wanderlust. He says this restlessness is natural in every American because we are a nation of wanderers and immigrants. Steinbeck buys a large trailer which he converts into a make-shift home, and he travels across the country with his dog Charley.
It is a venture of faith, to travel in such a way. I can hardly imagine it, but it sounds appealing. It sounds like freedom. Steinbeck writes about Montana and Wisconsin as if God can be found there. He excels in finding beauty in places people normally don’t think to look.
The book has given me a new appreciation for my country and, like all travel books I read, has given me a restless soul. What are some things you would like to see before you die?