ESA blog Fatima Ahmed

The Highland Experience

I was in the Scottish highlands, doing a tour of one of the lochs in the area when my tour guide asked me what I did. I told him I was a literature student. He asked me if I knew some of the Scottish authors like Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. I had to confess to him that I hadn’t even heard of them before. I told him that we don’t do a lot of literature outside American and English authors. He quietly turned away. A couple of minutes later he handed me a crumpled up brochure. He said, “That book was recommended by an English professor up in Edinburgh University as being the best book in the Scottish language.” I took it. I kept it. I mentally added The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner to my “to read” list.

ESA blog Fatima Ahmed
The Brochure Handed to Me: “The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner”

As I’ve said a million times before, Britain is great because you can visit all the places that inspired some of your most beloved books. It brings your reading list to life. Today, though, I want to talk about what happens when places start to inspire your reading list. I think this is what happens when the common bookworm ventures out into the world. The process sort of gets reversed. Before, all these things happened internally and pushed you out to experience the world, whereas now my experiences are pushing inwards. I always said (and yes you can quote me on this): if you want to get to know a place well, read its current best-selling novel. I said this because it disputes the idea that you need to be out there to experience the world. I resisted it and instead coveted the in here.

Now, I say: If you want to know whether a place has truly stayed with you, find out if it has ever made you pick up a book. That’s how you know. And yes, I’ve picked up various books on this trip already. I picked up Dachau and the Nazi Terror from the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. I also have picked up a collection of Robert Burns poetry. At the end of the day, it’s about giving your travel experiences dimension. The landscapes, the histories, and the people everywhere you go have inspired someone to make something. It’s a good reminder to me that, while you are unquestionably free to make-believe, you must also acknowledge the physical world you live in. It is no less than the fantasy of your mind.

By: Fatima Ahmed

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