In the 2005 novel “Looking For Alaska” by John Green, I was first introduced to this quote by the French poet Francois Rabelais, said to be his final words: “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”
He undoubtedly meant the Afterlife as the “Great Perhaps” – the next big adventure – but the quote resonated with me as a siren call to travel the world and uncover its mysteries for myself.
Being an incurable bookworm, I’d spent most of my formative years with my nose buried in the pages of a book – I preferred make-believe worlds to the monotonous reality of textbooks and homework.
At the time, books were my only means of travel, with my imagination taking me on faraway flights of fancy – from fantasy to science fiction to fairy tales, I devoured them all.
Now that I (sort of) have the monetary means to travel the world, I realized that the places I read about – whether actual or inspired by real-life locales – were all just a plane/train/bus ride away.
Here are a few magical destinations I’ve been lucky enough to visit and ‘write’ my own stories:
London, England – Sherlock Holmes series
As multicultural and metropolitan as London is today, it was a different time back in the days of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Then, it was the tramping ground of the brilliant Sherlock Holmes, who roamed the city solving mind-boggling mysteries too convoluted for the average human mind.
However, many of the places described in the fictional detective’s tales still exist to this day, like Hyde Park, Oxford Street, and Hampstead Heath.
And let’s not forget the infamous 221B Baker Street, which is home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
Tokyo, Japan – After Dark
After the sun sets, the buzzing city of Tokyo takes on a life of its own – or so it’s depicted in Haruki Murakami’s 2004 novel, “After Dark”.
In the city that never sleeps, one of the book’s characters said: “Time moves in its own special way in the middle of the night. You can’t fight it.”
The book tells the strange course of events that take place one random night in a neon-signed entertainment district reminiscent of the famed Shibuya district, jumping from a 24-hour diner to a seedy love hotel.
And while Murakami’s Tokyo is more surreal than the real-life version, the brightly-lit streets and crowded crosswalks that I wandered were no less fascinating.
Paris, France – The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
The City of Lights is on many a traveler’s bucket list – and for good reason. Its magnificent architecture and artistic culture are unparalleled.
“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, one of the most famous works of prolific French writer Victor Hugo, was the main reason why the Notre-Dame Cathedral was among my must-visit landmarks when in Paris.
You’re probably more familiar with the Disney animated movie based off the classic novel, which shows a towering structure.
Though the real-life cathedral was smaller than I imagined, it was still a memorable experience to step into the hallowed hall that inspired Hugo to write the novel.
And as it turns out, back in Hugo’s time, the cathedral was so rundown that the book’s popularity and subsequent increase in tourists to see the Notre-Dame was what helped save it – the power of literature!
Athens, Greece – Greek mythology
Growing up, I was fascinated with Greek myths and legends: Heracles, the Minotaur, Jason and the Argonauts, etc.
It was an odd experience to walk the worn streets of this ancient city and try to separate the myths from the actual ruins… I felt as though I had stepped into my beloved book of Greek myths.
It was almost heartbreaking to see how time had eaten away many of the structures: all that was left of the Temple of Zeus was a few lofty columns.
The hilltop citadel of the Acropolis is in much better condition, however, thanks to restoration works. You can visit the the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Theater of Dionysus.
Bath, England – Persuasion
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s most famous novel is probably “Pride and Prejudice”.
However, the last novel completed by Austen, “Persuasion”, also holds a special place in my heart.
Set in the charming city of Bath, the story tells of the failed, then rekindled romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. (Read the book to find out what happens!)
In Austen’s time, Bath was a famous spa town due to the underground hot springs and their supposed curative properties.
The author lived there for several years, and to this day, is still celebrated: it’s home to the Jane Austen Center and hosts the annual Jane Austen Festival.
Here, you can grab an indulgent afternoon tea, Regency-style, or take a leisurely walk around Sydney Gardens, as Austen once did.
Mind you, these are just a few of my favorites… So which stories have inspired you to travel?