My favorite genre is travel literature. I love to read about people sailing around the world, walking across the states or along trails, and especially discovering new places. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien was my first travel literature. That may sound strange to say, but it is true. The locations may have been fictional, the people traveling are not even people mostly, but hobbits, elves and dwarves with a few men thrown in to round out the group, and yet this book fits to me exactly what a good travel story should. Most of the travelers are going to places they have never seen, traveling on foot, meeting new people and having adventures. Of course their quest is more serious than just a light adventure but that adds to the appeal.
What do travellers hope to gain from their experiences, and hope to share in their stories? I believe they hope to grow, to learn from the testing that travel can bring. They hope to know themselves better, they hope to meet interesting people and see and experience new cultures. When Frodo and Sam take off out the front door of Bag End and start walking, I feel the thrill of starting a good trip. The walking was pleasant, the packs heavy but bearable, and the weather perfect. These two adventurers were having a wonderful autumn stroll, sleeping under the stars and enjoying great conversation. As the story progresses they face danger, meet help along the way, experience the changes in climate and terrain, suffering from the weather, insects and exhaustion. They face attacks from evil, and the loss of a good friend, and in the end they participate in a great war, in their own way.
None of these difficulties stop the hobbits from the journey. They bond with companions in a way that only those that truly need each other are able to bond. The journey changes them in ways they didn’t expect, and they return home to find it different, still home, but not exactly.
Every time I read Lord of the Rings I felt the stirrings of wanderlust, I want to stroll across the foggy Downs, visit Tom Bombadil, explore Rivendale, and see the great Elven woods. I am ready to walk out my front door, just to see what I could see. Frodo was warned that it was dangerous business just stepping out the front door, joining paths that lead to faraway places. Perhaps I am just a dreamer, but I feel that way every time I walk out my door for a good walk. I know I am just wandering around my neighborhood or town, but I also know that I have two strong legs, and I could end up anywhere, as long as anywhere is within 5-6 miles anyway. With open eyes, and alert senses, I could see all sorts of interesting things, eagles soaring overhead, maybe a stray alligator, although I hope not, beautiful flowers or landscapes, and of course, I simply enjoy having a large sky above my head and a breeze in my face. We never know what we will see or experience walking out the front door. And if I see a shiny gold ring, maybe just under a pile of leaves or stuffed in the hollow of a tree, I might not be afraid to see where the discovery may take me.