Amy Roberts: Judging a book by its cover can sometimes work in your favor
April 18, 2018
Driving back to Park City after an event in Salt Lake last weekend, the car I was in was filled with five people and what seemed like 105 different conversations. Our topics varied greatly — from politics, to what books each passenger was reading ,to what we thought our dogs had been up to while we were all out. (Mine were voted mostly likely to be eating the butter I'd left on the counter.)
Despite the vast range of subject matter and response, there was one underlying theme to it all — travel. Political statements easily transitioned into what other countries think of ours right now, and how someone missed the simplicity of Bali. When we spoke of our latest Kindle download, the books we intend to read on an upcoming beach vacation were suddenly the focal point. Traveling even went to the dogs, as there was some debate over the best place to board our mutts while away. My fellow passengers and I did some pretty extreme globetrotting in that 40-minute commute.
At some point during the drive home, a friend posed a question to the rest of us: "If you had to leave America and live in another country for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?"
An affinity for warm weather, or fine wine, or the English language all topped the reasons why a specific country was chosen. Except mine. Tanzania was my choice, and my reasoning had nothing to do with vineyards or beaches or my native tongue. Quite simply, I'm addicted. If travel is a drug, then Tanzania is pure heroin.
Long before travel websites and apps and live check-ins from the Serengeti were an option, the best way to learn about a destination was in the international travel section of a bookstore.”
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My first visit was in 1999, right after college. My plane hadn't even touched the ground — we had to circle for a bit until the zebras were shooed off the runway. From 10,000 feet above, I knew that place was going to change me.
Tanzania was my first international solo trip; chosen with very little thought while scanning books at a Barnes and Noble. I was 22 at the time and terrified my life was boring. In order to become someone interesting, I needed to go somewhere interesting, I thought. So I decided I was going to start invading far off places. And long before travel websites and apps and live check-ins from the Serengeti were an option, the best way to learn about a destination was in the international travel section of a bookstore.
I distinctly recall holding two Frommer's guides, trying to decide where I should go to become interesting. One of the book covers featured a statue. And I remember thinking, Michelangelo's David is not the most interesting thing about Italy. Why didn't the publisher put a picture of a mob boss eating spaghetti on the cover? Twist his fork to look like a revolver. Make me wonder if the red stuff on his bib is blood or pasta sauce. Now that would make me want to go to Italy.
The other book's cover pictured the tripod of a giraffe bent to water, its young calf nervously taking shelter under the mother's hind legs. The tall grass behind them camouflaged a pride of lions. In the water's reflection, several cape buffalo could be seen drinking in the distance — vulnerable and unaware.
That photo has stuck with me since. I have long wondered if the lions went for the cape buffalo or the giraffe; if their ambush was successful or they went hungry that night.
Long after that trip to Africa, and the many more I've taken since, I have thought of that photo on the cover of a travel guide. How it birthed my wanderlust, and shifted my viewpoints, and molded my heart. And perhaps, even made me a little more interesting.
As I described to my friends in the car why I would gladly settle in Tanzania if kicked out of America, I thought again of that picture. All those years ago, I disobeyed a universal proverb — I judged a book by its cover. And I've never regretted it.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.