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09.29.22 | Sage Advice

Travel the World From The Comfort of Your Home

Traveling is one of the best ways to experience new cultures and hear from other walks of life. However, because of the global pandemic, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to continue checking off bucket list locations in a few years. And although there’s nothing like stepping into a new place, new travel-like opportunities are beginning to emerge, including armchair travel.

What is Armchair Travel?

Have you ever wanted to visit a different country from the comfort of your home? Well, now you can! Armchair travel provides a sensory experience to those looking to learn about a location without going through the hassle of actually traveling. The virtual activity invokes everything from local sights and smells to mindsets and cultural conventions. 

We’ve had the pleasure of embracing the value behind armchair traveling in our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons. With the help of DeShunn Bray, our Manager of Programming and Community Engagement, participants in our Vibrant Learning Program have had the opportunity to experience everything from an African safari to a trip to Germany and Columbia. 

Participants of our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons participating in armchair travel

How to Participate 

Becoming an armchair traveler is easier than it sounds, thanks to the do-it-yourself element of the activity. Start by considering if you’d rather travel alone or gather a group of family or friends to accompany you on your journey; traveling with a group tends to spark more engaging conversations and perspectives after the activity. 

Once you’ve decided who you’re traveling with, make a list of general themes and ideas for your travels. These can include everything, from national parks and landmarks to the location of famous events or your favorite movie. Once you’ve created your list, search for resources to assist you in your travels. If you’re tech-savvy, head to YouTube or take a stroll to your local library to find even more free films and videos. Once you’ve found a video accompaniment, pair your trip with a craft activity and serve a local delicacy to complete the experience! 

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your armchair trip now!

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11.19.20 | Sage Advice

An Argument for the Antilibrary

Whether you’re an avid reader or the one-novel-a-year type, being surrounded by more books than you can read is good for you and leads to a more vibrant life. The desire to stockpile a library far beyond the limits of your reading speed is in fact so universal that there’s a word for it: tsundoku

The Japanese term is defined as the “stockpiling of books that will never be consumed.” Breaking the word down into its separate components: tsunde means to stack things, oku means to leave for a while and doku means to read. Those that “suffer” from tsundoku can’t help but pick up a few extra titles at a garage sale, or to browse the bookstore if they happen to stroll past. Having a specific word for it celebrates these tendencies and points out that hoarding books is not only fun, but good for the soul.

In fact, author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb takes the idea of tsundoku one step further. He advocates for building your own antilibrary, a term coined in his bestselling book The Black Swan. Before introducing the concept of antilibrary, Taleb reflects on the library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a staggering 30,000 tomes. It wasn’t Eco’s intention to ever read his entire library — in fact, he purported that the library served as a reminder of everything he didn’t (and wouldn’t ever) know. That constant reminder is what kept Eco not only humble, but also intellectually hungry and perpetually curious.

Inspired by Eco, Taleb introduces the antilibrary in The Black Swan by saying:

“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

Practicing a little tsundoku and building your own antilibrary serves to set a goal for yourself: to never stop seeking knowledge and growth. Like Eco, it can keep you humble, hungry and curious. So the next time you wonder whether you should buy another book that will end up just sitting on your bookshelf, the answer is yes, you should. 

A bookstore with cluttered stacks of books
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