Reading: Like Viagra for Wanderlust

Having recently read Alexandre Dumas’ classic, The Count of Monte Cristo, I’ve found myself longing to go to Marseilles and Southern France like never before.  As I read the portion of the book which was set in Paris, I reflected on my brief stroll down Champs d’Elysees – imagining myself there again, but in a different age and setting.  Reading is a powerful aphrodisiac to wanderlust and an insightful companion to travel.

Now I find myself in Envigado, Medellin Colombia, the former hometown of Pablo Escobar, the man who owns the distinction of being once listed seventh on the list of richest men in the world (1989), and first on the list of most wanted international criminals.

Pablo built an enviable drug kingdom on thuggery and ruthlessness.  He owned submarines, jets, businesses, elaborate retreats with exotic animals and every luxury.  His wealth, at one time, was estimated at $9 billion. He ordered men dead on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  He built a web of protection through a policy of “plata o plomo” – either take his silver (bribes) or take his lead (monogrammed bullets).

But it all crumbled when he was killed in 1993 in a battle with the Colombian task force specifically assigned to bring him down and staffed and supported by virtually every intelligence force in the United States.  

The story of his rise and fall was chronicled by Mark Bowden in the book, Killing Pablo.  Reading it as I occupy the neighborhood from whence he staged his operations was like having a knowledgable tour guide in my pocket. 

Taxi rides have become much more interesting as I probe older drivers for details about Pablo and his life.  We took a ride up to the hill – la catedral – where he built himself a “prison” to appease Colombian officials… nothing remains but ruins, but traversing the switchbacks, I imagined Pablo’s sicarios (hitmen) descending on a mission assigned by Don Pablo.

Now I’ve embarked upon a new travel/reading journey as I read The History of Latin America by Marshall C. Eakin.  Because Central America and the Caribbean have been my playground over the past few years, I’ve gained an affinity for the stories of conquest and collaboration by the people and characters who set the framework for what Latin America is today.

I have a few more travel/reading experiences that I’ll share in the future, but if there’s any combination you’ve found pleasure in, please let us know.  Below are a few links with ideas, and if you’re traveling somewhere and you’d like an idea of something to read, let me know and I’ll see what I can come up with.

http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/graffiti108.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/artsandculture/travelbooks/4932008/The-20-best-travel-books-of-all-time.html

http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/11341

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2 Responses to Reading: Like Viagra for Wanderlust

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