Amid being accustomed to the monotony of staying home, Emily Henry’s ‘People We Meet on Vacation’ brings back my love for travel and more
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I don’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of going places.
My travel fantasies were born from being enamored with Beauty and the Beast’s Belle wanting adventure in the great wide somewhere and constantly tuning in to the Discovery Travel & Living channel (now TLC) when I was younger. Those dreams even went as far as to live overseas.
Fortunately for me, I found myself making some of those fantasies a reality. Each flight I took fueled my desire to keep discovering what’s beyond the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met.
But then the pandemic happened. Suddenly, I – along with the rest of the world – found myself cooped up at home for months that quickly turned into years. Staying put for a long period of time gradually made me forget how it feels to be on the move, step on unfamiliar land, hear languages that are foreign, see people who look different from me, and learn my way around a new city.
Amid a lackluster wanderlust, I decided to pick up People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. When I saw the book late last year, I thought it would be a good read to reignite my love for travel that has been put on the back burner. “On vacation, you can be anyone you want,” begins the prologue. The opening line easily drew me in.
In Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation, we follow Poppy, our New Yorker narrator who takes the reader to her yearly summer vacations – from when she started budget traveling in a cold Canadian town to her travel magazine employer-sponsored trips that include a dreamy sojourn in Tuscany, among others, and more. Poppy’s travelogs are presented as past trips injected in between the present day, where the reader gets tagged along with her in a life-changing personal time off in Palm Springs.
Published in May 2021, over a year since the pandemic started, this book came out at the right time indeed. Though there was a lack of destinations beyond North America and Europe, Henry doesn’t shy away from fleshing out the cities and towns that Poppy visited – places that I have yet to explore myself.
As most of us still can’t travel freely, People We Meet on Vacation can serve as a welcome respite in a world that’s currently bound by ever-changing movement restrictions.
The search for home
More than the destinations, Poppy’s annual summer trips have always been special because she travels with her best friend Alex. Bound by a pact they forged when they were in college, Poppy and Alex made it a point to go on vacations together every year, no matter where they were coming from.
At a glance, I thought that the book would be all about traveling and meeting different people along the way. Little did I know that the ‘People’ referred to in the book’s title are Poppy and Alex and the evolving versions of themselves in their travels. It shows how they went from meeting as awkward college freshmen to forming an unlikely friendship after finding out they came from the same hometown, and learning to navigate adult relationships – theirs included – down the road.
Unpacking Poppy and Alex’s relationship in itself is another journey, a thrilling and magical trip that the reader also goes through – one that made me, in particular, want to add to my bucket list if I could. Their journey was of yearning, working to get to where they both wanted to be and savoring every moment, despite a few hiccups when they finally arrived at their dream destination.
People We Meet on Vacation shows there’s more to traveling than being away and going places. Ultimately, the book explores what the act of wandering evokes – discovering what keeps you going, digging into moments that give you childlike wonder, and treasuring the person you’re becoming, as well as those who make you feel alive, regardless of where you are.
Henry said it best in her note at the Reader’s Guide section of the book: “It’s less about the places we go than the people we meet along the way. But most of all, it’s about the ones who stay, who become home.”
As I read that line, I thought to myself, that is the ‘place’ where I long to be. – Rappler.com
Did you enjoy this title? You may also like Emily Henry’s Beach Read.
Gel Cabotaje is a freelance writer and project manager. She’s also working on making content on books on Instagram (@readingfrennies) and video games on YouTube and TikTok.