Between books, movies, television, and the internet I can virtually visit any place in the world. France, Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Fiji, Antarctica, anywhere. All I have to do is turn a page, click a mouse, or change a channel and I’m there. Given the choice, I’ll take an actual trip over a virtual one but sometimes I have to make do.
Virtual travel does have one advantage (besides no lines at airport security) over actual travel, an insurmountable advantage. You can’t actually travel to a place that doesn’t actually exist. No trains stop in Wonderland. No buses run to Oz. You can’t buy a ticket on Southwest to Tatooine, even on sale. And no roads lead to Hogwarts. (You can drive to Universal to ride the Harry Potter ride but that’s not the same thing.) However, through a page or a screen you can visit any place not of this world as well as every place in it. Far off planets, underground kingdoms, fairy realms, undersea metropolises are yours for the adventure and you don’t need a passport.
If you prefer your fictional road trips closer to home, pack up your invisible Woodie and turn on your imaginary GPS. Visit an idealized town, a Norman Rockwell painting, a place that didn’t exist but should have. Go to Pleasantville or Lake Wobegon. Stop in Hill Valley, California on the way. Fictional road trips don’t have to make geographical sense. Drive to Shermer, Illinois and indulge in a little suburban angst then head down south and stop a spell in Yoknapatawpha or Maycomb County. If you seek small town charm with an edge, detour to Cabot Cove, Maine or to Midsomer County where villages are replete with murderers, blackmailers, and other deviants. And don’t forget to add Castle Rock; Twin Peaks; Eerie, Indiana; Sunnydale, California; and Cicely, Alaska to your itinerary. Not everyone’s into small towns, not even the fictional kind. If that describes you, head for the big city. The bright lights and dark corners of Basin City, Metropolis, Dark City, and Gotham await your arrival. Fiction is a travelogue who’s “only boundaries are those of imagination.”