The past two years have been a whirlwind of travel adventures for me.

I spent hours on the island of Nantucket, visited Amish farms of Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, embarked on a journey through North Carolina marshland, landed on the Caribbean island of St. John, traversed Route 66 on foot and got caught up in a mysterious chain of events on a Montana ranch.

The best part? None of the trips cost me a dime.

In reality, the only travel expense has come in making the short drive to the Nobles County Library — mere pennies, I must say.

Mason Cooley coined one of my favorite quotes about reading: “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Oh, how that rings true!

Between the offerings at the local library, and an inter-library loan program available through the Plum Creek Library System, we here in southwest Minnesota have access to thousands upon thousands of books. What joy they bring to a reader’s heart!

Several times a month, I carry home with me a new stockpile of adventures — primarily in the form of audio books. With the exception of a snowy December weekend when I was caught unprepared, the television screen has stayed dark. Books even won out over the Hallmark Christmas movie marathons.

Books — whether you read them or listen to them — make you think and dream and wish and do. As a writer, the one piece of advice I always give to new journalists is to read — read anything and everything. Book authors are never short on details. They set the scene and describe the activity so readers develop a picture in their mind. For newspaper reporters, reading about details translates into paying attention to our surroundings, because there’s always more than one way to tell a story.

Reading helps writers find their own writing style, and while you may never aspire to write, at least you can enjoy a good story.

A recent Gallup report said people visited libraries more often than they went to the movies, attended live sporting, musical or theatrical events, or visited a casino, national/historic park or museum in 2019. In the Midwest, adults averaged 12.9 trips to a library in 2019.

Among those making the most visits were young adults, women and low-income households. They come seeking wi-fi, computer access, programming for children and teens, book club activities, free rentals of DVDs, movies and, of course, books in various forms from print to audio and digital download. Visitors to libraries can get all of these things simply by swiping a library card.

February is “I Love to Read” Month, as well as the second month of your favorite southwest Minnesota library’s three-month-long Winter Reading Program, “Snow is Falling, Books Are Calling.” Read 12 books before the end of March and you get a prize, but you must sign up at the library.

So, I encourage you to turn off the TV and find something to read.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”