Have Books, Will Travel
The Life of Reading Adventurist Keli Daniels
It all started with a random conversation at a Denver area coffee house. Like dry kindling set ablaze, our encounter sparked a rambling conversation about books and travel — the ultimate dream lifestyle for many.
Meet Keli Daniels, founder of DarkHorse Goods, an online vintage, modern goods store that passionately fills her soul as a treasure hunter and reseller. While her work plays a purposeful role in her life, reading great books is her unrelenting love and passion.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Keli at the place where we originally met to delve into the intersection between her deep zest for reading and her love for travel.
On Developing a Love For Books
I think that for me reading has always been such a fascinating thing. As a kid growing up in Overland Park, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas, City), while my parents were around, in many ways they weren’t. I grew up in a culture where I was free to do what I wanted to do. So my life kinda evolved with books.
On How School Drove Her To Read
I found school immensely boring growing up, probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. And so books gave me an escape from this world of studying and standardized tests.
On Used Bookstores
I have fond memories of going to used bookstores in my early years and literally sitting for hours looking at books. I remember once stumbling upon a book by Wally Lamb called “I Know This Much Is True,” which explored themes of mental illness, family bonds, abuse, and loss. It truly captured my attention although I found it to be a major challenge finishing such an in-depth novel.
On The Influence Of Her Family
My book journey was all on my own. There was no influence. That being said, I come from a family of pickers [laughter] In other words, we would pick up furniture off the side of the road and then fix it up. It was a life of antiques and junk yards where we’d go through picking up stuff that most people would be like, ‘ah, no thank you.’ This is how I developed such an appreciation for the often crowded, chaotic nature of used bookstores and why I find them such wonderful places to mine for good books.
On Early Travel Experiences
When I was 15 or so, my mom would travel a lot. Sometimes we’d be in the car and she’d look at me like I was crazy because I’d have a light on reading while it was dark. My first major travel experience though was to Europe, specifically London and Ireland. But I never really thought about the deeper connection between books and travel until my husband’s work took us to Africa for five years — one month on and one month off in Equatorial Guinea as well as in Chad.
We then moved to Lagos, Nigeria when my daughter was about 15 months old and that’s when my book reading for travel or cultural information started. While living there, I had the opportunity to experience so many different tribal languages and cultures. That’s where the rich, immersive reading experiences I’ve since cultivated over the years really began for me.
On Bookstores In Nigeria
I found the people of Nigeria to be very smart, entrepreneurial people. Every single person has a thing that they either have been certified in or have a business of their own. Lagos Nigeria is often referred to as “Little New York” or the “New York of Africa” because of the fact that there is so much art and culture there. So while they didn’t have bookstores per se, they did have an abundance of coffee shops and artisan stores where you could go in and find books along with some art. It was very different from what we have here in the U.S.
On Returning To The U.S.
It’s really hard to come back to America after the amazing experiences we had overseas. Once back, I witnessed how little appreciation we have for our local bookstores and the freedom we have to just grab a book and learn whatever we want. In Nigeria, you don’t have full access to books unless you are in school. And if you are in school, you are learning the basics and not really pushing yourself to learn new things.
Another stop on our travels was Singapore. There we had much easier access to books, everything we’d ever wanted in terms of book culture. The bookstores there were so multifaceted with books in every language that accommodated many different cultures.
On Reading Self-Help and Business Books
I have a really hard time reading them. In a sense, I feel like I’m already a walking self-help person with all of the things that have happened to me or around me in terms of tragedies. So those books seem like common sense to me. On the other hand my husband, he’s all about these types of books. He can devour business books like “Good to Great” because he’s into that type of stuff. Me, I’ve tried to read the book Atomic Habits about five times. I know this will sound conceited and ridiculous, but I feel like I could have written that book myself. Books like this are so hard for me to relate to.
On What’s She’s Reading Of Late
So I spend most of my time reading books like “Your Mind on Plants” or one that I just picked up called “Entangled Life.” The former book talks about three different natural plant poppies which I found quite interesting because like poppy flowers have opium and caffeine in them. In terms of The Entangled Life, honestly, I haven’t started reading it yet so stay tuned.
On Her Preferred Mode of Reading
If I had to rank them, I’d say first, Kindle. My decision to read on Kindle Oasis is largely tied to the fact that when I travel, I like to carry like four books with me. Also with the Kindle, I can automatically switch to an audiobook version if I so desire. So Kindle Oasis is first and paperback second. Hardbacks on the other hand are really difficult for me because they get really heavy. That’s my ranking.
On Raising Her Daughter As A Reader
Yes, I have one daughter. She loves to listen to audiobooks, we do them all the time, particularly when we are in the car. We’ve already gone through the entire Harry Potter series twice and enjoyed the imagination, the coziness, the battles, and the underlying story of how it relates to what we battle with every day. You can always tell that she’s engaged.
On Visits To The Bookstore
We go into a bookstore and she’s like ‘mom I want to buy some more books.’ I’m like, ‘I will buy you all the books you want, as many as you want. I don’t care. Just as long as it’s not a stuffed animal.’
A Final Word About Books and Travel
If you’re ever going to travel, go and look up the region and maybe even find a book about it. Find out who the famous authors are from that area and what are they writing about. Learning a little about the culture and history beforehand makes the experience so much better. It will make your trip so much more relatable.
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Diamond-Michael Scott, Chief Writer, Curator, and Global Book Ambassador, Great Books, Great Minds