After years of not going into a bookstore I managed to visit 2 in the past 24 hours. I was a little giddy when I walked into the first one.

It was bespoke, crafted with a particular vision, and unique down to the floor joists. It was the very definition of Indy and cool. The owner spent time with my son, giving him the opportunity to empty out drawers in an ancient looking credenza pushed against the wall. Each drawer opened up like a treasure chest full of memories.

The owner fawned over the old worn box of sea shells that my son pulled out of one drawer, reminiscing about how his mother long since passed had collected each and every one. My son laughed at a drawer of markers, asking why in the world would they have some many markers in there.

I stood back, watching like a hawk but trying to play it cool. Trying not to over-explain, trying to just let my son experience this unique situation. It felt like torture. Every ounce of my being wanted to jump in, tell him to stop touching stuff, whisk away the breakables, close everything up, and get the heck out of there. But I couldn’t. I just stood, sweating like I was running a marathon, watching my son interact with someone that knew nothing about him. Nothing about his challenges and struggles.

In the those long minutes, strangling my instincts down I watched a beautiful and simple interaction. Two humans, talking about human things. I watched the sea shells pile on the countertop, I watched an aged etch-e-sketch stack on top, and memories that weren’t mine fill the room.

It was something I can’t describe. A type of inspiration I haven’t felt in a long long time.

I have been telling myself for years that I find so much inspiration online. I see more than I ever could here in this small town. But the being somewhere and seeing new things in person felt 100 times more inspiring than what I’ve been seeing online the last decade.

The second bookstore was big box, but still beautiful. I was enjoying looking at the books, toys, and puzzles. But when I got to the cookbooks I found something that lit up my soul. A book like something I would have dreamed of making early on in my graphic design career. It was simply unique, beautiful, and nontraditional. I didn’t buy the cookbook, but now I’m daydreaming about it.

I’ve been using the excuse that social media connects me with inspiration, the next up-and-coming designers, and the latest trends. But one trip to a tried and true brick-and-mortar store and I’m feeling lit up. I’m feeling alive. I’m craving more real, tactile experiences and less of the digital.