See the World in a New Way With These Four Books
December, and the Christmas season in particular,
is the perfect time to dream about travel – remembering the places you have been and destinations you wish to visit. The hustle and bustle, the traditions and the time to dream. Or imagine the journey you wish to begin as a new year draws ever closer. This month, Lonely Planet and Second Story Press allowed me to follow other people as they explored the world and learned the true art of travel.
Merry Christmas and Happy Travels.
Outside of Ordinary, Women’s Travel Stories
According to the introduction, Outside of Ordinary, Women’s Travel Stories ($19.95, Second Story Press) encourages readers “to imagine the excitement of travel, with it’s endless possibilities for change and self-renewal…”
In Bocca Della Verita, Sharon Butala writes something similar in her piece about her trip to Italy:
“The humanity of others, the little surprises, the unexpected boredom, the occasional moment of insight about oneself are what travel is really about.”
Through Butala’s piece, we get to see the Sistine Chapel and the Pantheon. We get to learn about the hostility between the northern and southern parts of Italy as well as what it is like to live in Rome, siestas included.
Alison Lohans takes us through North Dakota east on Interstate-94, passing through Laura Ingalls Wilder country – thanks to Little House in the Prairie, no further description is needed – and “Sioux Falls (with no falls that I could see from my vantage point behind the wheel)”… Lohans and her younger son are driving to a Quaker farm community in Iowa where she finally comes home.
In her story, Janet Greidanus talks about her desire to hike to the Mount Everest Base Camp and her first impression of Kathmandu: “the crowds of people outside the airport; the narrow streets with cows and goats wandering aimlessly at the sides; the noise; the cars, honking incessantly and driving on the ‘wrong’ side; rickshaws and motorbikes weaving in and out.”
By the Seat of My Pants
In the introduction of By the Seat of My Pants, Humorous Tales of Travel and Misadventure ($20.99, Lonely Planet, Raincoast Books), editor Don George writes this anthology came about after 30 years of wandering the globe where he learned his No. 1 rule of travel: “If you don’t pack your sense of humour with your sunscreen, sooner or later you are going to get burned.”
Travel, he writes, is funny, not often at the time, but certainly in retrospect.
“…But you can be pretty sure that just about any journey is going to offer some moments of unadulterated hilarity or at least unanticipated irony. And usually at your own expense.”
Like the time journalist Danny Wallace was in Prague to cover a story and was picked up by a man named Honza who had an Uzi 9mm under the seat of his car; or when Michelle Richmond assumption that nothing could go wrong as she made love to her husband during a blackout in a foreign country. Rolf Potts’ Himalayan journey also seemed to be a perfect fit, particularly his experience watching American porn with men celebrating Holi.
“’Listen,’ I said, ‘these kinds of movies are just fantasies. You can’t assume they represent anything about normal American life. I mean, what if everyone thought life in India was exactly like a Bollywood musical?’”
“’But Bollywood movies are very accurate!’” Mr. Singh exclaimed…
“’But they don’t represent normal Indian life?’ I said. ‘I mean, do you and Mr. Gupta and Mr. Kumar break into song and dance every day at work?’”
“’I like to sing and dance,’” Mr. Gupta offered…
Better Than Fiction
In his introduction to Better Than Fiction 32 True Tales From Great Fiction Writers ($20.99, Raincoast Books, Lonely Planet) Don George writes some of the best travel writers are “fiction-spinners who transport us to the worlds they create with their words.”
The goal of this anthology is to ask fiction writers to describe their non-fictional journeys.
From Arnold Zable, we get to experience Huaxi, a small town in the Guizhou Province, in southwest China, in the fall as he walks past “crops of red chili peppers and rice were spread out to dry on roadsides and village courtyards. Terraced rice paddies alternated with fields of yellow rape,” while Keija Parssinen describes the humid air of Saudi Arabia and the desert that works its way inside of her “its dust and oil-flare air coating my lungs, giving me both asthma and the feeling that I belonged in the place.”
A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World ($20.99 Raincoast Books, Lonely Planet), again edited by Don George, talks about how food and travel are intertwined and, sometimes, “the lessons their intertwining confer are complex. But one truth is clear: wherever we go, we need to eat.”
“The day of Vistagi had opened, as they all had, with thick, fresh yoghurt and honey, soft crusty bread with homemade jam and coffee with milk from the goat tethered at the bottom of the garden” before driving to the next destination to try different food made from scratch, only to be whisked away for lunch where 40 dishes had been prepared just for them.
“Kostas led us round the room, translating, as the women spoke quietly about their dishes. It was a humbling experience, for these were the most personal of gifts. Each had not only prepared her dish, she had grown or cured or foraged its ingredients. The men had raised the animals, and seen to their deaths.”
Through David Downe’s story Of Boars, Baskets, and Brotherhood, we can taste the freshness of the zucchinis and artichokes and jar of Maria-Antonietta’s pesto made from olive oil pressed from the fruit of her trees and you appreciate the kindness and hospitality served with the food.
A copy of these books was provided by Raincoast Books and Second Story Press for an honest review. The opinions are my own.