08/09/13 - Have books, will travel

Travelling is one of my absolute favourite things, and something that I never get to do enough of; if I have a job, I don't have the time and if I don't, I can't afford it.  Reading is another of my favourite pastimes and thankfully, it's a much cheaper hobby.  The best thing about reading is that it can transport you.  This slightly cliched description isn't just relevant to Hogwarts and Mordor and Narnia.  Reading can transport you around the world, help you explore countries you've never been to and introduce you to people you've never met.  So without further ado; my favourite wanderlust-inspiring books.

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

When Ginny is given a parcel of letters from her wayward aunt, her life is about to change forever.  Following Aunt Peg's instructions, she embarks on a journey which takes her from her home in the US to London, Edinburgh and onwards to most of the major cities in Europe.  Along the way, she discovers a lot about herself, her aunt and the world in general.  She is dragged kicking and screaming out of her comfort zone and finds herself much better off for it.  While the idea may seem a little contrived, the story manages to stay original and engaging, and it's an absolute must for anyone who feels a little constrained by their usual routine and dreams of just taking off on a whim to see the world.  I recently bought the second book and I'm looking forward to getting started on it when I need a little light-hearted escapism.

Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves

This is one of my absolute favourite books and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.  This travel memoir spans fifteen years of globe-trotting and documents Eaves' insatiable hunger for new places and new experiences.  It's not only a "love affair" with the countries she visits, but also a documentation of her journey of self-discovery and the romantic liaisons she encounters along the way.  The title is entirely apt as Eaves seems almost incapable of staying in one place for long before the itchy feet kick in.  The adventurous and often almost dangerous situations she gets into seem to thrill her more than concern her, and that's a trait that I sometimes wish I had more of.  It's the kind of book that makes you want to trek the jungles of Papua New Guinea, sail from New Zealand to Tonga, and generally soak up all the experiences life has to offer.  I've never been much of an 'adventure holiday' kind of girl - I much favour a cultural city break over anything too outdoorsy - but even I found myself a little jealous of Eaves' incredible journey.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I'm not generally a huge Hemingway fan.  I find his prose to be a little dense and rambling for my liking and I much prefer other writers from the same period.  However, I love this book.  Well, of course I do...it's about Paris in the 1920s.  Everyone in the English-speaking world probably knows by now that that is my current favourite place and period of history to read about.  In the preface, he suggests that "if the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction" and reading it can almost make it seem that way.  From teaching Ezra Pound how to box, his stormy friendship with Fitzgerald, and living on $5 a day with his first wife yet somehow affording skiing holidays and boozy nights out, it almost seems too much what you would expect it to be like, to be real.  Hemingway really captures the spirit of the time in this slim memoir, and it's a must for any Francophiles and wannabe-flappers like me.  Not only does this book make me want to travel - there's basically never a time where I don't want to go to Paris - it makes me want to hop in the TARDIS and go back to a city which was playground to so many amazing figures.

In a previous review post, I mentioned Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard and there are several books along the same lines that I can mention here.  

Amore and Amaretti by Victoria Cosford is the Australian's memoir of her time in Italy, documenting the fascinating people she meets and the incredible food she eats along the way.  Interspersed with recipes and also Italian proverbs with English translations, it's a fun frolic through Tuscany, Umbria and Perugia which will make you want to give it all up and move to an Italian hillside villa.  

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano is a fascinating read - although technically a diet book, it's so much more than that.  Although I am yet to fully commit to eating like a glamorous slim French woman - oh, how I yearn for a world in which I could eat decadent chocolate and luscious fresh bread and drink wine without feeling guilty - there are other elements that I've already started to incorporate into my daily routine.  This isn't a typical diet book; it gives you practical ways to adapt your entire lifestyle in order to make yourself healthier and happier.  The recipe book by the same title is also fantastic for the recipes mentioned in the original book and more besides.

And if you're after a quicker way to get your travel-envy fix, prepare your green-eyed monster and click over to World Tour Stories.  Taru and Alex are a couple, very much in love with each other and with this big beautiful world we live in, and they're living the dream as they sail around having adventures and documenting them on their blog.  Seriously, it's an amazing read.

I'm not going to pretend that this list is at all definitive and I realise that it's a very narrow view of the world.  For this reason, I would love love love any recommendations you can give me in the comments!  Any and all are welcome, but specifically books which make you want to jump on a plane/boat/train/time machine and explore.  If anyone could recommend some good travel memoirs or novels set in foreign lands spanning beyond the continent of Europe, I would be most grateful.

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