Armchair travel at its best is informative, entertaining, well-written, sparks our wanderlust and provides a sense of place. All of these books fill that criteria for me. Enjoy your staycation.
Wilderness: The Gateway to the Soul, by Scott Stillman. Stillman is preaching to the choir in my corner of the world. One of my stories, set in Sedona, Not Enough Said for Solitude, is about taking time to connect with nature. For some time, I have been encouraging people to toss the remote out the window and breathe deeply of our beautiful world. However, it is refreshing to find this younger voice sharing the many ways that nature can be our salvation. I believe people are too concerned about being connected on social media and are so harried keeping up with technology they have lost touch with themselves. I am not able to carry a backpack into remote regions solo like Stillman, but I do enjoy river rafting and hiking in our country’s varied, majestic landscapes. I thank him for taking me into places I can’t go alone and for allowing me to imagine the peace, silence, and magic of these wild places. This is a poetic rendering that will help you become free in your wildness.
The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner. The right to pursue happiness is guaranteed to us in our constitution, but it seems most of us have chosen goals that don’t bring us to that blissful state. Weiner made it his mission to understand why and figure out what constitutes happiness in different cultures about the globe. It seems Americans for all their wealth and creature comforts, are among the least happy of peoples. I looked forward to curling up with this fun, thought-provoking romp each night before going to sleep. Weiner admits he falls back on generalizations about cultures, but he does it with self-deprecating humor. “Be here now” is the accepted mantra for happiness these days. The people of Thailand say it more simply, “Don’t think too much.” The Danes, declared to be the most content since there are no expectations in a socialized country, are not included in this journey. Perhaps, Weiner, a self-proclaimed grump, will take us there next time he explores what makes us glow from the inside out.
Talking to the Ground, by Doug Preston. This epic horseback journey across the Navajo Nation is well-researched, informative, and fun. Preston takes his wife-to-be and her nine-year-old-daughter with him on a harrowing trek that turns life-threatening on more than one occasion. Preston displays a deep knowledge of the Navajo, the ancient ones, and the geography of the Navajo Nation. We visit canyons where ancient cliff dwellings can’t be reached any other way than by horseback, camp under the stars, and feel a deep connection to the land. Preston shares a journey that brings his family together in a very special way. I loved this book and didn’t want it to end.
Baboons for Lunch, by James Michael Dorsey. I love a man with a sense of humor. It’s hard to imagine the distinguished James Dorsey I know to be slinging dung balls at monkeys, or bouncing unceremoniously across the desert on a camel, but he does. In his effort to connect with cultures that are rapidly disappearing, he finds himself in some precarious situations. He always handles them with respect for his hosts and delivers insights to his readers. This is a wonderful well-written collection of tales from silly to soul-searching. Obviously influenced by Tim Cahill, my travel writing hero, Dorsey shares his exploits with self-deprecating humor while delivering a deeper message.
A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. The first time I read this book I enjoyed it. The second time I read it a couple of years later, after learning a great deal more about Australia from other sources, I loved it more. Bryson does not take you to the typical tourist stops. Rather, he takes you many places best avoided, but he explains why in the process. His focus is on odd happenings in history, and quirky people he meets along the way. He is always researching museums and reading local papers to ferret out more little-known factoids about the place. He does not spend a lick of time at the Great Barrier Reef except to tell us about the couple that was left there to try to snorkel thirty miles back to shore. Instead, he takes us to the distant shores of Western Australia, a place so vast that it has never been completely explored, to stare at blobs of matter called stromatolites credited with being the first bits of life in our universe. No matter where we are, he always throws in a bit of sly, self-deprecating humor. Fun read chock full of information and insights into the people and places down under.
Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, by Linda Ballou. Since I’m the only woman author in this collection, may I suggest my own book? Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, writes, “Awaken your senses with thrilling tales of an intrepid soul’s search for beauty in the wilds. Ballou embraces life and draws readers into her adventures with vivid descriptions that make you feel you are traveling alongside her. She brings an intelligent meditation on nature in richly detailed, often poetic stories.”