Virtual travel through reading will add understanding and magic to future trips
Hop aboard the fabled Orient Express train. Pedal the route of the famous Tour de France bicycle race. Explore the colorful canals and history-rich streets of Venice. OK, so you can’t make these inviting journeys right now. But you can enjoy virtual travel that immerses you in the sights, sounds and other appeals of those and other places, and experiences, by reading about them.
With vaccines coming in the new year. We can prepare to travel again!
The books described below, some new and others older, are rated among the most outstanding travel books in recent years. Let your eyes do the walking and your imagination can lead you to places you may have visited, and others you’d like to in the coming year. Plus, I find that when I read about places I have already visited, I always learn new facts and discover new stories.
Find these books at your local bookstore or order them locally. Laura Cummings, the owner of White Birch Books in North Conway, NH, says, “When a bookstore owner begins to know you, they can make real person-to-person recommendations for future travel books.” Check to see if your local bookstore has an online link to order books. Enjoy your virtual travel.
Around the World in 80 Trains
Around the World in 80 Trains (by Monisha Rajesh, Bloomsbury Publishing) describes a globe-straddling rail journey through North America, Europe, and Asia. It includes a high-altitude ride in Tibet, a trans-Canadian journey and experiencing the luxurious Venice Simplon Orient-Express. In addition to descriptions of train trips and destinations, the author brings to life fascinating people she encounters along the way.
French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
Pedal power is the mode of transportation that moves author Tim Moore (French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France; Yellow Jersey Press). He attempts to cover the entire course of the legendary French bike race. Moore is one of the select writers of comic travelogues. His words make enjoyable reading for everyone from serious bikers to those who have never set foot on a pedal.
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The Journey Matters: Twentieth-Century Travel in the True Style
Excursions rather than destinations also are the focus of The Journey Matters: Twentieth-Century Travel in the True Style (Jonathan Glancey; Atlantic Books). The author brings to life the Golden Age of Travel when getting to a destination was as important and enjoyable as being there. He augments accounts of journeys he took — like crossing the Atlantic on the SS Normandie and flying from England to Singapore with England’s Imperial Airways, a British airline that operated from 1924 to 1939 — with equally intriguing stories by fictionalized narrators.
Venice by Jan Morris
When it comes to books about destinations, seldom, if ever, has the essence of a city been better described than in Venice (Jan Morris, Faber & Faber). This award-winning tome is not a guide or history book, but rather one that absorbs the reader into the character and life of that magnificent city. Venice comes alive almost as if the reader were there enjoying its architecture, canals, curiosities and, above all, its people.
1,000 Places to See Before you Die
Then there are those books that cover the world in scope. The latest edition of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Patricia Schultz; Artisan Publishers), is a daunting challenge. It takes almost 500 pages illustrated by some 1,100 photographs to highlight what the author considers to be the Earth’s “must-see” attractions. They cover the Cappadocia region of Turkey, a geologically moonscaped area of rock towers, cones and caves. Plus, it includes cheetahs hunting for prey in Kenya to the rugged Huangshan Mountains in China.
While only 25 destinations are highlighted in Hidden Places (Sarah Baxter; White Lion Publishing), these virtual travel sights live up to the book’s name in terms of both obscurity and appeal. Included are little-known citadels that are reachable only on foot, jungle-blanketed remains of the great Mayan civilization and underwater ruins buried deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Lonely Planet’s Best Travel Destinations
More accessible sites are previewed in the 2020 edition of Lonely Planet’s Best Travel Destinations. This 15th annual collation of “hot spots” ranks the Top 10 Countries (number one is Bhutan), Cities (Salzburg, Austria) and Best Value Destinations (Indonesia). Other “Best” ratings include top value destinations, new places to stay and new food experiences. The book places a strong emphasis on sustainability for the environment, local people and travelers themselves.
The Falcon Thief
Those who prefer to combine a bit of intrigue with their virtual travel reading are likely to find The Falcon Thief (Joshua Hammer, Simon & Schuster) to be a page-turner. It is, the jacket tells us, “A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Search for the Perfect Bird.” The story is a fact-based crime adventure about a wildlife detective (yes, they exist) seeking to apprehend a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing rare birds and their eggs. The story whisks readers from the Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe and the deserts of Dubai to the volcanoes of Patagonia and frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle. That virtual whirlwind tour of exotic destinations, combined with the stirring story, offers appeal to a variety of readers.
Reading adds understanding and depth to travel
Days spent reading about destinations prior to visiting will add to any future trip. For many, days of virtual travel and the pleasure of researching travel and sights is the best part of travel. Time spent at home when you cannot travel will leave plenty of time to learn about new, fascinating destinations.
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.