Two years into the pandemic and COVID-19, and its variants of delta and omicron, are continuing to make leisure travel a no-go for many, at least in the conventional sense. With borders constantly opening and closing what is a traveler to do? Despite travel bans and self-isolating, there is still a way to feed our wanderlust and explore the world beyond our living room. And you don’t even have to leave home to experience the journey.
We’re talking about travelogues, books that transcend time and place and bring the actual experience of traveling the reader. Tag-along with fellow travelers or spend time with ex-pats chronicling their own experiences visiting and living in popular tourist destinations as well as out-of-the-way places.
We’ve rounded up a selection of travel books that are guaranteed to transport you to another world, from the safety of your home.
“Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar,” by Paul Theroux
This travel writer’s works have spanned the globe and decades. In this book, Theroux recreates his 25,000-mile journey, stopping in some of the places he originally chronicled in his classic, “The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia,” including Turkey, Sri Lanka, China, Japan and Siberia.
Other travel books by Theroux include traveling around China in “Riding the Iron Rooster,” through the Americas in “The Old Patagonian Express” and Africa in “Dark Star Safari.”
“The Places in Between,” by Rory Stewart
A British diplomat and politician, Stewart chronicles his almost-solo walk across north-central Afghanistan in 2002. (He adopted a traveling companion, his dog, a retired fighting mastiff called Babur, along the way.)
Stewart also wrote the travelogue “The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland,” chronicling his walk along the borderlands of England and Scotland with his 89-year-old father.
“In a Sunburned Country,” by Bill Bryson
In this travelogue, Bryson explores Australia via railway and car. Through conversations with Australians, the author goes beyond the beaten tourist path, writing on the culture and history of the country.
Other travel books by Bryson include his look at Great Britain in “Notes from a Small Island,” “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” and “Bill Bryson’s African Diary.”
“Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time,” by Mark Adams
The writer recounts his attempt to re-create the 1911 Peruvian expedition of American explorer Hiram Bingham III, who traveled into the Andes in search of the lost city of the Incas.
Adams also wrote “Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier.”
“A Year in Provence,” by Peter Mayle
The British author writes of his experience moving his wife and two large dogs into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in Lubéron in Southern France. Readers are transported to a Provencal life that includes goat racing, regional cuisine and a slower pace.
Other travel books by Mayle include the food-centric “French Lessons” and “Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France.”
“Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before,” by Tony Horwitz
The late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer took to the seas to retrace the voyages of 18th-century British explorer Captain James Cook. Horwitz brings the travels of Cook to life by signing on as a working crewman aboard a replica of Cook’s vessel.
Other travel books by Horwitz include “A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World” and “One for the Road: An Outback Adventure.”
“Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia,” by Elizabeth Gilbert
A major life change led the 30-something author to go on this epic year-long quest that included a bit of continent-hopping. Gilbert’s memoir focused on the aspects of pleasure in Italy, devotion in India and a balance between the worldly and the divine in Bali.
While Gilbert is not known as a travel writer, her book “Big Magic,” a handbook to send readers on a creative journey, is equally adventurous.
“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes )
Food and travel writer Mayes takes readers along with her and her husband to Italy after they purchased and restored an abandoned villa called Bramasole in the Tuscan countryside.
Other books by Mayes include “A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller,” chronicling her travels to such places as Spain, Britain, Greece and North Africa, and “See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy.”
“In Xanadu: A Quest,” by William Dalrymple
The historian traces the path taken by Marco Polo 700 earlier from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem across Asia to Xanadu, the summer palace of Kubla Khan.
In addition to histories, Dalrymple also wrote the travel book “City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi,” which explores the city’s centuries-long history.
“The Best American Travel Writing 2020,” by Jason Wilson and Robert Macfarlane
Series editor Wilson and guest editor Macfarlane compile a list of the best travel writing essays of 2019.
Other editions, which go back to the year 2000, have been guest-edited by such travel writing luminaries as Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, France Mayes, Anthony Bourdain, Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed.
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