Work has been SO busy lately. Whenever that happens I just want to get away and enjoy something new and wonderful. Unfortunately, what with buying a house and all, money is a little tight so gallivanting off to a foreign country just isn’t in the cards. At least not without some serious deal hunting.
Instead, I’ve decided to live vicariously and seek out a memoir or two. For those of you who might be in the same boat at me, let me draw you attention to my five all-time favorite travel memoirs (so far). In case you’re wondering, Eat, Pray, Love is not on the list.
1) In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah
If you’ve read a few other posts of my blog, you’ll probably have already heard me gush about Tahir Shah and Arabian Nights. I can’t help it, this man just speaks to me. Shah is such an incredible writer and when you add that in with his reflection on his move to Morocco… well, it’s magic to me. This book might not quite fit the category of “travel memoir” like some of the others, but the core is the same. It’s a book about discovering a new land – and therefore discovering yourself. Everybody and their brother needs to read this book (IMHO)!
2) Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail by Mary Morris
For me this book is the definition of the perfect woman travel memoir. This book was phenomenal – not only is Mary Morris probably the most self-honest person on the planet (I don’t think I could write my actions with truth like she, does even if I wanted to) but she’s a fantastic writer. Her personal struggles combined with the fascinating travel events make this a truly enthralling read. It’s set in such a dramatic time in history – Morris was in China, Russia, and Germany in 1986. Seeing some of those historic events happening through her eyes is unbelievably interesting. Great read!
3) Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer In Africa by Tanya Shaffer
Shaffer’s memoir seemed very familiar. Woman travel memoirs tend to have a similar theme – the driving force in these stories is often a man back home. Why does she travel – is it because she’s running away or does she just love and enjoy what she’s doing? It’s hard, of course, to know. Part of a person, as a traveler, loves it. But the other part is exhausted. When you’re away from the place you grew up, even if you’ve been there for quite some time, you never can quite let down all of your guard.
There are two things very unique and refreshing about this book – the pictures and people. Shaffer had snapshots scattered throughout and it was fascinating for me to go back and forth between her descriptions and compare them to the face in the photograph. And she described people a lot. In fact, every chapter was focused on someone else – someone she met along the journey. She didn’t so much analyze them as she did talk about her experience with them and by the end of the chapter you realized how Shaffer felt changed by them. It was a very refreshing way to read a memoir.
4) Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer by Barbara Sjoholm
You can probably tell from the title that I’m a bit biased by the plot of this story. It’s about travel, and writing, and it’s set in Spain. Clearly, I’m going to love this. Sjoholm doesn’t disappoint. She does a great job about remembering herself in this time the way she took chances, the people she met. She really learned who she was in the process of this journey and it wasn’t until later when she was reflecting and writing this story that she was able to understand the way her life was affected by this trip. It’s such a beautiful thing to be let in on – and my main reason why memoirs are some of my favorite reads.
5) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
Like Arabian Nights, this book has more to it than just the travel bit. but it still will pull at your travel bone if you take it in. Grennan did what I would love to do – do something crazy because you feel like it’s the right thing to do and let it change your life. He has had such an incredible journey and has been able to take his travel to a new height. His book highlights that journey in of himself but he doesn’t forget to talk about the travel and country and people he met either. Did I mention, to, that this book is funny? Not something I expected from something about orphaned children! I read his via audio book and Grennan narrates it himself – so good!
So, what’s next?
The best part about travel is that there’s always more to see – and the great thing about memoirs is that there’s always another one to read. I’ve narrowed down my choices to these three – any suggestions to which one I (hopefully) enjoy first?