Oh my goodness, it’s been a while! It’s been so long you may have once wondered if I’d fallen off the map, and since then just supposed I’d gotten lost in one of those sectors labeled “Here Be Dragons” and wouldn’t be coming back. The unfortunate, and less exciting, truth is that I may have gotten stuck in The Doldrums. So apologies, but here we are halfway through summer. To make it up to you, I’m giving you another list of books so you’ll have something to keep you occupied during my future jaunts beyond the tollbooth.
I have another confession. I made a mistake last summer during the Open Palace Programme. I didn’t know it until I found myself seated in a room full of my fellow travelers and more than half of them were clutching books and nearly bouncing on the edge of their seats. I leaned over to the girl next to me, white knuckling her own book, and asked what I might have missed. “The speaker today is Tracy Borman!”
“Ooookkkk…?” I responded hoping for a little more.
“She’s an author and like the foremost Tudor scholar! I’m going to get my book signed! Didn’t you read our itinerary??”
I definitely had read that we were going to Hampton Court, but it had not at all dawned on me to research each of the speakers we would see and read their published works!
Bound and determined not to make the same mistake twice, I’ve signed up for TravelCon in September and this time I’m doing my homework! I’ve made a list of the published works of all the speakers and writing workshop leaders and I’m working my way through them. I thought I’d share with you my reviews so far.
*Note: This post contains affiliate links. You can purchase any of these books through Amazon by clicking on the book images. If you do, I’ll make a few cents at no extra cost to you.
Rolf Potts’ book Vagabonding has inspired several travel bloggers, many of whom will tell you they carried a well worn copy of this book in their backpacks during their travels. As such, Potts will be a keynote speaker at TravelCon so his book seemed like the place to start.
First, I must tell you I listened to this book via Audible and I would recommend getting the print version instead. This book is more of a reference book you’ll want to refer back to.
That said, I had mixed feelings about the book overall. The first half hour of Vagabonding was spent telling the reader that there is never a good time to travel so just quit your job now and go. By the time I turned off the car I was ready to walk into work and quit, but reality rushed back in as soon as I turned off the book. The middle of the book I felt was more of a crowd source effort of quotes about travel with occasional helpful travel hints thrown in. I’m glad I pressed on to the end, however, because I did enjoy the last half of the book. It contained good hints about local customs, avoiding scams, and keeping a sense of humor while traveling. The overall thing that frustrated me about this book is that it kept directing the reader to the website. While I realize bloggers need to get you to their website, if I bought your book, I want the information in the book!
If you’re looking for a tips for travel book, I’d check this book out. If you’re more interested in stories of travel experiences, Potts has a second book that I’ve been told is even better. I’ve now added his second book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer to my To-Be-Read list.
Matt Kepnes, author of the blog Nomadic Matt, is not only a keynote speaker, but the host of TravelCon. I’ve used a couple of his city travel guides before and found them useful, but decided to add his first book to my list.
Again, I listened to the Audible version and would recommend the print version instead. (I ended up purchasing the print version later.) This book, like Potts’, is more of a reference book. It contains many helpful websites and cost analyses you’ll want to refer back to when planning a trip. Also, although I’m not sure how you can read a reference book with any more emotion, the narrator was a little monotone.
While Potts’ book tells you to get up and go and then provides helpful tips for surviving while on the go, Kepnes’ is more useful for getting you to the get up and go point. You’ll find everything you need from ways to save for a trip to credit card comparisons for cheap airfair and other transportation, and where to find cheap accommodations and food in many countries around the world. For places like India and Japan, and the countries most popular during Around The World trips, he devotes entire chapters. I found this useful because the cultures in many of these countries are so entirely different from the United States and now I understand that the cultural differences affect housing and food, and other tourism needs. While this book is aimed at those who can be flexible in their travel dates and destinations, it still has plenty of good information for those like me who have a set amount of travel time, and specific places I want to see.
Kristin Addis, author and blogger of Be My Travel Muse, will be speaking at TravelCon about solo female travel. I was drawn to her book by the girly pastel colors of the cover, and found a wealth of female-oriented knowledge inside. Her book is similar to Kepnes’, a guide to get you prepared for travel and provide you with knowledge that will get you through most situations. The difference, however, is that this book is aimed at the 20’s something girl wanting to backpack, but unsure of going alone. While Kepnes’ book provides less gendered and more in depth information, Addis’ book is a great supplement because it contains information that females specifically need to be aware of while traveling. While the book is aimed at long-term budget travelers with flexible travel dates and destinations, there is still plenty of good information for those past the party scene age and using a slightly higher budget. While I would have liked more personal stories to provide examples for statements made in the book, I assume these can be found on Addis’ blog.
Torre DeRoche will be leading a writing workshop at TravelCon. I listened to her book via Audible and I could. not. turn. it. off! The story kept me captivated, and it didn’t hurt that the Australian-accented narrator did a fantastic job with all the voices. This is the story of an Australian girl who sets out to experience life in San Francisco for a year before returning home. Instead, she meets an Argentinian man with a sailboat and a dream of sailing the world. Despite her fear of water, DeRoche agrees to accompany her new love on a voyage from San Francisco to Australia. Fighting sea sickness, storms, and boat problems along the way, she meets some amazing people, and experiences the South Pacific in only the way one can from a sail boat.
The book is humorous and heartfelt. DeRoche really takes you along for the voyage. I found myself googling the South Pacific destinations she mentions so I could follow her journey. The experiences she describes and the characters she meets are sometimes too unbelievable to be real, but photos of the trip on her website confirm that the story definitely is based very much in reality. My only frustration with the story is that her boyfriend was kind of an idiot. He was annoying and frustrating, but in the end I wondered if they would stay together. I went to DeRoche’s website in search of a blog post to find out what happened after the book ended and found that that story is in her next book, The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World. It is now on my To-Be-Read list.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman
Friedman, who will be running one of TravelCon’s writing workshops, has written a book about a different way to travel. Rather than being on the road continuously, she chooses to live in one location, find a job (or two), and occasionally take day trips. The book starts with her move to Ireland where she finds a bar tending gig and an apartment with a few interesting roommates. One of them, an Australian girl, invites Friedman to Australia. In Australia Friedman finds a barista job to supplement her bar tending and takes a few small trips to see the rest of the continent. Although this slow travel doesn’t make for a compelling adventure tale, Friedman has an ability to turn the daily work grind into entertaining anecdotes about the people she meets and the cultural differences she contends with.
An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town by David Farley
David Farley is a university travel writing professor, the instructor for Superstar Blogging’s How to Become a Travel Writer course, and will be leading a writing workshop at TravelCon. I chose to add his most recent book to the list because it sounded entertaining. I was not wrong. While relocating to a tiny Italian town to escape New York for a time, Farley decides to take on the search for the long-missing relic of the town’s church. That relic- the foreskin of Jesus. The chapters go back and forth between the history of Christianity as it relates to relics and Farley’s present day experiences with the people he encounters through this search. Those familiar with small towns and the larger than life characters that often inhabit them will relate to Farley’s anecdotal chapters. History and religion buffs will find the other chapters interesting as well.
Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story by Steve Kamb
Steve Kamb will be talking about Community Building at TravelCon. His is the book I didn’t know I needed right now. While I did not pick up this book because I was looking for self-help, the idea of turning life into a game or imposing the structure of your favorite books onto your life in order to provide motivation to live a more active and fulfilling life is appealing. And this book outlines just how to do that. With references from Lord of the Rings to Redwall, this book has kept me entertained as well as provoked thought as to how I could “level up my life”. The steps include setting goals, creating negative and positive reinforcement, building a team to support you, finding mentors, changing your perspective, and many others that come straight out of your favorite comics and adventure stories. While Kamb’s book often suggests you visit his website, Nerd Fitness, the book makes you want to join his community and get in on the game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go build a strong body after all this sitting and writing.
Kristin Newman is not part of TravelCon, but her book is in the same vein as these books and I just have to share. First I must warn you, this book is definitely for mature audiences only. Newman, a sitcom writer, used her vacation time to travel. Sometimes solo, sometimes with friends, and always to find the next romantic connection. This book was horrifying, humorous, inspiring, and depressing. The book was laugh out loud funny in some parts and cringe worthy in others. I’m glad I listened to the audio book because it was better read in the author’s own voice. It made me want to travel, however, not being as extroverted as Newman, I have a feeling I’d have a very different experience than she did. In the end Newman found a stable, loving, relationship, but leaves those of us unwed and without children at age 30 wondering if all that’s left are divorcees and step children.