VAIL CO, Colorado
It is often said that you cannot truly experience a place until you have traveled there. Likewise, there are readers who espouse the ability of a great book to take the reader to a far away land; to travel the world without ever leaving home. I would argue that one does not simply replace the other, but actually enhances it. Reading a book – history, memoir or a novel – about the place you intend to travel will only serve to enrich your experience and inspire your journey. When you travel to the place you have read about, the connections and experiences you gain will be that much more meaningful for the reading you have done.
Books as armchair travel can come in three parts. Travel guides help you to get where you are going and navigate when you get there. Books as travel inspiration offer up the reason to embark on a trip. And there are always the new adventures, firmly rooted in a place and the perfect thing to pack and read along the way.
THE GUIDE: “Guide to the National Parks of the United States,” by National Geographic
From Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, Grand Teton in Wyoming, and the Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado, there are countless wilderness adventures to be had. National Geographic’s Guide to The National Parks provides detailed maps and stunning photographs of all 58 National Parks, as well as information on surrounding areas and excursions so you can explore beyond Park boundaries.
THE INSPIRATION: “A Walk in the Woods,” by Bill Bryson
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and passes through 14 states covering over 2,100 miles of terrain. Renowned humorist and travel writer Bill Bryson hiked the trail from start to finish in one season. “A Walk in the Woods” is his hilarious and heartfelt account of the trek. Throughout the book he alights upon unusual characters, beautiful scenery and a quiet peace with himself. Perfect inspiration for any spirited quest into the wilderness.
THE NEW ADVENTURE: “Fire Season,” by Philip Connors
Imagine being fully immersed in nature, alone in the woods, surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness in all directions. This is the solitude Philip Connors seeks every summer as he hikes deep into the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico to be a wildfire lookout. Armed with only his dog Alice and a typewriter for company, Connors whiles away the hours in contemplation of the natural world in all of its glory, abundance and vulnerability. “Fire Season” moves effortlessly from historical account of wildfire suppression to stunning musings on the awesome power of nature to celebration of the simplicity of freedom. This book captures all that is grand about our western wilderness.
Sandy beaches, exotic food, great music and friendly people have been a perennial pull for those choosing to while away their vacation days in South America. Argentina, Brazil, Chile – the possibilities and adventures are endless.
THE GUIDE: “South America on a Shoestring,” by Lonely Planet
Whether you plan to hop from hotel to hotel or hostel to hostel, Lonely Planet has long been regarded as the king of travel insight. “South America on a Shoestring” will encourage you to visit little known locales and avoid tourist traps. This is a great guide to exploring the continent and venturing beyond the beaten path.
THE INSPIRATION: “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” has long been considered a classic of South American literature. Marquez’s epic tale of the fictional village of Macondo and a family strained by myth and legacy is a perfect example of how art imitates life. The language and imagery will transport you to the rich landscapes and cultures of South America.
THE NEW ADVENTURE: “The Lady Matador’s Hotel,” by Cristina Garcia
With crisp verse and a quick pace, Garcia weaves a web of a tale that never seems forced or complicated yet explores the depths of political strife, global class struggles and guerrilla warfare. The lives of Garcia’s characters converge over the course of a week’s stay at a hotel located in the heart of an unnamed South American city. What better microcosm could there be? Where else would a warmonger general, a Cuban exile poet, an international adoption attorney, and a lady matador cross paths? This is a beautifully crafted story that will spark the scents and sites of South America in your imagination.
There is nothing like the feeling of getting out on the open road. Many Americans would say it’s their favorite way to travel. Bouncing from town to town, discovering unusual sights and little known villages can be just the thing to wake the soul after a long cold winter.
THE GUIDE: “The 2011 Road Atlas and Festival Guide,” by Rand McNally
The best road trips are spontaneous. What better way to invite adventure that to embark on a trip with just a road map and a full tank of gas. This road atlas from Rand McNally is a complete and current guide to the great American highway system including detailed city and national park maps.
THE INSPIRATION: “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac
I was sixteen when I first read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. I had a newly issued driver’s license in my pocket and an incredible urge to light out on the road and not look back. Luckily for the sake of my family and my education, I resisted the urge until after graduating college. But the insistent pulse of Kerouac’s prose never left me, and to this day whenever I set out for a drive, that same sense of urgency returns. “On the Road” captures the freedom and hope that are embodied in the great American road trip.
THE NEW ADVENTURE: “State by State,” edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey
Each of our United States holds its own unique charm: history full of triumph and foible, stereotypes about accents and mannerisms, infamous native sons, and picturesque landscapes. “State by State” takes the reader beyond all of the preconceptions with 50 essays on all 50 states by authors like Anthony Bordain, Dave Eggers and Jhumpa Lahiri. Each tells a compelling and engaging story about what it means to have pride and provenance in a given state.
Besse Lynch works as the marketing manager at The Bookworm of Edwards. E-mail comments to email@example.com.