Armchair voyager: 8 travel books perfect for a little escapism right now
Friendly reminder that lockdown restrictions don’t apply to your imagination…
Yesterday we went to Disneyland, South Africa and Enniskerry. We strode down the streets of Rome on Google maps and explored the museum of flight on a side street in Washington.
And while it is always a poor alternative for the real deal, there is glorious escapism that comes when we float out above our own lives, even for a little while. Even online.
But to truly immerse yourself in quality travel discovery, curling up on the couch with a book dedicated to a little corner of the world that interests you, is pretty special.
From Tahiti to Japan, from the Greek Islands to the beaches of Santa Cruz, we’ve put together some of our favourite travel books, fiction, and non-fiction, to inspire your adventures, whenever and wherever that may be.
Surf, Skate & Rock Art by Jim Phillips
Born and raised in Santa Cruz, American artist Jim Phillips is synonymous with skate and surf culture. Known as the ‘birth of surf’, Santa Cruz has long been a mecca for surf enthusiasts and offers over 29 miles of coastline and beaches to choose from.
This is a detailed showcase of thousands of artistic graphic illustrations, from motorcycles to health food and including rock posters, surf and skateboard art that jump off the pages. Bold and dynamic hippie themes in bright and startling colours command attention.
Since 1962, Phillips has published award-winning graphic designs for cartoons, skateboards, T-shirts, stickers, rock posters and commercial art. The works assembled for this book, from collections world-wide, represent over fifty years of creativity and document the powerful youth movement in America. Discover the wonders of Santa Cruz here santacruz.org
The Island by Victoria Hislop
This is a Mediterranean love story, but with a twist. A beach book with heart, Hislop sets her novel in an island off Crete called Spinalonga – where lepers were banished to die. The backbone of her tale is the relationship between two very different sisters
Family saga, doomed love, and the delicate unfolding of the world’s oldest known disease might sound at odds with your typical romance novel but the stunning descriptions of small island Greece and the spirit of survival among the so-called ‘unclean’ turn this into a page-turner that also informs. Hislop transports you to the citrus-shaded alleys and tiny fishing towns off Crete, the story absorbs and long after you put this book down, you will still be there.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
An oldie but a goodie, this literary sensation and runaway bestseller tells the story of a geisha, the celebrated female entertainers of Japan. Today, Gion is one of Kyoto’s most famed Geisha districts where hostesses in colourful kimonos waltz amongst the tightly packed district of wooden houses, elite restaurants and geisha houses.
Made into a major motion picture, Memoirs of a Geisha features memorable locations such as Fushimi-Inari Taisha, an important Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of wooden vermillion gates that lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. You can find more Japanese travel inspo here: japan.travel/en/uk/
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella Bird
Isabella Bird was a pioneering British explorer who wrote the renowned Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. The book, which details her travels through the Tohoku region, finishing up on Hokkaido island, is a study in exquisite escapism. Bird was also a naturalist, photographer and writer who explored several other countries across Asia too.
Throughout her travels, Bird sent a series of letters to her sister and friends detailing the trip which later got turned into an incredibly successful book. Its chronicles include details on Japanese culture, clothing, the sex industry, and the natural environment.
Palm Springs – A Modernist Paradise by Tim Streeter-Porter
If you love interiors and design, this one is for you. Since Gary Cooper built one of the first modernist houses in Palm Springs in the 1930s, this desert oasis has captivated Hollywood. A mecca for the international jet-set that lured Frank Sinatra, Walter Annenberg, and others, Palm Springs came into its own architecturally as a haven for visionary modernists such as Richard Neutra, who were practising the International Style in Los Angeles.
The book profiles outstanding examples of some of the architectural allures, such as the Annenberg Estate, the Ford House and the Kaufmann House, as well as today’s restorations by top interior designers such as Martyn Lawrence Bullard and fashion designer Trina Turk. For more eye-catching gems around this town check out visitgreaterpalmsprings.com
Havenfall by Sara Holland
Released at the beginning of March, Havenfall is a new fantasy fiction novel by New York Times best-selling author Sara Holland. The book follows the story of young Maddie Marrow and her experiences at Havenfall, a fictional town and the gateway to other realms, nestled deep within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountains provide an atmospheric backdrop as Maddie embarks on a journey to discover the shocking truths about the dangers lurking beneath Havenfall. Get closer to the dappled mountain scenery by visiting colorado.com
The Boy of the South Seas by Eunice Tietjens
The Boy of the South Seas is a children’s novel that tells the story of Teiki of the Marquesas Islands who, after accidentally stowing away on a visiting ship, finds himself way out at sea on a strange boat.
He swims away from the boat and lands on a south sea island. The boy makes a new life on the island of Moorea near Tahiti.
For serious out-of-body escapism, transport yourself to discover this amazing part of the world here. tahititourisme.uk/en-gb/
There’s always the lottery…
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Wild is a 2012 memoir by American author Cheryl Strayed, describing her 1,100-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995 as a journey of self-discovery.
Walk in the footsteps of Cheryl as she journeys from the Mojave Desert to Washington State, through the breathtaking wilderness of California.
The book was turned into a film in 2014, with Reece Witherspoon as the leading character. Well worth adding it to your watch-list on Netflix. Sure, what else would you be doing…