Friday, 18 July 2014

Travelling vicariously

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach

Since coming back from holiday I've been reading quite a lot of travel writing, perhaps in a hope of prolonging the feeling of being on holiday, the books have been of all types and my list of places to both visit and avoid are growing ever longer.

One of the best I've read was The Yosemite by John Muir, this was written in 1912 and is a collection of thought made by Muir after years spend visiting Yosemite National Park.  I'd tried his books before but found them very hard going, however on returning to this one after visiting the area was a delight as I could now really 'see' what he was writing about. If you aren't familiar with the geography/wildlife however I do wonder if you'll enjoy it as much.  It is worth trying just for his descriptions of avalanches and thunderstorms.

Other books I've read have been the autobiographies of National Park Rangers in various areas of the USA.  These are insightful and funny and as someone who has worked in various customer service jobs for years there is a lot to relate to.  The knowledge, advice and friendliness of all of the NPS employees we've met have really added to our experiences of the American wilds and it does make me sad to read how overstretched, under protected and vulnerable they often are.

The last book in the genre I've read broke my book butterfly problem and I have no idea who suggested it to me or why I had it on reserve from the library.

Without Reservations is the story of Alice Steinbach's 9 months spent in Europe in 1993.  She takes a sabbatical from her job (and life) in Baltimore and apart from knowing where she'll be living in Europe she crosses the Atlantic with no plans.  This could so easily have become mawkish - like I found the inexplicable popular Eat, Pray, Love - but was delightful and I sat up until gone midnight as I had to keep reading.
Alice is a friendly person and even when feeling lonely and shy in new cities manages to meet people and turn them into friends where ever she goes which no doubt adds to her experience but her willingness to try anything makes her journey a joy to read.

Cities that I know well revealed new secrets to me through the writing and again yet more destinations have been added to my list of places to visit.  However Alice's experiences in Rome were so different to mine that I wanted to encourage her to go again and give a magical place a second chance.

This book was a pleasant surprise and just what I needed to kick start my reading again.

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