Sometimes the best travel guides aren't guidebooks at all. These ten books will help you see travel, food, wine, life, and culture in a new way.
Do you remember the first book that inspired you to travel?
I have several. I vividly remember the details of Anne's voyage from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia to attend college in Anne Of The Island, the third instalment in Lucy Maud Montgomery's Green Gables series. I was enthralled by the packing scenes in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. What does one bring when you embark on a long carriage ride to see Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins? Early biographies of The Beatles made Liverpool's gritty streets and warm culture feel not that far away.
I bet you have some memorable novels and memoirs that helped inform your travels, too. And now I have some more to add to your list. I'm confident there's something among my list of ten non-travel travel books that will appeal to every reader. These texts will change the way you look at food, drink, towns, cities, forests, fears, and friendships forever. Tuck one into your suitcase for your next trip.
Going on vacation? This 33-point check list will make sure you get out the door with everything you need (including your sanity). Your to-do list has never been easier!
A long time ago, I saw a funny quip online that said something to the effect of how if you wanted to see someone get six months’ worth of chores done in a day, check them out the day before they leave for vacation and, let me tell ya, I felt seen.
I’m aware that there is absolutely no reason I need to wash the guest room curtains before we leave for a week of camping. I understand that all those platitudes about how “it feels so good to come home to a clean house” come from the cesspool which is productivity culture and patriarchal expectations. Yet I know, deep within my heart, that if anything horrible happened to me when I was on the road and the team from Criminal Minds came to my home to investigate my life to see what kind of person the unsub was targeting, I would die a second, more painful death when they concluded: “Clearly this serial killer was targeting slovenly women who dare to leave their house without tackling the basket of unmatched socks in the laundry room.”
As such, it goes without saying that the day before you leave for vacation is THE DAY in which you need to get every single thing you’ve ever needed, wanted, or considered for your life in order. As if you were going to leave for Florida without alphabetizing your spice drawer. Like you were really going on a summer road trip without finally steam-cleaning those weird spots on your carpet. Sure, that bag of clothing for the donation centre has been rolling around in your trunk for six months but are you really going to ignore it for an extra ten days while you're in Cleveland? I didn't think so.
The day before you leave for vacation should be your life’s busiest, most productive, most incredible list-checking day. It needs to render you so exhausted that anything else feels restorative, even being trapped for ten hours in the middle seat with a screaming toddler kicking your kidneys. See, your front hall closet is organized AND you're grateful for a $6 cup of instant coffee from a machine in Terminal F.
However if for any reason you can’t quite commit to that, here is a list of the most important tasks to get done when there are 24 hours or less to go.
How To See Baines' Baobabs In Botswana
These famous trees in Northern Botswana were first captured by painter Thomas Baines. Here's how you can see them for yourself.
Twenty some years ago, National Geographic devoted a cover story to the topic of Africa and, in doing so, they did something unusual. They declined to use a cover image, rationalizing that there was no one symbol or picture that could encompass the continent.
If they had asked me, I would have made my case for the baobab tree. True, they don’t grow everywhere in Africa but they are an icon of the continent. Residents love them for their fruit, shade, and fibres, as do animals. Visitors adore these funny looking plants that have the appearance of being stuck in the ground upside down. They’re huge, imposing, aloof and yet there’s something about the baobab that’s decidedly homey. Perhaps this is why the Baines' Baobabs in Botswana are so popular.
The Baine’s Baobabs are named for British artist Thomas Baines. Baines wasn’t just a painter. He was also an explorer and an active participant on many of the earliest European expeditions to Africa. As such, he both contributed to and memorialized early colonialism. His work fed a mania for “exotic” images of the continent and his painting of seven baobabs in northern Botswana certainly fit the bill. They’re a little weird, a little other-wordly, and utterly captivating.
Located in northern Botswana in Nxai Pan National Park, the group of trees that Baines immortalized are estimated to be over 1,500 years old. Also know as "The Sleeping Sisters" (as one tree is growing sideways) they’re considered to be some of the tallest in the area, hitting about 20 feet in height. Thanks to Baines’ legacy and the trees' own magnificence, they’re a popular tourist attraction and Ryan and I were able to see them for ourselves during our camping safari. Here’s how you can do the same.
Our favourite things to do in Livingstone include hanging with the rhinos, eating Indian food, going to museums, and relaxing by the river.
You've probably heard a lot about Victoria Falls, one of world's most majestic wonders. But have you heard about its next door neighbour, the small city of Livingston, Zambia?
Livingstone is often treated a bit like a base for exploring other destinations and, to be honest, we were a bit guilty of that ourselves at first. We stayed in Livingstone for about a week as we organized trips in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Thankfully, along the way we clued in to the fact that this is much more than a town that takes care of all the traveling essentials, from groceries to pharmacy, banks to stamps. There is a long list of Livingstone activities to enjoy during your visit and exploring the city was a highlight of our time in Africa. Here's what should be on your radar during your visit.
In the cozy, colourful seaside town of Shelburne, you can connect with arts, crafts, culture, and cuisine.
I know a thing or two about having adventures in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. After all, this is where I had my infamous "anti-adventurist" moment when I attempted axe throwing! (You can read all about it here - thankfully, nothing was hurt but my pride). However, there are plenty of much cozier, low-key, micro-adventures to enjoy in this pretty seaside community, with no weapons, tools, or farm implements required! If you're lucky enough to find yourself in southern Nova Scotia, here are some of the treats you can enjoy.
The trick to never getting lost again lies in some very old travel wisdom.
It's not everyday that you get to use a piece of travel advice that's been rolling around the back of your head, well, for a few decades at least. However, on my recent trip to Honolulu, a very old travel tip popped in my head at exactly the right time and I'm glad it did.
The old advice goes something like this: When you check into a new hotel or guesthouse, pop its business card or a box of branded matches in your pocket. (This is how you know it is old advice - what inns have personalized matchbooks these days?) When you inevitably get lost on the winding streets of Barcelona or in the medina of Rabat, you don’t have to rely on your sense of direction or ability to describe a featureless property in a language that isn’t your own. You can just show said address to a taxi driver and you’ll be on your way.
This advice is repeated in Marybeth Bond's book, Gutsy Women (which is still a superb resource for female travellers, even if a few passages are now a bit out of date). In her entry, she also emphasizes that having a hotel business card is invaluable in countries like Thailand or China where you are unlikely to read the language and your English-language notes aren't going to help the local residents when you ask for assistance.
Well, I FINALLY used this advice, albeit in a modern, updated way. Here's the story.
If you love a good old-fashioned murder mystery, the Thursday Murder (Book) Club is the free online book club for you! Everyone is welcome.
Welcome to the Thursday Murder (Book) Club!
For years I've been talking about how much I love to read and I'm excited to take my love of books to the next level - and I'm inviting you to all come along. I’m launching a free monthly online book club devoted to British-style murder mysteries.
Now, there’ll be a bit of flexibility here. Not all the mysteries will involve murder (I mean, there’s gotta be a few art heists here and there), nor will they all necessarily be set in Great Britain. But they’ll all be faithful to the genre of the British “cozy” - - a complex mystery, a compelling read, plenty of rich details about everyday life (oh, you better believe I’ll be suggesting complimentary teas and biscuits for each book) and not a whole lot of implicit gore and scariness.
I’m inspired by a couple of things. First is Richard Osman’s book, The Thursday Murder Club. Yep, I stole his title for our bookclub name and I figured if gangs of fictional friends can get together to solve mysteries, my gang of online friends can get together to discus them!
I was also inspired by my visit to Winnipeg’s legendary mystery bookstore, Whodunit. They have an in-person mystery book club, which reminded me just how popular this genre is.
Read on for more details!
When you visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, winter blues melt away.
There's magic in the air in Key West.
In the United State's southernmost city, you'll find a tropical paradise at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Inside this tropical greenhouse beautiful little birds, two sassy flamingos, gorgeous jungle plants, and butterflies - hundreds and hundreds of them, representing about 50 to 60 species from around the world - are just waiting to say hello. Once you step inside, I feel confident that you'll agree with my assessment. It's pure magic.
Where NOT To Find Squirrels In Paris
How hard could it be to find a tree-loving rodent in a city filled with parks?
The gardens of Paris' Rodin Museum are a fine setting for many a good thing. You can enjoy a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city. Great works of art are resplendent in a natural setting. Rodin's masterpiece, The Thinker, awaits your admiring gaze. What you can't do, however, is see a squirrel.
I wish I could tell you that "squirrel" is code for a kind of art or maybe even a pastry, but no. I'm talking about your everyday prosaic squirrel. Red, grey, black, flying, I was open to them all but in Paris, they eluded me.
I don't normally look for vermin when I travel and, if I did, I don't know if squirrels would top my agenda. As a dog owner, squirrels have long been on Oliver's list of enemies (along with the mop, highway rumble strips, and the doorbell). As such, while I have no personal animosity with squirrels, familial loyalty dictates that I hate them. But my hand was forced when I shared the story of seeing sheep grazing on public lands not far from my Paris apartment.
My tale of discovering the Eco-Mouton came in the middle of an online networking event with colleagues. My reference to actual animals somehow had its wagon hitched to a separate reference about animal-like energy (aka "feeling squirrel-y") and a comment was made that I should be on the lookout for squirrels as well as sheep. Challenge accepted! I'd find an adorable squirrel, take a quick snapshot as it delicately nibbled away on a gourmet nut like the true discerning Parisian it was, and gain the accolades of my friends. There was just one problem....
There are no squirrels in Paris.
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