I've always been one to say "why not go?" - even when common sense may dictate otherwise. This year, as my travels have more and more frequently been between my house and the local hardware store because of all the home repairs I've got planned, I'm turning more and more to alternate forms of travel - and one of the best finds last year was a happenstance encounter with a book called simply The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009 - True Stories from around the World.
Now, there's one key word in that whole title that really captures me - "true."
In a letter from author Helene Hanff to her English pen pal Frank Doel, Helene said simply "I can never get interested in things that didn't happen to people who never lived." I am SO on that train - AMEN, Sister! Give me a true story, a documentary, scientists or the common person poking around - those are the stories that captivate me. And The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009 fills the bill.
Across thirty-five stories, you are swept from the shores of Easter Island in Catherine Watson's "Where the Roads Diverged," where Watson gives the sage advice that "[l]eaving home's a cinch. It's the staying, once you've found it, that takes courage," and then onto Mississippi in "On Down the Road" by Nancy Vala Michaels. Michaels said of her road trip "I wanted to forget my life back home, and I did, emptying my brain of the laundry, the bills, the troubles, the traffic."
In reading both those quotes, I immediately found kinship. And I hadn't yet gotten to page 13.
My favorite quote in the whole of the book, however, is owned by Ginny Horton in "Becoming Coco," where Horton starts off with "I have been Maria Von Trapp on many a mountainside. Isak Denisen eating on fine china in Kenya by day. Ernest Hemingway smoking cigars and drinking warm scotch around the campfire by night. I have yet to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, but have undergone distinct personality changes while traveling." I love that feeling, as crazy as it sounds.
The Best Women's Travel Writing 2009 is a lush joy to read, skillfully edited by Lucy McCauley. It takes you around the world in a way that makes solo traveling by book an absolute joy. Plus, when have you ever gone from Easter Island to the southern United States with the turn of a page? This book helps you do that, and it does so brilliantly. It is full of truth, dare, ambition, fear, accomplishment, and the intrepid traveler's soul that women are equipped with.
Until next time, safe travels.