Meditations on traveling and wandering
May 23, 2016 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Looking for books that reflect about travel, being a traveler or tourist, and being a stranger in a new place. Also: cities, correspondence, being lost, thinking deeply about the nuances of culture and language.

I enjoyed these books and am looking for more of the same:

• North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
• A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
• Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
• The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
• Wild by Cheryl Strayed
• The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
• Journal of Solitude by May Sarton
• Daybook by Anne Truitt

(I already looked through this Ask but it doesn't exactly hit the mark. I don't want to armchair travel per se. I am looking for the kind of book you read while traveling and making discoveries of the world around you and perhaps yourself. Or the book you read after you got home from traveling and are still unpacking all your thoughts, while also wrestling with the fact that you're home again.)

Not Eat, Pray, Love. Please. And thanks.
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I'd strongly recommend W.G. Sebald.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 11:07 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you know Bruce Chatwin (The Songlines, In Patagonia)? I'd also recommend Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, which recounts his attempt to retrace the route he followed in The Great Railway Bazaar, 33 years earlier.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

John McPhee. His creative nonfiction prose style in general is fascinating. Focusing more on travel as a theme maybe Coming into the Country or Looking for a Ship or Uncommon Carriers.

Maybe The Places in Between, Rory Stewart's account of walking across Afghanistan in 2002.

Kind of joking on this one but... going on a journey and finding oneself changed is a main theme of The Hobbit.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2016

If you loved A Field Guide to Getting Lost, you must also read The Faraway Nearby. It is similar in concept but (I thought) even better.
posted by in a dark glassly at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might find some of Jamaica Kincaid's writing interesting.
posted by sea change at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2016

Patrick Leigh Fermor.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:46 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Robert McFarlane
J.B. Jackson
Richard Jefferies
Edward Thomas
Barry Lopez
Roger Deakin
Nan Shepherd
Laurie Lee
posted by gyusan at 11:52 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris.
By Edmund White
(It's a very slim volume that reads very quickly; the entire The Writer and the City series is worth perusing)

Seconding McPhee.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries and Steinbeck's Travels with Charley are two of my favorites.
posted by monologish at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing McPhee. I'd also suggest John R. Stilgoe's Outside Lies Magic, which really affected the way I look at and wander through (US) landscapes. The eye-opening bits are cultural and historical rather than spiritual, which I'd also say is true of McPhee.
posted by miles per flower at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2016

I read Nan Shepard's The Living Mountain last year. It's beautiful and makes you look at walking & places in a new light.
posted by kariebookish at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2016

I really liked Freya Stark's The Valleys of the Assassins, which chronicles her travels through the Middle East as a woman in the 1910s/1920s.
posted by stillmoving at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2016

seconding wg sebald and robert macfarlane (mac not mc, less literary, more grounded in the uk).
posted by andrewcooke at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got a lot out of You Shall Know Our Velocity.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2016

Bill Bryson?
posted by humboldt32 at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Basically anything by Italo Calvino but especially "Under the jaguar sun".
posted by bleep at 12:48 PM on May 23, 2016

Seconding both Chatwin and Laurie Lee.
posted by plep at 12:59 PM on May 23, 2016

You'll likely also find Tristan Gooley's books on natural navigation (sun, moon, stars, wind, water, animals, plants etc.) very interesting. Website. Walker's guide to outdoor clues and signs. How to connect with nature.
posted by plep at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2016

A bit untypical, but: Roland Barthes L'empire des signes.
posted by progosk at 1:58 PM on May 23, 2016

Nthing Chatwin, Fermor and Stark, you might also like Robert Macfarlane
posted by runincircles at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2016

I really liked Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris and Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Gelman.
posted by lunasol at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're going to dig Lucy Knisley! Her graphic novels French Milk and An Age of License : A Travelogue are right up your alley.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 2:30 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just finished From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth and found it to be immensely helpful in reconciling my own feelings about traveling and living in China.
posted by beijingbrown at 4:47 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Dead Ladies' Project by Jessa Crispin
posted by superior_donut at 5:43 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You may enjoy Vivian Swift's Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France. She illustrates them with her own watercolors. She has two other books that might not quite fall into your specifications: Gardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler's Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening, which focuses less on the travel and more on each featured garden (but the gardens are well dispersed) and When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put, which is basically the opposite.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:40 AM on May 24, 2016

Pico Iyer
Here's a blurb from Goodreads about him: As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of Tibet or the embargoed society of Cuba.

Iyer’s latest focus is on yet another overlooked aspect of travel: how can it help us regain our sense of stillness and focus in a world where our devices and digital networks increasing distract us?
posted by MovableBookLady at 10:17 AM on May 24, 2016

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