Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top 5 Travel Memoirs

[EDITOR'S NOTE: July is all about travel writing for the Black Diamond Writers Network in honor of our speaker, professional travel writer Anne Supsic, so expect to see all kinds of posts related to the genre on Word Mine this month. Today, get inspired with some travel memoirs.]

Who wouldn’t want to escape from the everyday grind and experience a new environment, at least for a short time? But as you’ll see below, these memoirists subscribe to the philosophy of “Go big or go home”—these once-in-a-lifetime adventures were motivated by a feeling of wanderlust, restlessness, or just a desire to experience a completely different way of life. For many of these writers, their trips proved to be life-changing.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. This classic memoir chronicles Hemingway's days as an expat living in Paris, where he hobnobbed with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Though published posthumously, the book offers a firsthand account of life in 1920's Paris and, as the cover says, "It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized."

Eat, Pray, Love: A Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. The ultimate record of one woman’s search for the meaning of life, love, and happiness has inspired millions of readers around the world to do the same (perhaps on a smaller scale). Okay, so taking a year off from life as you know it to travel to these exotic locales is probably not in your budget. You can always live vicariously through Ms. Gilbert, who ate her way across Italy, spent time in a yoga ashram in India (and would meet her spiritual mentor there), and jetted off to Indonesia for some time to make sense of it all.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman. What starts off as a fun excursion with, yes, a bit of a dangerous edge for two college friends in Communist China turns into more of an international thriller chock full of spies, espionage, and paranoia about the ever-present Big Brother watching over the friends—at least, that’s what one of the girls seemed to think. A gripping read about how one friend (Gilman) was left to cope with her traveling companion’s rapidly declining mental state alone in a foreign Third-World (at the time) country.

Without Reservations: Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach. Steinbach, like many of the other authors included here, took a trip around the world in order to find herself. She was bothered by the fact that she was letting other people define her, when in fact she still felt like she was trying to define herself. So she packed her bags and left for Europe on a voyage of discovery, to learn more about the things that simply interested her--Paris, Oxford, England, and Milan, Italy.

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner. Three twentysomethings with a rough idea of what they want their lives to look like. Trouble is, the path to get there is full of more questions than answers. Rather than follow a path that someone else has mapped out for them, the three friends take a year off from their jobs, relationships, and everyday lives and travel around the world hoping to find a sense of meaning and yes, some high adventures.

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