Sometimes it is a painful feeling: the travel bug bites you, but you cannot leave right now. So what can you do to compensate for this feeling of wanting to wander and explore? For me, it is watching exciting travel documentaries (check Departures) or reading a book by people who traveled the world and bring a bit of that special feeling to my living room. Here are three of my favorite books from travelers for travelers:
Around the world in 50 years - Albert Podell
Albert Podell is one of those guys I would really like to take out on a beer - not only did he set the record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world, he also went to every single country on the planet.
Simply switching planes at an airport does not count. Albert's guideline says:
- The country has to be a recognized country when he goes there
- He must have a visa or enter legitimately
- He must get a passport stamp
- (A little flexible:) He should at least go to the capital, stay at least 24 hours, and - if possible - cross the country in one direction.
A big task, which takes Albert 50 years to fulfill. No matter where he travels, he sticks to local transport, be it shabby airlines or multi-day bumpy rides in old cars. During his journey he is chased by water buffalos, gets accused of being an Indian spy in Pakistan, and has to reschedule plans due to heavy civil wars.
Albert is a creative guy and develops a new economic indicator by rating the places he visits on his very own PPPR (Podell Potty Paper Rating) scale: 1 (soft white), 4 (newspaper), 7 (no public toilets at all). He also does not decline any local specialty and eats Mekong rat in Vietnam, a roadkill anteater in Panama, and monkey brain in Hong Kong.
Albert's stories are about persistence, courage, and adventurousness. They would be even better if he did not brag as much about the younger women who accompanied him on his numerous trips...
Tales of a female nomad - Rita Golden Gelman
Rita Golden Gelman is in her late 40s, married to a successful man, two children, a glamorous life in L.A. But she is really unhappy. When she and her husband decide to take a two-month break, Rita travels to Mexico, hoping that this adventure will rejuvenate her, fulfill the wish for an adventure, and ultimately save her marriage. But - obviously - things go differently.
Since 1986 Rita has no permanent address. She only possesses the things she can carry. What started as a trip to Mexico, made her change her entire life. Rita spends a month in a Zapotec village knowing nothing about the language or culture. At the beginning, the villagers are scared of her, they run away. But after some time, she gains their trust, is invited to cook with the women, plays her part in the village society. Hugs and tears when she leaves.
This is what you can call a clear turning point. Rita decides to go back to grad school, to study anthropology and get a better idea of the cultures, indigenous traditions, and customs that are out there. And she embarks on a 15-year journey - to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel, the Galapagos Islands, choosing a very interesting life wherever she goes - out in the rain forrest or somewhere in complete isolation with the goal of getting a better understanding of how other peoples live.
The central part of her experience are the eight years Rita spends in Bali. Tu Aji, an elderly prince, invites her to live with his family and takes her under his wings. The two of them develop a very intimate relationship and spend hours and hours in honest conversations. With Tu Aji's help, Rita gains access to his culture and discovers many aspects she likes much better than those of her own.
An exciting read from and about a woman with a very special passion for people!
Das große Los (German Only) - Meike Winnemuth
Meike Winnemuth is living the dream: She wins 500.000 Euro in Germany's biggest quiz show, decides to pack her bag, and to live in a different city every month - for a whole year. San Francisco, Havana, Addis Ababa are among her destinations. The idea: to live as authentically as possible, to meet people who can show her the soul of the city, to find out what it feels like to be constantly on the move. Meike travels rationally: A small bag with only the most essential things, if she buys something new, another item has to be left behind.
When arriving in Sydney, the first stop of her big adventure, Meike starts to grasp the dimension of her new freedom: She does not have to do anything, she can spend every day in exactly the way she wants to. So she starts doing things she never took the time for: learning to play ukulele, stitching, mastering a new language. Everytime she moves, she takes walks in concentrical circles around her new home. To get an idea of where she is and what kind of impact the new city will have on her. But after some weeks she also notices the need for routines: A cup of tea in the morning, wearing her own bathrobe, connecting with her friends at home from time to time.
Meike's writing is refreshingly honest. Traveling is not always fun and easy. Mumbai is simply is not the right place for her, she feels lonely, overwhelmed by the number of people and cars on the streets. Sometimes it is hard for her - a tall, blond woman - not to be annoyed by men whistling after her, people wanting to touch her... But the positive experiences prevail. She usually does not feel like a stranger for long, gets invited into people's houses, goes to visit friends of friends, meets other travelers and groups up with them for new adventures.
As it always feels when living to the fullest: the days go by fast, the year is over in a blink. Meike is skeptical about how it is going to be to go back, to Hamburg, to her apartment, to her friends and family. When she arrives, she quickly notices that she does not want to dive back into her old life: she has too much stuff, an apartment to big for herself, too little time to do the things she really wants to do. So she decides, from now on, to only do the things that really make her happy and figure out the rest along the way.
The biggest surprise and most encouraging part of the book: Meike would not even have needed the money she won in the quiz show. As a journalist it was easy for her to work from abroad. There are always ways to make a living. No money is no excuse.