My daughter gave me Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Moon, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl as part of my Christmas last year. I love it. I love reading about books as much as I love reading books. Every now and then, I just open it up, and look at the various topics discussed and books suggested for each topic.
Last week, my topic was Lady Travelers. According to Pearl, the Victorian era was a “prime time for intrepid women travelers.” Two books Pearl recommends as overviews are Victorian Lady Travellers (Dorothy Middleton) that cover well-known travelers (but not to me) and lesser known travelers, and Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers (Jane Robinson) which includes writings from women during various time periods and “their great and mundane experiences far from home.” Pearl then goes on to list various women travelers such as Mary Kingley, Caroline Alexander, and Freya Stark. Emily Hahn, Ella Maillart, Rebecca West, and Martha Gellhorn are examples of twentieth-century women travelers.
Reading about these Victorian and twentieth-century travelers made me wonder about more recent memoirs of travel written by women. My current knowledge of this type of writing is slim, because while I love to travel, I have not read very much about other folks’ adventures. I keep telling myself I will read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, but I just haven’t picked it up yet although my daughter gives it a high recommendation. However, after looking through the offerings at Amazon and their varied memoirs in both traditional editions and kindle editions, I realize a lot of folks are writing about their travels, and some folks must be reading about them. I chose just a few to explore further and read their descriptions.
The books I chose were written by women and for lack of a better system, I chose books with titles I liked. In each case, the traveler learns about herself as much as she learns about the world in which she is moving from point A to point B. Some more current choices in the genre are:
- What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman
- Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
- If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It Isn’t Big Enough: A Solo Journey Around the World by Kristine K. Stevens
- Life is a Trip by Judith Fein, Have Mother, Will Travel, A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other and the World by Claire and Mia Fontaine
- How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker by Lauren Juliff.
So, now I have a major decision to make. Do I get lured into this genre? I realize reading travel memoirs will take me out of my comfort zone, and I like the coziness of curling up with those mysteries. However, I think I will take the plunge the next time I am at the library, and choose to go along with a woman traveler.
Note: The titles of the two Victorian anthologies spell the word “traveller” with two “l’s”. I assume it is a British spelling.