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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Book Review Heidi's Alp: One Family's Search for Storybook Europe

Heidi’s Alp: One Family’s Search for Storybook Europe
By Christina Hardyment. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987, 258 pp.
“The greatest travelers travel alone,” wrote John Julius Norwich, in A Taste for Travel. Maybe so. But some very fine travelers travel with families, and their books can be just as engaging.

In Heidi’s Alp, Christina Hardyment recounts the 7-week journey she took with her four daughters, ages 5 through 12, to explore the roots of European fairy tales. As they travel from their Oxford home to Holland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France, the author describes the adventures with the children while reflecting on the stories of Hans Brinker, The Little Mermaid, the Pied Piper, Pinocchio, William Tell, and Babar. Fairy tales these may be, but as Hardyment relates them to their authors and the cultures from which they emerged, they are fascinating for adults as well. Read More 
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Travel Quotation

Maps are not reality at all--they can be tyrants. I know people who are so immersed in road maps that they never see the countryside they pass through, and others, who, having traced a route, are held to it as though held by flanged wheels to rails.
―John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Yes, but I would alter this a bit: I think it's not that maps "are not reality at all," but that they aren't all of reality.
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National Travel and Tourism Week

For National Travel and Tourism Week, I suggest reading a travel classic. Many are reviewed on this blog. Among my favorites, along with the dates of their reviews:

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee (7/15)
Cooper's Creek, by Alan Moorehead (10/13)
Two Against the Ice, by Ejnar Mikkelsen (1/15)
A Visit to Don Otavio, by Sybille Bedford (4/14)
Three in Norway by Two of Them, by Lees and Clutterbuck (9/13).
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Travel Quotation

"There you are!" cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself. "There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!"
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
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Book Review: Where the Pavement Ends

Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman’s Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China & Vietnam
By Erika Warmbrunn, The Mountaineers Books, 2001, 249 pp.

Why travel by bicycle? “Because a bicycle is freedom; a bicycle is independence; a bicycle is self-sufficiency,” writes Erika Warmbrunn. “Because a bicycle lands you in places you didn’t know you wanted to go, and shows you things you didn’t know you wanted to see…”

And there is also the sheer exhilaration: “The flying abandon of a bicycle, legs pumping, body and wheels skimming above the land, cycling for the sake of cycling”—at least when the roads are good. Often, of course, they aren’t good: as Warmbrunn travels from Irkutsk to Saigon, she has to cope with roads that are torn up, or icy, or muddy. In one coal-mining village, she bicycles through such ash-laden air that she can hardly breathe. But she copes extraordinarily well.

Where the Pavement Ends describes an impressive journey. Traveling alone, with her bike—which she calls Greene—Warmbrunn covers 8000 kilometers in 8 months. Read More 

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Book Review: The Essential Lewis and Clark

The Essential Lewis and Clark
Landon Y. Jones, Editor. Ecco Press, 2000, 203 pp.

“Long before Huck lit out for the territory, Lewis and Clark…defined the territory,” writes Landon Y. Jones in the introduction to his selection from the explorers’ journals. “During their journey, and in their journals, Lewis and Clark created an epic,” he observes, “one whose effect on our collective imagination has made it, over time, the unofficial Odyssey of American history.”

The two Captains and their band, the Corps of Discovery, set out in 1804 with instructions from President Jefferson to find “the direct water communication from sea to sea formed by the bed of the Missouri and perhaps the Oregon.” Fortunately, Jefferson also instructed them to keep journals en route, which both men scrupulously did. Indeed, they wrote nearly a million words in these journals, which have been published in a 12-volume set. For those unwilling to tackle the whole of their account—or who would like to try a sample first—Landon has edited this abridged edition, aiming to capture the essence of their experience and their prose.

These journals bring to life this extraordinary journey, which covered 8000 miles, much of it through territory unknown to white Americans, and took 28 months—so much longer than they expected that many people had given them up for dead before they returned.  Read More 

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Book Review: The Roads to Sata

The Roads to Sata
By Alan Booth. Viking, 1986, 281 pp.

To travel on foot is a lure for many people, whether they are pilgrims following in the footsteps of those who preceded them, or adventurers setting out on their own paths. As Patrick Leigh Fermor observed in his classic, A Time of Gifts, "On foot, unlike other forms of travel, it is impossible to be out of touch.”

Alan Booth clearly felt the attraction of this kind of journey. An Englishman who had lived in Japan for 7 years, was married to a Japanese woman, and spoke fluent Japanese, he set out in the eighties, at the age of 30, to walk from the northernmost cape of the northernmost island of Japan, Cape Soya, to the southernmost cape of the southernmost island, Cape Sata—the entire length of Japan.

In The Roads to Sata, he gives us a kind of journal of this journey, which took 128 days and covered some 3,300 kilometers. He walked on back roads and, if necessary, on highways, he stayed in country inns, he consumed quantities of beer (“foot gasoline,” as he calls it), and he had encounters with, he estimates, some 1200 people: from businessmen to housewives, from priests to cyclists, and from farmers to sumo wrestlers—with whom he actually wrestled. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t win!)

Along the way, he meets an elderly man, who tells him: “A country is like a sheet of paper; it’s got two sides.  Read More 

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Travel Quotation

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware."
―Martin Buber
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Book Review: Sailing Alone Around the World

The Voyages of Joshua Slocum
Collected and Introduced by Walter Magnes Teller. Sheridan House, 1958, 1995, 401 pp.

“I was born in the breezes, and I had studied the sea as perhaps few men have studied it, neglecting all else,” wrote Joshua Slocum, the first man to circumnavigate the globe on his own. Sailing Alone Around the World is his engaging account of that extraordinary 3-year journey, which takes in the world but is dominated by two characters: Slocum and his 37-foot sloop, the Spray.

After introducing us to both of these characters in his opening chapter, which details his rebuilding of the antiquated sloop—revealing at once the absolute thoroughness of the man and the strength of the boat—Slocum begins his journey. The year was 1895, he was 51 years old, and at this point in his life, says the Slocum scholar Walter Magnes Teller, he was a “defeated” man. He was unable to acquire a new ship, he was unsuccessful as a writer, and he had lost his beloved first wife. “He owned almost nothing except the home-made Spray.

But no sense of defeat emerges from this exuberant book.  Read More 
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Antiquarian Maps as Travel Writing

Seamorse

Thinking more about the stories antiquarian maps tell. This map of Spitsbergen, 1625, is illustrated with scenes of whaling as well as bear and walrus hunting. The detail below shows one of the illustrations--a Seamorce, or, as we would say, a walrus.

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