Go Places: 7 Travel Books for Wanderlusts This Pandemic

15 September, 2020

Travel and writing make a good pair and if they are to produce babies, travel books would be one of them.

Come to think of it, the reason why we travel is somewhat the same reason why we read–to experience, to move, to be lost, to be found, to return to somewhere we longed to escape, to chase after an elusive thing only to find yourself in a new place, or eventually, understand the world.

Due to the on-going health crisis, traveling for leisure isn’t still recommended. So if the wanderlust in your veins is pushing you to get that passport and book your next flight, help yourself to a pile of the best travel books of all time. 

Reading books has a lot of benefits. It will not only bring you to actual places, it also enables you to go to the imagined universes of writers: Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Westeros, Oz, Narnia, and Macondo. Even better, books enable one to travel through time. Imagine, all this traveling without the need for a passport and money. 

May these travel books be part of your stay home and vacation reading list and inspire, satisfy, and help you in the wonderful adventure of finding yourself through the experiences of others.

1. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit 

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Often in our travels, we get lost. For American writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit, getting lost is a prerequisite for the transformation of the self and the acceptance of change.

She starts off her collection of nine short essays quoting one of her students: ‘How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is unknown to you?’. Her retellings of her and others’ experiences will bring you to places. They also introduce you to strangers and a variety of subjects as you journey through the ideas of dislocation, distance, and discovery. As humans, we inhabit the world, but what happens to us and how do we react when this world becomes unfamiliar?

This kind of non-fiction book about travel will inspire you to think that when things don't go the way you expect them to, it’s fine. Because mystery or not knowing what will happen next is a segment of life. 

Not everyone may be fond of traveling, but in reality, we are all travelers in the journey through life, and all the changes and unexpected twists and turns we encounter along the way makes this collection of essays relatable and challenging to readers.

2. Histories by Charlie Samuya Veric 

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Imagine yourself sitting on the powdery white beach of Boracay reading a collection of poetry whose persona speaks to you in a friendly tone about the fragments of life he’s lived. Isn’t that an ideal way to spend me-time activity

After all, the best books about travel can be written as poetry. Histories is a collection of poems written by Aklan-born Charlie Veric – a poet, critic, and academic who finished his Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University.

Veric, in his introduction creatively explains his poetics, and proves why he is ‘not your usual poet’ as he chose not to conform to the standards that literary workshops impose in the process of creating and producing poetry. 

Even readers with no literature background can understand the process of writing poetry through his work. And, more importantly, feast (even misread) on poetry dealing with local topics written articulately in the vernacular. 

With the clarity of his descriptions, places, people, and experiences, his poems make you feel as if there is a clear image of them in your mind. This book brings us to places familiar and new: places where we might have found and abandoned love, life, and experience. 

So ready your emotions and join the journey of the persona in time and space through  these poems that say, “I, too, am looking for a missing heart.”

3. Dear Distance by Luis Joaquin Katigbak 

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If you’re a certified wanderlust, for sure you also long for the experience of traveling itself and experiencing the adventure with your companions. Do you miss riding the bus or a car, being in the iconic spaces of Manila Hotel and Virra Mall, and listening to Eraserheads’ songs while traveling? If so, another good travel book to consume is Katigbak’s collection of short stories entitled Dear Distance

These stories are easy to read and hit right at the heart. Even people who are not fond of reading will surely be pleased to read this book. Sure, they’re short but after finishing a story, the bewilderment, the hope, the heartbreak – all these feelings linger.

Katigbak’s strength in storytelling is the characterization of his subjects and the feelings these relatable stories are able to evoke. It’s as if you are seeing these characters face-to-face. Due to his vividness in storytelling, for sure those who miss traveling with their significant others can embody the unnamed character in his story “Passengers” who says, “...I can think of you and me on a bus and it doesn’t hurt, it’s even pleasant, to remember you sitting next to me occasionally resting the side of your head on my shoulder.” 

4. Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

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For sure, ever since the lockdown has started, you have exhausted watching wanderlust films and rom-coms. Somehow along the way of watching these movies, did you imagine yourself sailing across the Pacific Ocean with the love of your life?

If your answer is yes, then Terra DeRoche’s memoir is one of the certified best travel books to read and would be recommendable for you. This is a fast-paced travel memoir that brings you to the remote islands along the Pacific Ocean on a sailboat. 

Even though this book is a love story, it is more than that. This memoir is a journey towards self-discovery and getting over one’s fears as one discovers the world around her. 

5. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel 

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One of the reasons why people are fond of watching videos of favorite local travel vloggers is to discover the food offered in the places they visit. For sure, you can’t wait to visit those places to taste the food. 

During the quarantine period, many have learned how to cook. In Esquivel’s magic realist novel, you learn about an unrequited love story set in Mexico. Moreover, you are also taught about their culture and how to create the delicious Mexican recipes made by the protagonist, Tita de la Garza as each chapter begins with a list of ingredients and preparation of a Mexican dish. Only thing is, you cannot use her emotions to magically flavor your cooking.

6. Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong 

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Bob Ong is the pseudonym of the Filipino contemporary writer. He is known for his humorous books that reflect the common Filipino life using conversational storytelling techniques. One of the most unforgettable works of Ong is Kapitan Sino. 

Kapitan Sino is set in a little town called Pelaez around the ‘80s or ‘90s. Rogelio Manglicmot, an ordinary electrician learns of his special ability to control electricity and he decides to be a hero called “Kapitan Sino.” It is a superhero adventure of love and loss, and mostly, laughter.

While this does not bring us far from the Philippines, it still enables us to travel back in time when being with friends and going on dates with people were normal because there’s no COVID-19 yet. 

It reminds us of the ordinary life we used to have before the pandemic. It also underscores the sacrifices the frontliners – who we consider heroes nowadays – make for everyone, and how they are being treated by the people they take care of. Despite the comedy this offers, the ending is sobering. It begs us to ask ourselves: How do we treat our heroes?

7. Where’s Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection

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For sure, there’ll be days when you just like to listen to your favorite travel podcasts instead of reading a book. If you’re not in the mood for the company of written words, then this picture travel book is your best buddy! It will keep your eyes occupied traveling to and fro just to find that one man in blue jeans, and red and white striped shirt and bonnet named Wally (or Waldo for the U.S. publishing market).

Go on colorful adventures and travel from one page to another in search of Wally. The good thing is, you can even “read” this book together with your family at home and make it a bonding experience.

Truly, all these book recommendations are for wanderlust readers of all ages and backgrounds. Although nothing beats the real act of traveling and going places, during this pandemic, the safest way to travel is by taking that book and reading it.