Travel memoir, where I have the honor to intimately experience a place, culture and space through the unique lens of another, is one of my favorite forms. Since it is not possible for me to be continuously on the road, travel memoirs allow my mind to travel freely while my legs are grounded.
When I approach the form, I look for pieces that shrink the world and provide inspiration for my dream journeys and voyages through sensory details.
Below are my recommendations for travel memoirs. All of the pieces are written by women. This was not intentional, it merely turned out this way. My suggestions are not meant to be book reviews, merely snapshots. For your convenience I've included links if you want to explore.
Five Inspiring Travel Memoirs Written By Women:
Kinky Gazpacho by: Lori L. Thorps
Tharps, determined and unyielding in her memoir, explores the boundaries (perceived and blatant) of race in America and in Spain as she details her experiences studying in Spain as a teenager. Humorous and at times heartbreaking, this coming of age piece is about exploring the limits of our comfort zones in order to see ourselves more clearly.
This straightforward and honest portrait of Marie Javin's solo travels around southern and eastern Africa is brilliant. Javins is refreshingly honest as she chronicles her perceptions of a continent few are familiar with. Javin's descriptions of the landscape of Southern Africa made me yearn for Mozambique. The humorous situations she finds herself in made me laugh out loud often.
Tales of a Female Nomad by: Rita Golden Gelman
I'm infinitely inspired by this personal journey of Rita Gelman, a who sold her belongings, rented a storage unit and set off to travel the world. With an acute interest in culture, Gelman dives right in to the very core of the communities she visits. This piece is a window into the art of humility and self-reinvention. Gelman's writing is wonderfully reflective and lyric.
Agua Viva by: Clarice Lispector
Lispectors moving and strange piece reads at times like a guided meditation, at others like a meandering narrative poem, and at others like a letter focusing on the importance of feeling, being, and experiencing life in the present moment. Stunningly descriptive and fluid, Lispector draws you into her world and experiences in a way that I've never been invited into the personal story of another. More of a journey into the self rather than a direct exploration of other places, Lispector is a lyric shaman.
The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned with My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses, and Babe: A Memoir by: Alice Walker
I love Alice Walker. My first introduction to her non-fiction, I found myself possessed by Walker's keen insight, humor, activism and passion for cultural travel, writing and all things chicken. This piece is a love story; love of self, love of and respect for the earth and our connection to it and love, quite literally for a group of chickens. All over the place, yes, but trust me, it makes sense and you won't want to put this book down.
Spring break is approaching. If you find yourself in the comfort of your home, pick up a good travel memoir, find a quiet place, and allow yourself to roam.
Do you have a favorite travel memoir?