March always makes me restless. As a student, it was close enough to summer vacation to make me itch but not close enough to count. As a normal person (read: non-student), there's something about gray skies and the smell of almost-spring that makes me want to pack up my car, turn on some Jodie Messina, and drive somewhere warm. Of course, as a (mostly) responsible adult I'm not likely to take to the road at a moment's notice, no matter how much I wold like to. So when the stir-crazy season starts, I pick up travel magazines and start Googling the safest places for a white woman to travel alone. I keep the Lonely Planet's website open in the background of my computer and compulsively refresh travel blogs. But most importantly, I read books about the far away places that I can't actually visit and the adventures I probably wouldn't actually enjoy. (No indoor plumbing? No thank you.) Here's what I'm reading this year:
Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard. Bria Sandoval isn't really the adventurous type. So when she abandons her geriatric tour group in Central America in favor of tagging along with two backpacking veterans she's just met, she really has no idea what she's getting herself into. Bria is my type of girl. She isn't one of those seasoned travelers who knows where to go and how to get the best deals from the locals. She's just a sheltered girl having her first big adventure, which is why I loved her. Bria is a girl like me and if she can get out and ride a chicken bus through Belize with a cute dreadlocked stranger, maybe I can, too. But probably not.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson is a pretty well respected travel writer. In this installment, he tackles the Appalachian Trail, something I've always kind of daydreamed about doing but will likely never attempt. Bryson tells about his experience with both candor and humor. In fact, I laughed out loud in public as he recounts shopping for the ridiculous amount of gear he'll need to attempt the trail or the state of his out-of-shape and unreliable travel companion. He also instilled in me a healthy fear of bears, ensuring that I will be staying happily in the Ursine-free midwest for another year.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite. Eve is another sheltered girl who finds herself in an extraordinary situation (are you notice a theme here?). In this case, she falls in love with a Peace Corps boy and moves around the world to be with him. What follows is the hilarious account of how one girl learned to live without sushi and soft drinks, all for the sake of love.
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord. This is such a French little book, it sort of reminds me of The Little Prince all growed up. Hector is a successful psychiatrist who is reasonably happy. His only problem is that he has no idea what actually makes people happy--what works with one patient is utterly useless for another. So Hector sets out on a quest across the globe to discover what makes people happy. He's a little naive but he's also so intelligent and sweet that I would follow Hector just about anywhere.
All reading is both about escape and education and travel reading takes both of those things to a whole new level. Not only are you slipping away into a book, you're slipping away to the other side of the world. So when that late-winter-early-spring-will-I-ever-see-the-sun-again wanderlust sets in, just remember that you need travel no farther than your own public library.