The last 12 months were a relatively relaxed time in terms of travel, with a lot of neighbourhoods revisited in Berlin, and a couple of travel dreams made true in Germany - visiting Stuttgart and Baden Baden, among others - and a part of France where I am always happy to be back - Alsace. It involved a lot of slow travel, trips with friends and journeys off the beaten path, aiming at finding interesting histories and cultural charm where do you expect less. While on the road or at home, building up my brand and business, one of my main challenges was how to create meaningful travel stories beyond the to-do touristic trail - which are not necessarily despicable, but especially when your bucket list includes many not so famous destinations, a different focus is needed, at least from the writing point of view.
My inspiration for a quality change in planning and writing my next posts was offered by a couple of books that I discovered in the last months, and I am happy to recommend to my readers as well:
Shortly after meeting via an online dating site, Clara and Jeff embarked on a travel and existential adventure whose main ingredient was to not carry on any luggage. Minimalist travel gives you a certain freedom - of movement at least - but it also has some physical limitations. For Clara, who is telling the story of No Baggage. A minimalist tale of love and wandering, this existential experiment involves also a journey through her hidden self and her own fears and liabilities. And first and foremost, it creates a completely different connection with people encountered on the road and their stories.
Super Sushi Ramen Express by Michael Booth is a lesson into learning a country through its taste tales. Written with the passion for detail of the journalist and the curiosity of the foodie, it opens Japan to the world in a way which goes beyond the usual stereotypes and excitements in the front of the first time sushi plate.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and for the Romanian-born Mihaela Noroc, it is a matter of using the gift of sight to see beyond the daily assigned social roles and masks. In The Atlas of Beauty she is searching for the untold stories beyond 500 women encountered all over the world.
I never tried couchsurfing, but during my childhood travels we used to overnight often by families which creates different kind of bonds and relationships with the places we were exploring, including by being part - although for a limited amount of time - from the life of complete strangers opening their house, kitchen and hearts to us. Stephan Orth did something a bit adventurous as he couchsurfed in Iran, a country with people with good hearts, but unfortunately ruled by closed minded religious oligarchs. The adventures of Couchsurfing in Iran - that I've read in the original German language, with an English version available since the beginning of 2018 - gives a different view into the everyday life of the Iranians, especially young people which hopefully will get old in a completely different kind of country, which they fully deserve.
When Kim embarked on a journey around the world with her husband, she was given by a close friend a yellow envelope with money to be given to those projects and individuals that are able to make a change in their communities. The Yellow Envelope upgrades travel to a different level: while visiting more or less known places they are searching to connect with people creating value in their home places.
After an adventure in love sailing around the world, Torre is getting out of love, while reconsidering travel as a non-stop, always empowering activity. There is also life without travel, enjoying the comfort of home and of the journey around your own room. It is a matter of assuming a very personal choice and of finding yourself, the way you are not the way blogs and media outlets are trying to present the perfect life. In fact, only your choices are perfect in their weaknesses, including when it comes to travel or staying at home.
Edmund White writes densely, passionately and with a French literary accent rarely encountered in the English-speaking literature. As an expat in France, he is experiencing a hot idyll with the upper layers of cultural gossip, with the lavish parties, group solidarities and hot one-night adventures. There are sketches of adventures of any kind which need time to maturate and be shared generously, because it is oh, so Paris....
I instantly fell in love with Wales from the first moment of my visit and longing every day for coming back again one day, to see more and discover its secrets and daily life. Neil Ansell experienced five years in the Welsh Hills, living in the wilderness and building a parallel world far away from the 'civilized' communities. It is an experience of returning to nature and recreating a world without the everyday life commodities and at least for five years, it sounds like a doable experiment, as long as you are in the middle of the wild Welsh landscape.