FX Excursions

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Travel Inspiration

by Patricia Vanikiotis

Jan 29, 2022

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For millions along the Eastern seaboard, this seems to be the perfect weekend to stay indoors by the fire and read a good book.

books at fireside

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From the time I was a child, few things brought me more pleasure than curling up on a gray, wet day and losing myself in another time and place. Many of those reads inspired a desire in me to one day visit the settings of those books, helping fuel a lifelong bucket list that I continue to add to today.

book inspiration

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When I was still in grade school I remember reading Born Free by Joy Adamson, about a couple who raise and then set free a lion cub in Kenya. I decided then and there that I had to visit Africa one day and explore its plains and see its magnificent animals . . . that is still on my travel to-do list.

Another location yet to be visited is Prince Edward Island in Canada. I read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series to my daughter when she was young, and the descriptions of that idyllic island have stuck with me ever since. Another stunning landscape I’ve still only read about, the Himalayas and northern India, were introduced to me in the pages of M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions. It’s been decades since I read it, but the descriptions of those mountains are still with me.

Some books fired my imagination due more to the cultures they described than their actual settings. Both Shōgun by James Clavell and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden pulled back the curtain on some of the mystery and beauty of Japan, a country I have yet to explore. Many of James Michener’s books also explore not only his characters’ lives but delve deeply into the geology, history and cultures in which they are set. Hawaii is one such example, and I can say that when I have visited the islands, some of what I learned from that book gave me greater insight into the people and places I visited.

Except for Born Free, all of the books I’ve mentioned so far are novels, and I have to acknowledge that some of their allure came from the characters and plots as well, but in all of them I found the settings and culture were equally strong “characters” in and of themselves. The same can be said for The Thorn Birds, a sweeping, romantic novel set in Australia. Yes, I got all caught up in the lives of the two protagonists, but it set a hankering in me to explore that grand country, as well.

Nonfiction tomes have added to my wish list, as well. Bill Bryson adds a healthy dose of humor to many of his travel books, and he often explores more out-of-the-way spots with such delightful descriptions that they make you want to hop on a rattly old bus or milk-stop train to see them. Notes from a Small Island (England) and In a Sunburned Country (Australia) are just two such examples. Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence


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and Frances Mayer’s Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy both beautifully describe the landscapes and the lifestyle (and food!)


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of two regions I still want to explore.

Are there books from your reading list that have contributed to your travel bucket list? Have you had the chance to visit them? I’d love to hear your stories; they just might inspire a few additions to both of my lists!

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor


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