I hear spring break is just around the corner — is this true? Are tens of thousands of teens and young adults younger than I getting ready to jet off to fabulous locations across the globe without me? Sigh. The good news, for those of us experiencing some serious spring break FOMO, is that there are plenty of new travel memoirs you can check out — because I don’t know about you, but for me, the next best thing to traveling myself is diving headfirst into someone else’s adventure. And that way, you won’t even have to suffer through the ritual TSA stink eye. (It’s sounding better and better already, amirite?)
While traveling is definitely always at the top of my “what to do next” list, I’m also an avid armchair traveler — you know, one of those folks who is just as happy to immerse myself in someone else’s experience as I am to garner that same experience on my own. My bookshelves are filled with great travel memoirs, and no matter how high my TBR pile might be stacked, there’s always (always) room for more. Sound familiar? Then you should definitely check out these 11 new(ish) travel memoirs to read in 2017.
1‘Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World’ by Nell Stevens
At 27-years-old, Nell Stevens was determined to finish (make that, start) her novel. That determination led her to the far flung Bleaker Island, a freezing, windy, penguin-filled pile of rock in the Falkland Islands. Distraction- (and internet-) free, Stevens is sure Bleaker Island will be the perfect place to buckle down and write. It’s also the perfect place to get really, really familiar with oneself — which is exactly what Stevens discovers, as her novel and the book that would be come this memoir, Bleaker House, begin to meld into one whimsical, good-humored, yearning-filled, thought-provoking read.
2‘Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto’ by Leslie Buck
Coming out in early May, Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto tells the story of California landscaper Leslie Buck who, at 35-years-old, decided to put her life on hold and take an apprenticeship at one of the most reputable landscaping companies in Japan — a traditional, male-dominated environment where Buck’s immediate superior was a 16-year-old boy. If you love losing yourself in natural settings, this memoir is definitely for you — and even if you don’t, the life lessons Buck learns away from her pruning shears will appeal to any reader.
3‘South and West: From a Notebook’ by Joan Didion
Unlike some travel writers, readers flock to Joan Didion to see not specifically what she sees, but how Didion herself sees it, and this latest title from the unparalleled writer, South and West: From a Notebook, is no different. Pulled directly from the notebooks Didion kept during a road trip through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, which she took with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in 1970, South and West explores life in small town American — the quaint and bizarre, as well as the tensions of race, class, and family history.
4‘Wild by Nature: One Woman, One Trek, One Thousand Nights’ by Sarah Marquis
Published last year, Sarah Marquis’s Wild by Nature: One Woman, One Trek, One Thousand Nights takes readers across the Gobi Desert, from Siberia to Thailand, then all the way to Australia, chronicling Marquis’s 10,000-mile solo-hike. Deemed National Geographic's Explorer of 2014, Marquis braved weather, illness, and other life-threatening trials — from the mafia, to drug dealers, to thieves, and more — in order to complete her incredibly dangerous and incredibly empowering journey. You definitely don't want to skip this one.
5‘Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London’ by Lauren Elkin
True world travelers know the beauty of a good walk; of actually experiencing a city up close, literally one step at a time. This is the idea celebrated in Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse (literally a woman idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities) — a memoir and cultural exploration of New York, Paris, Venice, Tokyo, and London, as experienced by women who lived, loved, and walked through them every day. You’ll never underestimate the power of a walk again.
6‘Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For’ by Rebecca Schuman
As anyone who’s seen Avenue Q knows, schadenfreude is the (German) word for deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune — and memoirist and Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman takes you on a journey of all-things-schadenfreude (and German) in her memoir Schadenfreude: A Love Story. Over 20 beautiful, sad, and hilarious coming-of-age years, Schuman falls head-over-heels in love with Germany, it’s language, it’s culture, and it’s people — even if they don’t always love her back in equal measure.
7‘At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe’ by Tsh Oxenreider
The perfect travel memoir for anyone with a bucket list miles long, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe follows Tsh Oxenreider, her husband, and their three children (all under the age of ten) as they take nine months out of their daily lives to fulfill a bucket list of their own — traveling around the world together, seeing all the places the Oxenreiders always wanted to explore. Available in April, this memoir takes readers to locations across China, Thailand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, France, Croatia, and more, as Oxenreider invites you into a way of life and learning that can only happen when one opens themselves to all the diverse, beautiful messiness the world has to offer.
8‘No Friends but the Mountains: Dispatches from the World's Violent Highlands’ by Judith Matloff
For war correspondent Judith Matloff, travel is political. Blending investigative reporting with travel writing No Friends but the Mountains: Dispatches from the World's Violent Highlands seeks to answer the question of why so many of the world’s most violent and unceasing conflicts take place in some of the highest regions — Albania, Chechnya, Nepal, Colombia — and how, despite the remote geography in which many of the world’s wars take place, those of us living thousands of miles outside these regions are still profoundly affected by the conflicts that take place there.
9‘Juliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak’ by Glenn Dixon
Be warned: after reading Glenn Dixon’s travel memoir, Juliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak, you’re in for a serious case of FOMO. Setting off into the world with an idea that all romantically-inclined travelers (and readers) will wish they had thought of first, Dixon travels to Verona, Italy (in the wake of some heartbreak of his own) where he volunteers to answer the thousands of heartfelt letters that arrive every year addressed to Shakespeare’s Juliet, sent to her hometown. In the process, he finds himself diving into the story of Romeo and Juliet as well, exploring the mysteries of the heart, that humans have encountered since the beginning of time.
10‘The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs’ by Elaine Sciolino
Sometimes the best travel doesn’t involve packing a bag and jetting off across the world, in search of global wonders, adventure sports, and the most extreme cuisine. Sometimes all a really great journey requires is stepping outside the front door, and really seeing the spaces around you for the first time. In The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs, Elaine Sciolino gives readers the up-close-and-personal view of her favorite street in all of Paris — rue des Martyrs — a diverse and vibrant street that seems relatively untouched by time, still home to a 100-year-old bookstore, an eighteenth-century mercury barometers repair-woman, Tunisian greengrocer, local cheesemongers, and more.
11‘Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail’ by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Another travel memoir that celebrates the simple beauty of walking through the world, Melanie Radzicki McManus’s Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail (available in April) chronicles the 36 days that McManus hiked 1,100 miles around Wisconsin, earning her membership into a group of Ice Age Trail thru-hikers known as the “Thousand-Milers”. And for anyone thinking the landscape of Wisconsin doesn’t necessarily shout adventure, excitement, and plenty of opportunities for cultural exploration — think again. Wisconsin’s wildlife, forests, prairies, wetlands, farms, geologic wonders, small towns, and neighborhood bars will keep you engaged in McManus’s journey from beginning to end.