Here’s the thing. While Paige and her family are galavanting around the world (they’re in
Asia now), we are sitting in Alexandria, VA. It is 35 degrees out. But am I jealous? No! See, being a travel blogger who is not traveling is allowing me the freedom to stretch my writing muscles, which is more than I can say for the rest of my muscles.*

But let us try to stay on topic. This is a travel blog, after all. And while I haven’t been traveling per se this winter, the kids, John, and I are finding inspiration in a number of books. Here are three current favorites in our house:

For grown-ups

Heads in Beds, by Jacob Tomsky (2012): This memoir gives us an inside look at the hotel business through the eyes and pen of a 10-year veteran of the high-end hotel industry. It’s the hotel version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

My husband and I both read it and the main lesson he got out of it is you pretty much need to tip everybody you come across in a hotel, especially the desk clerk who checks you in. This is the person who will see to it that you get the best room available—and yes, some rooms are way better than others and don’t let them tell you otherwise. So John intends to start the tipping frenzy on our next hotel trip which should be Istanbul in February. Looking forward to that awkward moment.

Besides the sometimes seedy going-ons behind the scenes at luxury hotels, I learned—and this may shock you—that porters and doormen don’t actually think my kids are cute, funny, or clever. They just say that to get, yep, tips. Are you as shocked as I am?

For readers and young adults

Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, by Jordan Jacobs (2012):  My ten-year-old Jacques and I went to hear this writer read and speak at our local independent children’s bookstore, Hooray for Books. Jacobs is a working archeologist and this is his first young adult novel.

It is about 13-year-old Samantha, who, like our own Jacques, is fascinated by archaeology and gets the chance to accompany her uncle to the remote Peruvian ruins of Chavin for the summer. Her parents only let her go on one condition, that her annoying older brother go along to keep an eye on her. At the book talk, we learned of the writer’s own experience in Chavin, which is only reachable by a hair-raising bus ride. Apparently, if you look outside, you’ll see skeletons of buses that didn’t quite make it.

Samantha meets a cast of characters at the site, including other archaeologists and local kids, and they’re not all what they seem. As lost artifacts starts to inexplicably disappear, things take a turn for the shady. Jacques and I got engrossed in the heroine’s adventure and were inspired to go explore some ruins of our own—hopefully in Ecuador this summer!

For younger kids

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton (2006): My youngest Jeremy (age 5) and I discovered our latest favorite picture book a few weeks ago and our opinions were confirmed when I read it to his entranced kindergarten class last week. It’s the story of Emily Brown’s beloved toy rabbit, Stanley, who take daily adventures to the moon, the Amazon, and the Sahara. The queen, who is desperate to have Stanley for herself, sends her forces after them.

It’s a gem of a book for any kid who has a special stuffed animal of their own and who imagines traveling the world with them.

So although we haven’t physically gone too far, we’ve sat in front of the fireplace with hot mugs of coffee or hot chocolate, and let these books and countless others take us from the bowels of big hotels to the Incan ruins of Peru, some of us clutching our favorite stuffed animals. Not a bad way to spend a winter!

*Gym membership is resolution #3. Haven’t gotten there yet.