Books for People Who Love to Travel

Books for People Who Love to Travel

We are fond of reading. We are fond of traveling. We are fond of opening a book at the beginning of a long flight and having nothing to distract us from said book until we land. Here are some books we’ve been eyeing lately. We think they’d be great books for people who love to travel.

Travel Books for Foodies, or Food Books for Travelers

The Food and Wine of France by Edward Behr is a search for and an ode to traditional French foodways.

Salt and Silver: Travel, Surf, Cook by Riffelmacher & Kosikowski. Beautiful photos draw the reader into a dreamy seaside world of comfortable meals in the golden light and long shadows of a beach sunset. The recipes look like they’d be fun to make, but I might get distracted trying to book tickets to a seasonally-appropriate beach.

Forks by Allan Karl

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden

The History of the World in 500 Walks by Sarah Baxter

Travel Memoirs

All Over the Map

This book came out the same year we started this website, and we were a little miffed that someone else had come up with the same brilliant name, so we didn’t read it until recently, when Paul from Vanamos found it at the bookstore and thought it would be a funny gift. I really loved this poignant reflection by travel writer Laura Fraser, who also wrote An Italian Affair about her post-divorce romance with a French man in Italy. Fraser reflects on her years of travel writing and whether her pursuit of adventure has been worth the cost to her personal life. It’s sort of Eat Pray Love-ish, but maybe a little more relatable.

Mother Tongue by Christine Gilbert. Speaking of Eat, Pray, Love… Christine Gilbert tells another travel tale in Mother Tongue, where she describes her family’s efforts at language learning around the world.

The Wonder Trail by Steve Hely. TV writer Steve Hely tells tales that seem too outrageous to be true of a trip from LA to the tip of Chile.

Going Local: Experiences and Encounters on the Road by Nicholas Kontis shares his own travel stories but invites the reader to join the fun, sharing strategies for getting authentic local experiences in even the most touristed destinations. Just how do you get yourself invited to dine with a local when you’re in town for only a short time? Kontis offers information about resources frequent travelers use to share experiences, meals, and homes with strangers who become friends.

Travel Deeper: A Globetrotter’s Guide to Starting a Business Abroad by Ryan Spiegel, an American who moved to Nicaragua and opened a hostel there.

How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been by Pierre Bayard

Global Novels

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. A cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. We had to end with a Paris novel, of course. Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.


The links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy something via one of these links I will receive a small percentage of the sale. Thanks for your support!

Summer Reading for Family Travelers

Summer Reading for Family Travelers

When I was a kid I loved getting my hands on the freshly-mimeographed (yes, I’m old) summer reading list full of books recommended by my teachers that I could find at my local public library, where I would then sign up for the summer reading challenge with the ultimate goal of writing my name on a colorful cutout of a leaf or a book or a rollerskate or whatever the theme was that year for each book I read.

Nowadays it’s not so different, really. I still love to pore over recommended reading lists and pick up a stack of books or add them to my kindle before setting off for pool or beach.

So here’s my list of recommended reading for the summer, especially for those with a bit of wanderlust.

I’ve linked most of the titles to Amazon – if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber you can get these books delivered to you in two days for free. If not, well, why not try it free for 30 days?

For the younger set:

The best thing we can do for peace in the future is to show our kids the great diversity that is our world.

How Penguin Says Please and How Tiger Says Thank You are part of the Little Traveler series by Abigail Simoun, and they are, yes, as cute as they look.

Choose your own adventure

What kid doesn’t love the power of the choose your adventure books? A six-year-old may not have much sway over where the family goes on vacation, but she can choose which path her protagonist takes through these mysteries. Tons of fun and they’ll learn a little something, too. You can choose (ha!) The Abominable Snowman/Journey Under the Sea/Space and Beyond/The Lost Jewels of Nabooti, Mystery of the Maya/House of Danger/Race Forever/Escape, Lost on the Amazon/Prisoner of the Ant People/Trouble on Planet Earth/War with the Evil Power Master

For Young Adults with a Global Focus

Does my head look big in this? By Randa Abdel-Fattah

Facing the Lion: Growing Up Masai on the African Savanna, by Joseph Ntkuton for National Geographic.

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

The Storyteller by Evan Turk – a beautifully illustrated picture book set in modern Morocco that follows a boy’s search for water in a drought and his discovery of the healing power of words.

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
A heart-wrenching tale about an Afghan girl facing changes in her country and changes in her life.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

For the adventurer-in-training:

The Wander Society by Keri Smith

Much like her other best-selling book, Wreck this Journal, Keri Smith offers a place for people to explore their creativity in The Wander Society. Smith offers a history of The Wander Society, of which Walt Whitman was a member, and provides guidelines and inspiration for those who like to wander.


The links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy something via one of these links I will receive a small percentage of the sale. Thanks for your support!

My Travel Philosophy (or Fun-Hater Keeps Awesome Dress)

My Travel Philosophy (or Fun-Hater Keeps Awesome Dress)


I’ve been called a fun hater. By my kids. By my mom. And sometimes by people I barely know. I like to go to sleep at a reasonable hour (I know, that’s a fun-hating expression right there), always stop at two drinks, feel such tremendous guilt when I make a purchase for myself that nine times out of ten I return it, and I tend to prefer reading to just about any activity, other than travel. So after publishing our new e-book, Brussels with Kids, I celebrated in true fashion: I had lunch out with a friend (with a glass of wine!), I bought a fabulous dress on sale at Anthropologie to wear to the TBEX Expedia party (still has the tags on it in case I want to return it), and re-read one of my favorite books: The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler.

The reason I’d been savoring re-reading The Accidental Tourist and saving it for the post-publication hootenanny is that the main character is a guidebook writer. Like me now! This writer specializes in writing guidebooks for businessmen traveling to unknown cities. As he hates to travel himself, he combs each destination for food, lodging, and activities that defy a sense of place and comfort the traveler into feeling like he hasn’t even left his home town.

When you’re traveling with kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to recreate your home, the kids’ routines, and their every activity. We bring our own food, for fear that the children are going to refuse to eat the local fare, although to my knowledge, no vacationing child has ever starved to death. We stick to one hotel chain because we know exactly where each piece of furniture will be, what the toiletries will smell like, and what kind of on-demand viewing options will be available.

The other side of the coin—kids, what kids?—also has some drawbacks. While rappelling down a canyon may be your idea of an awesome time, it may not suit the physical abilities of your three-year-old. And watching daddy do it loses its appeal after about a minute. Same with that four-hour modernist architecture walking tour you might have dreamed of. And why take a train when we can hike there, it’s only 142 miles!

It’s the balance between the familiar and the completely new, between comfort and stepping out of our element, that makes family travel planning a challenge. It’s why All Over the Map isn’t strictly luxury. It isn’t strictly off-the-grid hiking adventures. It isn’t strictly chain hotels. And it isn’t strictly street food. Yes, we cover all of those, but in order to make our families happy, we need to mix it up! Doesn’t that sound like fun? Wait, maybe I do love fun. I might just keep that dress after all.

A new e-book, and a new website, about family travel to Belgium

A new e-book, and a new website, about family travel to Belgium

– Chocolate. Comic books. Underground palaces. Cobblestone streets. All in a modern city that’s right in the heart of Europe. Brussels is simply a can’t-miss family destination. All Over the Map launches Brussels with Kids, a new e-book guide to Belgium especially for families. Véronique Autphenne and Paige Conner Totaro have written an information-packed, user-friendly guide to family-friendly locales in Brussels, including places to run around and get a meal or a treat, plus detailed side trips to Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.  The book includes sections kids will enjoy, including a comic book introduction to Belgium by renowned illustrator Sharon Emerson, short historical interludes and colorful local legends.

With multiple ways to search from indexes, colorful photos, and “best bets” lists for different age groups, interests, and even day of the week, Brussels with Kids lets parents discover more than 200 points of interest, restaurants, playgrounds and day trips the whole family can enjoy. The book is an invaluable resource not only for families traveling to Belgium, but also for new and seasoned expats.

All Over the Map has also recently launched a new website about family travel to Belgium to complement the information in the guidebook,

A native Belgian, Véronique Autphenne was born in Antwerp and spent most of her childhood in a small town outside Brussels, just down the road from the magical site of Villers-la-Ville. She now lives in Alexandria, VA and loves to travel to Belgium with her husband and three boys. Paige Conner Totaro has traveled the world with her family for the past 9 months, and can say without a doubt that Belgium is one of the best destinations for families.

“Belgium is such an easy sell for families,” says Totaro. “With more castles per square mile than any other European country, and waffles, chocolate and fries among the notable and pervasive foods, what kid wouldn’t love it here?”

Brussels with Kids is available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

cover photo from e-book, Brussels with Kids

We would like to thank our illustrator Sharon Emerson, the tourism offices of VisitBrussels and VisitFlanders, and Bénédicte van Moortel and Eric Margry for helping with the Dutch translations.

What I learned from National Geographic’s travelers of the year

What I learned from National Geographic’s travelers of the year

nat geo all

Last night, Jacques and I went to the National Geographic Society to hear a presentation by 2012 Travelers of the Year and hopefully gain some wisdom we could apply on our own travels.

Although ten travelers or traveling teams were honored this past year, only four of them appeared on the National Geographic stage (which, by the way, is awesome and always humming with world beats, photos, and tales of world exploration).  Here’s a bit about them and what we learned .

1-      Paula Busey and Samwel Melami– (Only Paula was on stage, as Samwel lives in Tanzania and couldn’t make it). Paula is a school librarian in a wealthy community in Colorado. Samwel  is a Maasai tour guide in Tanzania. They met when he was her guide on a Tanzanian safari with her family a few years ago. They formed a deep friendship and she raised funds to have him visit her community and students. Samwell is now starting a Maasai owned and operated safari operation.

Lesson: Paula discussed her male students’ fascination with Samwel’s description of Maasai rites of passage and deep connection with each other and with nature, both things, she said, that are missing in American boys’ lives. As a mother of boys, my ears perked up. I realized that our rites of passage are mostly marked by personal, and not communal achievement– first words, first step, then sports and academics. It does sometimes feel like there’s a deeper connection that we’re missing. Connecting to the larger world through travel is one way I’m hoping to fill that gap.

2-      Heather, Ish, Cameron and Ethan Davis– This family of four traveled the world for a year, visiting 29 countries in 12 months. You can follow their trip journey on their website. While this seems like an impossible dream for most of us, it seems to boil down to three things: resources, organization, and willing family members. It also takes a lot of guts and the will to ignore the naysayers (and there were a lot of those, according to Heather). Was it worth it? They’re already planning their next year-long trip in five years.

Lesson: Some of their most surprising and beautiful moments came when they seemed to be doing exactly what they’d been advised not to do. Columbia, for example, was a place they’d been advised against and it turned out to be a great experience. Obviously, safety is paramount, but if travel doesn’t change our perceptions and misconceptions about a place, well, then, really, what’s the point? Another lesson: after a year on the road, the family picky eater is no longer a picky eater.

3-      Booker Mitchell– This 15-year-old New Yorker has traveled to Spain, Nicaragua, and Brazil with his skateboard and his documentary filmmaker mom. Together, they have a web show that features destinations through the eyes of, well, a 15-year-old skateboarder. His inspiring motto “Live Life Outside” urges other teens to get off their gadgets and go exploring. We love that!

Lesson: Booker emphasized that you don’t need to get on a plane to be a traveler. It’s all about how you view the world. You can learn a lot, even in your own neighborhood, if you just go out there and keep your eyes and mind open. Great message. Too bad there were only a handful of kids in the audience.

4-      Theron Humphrey- This guy was literally buzzing with excitement and creativity (and caffeine?). After a bad breakup and disillusionment with the corporate photography life, he set off to travel all 50 states, capturing a person’s story in audio and film each day. He raised $15,000 through Kickstarter and set off, posting his work on his website. And along the way he “fell in love with life.”

Lesson: Jacques and I were both inspired by Theron to make each encounter count while we travel or while at home and to set goals and stick to them. For me, the message was loud and clear: in travel and in life, follow through with your wackadoodle ideas! After all, that’s what got this inspiring group on the National Geographic stage.

One thing that 15-year-old  Booker said that made me smile (and there were many) was that he sets the family’s travel agenda by picking a place and his parents just make it happen. On our late drive home, as Jacques and I were discussing the evening, I reminded him that we were going to Peru in large part because he was so fascinated with the Incas after reading Samantha Sutton and because he and Julian really wanted to add South America to their travel map. He laid his tired head on the head rest, gave a tired content smile and said, “Oh, yes.”

National Geographic received about 600 nominations for Traveler of the Year. Nominate your favorite traveler. And yes, you can nominate yourself.

3 books to keep your family travel mojo

3 books to keep your family travel mojo


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.