Some Favorite Travel Books

by Alex Schnee
( August 21st, 2014 )

Travel Books Reading

The only thing that can compete with the experience of traveling is reading about it! As an avid reader, one of my favorite pastimes is to curl up with a book—before I had the freedom to explore new places, reading was a way for me to visit foreign cultures and to try and understand the world better. Recently I’ve been really into the travel literature genre for obvious reasons. I thought I would share some of my favorite books for Generation Y wanderers—if you love traveling, you’ll love these titles.

Tracks: A Women’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson

When she was in her twenties, Robyn traversed the Australian outback with her dog and her troupe of camels. Davidson is a nuanced writer (the book is based off an article she wrote for National Geographic), and we get the portrait of an intrepid journey and the young woman brave enough to take it on. Not only is it an interesting look into traveling at a young age, but it also reminds us that any trip is possible.

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti

What attracted me to this book was the enticing promise that the book was about cheese (I simply can’t resist), but it’s much more than that. It’s a personal journey sifting through the lies and truths that come along with storytelling. The Telling Room is not only a travel essay, but it’s also a multi-layered history of Spain, a certain cheesemaker, and, of course, a piece of sublime cheese.

The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux might be one of the most popular travel writers today, and he combines years of experiences from his own travels and others’ to create a book filled with quotes and interesting tidbits about the act of traveling. You won’t get lost in a sweeping tale, but as he tries to define what “travel” is, he comes across some interesting insights and offers them as advice to fellow wanderers. It’s also a very portable book, so you can take it on your own adventures and leaf through the quotes and bits of wisdom provided.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

It would be a shame not to mention this classic for Generation Y travelers. On the Road has a certain cultural significance that very few other travel books can claim. Between Kerouac’s unique style and the hidden moral (or perhaps not so hidden) that freedom trumps all, it’s the perfect travel Bible for our generation. We’ve idealized it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any less of an impact than it did when it was first published sixty years ago.

What are some of your favorite travel books?

Image courtesy of unicellular.

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How Much of a Foreign Language Should You Know when Traveling?

by Alex Schnee
( August 19th, 2014 )

Language Travel Phrases

I used to be fairly good at speaking Italian. After my three months abroad when I was nineteen, I felt at least conversational—I could hold my own whenever I was chatting with a resident from Venice. It was great to have this skill as a traveler, because you learn so much more about whatever culture you have immersed yourself in by talking with locals; you get the true flavor of that place.

Unfortunately, my Italian’s kind of gone downhill (I plan to take lessons again when I return in October), but it made me think about how much of a language you need to know when you are traveling and immersing yourself in a new society. It’s not always possible to have an in-depth conversation with someone you meet at the hole-in-the-wall bar down the street from your hostel, but at least being able to say a polite hello can make a world of difference.

Specifically in Venice, greeting shop owners and waiters with a confident “ciao” and being about to order in Italian gained more respect than stumbling through the menu with mispronounced words. In a prickly town like Venice, you were much more likely to have good service or get accurate directions from the people there if you spoke a spattering of Italian.

Which isn’t to say that just because you don’t know the language that you shouldn’t take opportunities to visit places where you might be completely clueless. I loved going to Barcelona and not being able to decipher Catalan—the conglomeration of Spanish with French and Italian influences made it almost impossible to understand. Also, luckily, the Barcelonans are a lot more welcoming to tourists than Venetians.

With English so widely spoken in the world now, the chances of finding someone who can point you in the right direction when you are lost are that much higher—so you don’t need to feel as though you need to be fluent in order to get around. You might not have the deep, philosophical conversation over a glass of ouzo that you wanted, but at least you can find a place where they serve it.

I’ve made it a new travel goal to know a few essential sayings of whatever language is most prominent in the country I’m headed to. A simple greeting can transform you from a bumbling tourist to a competent traveler. I just won’t be surprised when the locals continue to speak to me in their native language instead of switching to English!

Image courtesy of Kat.

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Keeping in Touch with Friends through Technology

by Alex Schnee
( August 14th, 2014 )

Letters Contact Friends

I’ve recently been thinking about keeping in touch with friends when you are abroad or when they are off on their own adventures. One of my best friends is headed off to Japan in about a month, and as I head back to Europe in a few months, it can be hard to keep in contact with one another. The good thing? As Generation Y travelers, we have the skills to use technology to our full advantage—which makes it so much easier to talk to friends and family far away. Here are some tips I’ve found work for me:

Have a Facebook

Honestly, I am not a big fan of Facebook, but it does make chatting with people I care about a lot easier. It also helps keep me posted on what is going on with their lives. I can still feel like I am there, or I can at least get an idea of what has been important to them while I have been away. The chat feature has also been a lifesaver for me since I don’t have access to texting and I’m not able to call. I downloaded the app to my iPhone so when I have Wi-Fi I can do a quick check-up on the people who matter the most.

Applications!

That’s why you bought your fancy smartphone, right? With apps like Whatsapp and Viber, you can make phone calls to cell phones in the States for a cheap price (I think Viber is 5 cents a minute). You can also text for free anytime you have a Wi-Fi connection, so it’s almost like having cell phone service for a lot cheaper and you can use it pretty much anywhere now that most restaurants or coffee shops have a connection you can often join.

SIM Cards

Another benefit to your brand new phone: you can buy SIM cards which allow you to have cell service internationally—oftentimes for a cheaper price than what you pay with a cell phone service provider. You might have to pay a fee to unlock your phone and to be able to use a certain kind of SIM card that you want, but it’s often worth it if you want to have the ability to call. Another great thing about a SIM card is that you can buy ones with certain packages, so if you need to use Google Maps or another application that requires data you’re able to. They’re also pretty cheap—some international SIMs price-check at around 30 USD.

Do you use technology to stay in touch while you are away? Any apps you would recommend?

Image courtesy of liz west.

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