Couchsurfing for the armchair traveller

I am an armchair traveller as opposed to an intrepid traveller, so it is always good to get a book that enables me to see the world without having to leave my living room, or my couch…

You may have heard of Couchsurfing.com? It is designed to enable cheap travel and a novel way to meet new people while staying on their couch, or if you are lucky a bed.

Cover of My Couch is Your CouchGabriele Galimberti, the author of My Couch is Your Couch, is an Italian photographer who travelled the world for two years staying only with people who belonged to couchsurfing.com. He has created a book with vignettes of the people he meets, the places they live, a little bit about their lives and a touching tribute to people who are willing to open up their homes and their lives to strangers.

Favourites would have to be the surfer in Alaska – yes, there are waves even if it is minus 15 degrees; the family in Malaysia that share their home with a variety of reptiles; and a couple in Kiev who are naturalists and have tree trunks for a bench and rocks for chairs – thankfully there was a normal old bed for the author. Many of the people featured would be deemed eccentric, some are political, and there are hints of tough lives but enormous optimism.

This is a book to dip into, to pore over the photos and perhaps to even consider becoming part of this community.  The only negative being there is not an entry for New Zealand!

Chick Lit and the armchair traveller

Chick Lit is not as popular as it once was, at least publishers seem to think so. Chick Lit is light, quick, generally uplifting, at times thought provoking, romantic and quirky.  Armchair travel seems to quite easily rub up against chick lit – plenty of romance, exotic locations, quirky interesting characters and plenty of action. Try out some of these titles:

Head Over heelHead over Heel Chris Harrison

On a trip to Dublin, Chris falls head over heels in love with Daniela, an Italian girl with eyes the colour of Guinness, and follows her to her small home town of Andrano on the coast of Puglia. Among olive groves and cobblestone lanes, Chris takes us on a moving, insightful and often hilarious journey into the heart of Southern Italy.  Can this relationship with Southern Italy possibly survive or will the sweet life turn sour?

My Paris DreamMy Paris dream : life, love and fashion in the great city by the Seine Kate Betts

On a leap of faith Betts moves to Paris to throw herself into Parisian culture, master French and a find a job that would give her a reason to stay. After a series jobs, she begins a magnificent apprenticeship at Women’s Wear Daily and is initiated into the high fashion world. Betts gives us a view of what it is to be a  young woman, finding yourself, falling in love, and exploring this dazzling world all at once.

Cover of 50 year silenceA fifty-year silence : love, war and a ruined house in France Miranda Richmond Mouillot

After escaping the Nazi occupation, Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in the south of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand and the two never saw or spoke to each other again. This is the account of Miranda’s journey as she immerses herself in letters and archival materials, slowly teasing out what happened to her Grandparents.  Along the way she finds herself learning to survive, and to thrive in making a home in the village …and falling in love.

Sideways on a ScooterSideways on a scooter : life and love in India Miranda Kennedy

When twentysomething reporter Miranda Kennedy leaves her New York job and travels to India with no employment prospects, she longs to immerse herself in the turmoil and excitement of a rapidly developing country. She Lives in Delhi for more than five years, experiences friendships, love affairs, and alters her own attitudes about everything.

Ho Not to Travel the WorldHow not to travel the world : adventures of a disaster-prone backpacker Lauren Juliff

When Lauren left to go travelling, she thought she would instantly become a glamorous backpacker. But after being mugged, scammed, caught up in a tsunami and experiencing a very unhappy ending during a massage, she realised that learning how NOT to travel the world was the most enlightening experience she could have hoped for. It was just as she was about to give up on travel when she stumbled across a handsome New Zealander with a love of challenges…

The whirlThe whirl : men, music & misadventures Jane Cornwell

Travelling the world in search of love, great music and good stories, Cornwall collects relationship ‘experiences’ the way the rest of us do souvenir tea towels or postcards.

A fearless and funny search for love, connection and a man who can dance salsa with her (and not ask for money afterwards), this is a truly sexy travel memoir of music, men and mistakes for the adventurer in all of us.

Love in the elephant TendLove in the elephant tent : how running away with the circus brought me home Kathleen Cremonesi

On a whim, this former administrative assistant with wanderlust took a job as a dancer in an Italian circus and, working her way up, became an ostrich-riding, shark-taming showgirl. Kathleen bonds with the exotic animals that could strike and kill at any moment, but instead bring her a peace she has never known. And when she stumbles into the arms of Stefano, the sexy elephant keeper, she finds a man who understands her wild spirit.

Armchair travel

One of my favourite aspects of reading is being able to travel without leaving my chair, but sometimes a book’s setting is so evocative that I find myself idly scanning the local travel agent’s window for flights on the way to the supermarket.

Cover of My Real ChildrenSometimes I even get a bit obsessive, flicking through guide books at work and investigating the history of whatever country has captured my interest. I’ve always been this way — a tour through the UK as a child was filled with trips in search of Swallows and Amazons, Beatrix Potter‘s cottage, and A. A. Milne‘s Hundred Acre Woods. I’m a total nerd about literary landscapes.

My most recent obsession was sparked by Jo Walton’s My Real Children. Patricia Gowan, slowly succumbing to dementia, can remember two life histories: did she marry Mark, have four children and an unhappy marriage, but live in a more peaceful world than our own? Or did she meet Bee, have three children and a wonderful relationship, but suffer setbacks and a world filled with war?

I’m always a fan of alternate histories, and the experiences and choices Patricia makes are certainly thought-provoking, but the holidays Patricia spends in Florence were what really grabbed me. In her timeline as a travel writer Patricia and Bee spend a lot of time in Italy, and the descriptions of their summers there — eating gelato from Perché No!, drinking vino bianco in the sun — well, it makes me drool. I’ve even started learning Italian with Mango Languages. Un centinaio di gelati, per favore? And the Art Lover’s Guide to Florence has me trawling the Uffizi Gallery online. I have it bad! Luckily my next read, The Borgias, should cure my Italy obsession.

Are there any books you’ve read that get you filled with wanderlust? Let me know in the comments — especially if flights are cheap!

Armchair Travel: picks from our April newsletter

Some picks from our April Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of The Cats of EphesosCover of LatinaliciousCover of The NileCover of Explore EverythingCover of Savage HarvestCover of What Westerners Have for BreakfastCover of Day of HoneyCover of Land of EaglesCover of American Smoke

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Armchair Travel: picks from our February newsletter

Some picks from our February Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of To Timbuktu for a HaircutCover of On The MapCover of My Venice and Other EssaysCover of In The City of BikesCover of The Village Against the WorldCover of The Ministry of Guidance Invites You Not To StayCover of Farewell, Fred VoodooCover of The Emerald MileCover of The Nomad's Path

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Armchair Travel: : picks from our December newsletter

Some picks from our December Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of Calcutta: Two Years in the CityCover of All Good ThingsCover of Slow Train to SwitzerlandCover of The Last Great ApeCover of On The Trail of Genghis KhanCover of The MIddle Kingdom RideCover of The DanubeCover of Little PrincesCover of Walk in Their Shoes

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Armchair Travel: picks from our October newsletter

Some picks from our October Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of On The Noodle RoadCover of Alone in AntarcticaCover of The Consolations of the ForestCover of The Telling RoomCover of Don't Need the SunshineCover of Bedpans & bobby socksCover of Headhunters on My DoorstepCover of In EuropeCover of The City of Abraham

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Armchair Travel: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our August Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover of The Most Beautiful Walk in the WorldCover of The Longest RoadCover of FlightlessCover of The World is a CarpetCover of Apologies to My CensorCover of Turn Right at Machu PicchuCover of Wild CoastCover of Italian WaysCover of A Shark Going Inland is My Chief

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Armchair Travel: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our June Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover: The Elephant's Tale Cover: Overbooked Cover: Names for the Sea Cover: The Sex Lives of Cannibals Cover: Where the Peacocks Sing Cover: Walking Home Cover: Moron to Moron Cover: The Village Cover: A Tourist in the Arab Spring

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox. Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!

Armchair Travel: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our April Armchair Travel newsletter:

Cover: The Further Adventures of an Idiot Abroad Cover: Travels With Epicurus Cover: Alone on the Ice Cover: Jungleland  Cover: Escape from Camp 14Cover: Band-aid for a Broken Leg Cover: The Real Way RoundCover: O My America

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!