If you find yourself staring through your office window, Walter Mittying about the lack of an adventurous, solo-traveler life, put down that spreadsheet and pick up one of these inspiring travelogues.
Couchsurfing in Iran: Revealing a Hidden World
By Stephan Orth
"In Iran, I'm a criminal because I have more than three pounds of Lübeck marzipan (containing a tiny amount of alcohol) and a couple of pork cabanossi sausages in my backpack. All that's missing are a couple copies of Playboy and I could win a cup with the inscription: Tehran's Dumbest Entry Attempt."
What's to Love: Partaking in a smorgasbord of forbidden fruits, Stephan Orth explores Iran from a series of local couches, dispelling stereotypes and discovering paradoxes, from flirtatious chador girls to hospitable taxi drivers.
Good to Know: As much about the method of couch-surfing as it is about Iran, you might be inspired to spend your next holiday on a couch too (or offer your own up to someone else).
The Black Penguin
By Andrew Evans
What’s to Love: What do religion, family, and sexuality have in common with penguins? Mormon and gay, Andrew Evans was the awkward, bored, bullied kid in school, the black penguin. Shunned by his religious family, he embarks on a 12,000-mile journey to Antartica.
Good to Know: Part bus-riding-and-Arctic-conquering travelogue, part homophobia-ridden memoir.
Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time
By Andrew Forsthoefel
"Life is fast, and I’ve found it’s easy to confuse the miraculous for the mundane, so I’m slowing down, way down, in order to give my full presence to the extraordinary that infuses each moment and resides in every one of us."
What's to Love: A directionless recent college graduate embarks on a coming of age adventure on foot, armed with the tomes of his novelistic heroes and a sign that reads "Walking to Listen." Andrew Forsthoefel gathers the stories of those he meets in an attempt to find his own path.
Good to Know: Forsthoefel's writing shows many influences (including Walt Whitman), and channels the same literary existentialist out in nature vibes of Cheryl Strayed.
Travel Tales: Women Alone -The #MeToo of Travel
By Michael Brein
What's to Love: Opening on a tale of 1970s Paris that feels shockingly contemporary, these mini interview essays of harassment in Cuban churches, Algerian caves, and Moroccan mosques still hit remarkably close to home for any woman who has ever ventured outside.
Good to Know: Though the narratives themselves are interesting, funny, and bittersweet, the male authorial voice can come across as condescending at times.
(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living
By Mark Greenside
“In the U.S., this would drive me nuts, but in France, a nation whose people lack the chromosome for line-formation, this is the way it is. Wedges of people are everywhere: movie theatres, supermarkets, post offices, banks, bathrooms.”
What’s to Love: Despite two decades of French summers and bi-continental living, Mark Greenside continues to make fumbles and faux pas in a country whose language and customs are unfamiliar. His heart says France, but his head doesn't; a laugh-out-loud read for anyone considering an intercontinental move.
Good to Know: If you want to read more, get Greenside's prequel, I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do).
The Impossible Five: In Search of South Africa's Most Elusive Mammals
By Justin Fox
What's to Love: Shunning South Africa's big five on his safari adventure, Justin Fox instead goes on a search for the five most elusive mammals of the region — the Cape Mountain Leopard, the Aardvark, the Pangolin, the Riverine Rabbit and the Naturally Occurring White Lion. Colorful locals and animals met that weren't looked for, this is a great introduction to Africa's game reserves.
Good to Know: South Africa is home to plenty of rare and endangered mammals. Donate a little money to the African Conservation Fund and make sure these beauties are still there when you get around to booking your own African safari.