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Book Substitutes for Travel

Dalat Central Market, Dalat, Vietnam. When I was last in this beautiful city, it was 1966 and my day there was a welcome rest from the war raging most everywhere else in country.
Dalat Central Market in Vietnam
     I have recently fallen in love with the idea of taking a gap year after I graduate from high school.  I think knowing that there is a spectacular backpacking trip to Southeast Asia at the end of the nightmarish, sleepless tunnel of high school will make it easier to endure :D  But while I am still trapped in the United States, I intend to travel vicariously through books instead.  

1. Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell - An unspontaneous, bookish 16-year-old girl (ohmigod, that's me!) is "kidnapped" by her bohemian grandmother and dragged through Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.  
2. City of Beasts by Isabel Allende - The story of another uptight young person - male, in this case - whose eccentric grandmother takes him adventuring - in the Amazon, in this case.  Allende tackles environmental issues and the persecution of native peoples by Westerners, all the while describing the jungle in ethereal detail and telling a great story.
3. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin - This memoir about Greg Mortenson's mission to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to educate girls in particular, is beautiful and inspiring.  I hear that Greg Mortenson has fallen into disgrace recently, though, so I may be wrong to include it in this list - what do you guys think?  I don't know the details.  
4. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke - VENICE!  I envy the pack of close-knit homeless children that this book revolves around because they live in VENICE. 
5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau - It's not a book about travel.  But reading it does make me long for a change of scenery, so long as that new scenery is an isolated shack in the countryside.
6.  1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz - I love flipping through this book.  It's organized by country and region, and is so thorough that I doubt you'll be able to read its entirety before you die.
7. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - You know, I actually didn't love this book - it was too romantic for me.  But I loved the first half, when the writer is introducing the setting, Prague, and its fascinating nooks, such as the Poison Kitchen Cafe and the main character's art school.  
8. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux - I want to read this book!  It's a classic, and all about trains from all over the world.  Read this: 

“The trains [in a country] contain the essential paraphernalia of the culture: Thai trains have the shower jar with the glazed dragon on its side, Ceylonese ones the car reserved for Buddhist monks, Indian ones a vegetarian kitchen and six classes, Iranian ones prayer mats, Malaysian ones a noodle stall, Vietnamese ones bulletproof glass on the locomotive, and on every carriage of a Russian train there is a samovar.” 
― Paul TherouxThe Great Railway Bazaar


Now tell me you're not desperate to hop on a sleeper train to anywhere.
10.  A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - AHAHA if only I could spend my gap year in space!  I guess that's what slackers of the next millennium will do.  

     - Carly

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