Great Escapes

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A Selection of Odd and Eccentric Travel Narratives

Joan Bodger. How the Heather Looks. 1965, reissued in 1999. Bodger travels with her academic librarian husband, son, and daughter through England in the 1960's seeking out the real-life settings of British classics of children's literature.

Anthony Bourdain. A Cook’s Tour. 2001. The NY chef who blew the lid off the restaurant business with Kitchen Confidential roamed the world in search of the "perfect meal," followed by a camera crew from the Food Channel. He’s not afraid to try any dish, no matter how disgusting, and to give his opinion.

Jan Brokken. The Rainbird: A Central African Journey. 1997. The author retraces the footsteps of Albert Schweitzer and H. M. Stanley in central Africa.

Sean Condon. Sean & David's Long Drive. 1996. Two burnt out Generation Xers take a road trip across Australia in a 1966 Ford Falcon.------------

Drive Thru America. 1998. The author travels across America to find the sites of his pop culture icons.

Nicholas Crane. Two Degrees West: A Walk Along England's Meridian. The author follows the line of longitude that runs the length of Britain in this walking adventure. His self-imposed rule to not deviate more than a few yards from the line forces him into some strange situations: swimming across drainage ditches, sprinting across motorways dodging traffic.

William Dalrymple. In Xanadu. 1989 reissued in 2000. Dalrymple follows Marco Polo's route from Jerusalem to Xanadu (in China). He skirts Afghanistan, but travels through some areas that few other Westerners had travelled. Very funny.

William Fiennes. The Snow Geese: A Story of Home. 2002. While convalescing from an illness, Fiennes reread a childhood favorite, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico and decided to follow the geese on their migration from winter quarters in southern Texas to breeding grounds in northern Canada’s Baffin Island. He needed car, bus, train, small plane, and finally Innuit-driven snowmobile to complete the journey.

Edward A. Gargan. The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong. 2002. In 1998, to satisfy his lifelong passion for Asia, this Madison native and foreign correspondent for the NY Times traveled the 3000 mile long Mekong from its source in Tibet to its mouth in the South China Sea in Vietnam. An adventure mixed with rumination about the devastation wreaked by the Vietnam War on this area.

Jeff Greenwald. Shopping for Buddhas. 1996. The author scours Nepal looking for the perfect Buddha statue to buy.

Christina Hardyment. Heidi's Alp. 1988. Hardyment and her four daughters travel through continental Europe in the 1980's seeking out the real-life settings of fairy tales and classics of children's literature.

Tony Hawkes. Round Ireland with a Fridge. 2001. On a bet, the author attempted to hitchhike across Ireland while carrying a small refrigerator. Needless to say, he met some interesting people.

Ann Jones. Looking for Lovedu: Days and Nights in Africa. 2001. Author travels almost the entire length of Africa with the ultimate goal of meeting the queen of the Lovedu people of South Africa, who have a matriarchal leadership.

Peter Matthiessen. The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes. 2001. The author seeks out the habitats of the world’s 15 species of crane, 11 of which are endangered, and meditates on what is being lost. The quest takes him to Asia, India, Australia, England, and Africa.

Tom Miller. The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey From South America. 1986, reissued in 2001. The author follows the making and marketing of Panama hats.

Joe Queenan. Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon. 1999. The author travels across America searching for the worst possible pop culture experience. He begins with the musical Cats and goes on to, among other destinations, Cleveland (which wasn’t so bad), and Branston, Missouri (which was).

Jeremy Seal. A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat. 1996. Author travels around modern-day Turkey, which banned the fez in 1925, searching for a fez-maker.

Julia Llewellyn Smith. Travels Without My Aunt. 2000. The destinations chosen for this travel book were all places intimately associated with Graham Greene and his books (Mexico, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, Paraguay and Argentina).

Helene Androski (with thanks to Beth Harper) for WAAL 2002