Books for the armchair traveller

by Kimberly Coyle

As an insatiable lover of travel, I often find my bank account and my everyday commitments can’t keep pace with my desire to wander. While my chest beats with a gypsy heart, I also have three children, a job, and a geriatric dog who believes movement of any kind should be incentivized. Travel often falls to second place behind the demands of orthodontic bills, folding laundry, and grading papers.

However, as a lifelong reader, I find my wanderlust is temporarily satisfied through the pages of a good book when rooted in a specific place. As a child, I sat in the buggy beside Anne Shirley as we passed through the White Way of Delight on Prince Edward Island, and I braved the unpredictable weather and challenges of farm life in the American Midwest with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Books became the means by which I experienced a world larger than the boundaries of any map or my limited imagination.

After many years spent living abroad and traveling as an adult, I’ve tasted much of what the world has to offer, and it has only fanned the flames of desire. I discovered wanderlust is a love affair possessing an incurable nature. Four years ago, after a number of years spent living in Switzerland, I found myself, once again, deeply rooted in ordinary life in suburban America.

Again, I turned to the stories of writers who create magic with ink and paper. Their words are the buggy, the ticket, the invitation to worlds I may never encounter anywhere but in their experiences or their imagination.

For a few good reads guaranteed to transport you without the cost of airfare, look no further.

From my bookshelf to yours, your invitation to wander through lands near and distant is waiting.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, click the pictures to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk and the title links to buy on Amazon.com

Non-fiction

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr:

Doerr’s work is stunning, and this non-fiction book on his year spent living in Rome as an American ex-pat is beautiful. While I connected personally to his life abroad in Europe, armchair travelers will experience Rome intimately through his prose. This book is the perfect companion to his novel All The Light We Cannot See, another gem of a book with a defined sense of place and belonging.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

This memoir ticks all the boxes: excellent writing, intriguing setting, a journey of faith, romantic literature, and copious literary quotes. (Word nerds: head straight to your local library) Weber lived a life I frequently fantasize about as a PhD candidate in Romantic Literature studying in Oxford, England. Weber brings Oxford to life in a way I wish I could experience personally.

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Readers follow the author on her journey from heartbreak to healing as she leaves behind her life as a filmmaker in California for ranch life in rural Wyoming. Ehrlich finds herself in Wyoming as part of a temporary film project, but after a personal loss, she decides to make Wyoming her home for an indefinite period. Ehrlich chronicles her journey back to love and life, through numbness and grief, against the backdrop of a dry, spacious, empty place. Wyoming’s wide-open physical spaces work like balm for her wounds, and they might work as a balm for readers too.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

In her memoir of place, Purifoy recounts the first four seasons she and her family spent living in Maplehurst, a well-loved Victorian farmhouse without the pleasure or pain of an actual farm. She describes home and rootedness in a way that is fresh, poetic, gentle. She writes of the everyday, ordinary circumstances through which God used this home to help her discover where she belongs, and in turn to grow deeper in her belonging to him. As a lover of old homes, wild gardens, and the restoration of broken things, this book holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.

Fiction

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

This classic novel is the coming of age tale of a girl called Francie, set in the immigrant communities of Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. I’m always surprised at the timeless nature of stories, and this book is no exception. I saw myself in Francie, despite the time and life circumstances that separate us. It also gave me a renewed appreciation for the challenges faced by immigrants coming to America, as it paints a unique portrait of life in the tenements of New York City.

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

Gilead is the story of minister John Ames’ journey to his eternal home as he looks back over the past seventy-six years of his life in Gilead. The town of Gilead is itself a character in Robinson’s book, and as I read, it became as real to me as any home I’ve known. I journeyed with Ames from Iowa to Kansas, from childhood to old age, and back again. While the book is epistoliary in nature, Robinson creates distinct descriptive scenes within the journal itself, allowing readers a glimpse into the rural landscape of her characters’ lives. This is a book to savor.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This epic tale of the Price family, new missionaries to the Belgian Congo in the 1960’s, is both cautionary and redemptive. Readers travel beside the Prices as they attempt to transition to primitive life in the Congo from a sheltered life in small town America. Told from the perspective of the women in the family, we see postcolonial Africa in all of its danger and complexity. Kingsolver’s book is one of my top five favorites of all time. Unforgettable.

Kimberly Coyle

Kimberly Coyle is a freelance writer and an adjunct professor of writing with an MFA in creative non-fiction. She has written for publications such as In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, (in)courage, and Grace Table. When not writing or teaching, she dabbles in photography and can be found on Instagram as @kacoyle.

She writes regularly online at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

 

Explore, Dream, Discover: Kelowna, BC, Canada

Kelwona BC

As much as I adore traveling, the thought of coming home always sets my soul at ease, causes me to exhale, fills my heart. Comfortable yet captivating, the city of Kelowna in British Columbia has been our home for twenty-three years and its natural beauty still takes my breath away on a daily basis!

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

In 1995, my husband and I packed up our two-year-old daughter and embarked on the audacious adventure of emigrating from the UK to Canada. After arriving in Vancouver on the west coast, my husband had a job interview in a picturesque city about four hours inland, nestled in the Okanagan Valley. We knew absolutely nothing about this Kelowna, but as the April sun glistened on a cobalt lake surrounded by welcoming snow-tipped mountains, it took us all of three seconds to decide this was where we wanted to settle and raise our family!

Kelowna, with its current population sitting at 127,500 has also become the vacation destination for our British family and friends time and again, and we have the privilege of proudly showing off the many attributes of our city. One of my most cherished aspects of living here is that we thoroughly enjoy all four seasons. And at the start of each one, I proclaim it my favorite—until the next season rolls around…

Kelwona BC

SUMMERTIME is pure perfection here unless you dislike copious amounts of warm sunshine and idyllic leisurely lake-living. The climate is actually semi-desert (who knew that was a thing in Canada?) and therefore much free time is spent boating, swimming, sailing, water-skiing, or windsurfing on the expansive 84-mile length of the Okanagan Lake. We are famous for our bounty of local fresh fruit, which can be found at markets and fruit stands, and there’s nothing quite like an evening stroll along the downtown boardwalk watching the sunset, followed by some delicious dining lakeside.

The crisp FALL air is a welcome break from the heat, and a perfect time to take in a winery tour at one of over forty local wineries. From the intimate family operated to larger facilities with first-class restaurants and stellar lake views, it’s worth taking time to peruse and sample some of our national and international award-winning wines. You won’t be disappointed!

If you’re looking for a WINTER wonderland experience, Kelowna has it all. A short winter season compared to much of Canada, we usually have ourselves a very merry white Christmas, which as a Brit, I thoroughly appreciate. If some serious snow sports or even après-ski activities are desired, the world-renowned Big White Resort is less than an hour out of town, where the ski-in-ski-out village also offers shopping and dining for those not downhill or cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, tubing, or doing any other snow-ish activity!

Kelowna BC

When SPRING is in the air in Kelowna, there is a definite spring in the step of the locals. With snow behind us and sunshine ahead, the air is fresh and the orchards heavy with glorious blossom. Perhaps the perfect opportunity for some hiking or biking at one of the numerous trails.

Parks, waterfalls, mountains, or railway trestles— every age and agility level is catered for.

Whether you take advantage of our numerous golf courses, enjoy wandering around our Cultural District downtown, checking out galleries, theatres, unique shops, and fine dining, or prefer an action-packed adventure on the lake or up the mountain— Kelowna truly has something for everyone. It’s been the perfect place to raise our three kids to adulthood, and we are in absolutely no hurry to ever move from this stunning little gem in the vast, spectacular country of Canada.

Here in Kelowna, I happen to believe there’s always more to explore, dream, and discover.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas is a published Christian author with a heart for inspiring and encouraging readers of all ages. She is a multi-genre writer with a published Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, middle grade novel, children’s stories, devotionals for Union Gospel Press, articles in magazines and online, musings on her blog, and currently has a three-book deal for her Christian romantic suspense novels. Living in Kelowna, B.C. as an empty-nester, Laura is a mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart, and is passionate about faith and family—and chocolate.

laurathomasauthor.com