It wasn't a great month for anyone, probably. And those of us who make our living writing about travel found ourselves with less to do than usual. But to be honest, I haven't really minded the break. That's in large part because I've had a fun and engrossing project in the form of...
My new website (!), which just launched yesterday. I've been working on it for the past few months with an excellent developer based in Germany. I'm so excited because it feels like I have a new professional home -- and I would love to have you all over for a visit. On the site, you can find some of my recent journalism, as well as old newsletters and some short-and-sweet blog posts about books I'm reading, alpine life, and other fun stuff.
Travel isn't really happening for anyone at the moment, but that doesn't mean we can't daydream. Here are three books I've read recently that have helped to scratch the itch.
The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. Why do we want to travel, anyway? That's one of the questions driving this highly readable and gently thought-provoking book on the philosophy of travel. I wrote more about this one here if you're curious.
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, I know. But hear me out. Re-reading this nearly 15 years after its publication, I was struck by Gilbert's soul-baring honesty, and the strength of her voice. Reading this book doesn't feel like reading; it feels like opening an IV straight into Gilbert's emotions. You might roll your eyes at the content, but wow, the woman knows how to write engaging prose.
Travel as a Political Act, by Rick Steves. Who knew that the Mr. Rogers of the travel industry had a political bent? He does, and he's not afraid to make the case for why Americans should visit Palestine, the Balkans, Iran, and other not-so-standard travel destinations, as he does in this 2018 book. After reading it, I was delighted to revisit Sam Anderson's profile of Steves for The New York Times Magazine. (Headline: "Rick Steves wants to save the world, one vacation at a time.")
Blanc/blanche - This one has been on my mind for obvious reasons, but there's a lot more to it than white. The word can also denote "blank" or, when used as a noun ("le blanc") it can mean a lull, an emptiness. And it doesn't end there: un examen blanc means a mock exam; une année blanche is a gap year; une nuit blanche is a sleepless night; and une saison blanche -- which has been much in the headlines around here lately -- means a write-off season, as in: an entire ski season with no ski lifts...
Frileux/frileuse - This is one of those delicious words for which there is no direct translation in English. Un frileux is someone who is very sensitive to the cold, or even someone who fears the cold. But as an adjective, the word can also be used to describe someone or something that lacks warmth or passion. "J'ai vraiment une âme bien tristement frileuse," the French author André Gide once wrote to a friend, "elle frissonne à toutes froides ambiances, rêvant de plus amènes atmosphères." (Roughly: "I really have a very sadly frileuse soul ... it shivers in all cold surroundings, dreaming of more pleasant atmospheres.")
That's all for now. Happy February, and here's to warm and pleasant dreaming.
P.S. and just for fun: my mom sent me the link to this video, and I can't. stop. watching. xx