Also, a quick disclaimer: review copies are typically provided or downloaded for free, and links may be affiliate links. These reviews cover the version of the book I read, not necessarily the version that’s currently available. A newer or updated version may be available – check for yourself using the links below.
Hippie in Heels’ Guide to India – Rachel Jones
I’m no hippie, and it’s been awhile since I’ve worn heels, but as soon as I received this book I looked forward to reading it. Rachel has over 900 posts and spent over six years in India, so she definitely qualifies as the ‘knows the territory’ angle. Men, know that this book is aimed at women (so expect to read advice on bras and birth control), but it holds plenty of advice no matter your gender.
She says this is no Lonely Planet in the intro, but I disagree. Perhaps it’s because I think of a Lonely Planet as a full-on guidebook, which aims to answer as many questions as possible. At 330 pages, dozens of relevant questions are answered well, along with proposed itineraries, protips, and plenty of info.
I really appreciate her casual, friendly tone, and she understands how intimidating India can be (even to a travel veteran like me!). She goes deep into food and drink safety, safety in general, and so on based on facts (“DON’T bring heels. You will NEVER wear them.”). The packing list is highly detailed, and offers links to the exact products she uses herself. There’s a nice balance between recommending what to bring from abroad (when the local options aren’t as good) and what to buy once in India.
My only complaint is a nitpicky one: the two-column text layout makes the book add more back-and-forth to reading than a traditional single-column layout.
From step-by-step directions for booking train travel to plenty of other great information, this is the easiest recommendation I’ve made all year.
The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals – Bistra Yakimova
The three words of advice central to the book? “Follow The Locals.” OK, publish the review, we’re all done here. A few pages in, it tells us the book “doesn’t aim to be an itinerary, a manual or a self-improvement book.” Instead, it “aims to present popular, as well as unknown, destinations by not only listing their historical sights and nature, but also by introducing the people who are born and live there.”
I’m reminded that traveling is so often seen through the lens of the people we meet along the way. That taxi driver that ripped you off colors the experience of the entire town, while a friendly gesture or lively dance make a city unforgettable. By observing the locals, however they dress, act, entertain themselves, or regard you, you learn something about yourself as well.
As something to read on a plane trip, it’s fine. It doesn’t aim to educate, but instead aims to inspire. It didn’t grab me as other travel books have, but it’s capable of transporting you around the world within its pages. The book’s romanticized, colorful language is balanced out by photos, though I could have done with less of the former and more of the latter. Get it because you want a fresh perspective on how to see the world, or are currently an ‘armchair traveler’ and want to go exploring.
Our Unforgettable Cruise – Michete Rose-Sprunk
Chapter one is titled, “My Wheeled Luggage Almost Ruined My Vacation” – an interesting start to almost any book. We jump right into the story of packing and getting to the airport, only to see an important piece of luggage go rolling away from our author. That there was no damage to the luggage (or the cars it bounced off of) is a good omen.
After having friends nearly miss boarding the cruise (and having the cruise fail to deliver their luggage on time!), the quintet opt to travel into their first stop, Cartagena, together. A fair number of pictures appear between chapters, albeit in black-and-white and often one to a page (the nature of printing paperbacks makes color printing more expensive). The cruise itself reads as a fairly standard 10-day cruise with stops in Spain, France, and Italy. Beyond the countries visited, the author focuses on the luxuries of a cruise ship: the three-deck dining room, food as beautiful as it is delicious, the all-you-care-to-eat buffet, the amazing staff, and so on.
I was not a fan of the black-and-white photos, and I truly hope the author opts to sell an e-book version of her work (the links below all go to the paperback offering). The 176 pages are a quick read, thanks mainly to the fact that many of them are comprised of pictures.
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