Living room / Couch Travel: captivating books to get you through Corona virus lock-down

During this timeless lock-down to "flatten the curve" of the global Covid-19 pandemic and prevent further spread of the virus, those of us with the travel itch have been thinking of ways we can still enjoy the best parts of travel from the comfort of our own homes.

Sure Travel Journey’s Assistant Editor, Rebekah Funk, shares some of her favorite reads and explains how they’ve inspired trips to far-off places, in the hopes you'll pick one up during lock-down. Experience the same excitement of being transported to a new land with captivating cultures and characters — and a little respite from anxiety inducing news headlines.

1. Shantaram

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.”

Powerful opening words to this novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of India’s most densely-populated city, Mumbai. The story follows Lin, an Australian convict with a fake passport who is searching for love, meaning and a way to disappear — and is allegedly (though perhaps loosely) based on the life of the author.

His story is gripping, tumultuous, thought-provoking and in some parts, hectic (ie. torture) — but it left me wanting to travel to India to experience its chaos, colour and unparalleled culture. A book I'd read again!

2. The Harry Potter series

There are few stories more magical (literally) than the seven-book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. While Rowling created another world of wizards and witches for readers, many of the books’ settings are based on real places in the United Kingdom.

In fact, she completed the first at a cafe in Edinburgh (because she struggled to pay the heating bills at home as a young single mother on government assistance) — and characters like Harry, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley were hatched on a train from Manchester to King’s Cross Station in London.

3. Pride and Prejudice

A literary (and Hollywood) classic, this book (and others like Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey or Emma by its author, Jane Austen) has inspired many a trip to England’s romantic countryside and historic estates.

I visited Bath and the fairytale Cotswolds in June, when green rolling hills and flowers in bloom made it easy to imagine picnicking scenes from the book. It was the sort of place you could wander or spend an afternoon on your back, reading and watching the clouds go by.

All Austen’s books mention Bath, as she lived in the city for about five years (you can tour her Georgian townhouse and have tea). While settings like the country estate at Pemberley were a fictional creation, it’s believed by some to be based on Chats worth House, near Bakewell in Derbyshire — all-in-all, plenty of picturesque places to explore if you’re a fan of this author and novel

4. Long Walk to Freedom.

I’ve long been inspired to read personal biographies of the world’s notable heroes in an attempt to discover what events — and surroundings — made their shaping mark. There are few people who could weather 27 years in prison and come out the other side ready to forgive and unify a nation. 

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Former President Nelson Mandela’s optimistic biography attests to his passion for South Africa and its people — including his belief that all are created equal and must fight against racism, socio-economic divides and oppression in all its forms. The book inspired my original trip to Cape Town in 2012 (along with another called Playing the Enemy by John Carlin), yet it was the people I met here that kept me coming back year after year.

5. The Hobbit

While J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythical land of "Hobbiton" was the stuff of his imagination, modern depictions of "The Shire", set in New Zealand, have this country at the top of my travel bucket list! Well that — and the beaches, hikes, vineyards, volcanoes and Maori culture.

6. The Count of Monte Cristo

Set in France, Italy and the islands of the Mediterranean, it’s hard not to be enthralled by this classic tale of an innocent man, wrongly accused and imprisoned — and his subsequent quest for revenge.

An island fort called Chateau d’If (off the coast from Marseille’s tourist-lined beaches) was forever immortalized as the site where author Alexandre Dumas imprisoned his character, and today, the perfectly-preserved site is accessible by boat. I was there in 2009 and it’s definitely worth a visit!

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