This blog is mostly about stories. And I love to read a good travel story. Or two. Or perhaps two dozens. Basically, if it weren’t for Kindle, we would be living in a house made of books by now. So here are some of my favorite books written by expats and travelers. I’ll be adding more as I go. And especially now, when traveling is on hold indefinitely, we can live vicariously through the pages together.
Laura Bradbury – The Grape Series
The Grape Series is one of my favorites in the genre of expat books. Because no matter how many adventures the author has, it remains a ‘feel-good’ read. I love the most the first book of the series – My Grape Year – in which the 17 years old Laura lands in France for an exchange year and enthusiastically dives into a completely new life.
From the first moment, when she leaves the plane with her luggage lost and barely able to speak a few French words, she is in love with her new surroundings. This enchantment shines throughout the whole book and lets you experience Burgundy through the fresh eyes of a young student.
Of course, there are culture clashes. I find it interesting how the Canadian way of living differs from the French in many ways. The Canadians always smile politely; the French express their emotions freely and view someone who smiles too much as suspicious. The Canadians are always trying to people-please; the French argue loudly and then they make up. I learned a lot about both cultures from this book.
But the culture-shock aside, Laura loves pretty much everything about her life in Burgundy. And then she finds love… And everything gets complicated. Because one of the conditions of coming here was no relationships with men, she is torn between her sense of obligation to the kind French families that hosted her and her growing feelings for Franck, and she will be forced to choose.
Janice MacLeod – Paris Letters
Janice MacLeod is desperate to escape the corporate world and travel through Europe. All of her friends think it’s just a pipe dream, but she takes the first steps to make her dream happen. And slowly, she finds out that making dreams a reality is possible.
The first half of the book, which I find especially interesting, is dedicated to the small steps she takes to change her life and save enough money. Would you believe that the first thing she did was to sort out her underwear drawer? And she took it from there, and bit by bit, she is successful. Reading about that complete overhaul of life is fascinating.
The second half of the book takes place in Paris. As the author explores the city of the light, she finds a new love, a new life, and a new occupation – something she actually loves doing. She uses her artistic skills and starts sending her subscribers letters that combine stories and paintings from Paris. She details her everyday explorations of this new and fascinating place, the funny moments, the little beautiful things, the small joys. And extraordinary life in an extraordinary city.
Victoria Twead – Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools
Victoria Twead persuades her husband to move to Spain for their retirement. They buy a house in a little mountain village, learn how to live in their new environment, forge new friendships, and witness (or often cause) many funny moments. Their everyday life is a source of both culturally interesting and amusing observations, and Victoria has a penchant for making the most of those moments.
‘Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools’ is a first in a multiple-book series, and the author never runs out of stories to tell. These books are about living in a remote village in Spain, but they are also about humanity. If you love Spain and want a cheerful and uplifting read, this series is for you.
If you have any tips for good traveler memoirs, please leave a comment! I always appreciate new reading material.