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Recommended travel books

Since I’m working long hours this week to get the Fall magazine and other issues under control, we aren’t having a lot of adventures. Tonight we visited Fred Coldwell and took him out for pizza & ice cream, but other than that the day has been “just another day at the office.”

All long voyages have days like that, whether a long day at sea during which nothing much happens, or day of doing laundry and polishing the brightwork. I don’t regard it as time wasted, just time spent a bit differently. The lack of news gives me a chance to talk about other things.

For example, I’ve been reading more travel books as we go, and it occurs to me that I haven’t told you the latest items in my bedside book nook.

One classic of Airstream lore is Wally Byam’s book, “Trailer Travel Here and Abroad.” It’s half travelogue, half “how-to” guide for prospective trailer owners in the 1950s. Wally talks about some of the superb adventures he and his fellow caravanners had in the heydey of international trailer travel, when a trip to Europe was a glamorous experience available to an elite few.

The book also covers his many trips to Central America, Africa, and the Middle East. Interestingly, the insights and notes of the book echo many of the lessons we’ve picked up as we’ve traveled in the 21st century. I can read his comments about trailer travel and (excepting technology changes), many are as relevant today as they were half a century ago.

Fred and I were working on a project to scan this book (long out of copyright) and reprint it. I was unsuccessful at achieving a good OCR (optical character recognition) scan of it, and for now the project is on hold. If anyone has access to a resource that could handle this large task at low cost, let me know. I’d like for this book to be available to everyone, since it is very hard to find and rather expensive on eBay.

One thing in particular that echoes throughout the pages of “Trailer Travel Here and Abroad” is Wally’s firm belief that by traveling, every caravanner was a diplomat and emissary of international peace. We have noticed also that in travel we learn more about the diversity of people and come to appreciate the differences between human beings, rather than fearing them.

Wally was a self-described gadget man, too. He had a phonograph, wireless set, bullhorn, and other gadgets in his trailer. I expect that today he’d have wireless Internet, a cell phone, an iPod, DVD player, and solar panels — just like we do.

Another book I’m reading about a great voyage is Steven Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage”. This is the story of the Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discovery”. Our recent travel has taken along their route (but in the opposite direction), from the Columbia River in Oregon to the Snake River in Washington and Idaho. We camped in Lewiston ID (just across from Clarkston WA), and followed their path into Montana. Their accomplishment is incredible considering the times.

It’s easy to find a copy of “Undaunted Courage” in western national park bookstores, and I’m sure it is still in print. Their rough-and-tumble voyage in a set of pirogues and river boats bears little resemblance to our cushy existence in an Airstream, but still I find tiny parallels. There are commonalities to all voyages, and it is inspirational to read of the fearlessness of this team that penetrated the west when the west was unmapped and mysterious to all Europeans.

2 Responses to “Recommended travel books”

  1. Elly Says:

    Hiya Rich,

    I work on the National Science Digital Library and even though we do more aggregating of online resources than digitizing, I work with people who do digital archiving at Cornell. I’ll see if any of my co-workers would help out on the Byam book and get back to you.

    P.S. is still under developement, but is publicly available and might be of use in Emma’s home schooling.

  2. Melanie Says:

    I stumbled across your blog last weekend, and I’m really enjoying it! As for travel books, one of my favorites (besides “Undaunted Courage”) is John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.” I highly recommend it if you haven’t already read it.