As much as we love daydreaming about travel, there’s only so much inspiration we can draw from scrolling through our collections of old vacation photos on Facebook and Instagram. And as we wait and wait and wait for the next opportunity to take a family vacation or enjoy a romantic getaway, we need as much inspiration as possible.
Fortunately, we have some recommended reading that will hopefully do the trick.
Jade Mountain Gastronomy, by Allen Susser and Bob Morris
One of the trips and experiences we were most excited for in 2020 was visiting Saint Lucia for Jade Mountain’s annual Mango Madness Festival. Sadly, like most of our appointments, this year’s event ended up being a Zoom affair. Still, it was a blast and we learned so much from Chef Allen Susser and his friends, and what made it especially great was how simple his recipes and tips were for less experienced chefs.
Even better, the party doesn’t stop when the Zoom call ends now that we have Susser’s new cookbook, “Jade Mountain Gastronomy,” to teach us everything we know about making our favorite meals from the titular resort and its sister property Anse Chastanet. Whether you’re in the mood for West Indian Curried Lobster or Mango Cream Puffs, there’s a recipe in this book for you. Now, it’s time for us to work on perfecting our Coffee-Crusted Filet Mignon.
Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List
How often do you read coffee table books? I have a stack in my living room that has gone untouched so long that I can write my name in the dust. But, strangely, not a single book in that pile is of the travel variety. That’s because I keep those on a table for occasional reading and the added bonus of a forearm workout, since most coffee table books weigh as much as the table itself.
The newest addition to the stack is the second edition of Lonely Planet’s “Ultimate Travel List” book, which is basically the must-own book for travelers of any experience level. Think you’ve been everywhere and done everything? Head to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia to appreciate the ancient wisdom of Tjukurpa (the book’s third-ranked travel experience). Starting a lifetime of exploration with the USA’s national parks? Take on the book’s fifth-ranked experience with a visit to Yellowstone National Park.
Want to head straight to Lonely Planet’s No. 1 experience? We won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll need your Indiana Jones hat.
Editor’s Choice: Complicated Simplicity, by Joy Davis
If you prefer to travel by car instead of airplane, or your goal is to avoid popular destinations that are packed with people, consider the Pacific Northwest. I never had for most of my life, that is until my mom moved to Camano Island and opened my eyes to this incredible region and its natural beauty and significant charm. The much tinier Bath Island is roughly five hours to the north, depending on I-5 traffic and two ferry schedules, but that’s where author Joy Davis grew up and was ultimately inspired to write a captivating collection of real stories from real people who chose to live the “simple life” on these small, beautiful islands.
For her book, “Complicated Simplicity: Island Life in the Pacific Northwest,” Davis interviewed 20 people who live on the San Juan, Discovery and Gulf Islands, among others, and the result is a must-read for anyone who has thought of packing up and escaping the big city or even suburban blues. Examining what goes into adapting to island life in this region is especially fascinating, because we know what it takes to move to certain places in the Caribbean or even Fiji. So, we’d expect something closer to home to be more convenient and realistic.
However, as Davis reveals in a very entertaining quick read, that isn’t always the case. But if you do your homework and open yourself up to new experiences, this is a region that will truly reward you.
Island People: The Caribbean and the World, by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro
There’s a common misconception that the Caribbean is just this small group of islands, where everything is the same, no matter which beach you’re standing on. Sure, there’s bliss in ignorance, but learning about an island, its history and people, and especially the cultural distinctions that separate it from others will always make visiting a far more enjoyable experience. This is the book for people who want to know what makes each Caribbean island so unique and special.
The oldest book on this list, “Island People: The Caribbean and the World” isn’t a collection of travel tips as much as it is a history book that corrects misconceptions and opens eyes to the struggles and hardships of the people who call our favorite islands home. That might sound more like homework than inspirational reading, but if you can put this book down with a better knowledge of Jamaica’s past and a desire to visit Dominica and hike the Waitukubuli National Trail, then it’s a win-win.
The Aloha Shirt, by Dale Hope
Finally, another coffee table book that has earned a spot front and center on my bookshelves. Dale Hope’s “The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands” is an illustrated and thoroughly enjoyable examination of the history of the clothing item Homer Simpson had all wrong. This isn’t just a shirt for “big, fat party animals.” It is an enduring fashion tribute to Hawaii, perfected over the years by pop culture icons like Elvis Presley and Tom Selleck, and kept alive and well today by thousands upon thousands of dads who love embarrassing their kids at the beach.
We can only hope that in several thousands of years, when alien explorers discover Earth and excavate areas to learn about humanity, they’ll discover this book and bring a few souvenir shirts home to their families, too.