One for the Road: Smiling at the World

Here’s a feel-good travel memoir for the day after Christmas. Keep the good-tidings alive by curling up with Joyce Major’s memoir of her inspiring volunteer travels around the world. Maybe Smiling at the World will inspire you to plan some do-good travel in the coming year?

Major’s memoir recounts her year-long voluntourism adventures in South Africa, Thailand, China, Greece, Ireland, Italy, England, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. She volunteered for over ten different organizations, dealing with issues of restoration, sustainability, education and conservation. Brian Mullis, director of Sustainable Travel International calls Joyce a “conscientious traveler” who shares insight and ideas on how “responsible travel” can change and transform lives.

Joyce will be appearing at Distant Lands bookstore in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 7, sharing stories and a slideshow from her travels.

One for the Road: First Class – Legendary Train Journeys Around the World

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, otherwise known as PPDA, is a well known French news anchor and author of France from the Air. In his latest travel-themed book, released earlier this year, the famous Frenchman finds himself back on land, celebrating the allure and romance of grand train journeys.

First Class: Legendary Train Journeys Around the World is packaged in an enticing luggage box designed to resemble a steamer trunk. Between the covers of this suitcase-style treat is a fitting tribute to train travel that calls us “All Aboard!”. There are 11 suggested journeys, including route maps for famous lines like the Trans-Siberian, the Orient Express, the Californian Zephyr, South Africa’s Blue Train and the Canadian. Descriptions of these famous expresses are decorated with photos and quotes from literary figures who have captured the joys of train travel in their own works. A fun gift to consider for those who love to ride the rails.

One for the Road: Charm City – A Walk Through Baltimore

I’m super excited about today’s book suggestion. The latest title in Crown’s Journey Series is Charm City: A Walk Through Baltimore by Madison Smartt Bell. The cover itself, decorated with Hon hair and a photo of the famous Painted Ladies, is enough for me to know — I want to read this book! When I first started writing for Gadling back in 2005, I was still a Baltimore resident, and I’ve mentioned the fantastic city here on more than one occasion. I debated waiting to tell ya all about this one until after I had a chance to read it, but why wait? I’m fairly confident it’s an excellent read. I BELIEVE in all things Baltimore.

But you don’t have to take my word for it — This week, the New York Times praised Bell’s book as a guide to the “soul” of a “real city.” Bell, an award-winning author who has lived in Baltimore for over twenty years, is a professor at Goucher College, where he directs the creative writing program. His book explores the history of the city by traveling through its unique mix of neighborhoods and major arteries, focusing on four specific walks through Fells Point and Dickeysville and along Charles Street and Greemount Avenue. Some well-known locals, like Laura Lippman and David Simon, join him on the jaunts. The Baltimore Sun interviewed Bell about how this project came to be. It’s a good read, and more proof that the book is sure to serve as a perfect companion for any trip to Charm City.

One for the Road: Evidence of My Existence

Jim Lo Scalzo has been a staff photographer for US News & World Report since 1994. His new memoir is a moving look at the life of a photojournalist who has traveled the world. Evidence of My Existence tells the story Lo Scalzo’s 17 years on the job as an “obsessive wanderlust” — He handled assignments in over 60 countries, capturing important news stories, while jeopardizing his relationships and his very own life, for the sake of his career.

Eventually, Lo Scalzo had to make a choice, as this recent book review explains: He had to make a decision about what was the most important to him: his profession or his family. It is a decision that many photojournalists have to make but rarely talk about in the direct way that Lo Scalzo does.

Be sure to watch the compelling trailer for the book, which begins with the question, “How to stop moving?” Whether we’re taking photos or not, it’s a question that all travelers are faced with. This book explores how one man answered the question for himself.

One for the Road: The Neighborhoods of Queens

Last night I took three connecting subway lines and a bus to get from Manhattan to my brother’s new apartment in Queens. This morning I commuted back into the city with his wife, taking another bus, as well as three different subway lines. Without revealing which neighborhood they live in, you can surmise that it’s not the easiest one to reach. But the options for getting there are as diverse as the neighborhoods that comprise this bountiful borough, a characteristic that makes the inconvenient commute much easier to accept. The best part though, is that their location affords them plentiful opportunities to discover the colorful neighborhoods that make up this fantastic and often overlooked borough.

As a housewarming gift, I brought along copy of The Neighborhoods of Queens, a thoroughly researched and well documented tour through 99 neighborhoods of “the Gateway to America”, as Queens has been dubbed. Home to two of New York’s busiest international airports (La Guardia and JFK), Queens is also the most diverse county in the world. This wonderful book celebrates that diversity with an alphabetical arrangement stretching from Astoria to Woodside. Each section includes photographs, neighborhood profiles, facts, a map and a historical summary. There are also over 50 new maps that chart precise boundaries between the neighborhoods. Written by a South American immigrant who herself entered America via Queens, this well-done guide celebrates the enormity of all that the borough offers to both residents and visitors. The book, and the borough, are definitely worth checking out.