In Which Lisa Discusses the Virtues of Armchair Travel and Actual Travel

I don’t know about you all, but I love to travel. I’ve been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to travel not just around the country, but the world. I got my first passport when I was six years old and have been flying and traveling ever since.   During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I did a 10 day study abroad trip with my high school  and got to travel all around Spain. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I carry memories of that trip with me to this day.  We started in Barcelona, then took an overnight train to Seville, then Grenada, Córdoba, and Segovia before ending our trip in Madrid. Some favorite moments that come to mind is doing the Macarena in a tapas bar in Madrid, soaking up all the beautiful artwork in the Prado (I am a huge fan of the Spanish Masters-Velasquez, de Goya, and El Greco),  being awestruck by the beauty and grandeur of the Seville Cathedral, and getting lost in Córdoba by myself despite being told by the chaperones to go nowhere alone, and barely making it back to the bus to meet up with the rest of the group.

Gorgeous picture of the magnificent Seville Cathedral. The interior is just as incredible.

Eight years ago, my family and I went on a two week trip to London and Paris. London was incredible. I will never forget how awed I was, standing in the middle of Westminster Abbey, and almost getting run over on Bond Street because I wasn’t looking the right way. The British Museum and the National Gallery were also highlights.  And I still remember my sister and  I giggling and taking a picture of  the sign for a bar called Dirty Dick’s  because it amused us. If any of you go to London, I highly recommend London Walks, a fantastic walking tour company. Affordable, informative, and fun-well worth the time and money.  And I’m STILL trying to find out what happened to that picture I took with George Clooney at Madame Tusssads!

The infamous Elgin Marbles.

What I love about traveling is that it opens your eyes and expands your horizons. Learning about different languages and cultures is an incredible experience. I learned so much about Spain and the UK while I was there. I learned a great deal about the Arab/Moorish influence in Spain, as well as the Hapsburg dynasty.  I learned about the history of the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, and a history of the city of London.  There is nothing like being completely immersed in a foreign country to try new things, gain a different perspective, and learn what it’s all about. But conversely, travel also shows you how universal some  things are (love, family, food) and how much we all have in common. Travel can help us show that oftentimes, there’s more that unites us than divides us.  Being able to relate to someone helps you eradicate the “us vs. them” mentality, and  gain understanding and empathy, always a good thing. I think this quote sums it all up:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. -Mark Twain

There are still many places that are on my bucket list of places to visit. Italy is at the top of the list. I’d love to visit Rome, Venice, Florence, and soak up all the beauty, delicious food, and culture. Ireland is also a must-see. I’ve heard from so many people how beautiful the country is, and how friendly and welcoming the locals are. There are also many place I’d love to visit right here in the United States. I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans and experience everything the Big Easy has to offer. Chicago, San Franciso, and Hawaii are also high up on the list.

Pemberley. Sigh.

I also love traveling right in the comfort of my own home. One of the things I most love about reading is that I get swept away to another time and place.  Immersing myself in someone else’s story means I get to escape my own reality for a little while and go on a trip. The historical romances I’ve read transport me to the ballrooms and grand estates of Regency England. Nora’s Bride Quartet allowed me to delve into the world of wedding and event planning, and her romantic suspense hard covers often introduce you to a diverse array of locations and occupations. The list goes on.  When an author is doing their job right, they can make you feel like you’ve visited the locale they set their story in, even if you’ve never been there in real life.

I particularly enjoy romances that are set in unique locations that aren’t often written about. For example, Carrie Lofty‘s Flawless takes place in South Africa.  Jeannie Lin writes wonderful historicals set in Tang Dynasty China. Anna Randol‘s A Secret In Her Kiss is set in Constantinople. Sherry Thomas set her RITA winning Not Quite A Husband in a harsh, remote, hostile, and rugged area of India. Like I said before, these authors all do a spectacular job of doing the research to transport their readers to these foreign lands.

What about you? Do you enjoy romances set in unusual locales? Which are your favorites? Are you an avid traveler, or do you prefer to do some from the comfort of your own home? Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever visited? Let’s talk below, and feel free to include pics! 

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13 thoughts on “In Which Lisa Discusses the Virtues of Armchair Travel and Actual Travel

  1. I like the settings in the romances I read to be suitable. I know that’s wishy washy, though. What really bugs me is when the novel is just set somewhere far off and the author has no real reason for them to be there. I love hometown romances, don’t get me wrong. But if the location suits the novel and the whole thing is set in some place I’ve never been? Fantastic. Bring it. Authors, please note my wishlist locations: Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, China, Greenland.

    • You make a good point Jennelle. The location should have a purpose and drive the story forward. I think a book set in Greenland would DEFINITELY be interesting. 🙂 And I’ve heard lots of great things about the Netherlands too!

      • You know, even an awesome location can’t save a bad story though. I read a romance that was set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I lived for 10 yrs and I could tell you the exact bars being referenced. But the story? Not good at all. Made me want to write a romance set there to prove that even Michigan can have awesome romance, you know?

  2. I like novels with settings that are very different from my comfort zone, especially India and China. I like getting to know the people as well as the area and culture. I love to travel, but don’t have much opportunity any more, so reading does this for me. Most memorable: The Temple Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Absolutely amazing.

    • Oh the Sagrada Familia is absolutely gorgeous, I agree Sandy! 🙂 I remember being so awed that I was standing in the same church where Princess Cristina of Spain got married! I also remember learning all about Gothic architecture, Antonio Gaudi, and Barcelona/Catalan history. It was really interesting and fascinating.

  3. I’ve been traveling all my life. love romances done in different areas, as long as the author has done their research. The only problem I have is that I’ve visited and lived in so many places I have not tolerance for inaccuracy. I once read a book that had a basement in St. Thomas, VI where I live. I’m telling you, there is no way, and there has never been a house here with a basement. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the book. Tweeted and shared.

    • Thanks Ella! I agree with you that when you’re familiar with a place, the errors can be particularly glaring. I remember in one book which takes place near where I live. The author had the hero and heroine going to the local police precinct. However, the police force in the city where it takes place divides itself into patrol districts, not precincts. Did take me out of the book a little bit, unfortunately.

  4. I’ve traveled a lot within the US and I spent a month in Paris when I was 18 🙂 I do love to travel, but it’s hard for me to set books places I haven’t really spent time in. Which is why most of mine are set in L.A. I agree with Ella about accuracy. There’s a certain amount of license one can take, but it needs to FIT with the locale.

    • Jessica,
      How did you like Paris? Please don’t come after me with pitchforks, folks, but after spending one week in London and one in Paris, I definitely preferred London!

      I get what you mean about wanting to immerse yourself in a location before writing about it. That just means you have a built in excuse to travel and visit lots of awesome places. It’s all in the name of research. 😉

  5. I enjoy traveling and wish I could do more of it. Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Scotland are at the top op my travel bucket list. But I’d also love to visit Switzerland, China, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Russia. I was lucky enough to live in England when I was in junior high and part of high school, but I would love to revisit England and Wales.

    I’ve also driven cross-county multiple times, but there are many place in the US I would love to go and/or revisit. For example, there are photos of me at Mount Rushmore as a toddler, but I have no memory of the visit. And I really want to see a play on Broadway and explore NYC.

    I do enjoy romances that are set in foreign countries and places I have not lived. I mostly read contemporaries now, so if a book is set in a place I have lived or am very familiar with, the inaccuracies in the story tend to affect me more. I have a very difficult time reading books set in Las Vegas since I lived there for twenty years for this reason. But I can read books set in LA for example with no issues as, even though I have visited, I am not as familiar with that city.

  6. Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Czech Republic-I think that is definitely a place I’d like to visit too.

    NYC is one of my favorite places-I think you’d love it 🙂 And there really isn’t anything like seeing a show on Broadway, musical or play. 🙂

    Are there a lot of books set in Las Vegas? The only one that comes to mind at the moment is Nora’s The Winning Hand.

    • As much as I normally love Nora, you know my issues with The Winning Hand. I’ve read a number of romances set in Las Vegas, hence the reason I now usually avoid them 😉 Authors tend to write what they think tourists usually see, but that’s not the reality of actually living there.

      Merline Lovelace wrote a wonderful story though set at Nellis AFB, If a Man Answers. I liked that one.

  7. My wife really loves arm chair travel books. I recently bought her “One American Woman Fifty Italian Men” by Lynne Ashdown, http://lynneashdown.com/ and she loved it. With her birthday coming up, another good book might be the perfect gift. I might look in to one that you mentioned. Thanks for the post and ideas.

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