Two of my biggest passions in life are travel and books, so it made sense that I would one day set up a group that combined both.
The idea for #travelbookclub came about after a random chat on Twitter with some other travel fans about reading. That night I got to thinking about how much I missed being part of a regular book club and how cool it would be to be able to discuss books specifically about travel with other enthusiasts.
The next morning I messaged a few people to see whether they would be interested in reading and chatting about a book via Twitter once a month, and #travelbookclub was born.
Back then I had no idea that almost six years later I would still be running it.
But life has changed a lot since then. At the end of 2017 I had my little adventurer and last year I found that I was inevitably reading less and having to ignore a lot of the books on my ‘to be read’ pile in order to fit in the #travelbookclub choices.
This year I also have another big life change, as I am embarking on a freelance career in social media management (eek!), which is also likely to keep me on my toes. So in December I made the difficult decision to stop running the group and we concluded the monthly get-together with the brilliant, uplifting The Kindness of Strangers by Fearghal O’Nuallain and Levison Wood.
As with all good things in life, it was hard to make the decision to give up running #travelbookclub. But while I’m sad that the group is ending, I’m so grateful for what it has given me over the years. Here are just a few of the highlights:
I got to read some amazing books
The books I love most open my eyes to different worlds and cultures. As much as many of us would love to travel continuously, that often isn’t possible for most. So being able to be swept away to new places and explore countries I may never ever get to travel to was a joy. I loved being able to block out my fellow commuters on my daily train ride into London as I swam in the sea in Greece, or picked lemons in the Spanish countryside, or met villagers on the banks of the Amazon. Being able to transport people to new places through words on a page is such a gift and we read some truly fantastic books over the years.
We read crazy books about people taking on extreme challenges, like running 3,000km through the wilds of New Zealand (The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff) and mad books, including the one where someone transported a small fridge around Ireland (Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawkes). We also read beautiful books and sad books and books which highlight all of the many exhilarating, exhausting, life-changing moments that travel can offer a person.
Some of those which stand out and stay with me to this day include: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (an absolute must for any nature fans), The Ribbons are for Fearlessness by Catrina Davies (a beautiful story about chasing the midnight sun), The White Masai and Africa, My Passion by Corinne Hofmann (the incredible story of Hofmann who gave up her life in Switzerland to marry a Masai warrior in Kenya) and Revolutionary Ride by Lois Pryce (an extraordinary insight into Iran).
There are many, many more and I love to look at my bookshelf and remember all of the different worlds which live inside each of those spines.
I added so many countries to my travel wishlist
We used to joke in #travelbookclub that our ‘to travel’ list just got bigger which each read, but it’s true. Every book we read gave us a unique insight into a different country. I added places to my list I’d never even dreamed of going to before.
I visited Myanmar purely off the back of reading Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin, which documents so many of the things I grew to love about that country, and added places to our Japanese honeymoon travel itinerary after reading Will Ferguson’s Hokkaido Highway Blues, where he hitchhiked through the country.
From cookery courses in Paris, to art shows in China and the crazy chaotic day-to-day interactions in India to the tranquil serenity of life on a Caribbean island, each book offered its own unique insight into a place and what made it so special.
And alongside each of the the books came the travel chat. As the group discussed the texts’ locations we inevitably moved on to discussing our own travels and there was many a chat that ended with me having a scrawled list of recommended destinations I needed to research.
I met my travel tribe
Most importantly of all, and the thing I’m going to miss the most about #travelbookclub, is the other readers I got to connect with. There was something so special about coming together once a month to chat to people – the majority of whom I’ve never met in real life – about a book we’d all read.
What always amazed me was the incredibly thoughtful discussions we would have. We may not always have agreed, but the discussions were always considered and respectful, which is not always something you can say about the way in which people share opinions on the Internet.
As is often the way with groups, particularly those which attract travellers, it was quite transient, Some people joined us for a month or two, while others were with me for years. People connected with us from all over the world and I was always incredibly impressed by the people who set their alarms to wake up at the crack of dawn in Australia or the middle of the night in China, just to chat about books.
So I want to say a big thank you to everyone who had joined me on this journey. Its been so much fun and as much as people often have negative things to say about social media, I feel so lucky to have found my lovely, friendly, interesting corner of the Internet for the bookish among us. I’ll still be using the #travelbookclub tag in the future to recommend the books I read and I’d love it if you would too, because, let’s face it, travel books are always going to be on my ‘to be read’ pile.
I’d also love to hear what your favourite travel book is and whether you’ve visited a country after reading a book about it? Let me know below!