My mother, a librarian, often suggests travel titles or writers she comes across. About a year ago, she mentioned Alice Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who hails from Baltimore, where I currently live. A local author AND a travel writer — my curiosity was peaked. I purchased both of Steinbach’s non-fiction travelogues and finished them over the past few months. I noticed last week that her more recent collection, Educating Alice, has just been released in paperback.

If you read my last review, you’ll notice a pattern emerging…books by single woman solo travelers. (Sorry guys!) It’s a keen interest of mine right now, as I’m in the process of planning solo travel of my own. (Some sort of extended trip is on tap for me in 2006.) Steinbach’s sophisticated travel style (expensive tour groups, classes and hotels), is certainly too rich for my pocketbook (and many might argue, not the preferred way to learn about a particular place), but the purposeful educational component to each of her trips is inspiring nonetheless, and may give readers ideas for how to spend time independently spanning the globe. Her stories about Wakayagi style dancing in Kyoto and the art scene in Havana most appealed to me. I could have done without the Scottish sheep farm collie breeding experience, or the tour of Provence gardens, but, like any class or lesson, Steinbach’s school on the move will not appeal to every student.

0375758453.gif Steinbach’s first book, Without Reservations, chronicles her year abroad living in Europe, which sparked her second book of specific travel lessons. Both books provide insight into the life of a female writer, traveler and life-long learner on a journey of discovery. Although Steinbach does not travel the way I intend to do so (budget backpack style is more my speed), the books still offered intriguing perspective and observations, and I admired her inquisitive nature. No matter where we go or how we choose to travel, asking questions is still the best way to learn.

I found an interview that mentions Steinbach is currently working on her first fiction piece, set in Paris. Here is a review on each book from Bookreporter: Without and Educating.

Next up for me…one more female solo travel book (so predictable) given to me as a gift last June(!!) for my birthday. I promise something by a male author after that, I look forward to a differnt voice and genre, any suggestions to get me started?


  1. No need to stop reading women’s solo travel books! 🙂 If you’re considering a stop in India, by all means read Sarah McDonald’s Holy Cow. I really enjoyed it.

    Tracks by Robyn Davidson if you’re going to Australia.

    Mary Morris’ Nothing to Declare for Mexico.

    Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

    Oh geez, we could probably find a book for every major destination hub…

    I’ll let the others chime in.

  2. This was great, Kelly. I just ordered Educating Alice and Without Reservations from the library.

    I don’t think there’s one way to travel – just as there isn’t one type of individual. That gives travel such a wide dimension, possibility with no barriers to finding what you want and maybe don’t know yet.

  3. Just reading your mention of Baltimore got me all excited, Kelly! I’m a going-to-be 40-something-year-old single woman from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and though I have, in recent years travelled to much of Asia and Europe for both work and vacation, I had never been to US. Last month saw me on my first trip to the States, beginning from Long Island to Manhattan to Boston to Baltimore and to Washington DC!

    I loved the Inner Harbour in Baltimore! And I must say that what made this entire trip different from all the others that I’ve been on was because I travelled ‘solo’! Together with a female colleague from Singapore, we moved from place to place by plane, train, cab, coach, and subway, but while we bunked in at various hotels together, much of the time we explored the cities independently of each other. So indeed I was ‘solo’ much of the time, and I absolutely loved it! No one to look out for except myself. How refreshing!

    In D.C. I was warmly welcomed by the beautiful cherry blossoms, and while luxuriating in their splendour, a reporter from the Washington Post chatted me up, and the next thing I knew, my name was mentioned in the following day’s edition!

    Today, as I rested at my home in Kuala Lumpur, I thought I really should think about chronicling some of my ‘adventures’ in all the countries I’ve been to. While on that train of thought, I chanced upon this site, and so here I am!

    Finally, I’d like to say I enjoyed tremendously ‘There’s No Toilet Paper…On The Road Less Traveled’ edited by Doug Lansky, featuring many male travelers’ humourous stories. Somerset Maugham’s ‘On A Chinese Screen’, though on old China and written 80 plus years ago, presents to me vivid accounts of how a man might look at different cultures.

  4. Jen: Holy Cow is on my list, I’ve heard great things, and thanks for the other suggestions.

    Mary: Let me know how you like Alice’s work, glad the library had them (my mom would be pleased 🙂 And yes, your comment about the travel experience is right on, the same person could do the same trip and have completely different results/reactions, etc. It is all about the personal experience with a place, budget to luxury travel, and anywhere in between!

    Mung-San: Thanks for writing from KL! What a fabulous trip you had, I like that you and your friend split up but still had each other to turn to or keep company at times. And I’m so glad you enjoyed Baltimore 🙂 Thanks for the book suggestions and good luck getting those stories down. Jen’s interview with Tara Weaver (posted today) should give you some additional ideas on how to shape your tales.

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