Armchair travel – great books and a month of birthday giveaways at Not A Ballerina

Most of us, unfortunately, can’t travel all the time. (And honestly, I don’t think I want to travel all the time – although a bit more often would be good!) However, a pretty decent substitute for travelling is travelling vicariously through others, and I do love to read a great travel book to give me that feeling of exploring the world and its people while I’m stuck at home.

February has now started and this month’s contribution to the Not A Ballerina 10th birthday celebrations is all about armchair travel – getting that travel feeling from a book. Read on as I introduce my very cool sponsor for this month of armchair travel, and then I’ll have some of my all-time favourite travel books for you to think about.

Introducing the sponsor for Armchair Travel Month – Njinga by Kate Leeming

Here’s the exciting news – I’ll be giving away a bunch of great new travel books this month, but to help me do that, I have an overarching sponsor, and that’s adventure traveller extraordinaire (my terminology!) Kate Leeming, author of the newly released book (and film) Njinga.

Njinga by Kate Leeming - great armchair travel read Kate is originally a Perth girl (which makes me extra-pleased to have her on board) who has done some truly amazing things in life (so far – with much more planned!). Her most recent adventure was spending 299 days cycling across Africa from west to east, a 22,000km ride through 20 countries, with the aim of improving education and health in Africa through “giving a leg up, not a hand out” (love that phrase).

Head over to Kate’s Njinga page to find out more about her book straight away – next week I’ll have a review up and a chance to win a copy – or if you are in Perth and keen to attend the film and book launch at Perth College on 15th February, click over to the booking page to grab a ticket now (I will be giving one ticket away next week but if you’re not feeling lucky, book now!).

My favourite armchair travel books for a good escape

Over the years I have amassed quite the collection of travel-related books – fancy that! In fact, a few years back I had a regular gig reviewing travel narratives and travel guide books for a big website (since defunct, I believe) and I had such a brilliant stream of books coming to read and review that I didn’t read any other kind of books for many months.

This month I’m going to be reviewing (and giving away copies of!) some new travel books but to set the ball rolling, I thought you might be interested to know my all-time favourites – and of course, I’m also keen to know yours, in case there are some hidden (to me!) gems to add to my must-read list.

In A Sunburned Country / Down Under by Bill Bryson

I know that loving Bill Bryson is a bit of a travel reader’s cliche but I’m not going to pretend I don’t. He’s witty and clever and insightful and although I normally cringe at what foreigners write about my home country, his book about Australia is brilliant and made me laugh so much.

Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux is a bit divisive because he can really come across as a grumpy old man but I think his writing is amazing. On top of that, he’s the reason I fell in love with the idea of riding the Trans-Siberian across Russia, one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever done.

Sing, and Don’t Cry by Cate Kennedy

An Aussie author better known for poetry and fiction, Cate Kennedy’s memoir about her time in Mexico is one of my favourite travel narratives ever. I think it’s an experience I wish I’d had (she was working with a local community) and I think she experiences it – and describes it – the way I would have. If that makes sense. Anyway, I love it.

Under the Osakan Sun by Hamish Beaton

This is a somewhat obscure find, from back in my big reviewing days, but I love this book because Hamish Beaton’s retelling of all those funny things that happen to foreigners in Japan just really rings true. Of course, the fact that he spent his teaching time in Osaka, just as I did, helps enormously – I’m not sure it’s a book everybody would love but if you’ve taught in Japan it’s a must read – and very likely entertaining for anyone with an interest in this unique country.

Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

Another oldie-but-a-goodie – I’m quite a fan of trips that are a bit odd and travelling around Ireland with a fridge just because your friend made a bet with you about it certainly falls in the odd category. It’s bound to be funny, and it is, and I loved seeing little peeks of Ireland and the Irish character in this story.

Armchair travel books giveaway

What’s your armchair travel pick?

So, my well-travelled and well-read readers: what are your favourite travel books? I would love to hear all your tips, so please leave them in the comments. And do keep an eye on the blog and on the Facebook page during February so you don’t miss your chance to win a new great travel read.



  1. Very timely post, I’ve just re-read ‘Tracks’, ‘Down Under” by Bill Bryson and ‘Almost French’ (all at the same time) and always on the lookout for a new read. Will definitely check out Kate Leeming’s book about her cycling adventures. I did a similar trip across West Africa, albeit for a less altruistic cause and keen to find out more about her trip. Not a Theroux fan, find him a bit high and mighty!

    • Oh, I do know what you mean about Theroux, he’s a grumpy fella but sometimes his words are just so beautiful!

      Glad the post is timely for you, too! Watch out on Saturday as there’s a give away for Kate Leeming’s book, if you’ve done a similar trip then you will absolutely love this one.

      • Thanks Amanda, I’ll give the grumpy fella another shot, somewhere on my bookshelf is his book about sitting on a train in Patagonia. Will come back Saturday 😉

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