Armchair travel: One for families, one for escapees (to Prague or elsewhere!)

My month of armchair travel is coming to a close and it’s been so fun, as part of celebrating the blog’s 10th birthday, to spend a few weeks immersing myself in some new books about travelling – not quite as good as actually travelling, but certainly a lot cheaper! In this final post of the series, I’ve got two books to review, and I think between them I have something for everybody.

On the Road With Kids, by John Ahern

Oh, I was so excited to discover this book. It’s the modern-day version of my own childhood – you might remember my family and I spent six months in Europe when I was nine, buying a campervan (or motorhome) in England and then driving it all over Western Europe. Well, John Ahern and his wife and two young kids did something similar: they bought a van in the Netherlands and explored no less than 30 countries in a bit over a year. And the result is the really hilarious book On the Road … with Kids.

Armchair travel and travel with kids book

I’m sure plenty of people thought my parents were crazy when we took off for six months of truly budget travel in Europe, and Ahern certainly found the same reaction. But the biggest thing we have in common: it was so utterly and totally worth it. It’s life-changing for kids and life-changing for a family unit to undertake a long-term trip like this together and I heartily recommend you do it!

But more on the book: one of my favourite chapters was their encounter with Dubrovnik. It is, indeed, a beautiful city, and in a chapter titled “The poster on the bathroom wall”, Ahern explains how it was a driving force behind his plan to take the trip:

It wasn’t modern Dubrovnik I ached to see. It was the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’, the old castle-like fortress that had been depicted on the poster on our bathroom wall. It was the place that had called me in my suburban home while I shaved and brushed my teeth. It had drawn me forward on the days I would give in to believing that escaping for a year with my family was utter madness.

And then they arrived in Dubrovnik. Just as the cruise ships docked. And chaos erupts. That’s exactly my experience of Dubrovnik, and I see it just like the experience of Rottnest Island with the relative chaos of day-trippers or the beauty of it after 4pm when the ferries have all gone. For the Ahern family, it was only when (after quite a bad run of troubles, including a motorhome breakdown) they got to see Dubrovnik without all the cruise day-trippers that they actually fell in love with it.

Dubrovnik in Croatia

The gorgeousness of Dubrovnik

The whole book is laugh-out-loud funny, and my cat gave me a lot of unusual looks while I was reading it. Highly recommended for anyone who’s travelled with their kids already; and probably for most people who are considering travelling with their kids, as long as you’re not easily put off these plans by being reminded of just a few of the things that can go wrong!

Readers can win a copy of On the Road … With Kids this week: check out my Facebook page to see how.

 The Thing About Prague, by Rachael Weiss

Ah yes, Prague. The thing about Prague, for me, is that I nearly lived there. In fact, I was hired to teach English in Prague and was headed there (from Japan and via Russia and the Baltic States) when, suddenly, the school emailed me and said they’d over-hired for Prague – would I like to teach in their school in Bratislava, Slovakia, instead? I said yes without really being sure quite where Bratislava was, and I ended up adoring it, but I still had quite a few trips to Prague during my time there – and after, in fact.

Armchair travel - The Thing About Prague by Rachael Weiss

Anyway, Rachael Weiss is a fellow Aussie, who decided that she would desert her homeland and become a writer living in Prague. And that adventure resulted in the book The Thing About Prague: How I Gave It All Up for a New Life in Europe’s Most Eccentric City. It’s funny, and insightful, and I recognised so many of the scenarios, both from my own experience of both Prague and Bratislava (there are plenty of similarities), and my time as an ex-pat in various countries – there’s a certain way that life seems to evolve when you’re an ex-pat and Weiss reproduces this perfectly.

For example, there are the legal issues – the problem of the visa is often an eternal one, and during my time in Slovakia the school I worked for spent that whole year trying to get me a legal working visa (well, perhaps they didn’t try very hard, given that they never did, although we got about halfway!), and I was forever feeling anxious when I’d cross the border back into Slovakia after a holiday elsewhere. And then there is the pressing need to meet some locals, even though it seems far easier to meet fellow ex-pats. During the course of the book, Weiss ends up making all manner of local friends through all kinds of methods and it’s those little stories that I particularly enjoyed.

 I’m giving away a copy of The Thing About Prague this week to a loyal reader: check out my Facebook page to see if it’s you!

Your armchair travel suggestions

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed “having to” make some extra time for reading travel narratives this month and I hope you’ve enjoyed the suggestions. Now I’m hungry for some more – so please let me know your favourite travel books in the comments – thanks in advance!

Also, thanks again to Kate Leeming and her African adventure Njinga for being the very lovely sponsor of the Armchair Travel series. Much appreciated Kate, and good luck with the Antarctic adventure you have coming up.

 

Comments

  1. Hi Amanda,
    Your blog on my book popped up on my Google alerts today. Thanks so much for your kind words. I hope you didn’t scare your cat too much while reading the book!

    All the best,
    John Ahern

    • Thanks John – and you’re welcome! My cat doesn’t seem permanently scarred, so all good. Lovely to hear from you and thanks for giving me (and one lucky reader, soon) an excellent read! And good on you for giving your kids such amazing travel experiences too. Perhaps they’ll grow up to be travel bloggers?!

  2. Prague was my favourite European city when I backpacked around Europe and I have to agree with John Ahern Dubrovnik is at it’s most beautiful when the masses have yet to descend upon the old city. I loved having breakfast inside the city fort and watching the town come alive.

    • Yes, absolutely, Dubrovnik is easily at its finest before the cruise crowds arrive! And Prague really is a gorgeous spot (I still like Bratislava better though!).

  3. Hi Amanda,

    Thanks so much for this lovely review. I often wondered if Bratislava would have been any easier than Prague but I guess since you didn’t get your visa either… not so much.

    cheers
    Rachael

    • You’re welcome Rachael! And no – I’m guessing Bratislava and Prague are similarly “tricky”! In fact part of the process of getting our Slovak work visa involved pretending that we were actually living and working in Prague and two trips there to “prove” this! (We never got to the end of the process though, it was so long-winded!)

  4. Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere says

    I love this idea of armchair travel through book! ‘The Thing About Prague’ sounds lovely, I’m going to have to find it. Although I read a lot, I hardly ever read books related to travel! So I’m trying to fix that 🙂

    • Oh yes Grace, I *love* reading stuff about travel (even though it makes me want to book a flight immediately sometimes …) – and I do highly recommend the Prague book, great read.

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