Dreaming of foreign lands? There may be something within arms reach

After a year that’s made homebodies of us all, we’ve had to find alternative ways of enjoying our favourite things. While finding joy in these substitutes can be helpful, travelling seems impossible to replace.

Missing the feeling of sun on your face or snow at your feet is hard to remedy without being able to fantasise about an upcoming excursion to a faraway place. But rather than mourning our mobility, why not indulge that wanderlust with reading? We can find some of what we’re looking for in the journeys and experiences of others; culture, epiphany, excitement, identity, connection and the pursuit of happiness.

Losing yourself in reading can be hard. A world built around overstimulation and instant gratification is one that resists our departure from it. Don’t beat yourself up that you’d rather scroll through your phone than slog your way through War and Peace. Instead, acquaint yourself with literary travellers and the rich worlds they live in. We might not be able to experience these things first hand at the moment but we can dream about them, or – better still – read about them.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor

Although a young adult novel, this is one for fantasy fans everywhere. The hypnotic descriptions of Prague alone are enough to make you feel as though you’re tangled in the backstreets of a city frozen in time, guarded by gargoyles and untouched by modern influence. The main character travels between the frosty city and mythical ‘Elsewhere’, pulling you behind her as she dips between two equally mystical yet problematic worlds and their unique enchantments.

The Astonishing Colour of After – Emily X.R. Pan

A love letter to Taiwan from a second-generation immigrant, this story traverses a country at once familiar and foreign to the main character, whose experiences are filtered through the recent death of her Taiwanese mother. Closing your eyes, you can see the vermillion hue of a city pulsating with life, whose vibrancy is astonishing to travellers yet unremarkable to locals.

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By Joanna davies: Literature Columnist

All the senses are engaged by straightforward yet touching writing that envelops the reader in the character’s reclamation of identity and family.

The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner

A refreshingly candid journey of a self-proclaimed grump who is not afraid of his own unhappiness. He endeavours to find out just what brings joy to people across the world by exploring what each country values and how they quantify pleasure. The book offers tidbits of his international pursuit of the elusive state of happiness as well as beautifully individualistic portraits of the countries. From Iceland to Bhutan, India to Moldova, the journey takes you through uplifting and authentic adventures, reminding its reader there is as much joy in searching for peace as finding it.

“Reading makes immigrants of us all,” said Jean Rhys, author of her own entrancing novel Wide Sargasso Sea, “it takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” While travelling waits for you, adventure is ready in the pages of other people’s stories. Their pain, joy, fear, awe is yours: their triumphs and losses will remind you of the beauty and tragedy of a world that is familiar enough to soothe and foreign enough to excite.

Between fantasy, biography, romance, and adventure, there are multitudes of worlds to escape to from the comfort – and confines – of your sofa.