Around the world through inspiring travel books (37625)

It’s a New Year with 366 new days (due to the Leap Year) to ponder, plan and enjoy some aspect of travel, whether not far from our own communities, across the country or halfway around the world.

Regardless of the destination, one can always find others who have been there before and offer unique, unknown and/or surprising perspectives that may enlighten you in a new way. To that end, I’ve recently come across a few travel books that have done just that-brought to light an entirely new way of looking at a locale and its cultural, social, political, historical, culinary and other parts of its landscape.


The first of these is “Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World with Some Unexpected Results” by author and avid surfer Michael Scott Moore.

While many people’s exposure to surfing may only have been through images on TV or watching a few surfers at the beach (or believing that Black people do not surf), Moore’s book takes surfing far from the shores. “Modern surfing is probably more common around the world than baseball and is arguably America’s most influential sport,” he writes. “An ancient tribal tradition that came from outside, but transformed into something new in America in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, from there it spread like wildfire around the world.”

In each country he mentions-the United States (California and Hawaii), Indonesia, Germany, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Gaza Strip, Cuba, So Tome and Principe and Japan, many of which seem like unlikely surfing destinations-he peppers the chapters will snippets of conversations held with locals along the way. Moore also discusses surfing in today’s environment as it relates to climate change and the health of the oceans, what Americans don’t realize about surfing, some of the world’s off-the-beaten-surf-paths and how he says the sport has done more to spread American notions of freedom and individualism that any of our recent wars.

“Sweetness and Blood” is available from and


Much has been written about one of the most enchanting cities in the world, including through the eyes of its denizens, whether born and bred or transplants from other places. However, what sets “Paris Insights: An Anthology” apart from those other accounts is that it is a compilation of a number of newsletters previously published by Discover Paris!, a unique resource for the independent traveler founded by the husband and wife team of Monique Wells and Tom Reeves, who moved to the City of Light almost 20 years ago to experience a more slow-paced and culturally enriched lifestyle, they say.

Along the way, their love and passion for the city led them to their business, which offers discriminating travelers a richer and more in-depth experience. The couple (Wells is African-American) also focuses on the many aspects of Black life-that of Black Parisians and those from other countries such as the United States.

Each section in “Paris Insights”-“La Vie Parisienne (The Parisian Life),” “Americans in Paris,” “Churches and Cathedrals,” “Tasty Treats” and “Paris Past and Present”-explores a unique aspect of the city and opens the reader to discovering perhaps more-in an enlightening way-than they bargained for.

In “Toni Morrison at the Louvre” (this newsletter was originally published in 2007), they explain how the heralded, prize-winning author presided over a monthlong program at the Louvre, which in part led to a series of debates on whether or not museums should play a role in promoting cultural diversity and social integration.

“Paris-by-the-Beach” (published in 2002) details the transformation of almost two miles of riverfront highway in the heart of Paris “into a resort strand, complete with beach volleyball, palm trees and ice cream stands.”

The black-and-white photography in the book also lends interesting flavors and contrasts to the authors’ words, which truly offer readers an insider’s desire to share a city they have come to adore.

“Paris Insights: An Anthology” is available at Learn more about Discover Paris! at



According to Glenda Burkett, author of “No Blue Sky: An American Traveler’s Glimpse of China,” as one of eight children growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania in a rural farm area, she was not afforded many opportunities to travel. However, her wanderlust for the sights and sounds of far-off places was somewhat satisfied through radio, TV and books.

Eventually, being able to travel as an adult led her to China, where she intimately captured her experiences about this seemingly mysterious, distant and controversial country that is just now coming into view of the rest of the world, including America. But her accounts also go a step further from simply recounting all of the lovely aspects of the country to acknowledging some of its darker aspects that are very real for the Chinese people on a daily basis, such as political prisoners, communism, isolation, pollution, poverty and other issues.

What I really like about the book is that Burkett’s real-life experiences are presented in a boutique, journal format-no doubt similar to what she used when capturing the experiences at the time. For example, one day she wrote, “As we near the Victoria Harbour Waterfront [in Hong Kong], we are in awe. With ferry docks dwarfed by high-rise towers, it is one of the world’s most emblematic cityscapes.”

“No Blue Sky” is also a helpful planning tool that provides some insights that one must-or it would be extremely helpful to-know. Take this as a heads-up: “While the ‘Western toilet’ is making inroads into China in big cities, hotels and airports, there are still mainly squatty potties in China. Today is the day I face my first ‘squatty’ toilet! Picture a tiled floor area with a hole in the middle…Many of the stalls did not have doors. If one could rate the experience, I guess I’d say the degree of difficulty was ‘average to hard,’ requiring far more agility that the potty experience back home.”

The book is a fascinating read, and I have to say it has piqued my interest enough that I’m considering a visit China.

“No Blue Sky: An American Traveler’s Glimpse of China” is available through, and

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for and as a senior travel writer for, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at