Before you take a family vacation, you probably peruse a couple of travel books and search the web for interesting details that you and family will like to know. You look for interesting details about the locale that will make your family’s trip meaningful. To go deeper and find out more about a vacation destination, reading a novel about the place will open the doors to all your senses. You’ll get a creative view of a place from some of the greatest writers. Feel and see and the places you may visit with writers like Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain and experience interesting vacation locations will give you and your family lasting memories.
Take a journey with Willa Cather
to Mesa Verde, Colorado
Her travel novel to read:
The Professor’s House
Willa Cather (1925)
Jane Hamilton treasures Cather because she “doesn’t know another writer who has that power to transport us to the natural world,” in this case America’s great prairies. But it’s the setting of Colorado’s Mesa Verde in her melancholy seventh novel, “before it was discovered, before it was a destination,” that appeals most. “She makes plain the grace of solitude in a place that is at once the loneliest spot and yet so strangely peopled” (Vintage, $13).
Visiting Mesa Verde
What an adventure for the whole family, since Mesa Verde National Park (Spanish for green tableland) was established to preserve archaeological sites built by the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited Mesa Verde for more than 700 years (550 A.D. to 1300 A.D.).
When you visit MesaVerde you’ll explore over 4,700 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings and the mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structure, with many more yet to be discovered.
Take a journey with John Steinbeck
to visit Baja, California
His travel novel to read:
John Steinbeck (1947)
Steinbeck’s otherwise timeless and placeless fable, in which an impoverished Mexican pearl diver unwittingly brings ruin on his family after pulling up the largest pearl known to man, is grounded in its beautiful landscape. “Yellow, brown, orange, white—these are the colors of Baja California,” says David Ebershoff. “Their purity, their earthiness, are reflected in Steinbeck’s simple prose and simple, devastating tale” (Penguin, $14).
Visiting La Paz and Baja, California
What does La Paz mean? It means “The Peace”. It’s the capital of Baja California Sur and now has a population of just over 200,000 people. La Paz is a small port city on the Sea of Cortez with an important commercial fishing industry.
When you visit baja you’re at the outdoor getaway hub and ecotourism destination. There are opportunities for fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, biking, and hiking. There’s more, since this is a coastal city you can get great fresh seafood, so enjoy the fish, shrimp, octopus, etc. at the many fine restaurants in town.
Take a journey with Mark Twain
along the Mississippi River
His travel novel to read:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain (1885)
Huck and Jim’s “downstream education,” as Jonathan Raban puts it, is important for numerous reasons, but alongside its lessons in the American vernacular and the history of race, there is the canonization of the Mississippi. “The idea of the river as America’s first great interstate arterial highway, at once a place of magical solitude in nature and of fraught encounters with society, survives even now,” says Raban. (Bantam, $6).
Traveling along the Mississippi
What most people know is that the name ”Mark Twain” is synonymous with the life along the Mississippi River. Clemens first signed his writing with the name in February 1863, as a newspaper reporter in Nevada. “Mark Twain” (meaning “Mark number two”) was a Mississippi River term: the second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet—safe depth for the steamboat.
When you take a marktwaintributecruise you’ll travel along the Mississippi like Huck Finn making stops in from St. Louis to Hannibal where your family can take part in behind the scenes tour of the town.
Source for the travel novel: “The 69 Greatest Travel Books of All Time” cntraveler.