On Armchair Traveling and Pipe Dreams

Book Cover of Epic Runs of the World by Lonely PlanetYou might be wondering why I’m choosing to highlight our travel collection in light of the current situation that makes traveling in the immediate future a bit of a pipe dream… and you’d be absolutely right to wonder! In fact, I’m writing this post with a bit of a self-delusional fervor tinged with a bit of optoomuchism, as Penelope Lumley in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place* put it (i.e. overly optimistic in light of what is known, or perhaps more of a strategic optimism to prevent total deflation). I’ve changed all of the linked titles to those electronically available via Overdrive (either VPL or Markham) or Hoopla Digital, so please, join me in dreaming a little too hard about leaving our front doors and traveling to destinations beyond the grocery store! Join me on an armchair travel.

What’s Armchair Traveling, you ask? Armchair travel is when you travel wherever you so desire using the transportation vehicle that is your imagination, and it can be quite fun, whether you’re the sort to armchair travel as you read novels taking place in another part of the world, sucking you into the time & place in which they are set; if you lose yourself in learning all about the history of a place and time; or if you’re the armchair traveler that gets a kick out of imagining and planning all the fun adventures you’re going to have (or not have, if you prefer lounging on a beach) when you read about some place and/or time that’s… well. Not here or now.

Just a note before we start: I started this post before Canada started taking measures towards travel, back when we were told that the risk of COVID-19 to Ontarians (Canadians? I forget, now, how widely that net was thrown) was low. I’ve changed most if not all of the titles I refer to and links I link to electronically accessible resources we have access to, but let me know if I’ve missed anything! And the majority of the following are going to be focusing on Lonely Planet’s handbooks and inspiration tomes, but you can also peruse the rest of our travel guides on Hoopla Digital here as we think about future travel plans**.

*Lovely series by the way. I devoured them in quick order when I first discovered it. From what I’ve read of its reviews, it has been compared to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, which I couldn’t really get into myself as an adult – The Incorrigibles, on the other hand, I dove into their world without looking back.

**Or the future of travel, if we’re super pessimistic about the situation?

Book Cover of Epic Rides of the Americas by Lonely PlanetLonely Planet publishes some lovely guide- and handbooks full of photos for travelers and dreamers, which I found great for perusing aspirationally – in fact, I kind of approach them the way I do cookbooks: I’ll borrow them, ooh and aah over the photos and descriptions, then return them once the due date approaches without having acted in any way to further the aspirations the books have raised. But if you’re an avid runner, cyclist, or driver (???), you might be pleased to leaf through these titles digitally to find the best routes for the next time you’re out of the country (or even in the country, as they do include North American routes in these!). For those of us who prefer to be on our feet, there is of course the Epic Runs of the World (above) along with Epic Hikes of the World; for cyclists, the Epic Bike Rides of the Americas should make you salivate a bit (though sadly none of the routes for Canada are in Ontario from what I can see); and for… drivers? I’m not even sure what I mean when I say an avid driver – maybe just if you love taking road trips? You’ve got Epic Drives of the World, which I believe is available through Markham’s Overdrive, though it’s currently (at time of writing) unavailable – keep an eye out for it if you just really love driving! – as well as the The Vanlife Companion (2018). On top of which, I’m personally not too sure where the allure lies in train journeys because I fall asleep on moving vehicles at the drop of a hat, but here’s a collection of Amazing Train Journeys: 60 Unforgettable Rail Trips and How to Experience Them (2018).

On the other hand, if you just want to browse based on the time of year, topic (e.g. culture trips), or you just want to see some pretty photos right now (which, same.), Lonely Planet has still got you covered:

Book Cover of Lonely Planet's Where to Go When

Where to Go When: The Ultimate Trip Planner for Every Month of the Year (2016) is ordered according to the months, and you’ll get a list of 30 recommended destinations per month depending on a variety of factors as to why you might want to visit during that time (e.g. climate, value, or events happening at that destination at specific times). Another resource if you have specific dates you need to take off, and aren’t particularly fussed about weather or special events coinciding with your stay, is Kayak’s Explore function. For a few other beautiful collections of inspiration-worthy tomes (I hesitate to call them coffee table books, but they almost feel it), here are a few more that are available on Hoopla Digital to check out:


Book Cover of The Solo Travel Handbook by Sarah Reid, Lonely PlanetAnd then for those of you who love to plan & envision what your next journey will look like, maybe check out The Solo Travel Handbook: Practical Tips and Inspiration for a Safe, Fun and Fearless Trip (2018). I know the prospect of traveling all on your own after this long period of social distancing might strike some as a bit odd, but if  setting off on your own right after this period of social distancing is over and continuing your own version of social distancing sounds like a dream, I got you. I found this handbook to actually be one of the more useful of the Lonely Planet handbooks (among which were some pretty useless ones in my opinion if you’ve done any research on your own), as it served as a pretty good primer. I’d definitely still recommend doing a bit more research online for more current options & relevant information for whatever country you want to be traveling to solo, but it includes a few pages at the back of resources that can come in handy, and brings up a few considerations I hadn’t even thought of before, like using a travel credit or prepaid card for peace of mind (and to avoid those pesky foreign exchange fees – once you have that 0% FX fee card, though I imagine it can be a slippery slope to “online shopping in USD during a slump in the Canadian dollar, HERE I COME!”). For solo travel, there’s also The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo by Beth Whitman (2009), available via Markham Public Library’s Overdrive (log in using your VPL card number).


Book Cover of Micro Trips by Lonely PlanetThen this is the last one I’ll highlight before sending you off on your armchair travel destination of choice: Micro Trips: 894 Easy Adventures From the World’s Favorite Cities (2019), which is great if you’ve suddenly realized you booked yourself in one city for way longer than suggested in every guide book you’ve read since making the booking, and it’s too late to change your plans without incurring cancellation fees. See if you can find yourself a day trip or two (within 3 hours of the city you’re in or are going to) to fill up those empty gaps in your itinerary! The book covers you whichever continent you’re headed to (except for Antarctica), with suggestions for destinations or events within a 1-, 2-, or 3-hour trip from the main city you’re staying in.


Did/Do you have an upcoming trip planned that you’ve had to cancel or postpone (or are thinking about so doing)? If there was nothing in your way right now, where would you want to go and how would you like to experience it? Solo? With friends, family? Take a tour, or go backpacking and figure things out along the way?

About Karen

Karen (she/hers) is a Culinary Literacies Specialist at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre library. When not in the kitchen, she can be found knitting, reading, and repeating.  |  Meet the team

4 thoughts on “On Armchair Traveling and Pipe Dreams

  1. I was planning to travel this spring, back home to Nova Scotia so my kid could visit her grandparents (my parents, obviously!) Thankfully I procrastinated long enough on booking it that I had nothing to cancel though… We’ll make it out when the time is right, I’m sure.

    1. This is one of those few times when procrastination definitely paid off, haha! I had to cancel a trip to Argentina from the end of April – I’m hopeful for a future trip there though! (Even more hopeful for being able to use the credits I got back for the price of my plane ticket still being good for when I can take that time off again!)

  2. So many wonderful places to visit! I’d love to go to Iceland or New Zealand one day to see the beautiful landscapes. Many museums, hotels, and attractions are now offering virtual tours which is a great way to armchair travel and plan your next destination. I just discovered this one for Buckingham Palace: https://www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace!

    1. Ooooh that’s so cool! I hadn’t thought of all the virtual tours now available – I’ll have to start looking around to see what places I’ve got marked down might be offering this now… thanks for bringing this up!

      Iceland is absolutely stunning; I’d go back in a heartbeat! And New Zealand is also on my list of destinations I’d like to visit someday, mainly because of the sheep haha (though that flight is looooooooong)

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