Since travel restrictions will soon become a sad memory, many of us will re-start exploring the world. Therefore this is the right time to get into some interesting readings that may lead us to choose a destinations instead of another, to update our bucket lists or to re formulate our travel priorities.
I used to be on travel every Christmas break for the past 25 years of my life. Thankfully my daily job allows me some good days-off at Christmas time. In normal times I always board a plane after spending Christmas day with my family and I get back to Torino on the 5th of January, every year. In 2020, I will spend the whole season at home, thus I scheduled some good readings. While doing that, before buying new books, I re-explored my own home library to check if there still was some unread book and I bumped into 2 books I read a while ago and which helped me focusing on some issues that also impacted on my “travel destination” choice making process.
Although these two books are not directly about travel, or travel industry, they both provided me with some very good critical thinking about global politics and the millennia of history that led each Country to be (and behave internationally) the way they are nowadays. I remember going on, page after page, and making up my mind: despite the beauty and the attractions some Countries might have I will probably never visit them, while others, which were at the bottom of my bucket list, came up to the first positions. Travelling is to me not only about visiting, sightseeing and getting to know or discover the local culture, but also about understanding where (and when) each culture is rooted in history and why a specific travel destination can be a place I like to support financially, by travelling, and why some others I don’t want to visit anymore.
These are my recommended travel-readings for your Christmas break.
On November 27th, 2018 I flew to Mauritius for my Chistmas holiday. The cheapest and time effective solution was flying with Emirates, thus I had a 4 hours stopover at Dubai Airport, which is nowadays one of the busiest airports in the world (at least before covid), well organised with plenty of shops where every item you can think of is available. I entered the book shop and I found a volume of which I heard before which was not yet available in Italy. I bought it
The Silk Roads – by Peter Frankopan
Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at Oxford University, where he is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research. He is Associate Director of the Programme for Silk Roads Studies at King’s College, Cambridge. More about the author on his official website
As I wrote above, the book is not about travel but about global politics, starting from the eraly eras of mankind. The title is highly evocative because we are used to speak of just 1 silk road, while Frankopan believes silk road is mostly a concept rather than an actual single historic trade route. Nowadays there are several silk roads, connecting all continents and they all have an impact on international relations between Countries, regardless of their reciprocal geographic proximity. Trade and commerce transformed us all and turned the main interests and goals of decision makers into a will and a need to “conquer” other Countries through commerce itself. It’s not anymore the time for global wars (no one would survive to that) thus wars are nowadays carried out on a commercial level. Read the book if you like and let me know if it actually helped you re shaping your travel bucket list.
Note: the book was so successful that Frankopan had to upadte it in 2019 with a new release called “The new Silk Roads” which is a shorter book mostly focusing on the various modern silk roads that China is trying to create worldwide, and how it will soon replace every other superpower, thanks to it’s commercial and productive strenght.
The second book I recommend is also not focused on Travel but it also was helpful to me to understand how the morphology of the planet impacted on the past history of mankind and how it still impacts a lot on contemporary international relations, worldwide. In 2017 I went to Cardiff, in Wales, for work. The airport was pretty smaller than Dubai but the book store was also well supplied. I got attracted by the cover page of a book of which I knew nothing, neither of the author. I opend it and read a couple of pages, then I bought it.
Prisoners of Geography – by Tim Marshall
During over twenty-four years at Sky News, Marshall reported for BBC and Sky News from thirty countries and covered the events of twelve wars. He has reported from Europe, the United States, (covering three US Presidential Elections), and Asia, as well as from the field in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. More about the author at this link.
The book is an in depth depiction of the geography of the world and explains the reasons why each geographical feature impacted on the development of local populations and, especially, how they allowed conquers, defeats, as well as the development of trade and commerce between regions. It evetually analyses how Geography impacts, still today, diplomatic relations between Countries. What is it that supplies contractual and negotiation powers to a small and appearently underdeveloped Country, against the contemporay superpowers? What is it that allowed Europe to become the most successful and refied civilization on this planet? What is it that made the US a great trade-based nation? What is it that allows China to be the highest GDP Country globally, nowadays? The book supplies answers to such questions, based on global Geography. From the Western European Plains, to the Mountain ranges of Himalaya and the Alps, from the big water-ways of North and South America to the wide distances of the Pacific Ocean, every single geographic feature had an impact on the development of every single Country.
Read this book, if you like, and let me know if you also re shaped your travel priorities after that.