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Water cooler: Stuck at home? Let one of these books take you away

American author John Steinbeck, takes a rest from intense work on a new novel in an undated photo. (AP)
American author John Steinbeck, takes a rest from intense work on a new novel in an undated photo. (AP)
From staff reports

Just about everyone has the travel bug right now, and the upcoming nice weather won’t make it any easier. Help scratch that itch by picking up a book about travel and allow your imagination to sweep you away. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

“Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes” by Robert Louis Stevenson’s, 1879 –This is one of Stevenson’s earliest published works and helped pioneer the genre of outdoor literature. Take a hiking trip through south central France, accompanied by the classically stubborn donkey, Modestine.

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts, 2003 – An Australian bank robber and drug addict escapes Pentridge Prison and flees to India. Get sucked into the tumultuous underworld of Bombay.

“On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, 1957 – This classic of the postwar Beat art and counterculture scene is based on Kerouac’s travels with his friends across the United States. It reads as a rambling and personal diary with drugs, jazz and poetry serving as the backdrop.

“Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck, 1962 – This travelogue depicts the author’s 1960 road trip through the United States accompanied by his poodle, Charley. Follow along the outer border of the United States, all the way from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, through the author’s hometown of Salinas, California, across Texas and through the Deep South, wrapping back to New York.

“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes, 1996 – This memoir captures the sunny romance of an abandoned villa tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, detailing the restoration process as well as several recipes.

“The Cat Who Went to Paris” by Peter Gethers, 1990 – This short novel is perfect for daydreaming globetrotters and cat lovers alike. Discover the humor that a feline can bring to classic travel situations.

“Lands of Lost Borders” by Kate Harris, 2018 – This debut book documents the author’s experience bicycling over 6,000 miles in 14 months along Asia’s historic Silk Road. Harris took the trip with childhood friend Mel between her studies, journeying through some of the most remote places on the planet.

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, 2012 – Journey with Strayed in her memoir that recounts her solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, following the passing of her mother and divorce from her husband. The hike helps her rediscover herself and her confidence.

“Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts, 2002 – Discover what is involved in the process of departing from regular life to go explore the world and experience life on your own terms. This one makes for a relatable quarantine read in terms of breaking from the day to day routine, but it speaks even more about how even those who don’t think they have enough money or time can find a way to travel more – something many people may have a new appreciation for.

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, 1988 – Originally written in Portuguese, this international bestseller tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago, who yearns to travel to the pyramids of Egypt in search of treasure, but what he discovers ends up being much more personal instead.

Brain train

Test your knowledge with today’s trivia question

When did the Louvre first open as a museum?

  • 1190
  • 1793
  • 1622
  • 1419

Wednesday’s answer: Seeker

Creative streak

Nobody ever said quarantine would be exciting. Many have used the time at home to rekindle their creativity. That said, finding creative inspiration usually takes a little more than just extra time, so here are a few things you can do to find that spark.

  • Keep notes. Make a journal or notebook for yourself exclusively dedicated to jotting down quick ideas. It should be small enough that you can keep it on your person or in your work area. Don’t be afraid of incoherent notes – not all ideas are articulate. Let your ideas be free flowing and messy, just make sure to get them down before they run off.
  • Create a vision board. Visual aids are a great way to discover new ideas and bring clarity to preexisting ideas. They can take many forms, so be imaginative and make it your own. Include inspiring colors, shapes, photos, quotes. Find images online or in magazines, or create your own.
  • Put that morning grogginess to work and write a stream of consciousness right when you wake up. Before you are alert and organized, you may have lots of fun, weird and possibly incoherent thoughts floating around in your half-asleep brain. Let your subconscious do the work for you and write down the first things that come to mind in the morning. Jump out of bed and head straight to your work station. For those who are a bit reluctant to get out of the covers, keep a notebook near your bed so you can jot down a few things without sacrificing any coziness.
  • Move around. Getting more oxygen to your brain can help clarify your thoughts and put momentum behind new ideas. Do an at-home workout or take a walk if you need a change of scenery.
  • Keep a journal. Journaling not only helps you digest your thoughts and feelings, it helps you get in the moment and reflect. Journaling a little bit everyday helps you know where your head is and it’s also a great daily practice that helps maintain a forward momentum. It is a wonderful way to combine personal time with creative thinking.

Museum visit

One of the most equally impressive and hilarious trends of quarantine has come from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s online art challenge.

The challenge tasks bored isolated people everywhere to recreate famous works of art using whatever items they had available. The challenge appears to have begun with Dutch Instagram account Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine, but it gained popularity after the Getty followed suit and put out its own version of the challenge with a bit more stringent limitations – choose a work of art and recreate it using only three items in your house.

The challenge has amassed thousands of submissions and they are still pouring in. Unsurprisingly many of them feature coronavirus staples, toilet paper and household cleaners, capitalizing on some of the humor of these bizarre times. Another common feature includes people using their pets for recreations, such as a mini Goldendoodle standing in for a regal recreation of George Washington’s 1796 portrait, or a fluffy, white pup standing in for the horse in “Napoleon Crossing the Alps.”

If you’re looking for some quarantine creative inspiration, browse the submissions by looking up #gettymuseumchallenge and @tussenkunstenquarantaine on the Instagram app or at

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