Travel Book Review: Joan Frank’s Try to Get Lost

I tell everyone that I’m not teaching anymore so my husband and I can travel. That is absolutely true, and it is also true that I’m not teaching so I can have more time to write and read. Travel, reading, writing: the triumvirate for happiness. This puts travel writing–such as this collection of essays with a great title by Joan Frank–squarely in my happy place.

Try to Get Lost: Essays on Travel and Place is a lovely book. Her essays range around diverse locations: Florence, Berlin, the highways and byways of the U.S., her husband’s native England. We get her acerbic take on the French countryside and a wrenching account of the 1950s Phoenix of her childhood, contrasted with a return trip in adulthood.

Other essays capture the piquancy of hotel rooms and the astonishment of air travel–even in these jaded times, planes can dazzle us if we’re paying attention. She shares her suggestions to a relative on what attitudes make for traveling well, including the titular advice, with all the complex layers that phrase implies.

In one essay she explains how a certain piano concerto, heard while driving a long distance, perfectly captured the nature of her journey. I knew what she meant. I’ve had my own versions of this kind of revelation. Mine have been through the crunch of gravel under my feet, a wind-bent tree in afternoon light, the sound of a language new to me. Each explained, if I was listening, why I was in this new place and how to stay open to it.

Frank’s writing is often witty, a sophisticated traveler’s dinner party conversation. But also, she invites us to listen in to her inner colloquy as she describes that most elusive of destinations–our personal landscapes.

Thanks for reading, and by the way, I love comments. Bookmark for more on travel, minimalism, books, public transportation, and hikes. For daily postcards from, well, wherever we are, subscribe to

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