Ease back in an airline coach and trade the piercing fluorescent lights of the office for the warm sunshine of soft, sandy beaches.
Or sit back on the couch and enter the southern tip of Japan with an apprentice potter studying with families who have practiced the art for four centuries.The first option requires travel; the second requires nothing more than turning pages. A genre of travel adventure books growing in popularity takes the mind and spirit on a holiday and leaves the body at home.
Ken Stuart, editor-in-chief for Paragon House Publishers, says readers of such travel adventure books aren't simply people who don't have the money to travel themselves. Adventures offered by Paragon's Armchair Traveller Series take readers not only to unfamiliar places, but often to where the airlines can't take them: back in time.
Stuart said his company found out-of-print travelogues written by novelists such as W. Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos and revived them for the series.
"They are historical and define a long-lost era when travel was more romantic and adventurous," said Chris O'Connell, assistant editor for Paragon. The non-fiction adventures in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, take readers, for example, through postwar Russia in Steinbeck's words and Robert Capa's photographs in "A Russian Journal."
English poets W.H. Auden and Louis McNeice recorded their impressions of Iceland in prose and poetry for "Letters from Iceland."
In preparing for a novel, Maugham collected impressions of Spain in a travel journal "Don Fernando;" and Dos Passos, author of the American Trilogy, collected impressions of Brazil in "Brazil on the Move."
Lesser-known author W.B. Seabrook writes his collections of Haitian Voodoo rites in "The Magic Island" and gives an inside look at Arab cultures in "Adventures in Arabia."
"A lot of people reading these adventures never want to travel to the area," Stuart said. "They are more concerned with learning something different than what they are involved with every day. It is a different kind of escape fantasy, like going to a movie, but it can be a more serious entertainment."
Vintage Books of Random House also publishes a series, Vintage Departure, to provide an intellectual and spiritual get-away.
"The Road to Miyama" is Leila Philip's account of her time immersed in the culture of southern Japan while learning the art of pottery-making. By living and learning the lifestyles of the people, Ms. Philip did what no one could accomplish in a two-week vacation.
"The Voyage of the Sanderling," is Roger D. Stone's exploration of the ecology of the Atlantic coast from Maine to Rio de Janeiro.
Readers experience the culture of China while learning martial arts from masters in Mark Salzman's "Iron and Silk."
"You Gotta Have Wa," by Robert Whiting explores how American baseball players adjust to the game and life in Japan. 'Wa' is the Japanese term for heart and soul.
"These authors do what a lot of people wish they could. They pick someplace and spend six months to a year experiencing a different lifestyle," said Phillip Cicione of Vintage. "Departure means what it says - a departure from what you are normally accustomed to doing."
Coffee table books with luscious pictures of French gardens or recipes for Scottish scones also serve up a tasty get-away.
"French Country Living," not only offers pictures of the French countryside, but suggests French touches for your home, said Rachel Berek, a publicist for Little Brown. And "Lady MacDonald's Scotland" combines folktales and old Scottish recipes.
Likewise, "Guide of the Impressionist Landscape" is a traveler's handbook to the scenes of famous paintings, but also pairs the masterpiece paintings with a photograph of the actual area depicted. The book includes the artist's comments about a scene and his painting techniques.
"These books give people an idea of what a region is like," Ms. Berek said. "If people are so inclined, the books show what they can do to mimic an area and recreate the atmosphere of the place."
(Linda Negro is a reporter for The Evansville Courier in Indiana.)