Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

Karen McCann on Armchair Adventures: Guest Post

April 24th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Today on Compositions, we hear from Karen McCann, an American expat living in Seville and exploring Europe. Following a 6000-mile, 13-country train journey, she has just published Adventures of a Railway Nomad: How Our Journeys Guide Us Home. But as she reminds us, sometimes the best travel experiences involve a good armchair and a great read.

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The Civilized Joys of Armchair Adventures

A great travel memoir gives us the exhilarating pleasure of exploring far-flung places in the company of a congenial and insightful companion — without having to put up with long plane rides, inclement weather, lost luggage, and worrisome food. Having visited places where it’s advisable to shake out your shoes to dislodge scorpions and stay on perpetual lookout for leopards and electric eels, I deeply appreciate the civilized thrills of armchair adventures.

Books involve us in journeys we would never undertake ourselves. In Free Country we join George Mahood as he sets off on a 1000-mile journey penniless, without luggage, and nearly naked. He proves — via many uproarious detours — that you really can rely on the kindness of strangers.

As a young girl educated by a French order of nuns, I dreamed of living in Paris someday. Two delightful memoirs — Karen A. Chase’s Bonjour 40 and Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French — provide realistic yet enticing views of today’s City of Lights.

Perhaps the best kind of travel memoir is one that enables us to see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. Alain de Botton, who claims he actually enjoys airports, spent seven days at Heathrow writing about his impressions on a screen visible to passersby. A Week at the Airport is so fresh and insightful that I’ve actually had to rethink my aversion to air terminals.

“The real voyage of discovery,” wrote Marcel Proust, “consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” And that’s something every good travel memoir offers us.

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You can follow Karen McCann on her blog or on the Enjoy Living Abroad Facebook page, too. Her book, Adventures of a Railway Nomad: How Our Journeys Guide Us Home is out now.



Winter’s Eve: The Last Gift

December 20th, 2013 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Below is the last chapter of Winter’s Eve–a six part holiday story.
If you have missed previous pieces:
The First Gift ~ The Second Gift ~ The Third Gift ~ The Fourth Gift ~ The Fifth Gift



It was the night before Christmas. My sniffles had receded, but my worry had deepened. Morning would bring my granddaughter one tiny doll; something to hold, but not enough to replace all she’d lost. She sat with me as I made our hot cocoa.

“Where’s the cinnamon?” I asked. A knock at our door interrupted her reply.

When I opened it, Charley bounded in. Doc Blue came holding Miss Paige’s hand and a book. Then came Mrs. Mittens carrying scarves. Miss Rose brought colorful bows. Mr. Crumb presented a cinnamon spice pie. “Thank you for bringing us together,” he said. They all looked past me to my granddaughter.

“It was you?” I saw her anew. Despite having lost the most, she had thoughtfully saved coal for weeks, ribbon for months, shared cinnamon and a story.

She nodded, “I thought it was better for all to be warm than some too hot, or too cold… Not everything cherished comes wrapped in ribbon… The green in our hands can be woven for others… Friends add spice… Books provide great adventures… Better to love another than a fairy tale.”

All night we rejoiced together, feasting and reading by the fire. Our home, once again full. As she nodded off in my lap, my granddaughter whispered, “A family isn’t given, Grandpapa. It comes from giving.”

Happy Holidays.
Wish granted.

…And so it was we all received the last gift. On this magical Christmas night, in our mountaintop village, Winter. From my granddaughter. Eve.


. . . . . .  The End . . . . . .

Happy Holidays to you all.
See you again in the New Year.


Winter’s Eve: The Fifth Gift

December 13th, 2013 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Below is an installment of Winter’s Eve–a six part holiday story.
If you have missed previous pieces:
The First Gift  ~  The Second Gift  ~  The Third Gift  ~  The Fourth Gift



Miss Paige told me later that when Doc Blue and Charley came to the library, the stacks were silent “like always.” Readers often came and went with joyous tales, but books and bindings couldn’t provide what she wished for. Love. Shelves held a thousand romances with handsome princes, but honestly she hoped for just one Mr. Knightly.

One afternoon, she had been moving a towering stack of books, when her life changed. “Hello?” rang a lonely voice with the bell.

“Coming,” said Miss Paige, the volumes in her arms hiding her visitor from sight. As she peered around the pile, it wavered and tumbled to the floor. She bent to retrieve the books, and knocked her head against something just as solid. Through spinning stars, she saw him.

Illuminated. That was how she described her first sight of Doc Blue, rubbing his own head. Charley bounded between them. Miss Paige blushed as the two of them gathered the books. Their fingers grazed and the connection was energizing. Enchanting. They could not let go.

At last, Doc Blue showed her the book. “Was it you who gave me this gift, Miss Paige? Or is ‘vanity working on a weak mind?’” He quoted from Jane Austen, and gave her the typewritten card.

Happy Holidays.
Wish granted.

She gasped. “It’s you? You’re my gift.”

“Me?” Doc Blue hoped, but then he wondered, “But if my gift wasn’t from you…”

“…who requested the book?”

Miss Paige knew. Soon, all of Winter knew, too…