Sunday, July 28, 2013

Armchair Travel Ideas For The Sick Or Shut-In

Wishing I were here...

It has finally arrived.  That point in all of this treatment where I want to run away  on some marvelously relaxing trip to an island or a beach or something completely out of my ordinary day to day survival right now.

But I can't, because such a trip would be wasted on me at the moment.

That is just the truth of it:  any big trip would be useless for me just now.  I barely had the energy to sit at the bookstore yesterday and browse for books with my family for an hour or so, just to get us out of the house.  Pathetic.  I know it will get better over time, but grates on me to be this blah.

It occurred to me yesterday, though, that other folks might have family or friends who are in similar situations.  So I thought I would pass along some suggestions for good books or DVDs that have worked well for me under these trying circumstances.

When Mr. ReddHedd's father moved in with us, he was very ill and not able to get out and about as much as he might have liked, and he was desperately grieving the loss of his wife of over 50 years (my much-loved mother-in-law).  I discovered one evening, quite by accident, that one of the things he loved was watching shows about animals or travel in exotic places.  Because I love that sort of show, too, we all watched one together on coral sea islands, and I watched his face light up as the show transported him away from his grief and physical infirmity into a lovely world of wonder.

It was such a fun moment.

The trick, I think, is to tailor the show or the book toward the interests of the person to whom they will be given.

For example, my father-in-law had served in the military -- Navy in WWII and Marines in Korea -- all over the Pacific theater.  So a show about the marine life surrounding Pacific coral islands really hit his sweet spot.

If you have a friend or family member who could use something to perk them up and transport them to a wilder or more exotic or more posh locale, then try something along these lines:

For the nature lover in your life:

-- The Blue Planet - Seas of Life.

-- Planet Earth: The Complete Series.

-- Or, one of my favorite methods of monthly reading, a subscription to National Geographic magazine. Still read it cover to cover every month, just like I have since I was a child, and still learn and love it just as much.

For the lover of things in the British Isles and Ireland:

-- Michael Palin (yes, that one, of Monty Python fame) has a series of travel programs that he has done for BBC that are fantastic. One of those was an Irish railway journey that is lovely, and another is a journey around Scotland.

-- There is always the complete works of Jane Austen, or the BBC miniseries collection that includes Mr. Darcy in all his glory.

For the lover of France:

-- Julie and Julia is a great stepping off point, especially if your friend is also a food lover. Julia Child's lovely memoir, My Life in France, is also a nice companion choice.

-- Also for a food lover, At Elizabeth David's Table: Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom is wonderfully rich and evocative of the sights, sounds and scents of the French countryside as told through its kitchens. Brilliant stuff.

For someone who is craving adventure:

-- Two DVD series that I think are wonderful to watch, but very different in terms of content: Frozen Planet, which takes you all over the frozen places of the world in the footsteps of nature, and Michael Palin's Himalaya, which is a marvelous journey alongside the actor through some very rough and absolutely gorgeous scenery.

-- If the Himalaya region tickles someone's fancy, then travel books can be a great choice. Try some by Colin Thubron -- Shadow of the Silk Road and To a Mountain in Tibet being two of my favorites of his. Also try some by Paul Theroux, whose Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China is a superb and very funny read, and whose Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar -- the followup to his The Great Railway Bazaar -- is a wonderful way to walk in someone else's footsteps while staying safely in your favorite armchair.

-- The BBC put together a series on China that I think is spelndid, mostly talking about wildlife and its ecological challenges there, but also giving a wonderful glimpse of the beauty of the nation as a whole: Wild China is worth a watch.

For someone who is intrigued by Africa or the Middle East:

-- Hands down, the most visually gorgeous films are: Sydney Pollack's glorious Out of Africa and the visually stunning triumph of David Lean's cinematic perfection, Lawrence of Arabia.

-- Here, too, we see some other kindred spirit repeats: Michael Palin's travels through the Sahara and Paul Theroux's brilliant and most introspective travel book, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown.

For the National Parks lover:

-- If this person loves both history and the natural world, the brilliant series by Ken Burns for PBS is still my favorite: The National Parks. The companion book, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, is well worth reading, if only for the gorgeous photographs that capture so much history and beauty.

-- National Geographic also has a DVD set, entitled the National Parks Collection, that is a wonderful tour through several major parks at all seasons, highlighting the ecological wonders in each.

Hopefully this is a good starting point.  

You get the idea in terms of finding something that tickles the interest of a particular person you care about who needs a boost.  You can jazz it up by picking a few select items, popping them in a gift basket along with something that goes with the theme:  a tea pot and some lovely tea for the British Isles, perhaps; or some trail mix with the National Parks; or...well, you see where I am going with this.

Over the course of my cancer treatment, a number of wonderful folks have sent DVDs and tea and assorted other goodies to brighten my days, and they have meant a lot to me.  I would imagine that someone you know who is ill or shut-in at this point in their life could use a little brightening as well.

(Photo via Behan.)

No comments: