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These Books Are the Shelter-in-Place Vacations I Needed Right Now

The Monocle Travel Guide series is my much cheaper ticket to anywhere in the world, without breaking quarantine orders.


This is Kind of Obsessed, a column about all the stuff our team is really, really into right now.

I’m not the first person to say this in the last month, and I won’t be the last — I am incredibly sick of being at home. I’m glad that my quarantining has helped flatten the coronavirus curve, and I’m incredibly appreciative of those who voluntarily subject themselves to places other than their homes to fight the good fight. But lately, the extent of my worldview has been my apartment and the grocery store. After I exhausted Alton Brown’s treasure trove of Youtube content, I turned to my dusty bookshelf and my collection of Monocle Travel Guides.

I’d been going on vacation at least once a year for the past six years, and 2020 is looking to be the year that I end that streak. Due to the severity of coronavirus, the US travel industry is expected to decline 34 percent for the rest of 2020, resulting in the US economy taking a presumed $910 billion hit, according to the U.S Travel Association. Those numbers are troubling not just for the economy, but for our own wellbeing. Traveling is scientifically proven to be beneficial to our mental and physical health. While I can’t book a vacation for the foreseeable future, Monocle’s line of travel books can teleport me to faraway lands, at least for a moment, while I do my part in the battle against COVID-19 at home.

Monocle first launched its series of travel guides in 2015 with books on London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Each guide is a carefully researched manual for living your best life in a certain city. The range has expanded to include 39 titles covering locations from Chicago to Melbourne. My personal collection includes guides for New York (where I live), Madrid and Bangkok. What I love about these books is how closely they resemble someone’s personal journal, a distillation of one, or in these cases a few, person’s favorite places to eat, drink, shop and live in a place. I had brought my Bangkok guide with me when I traveled to Thailand’s capital, and its relatively small size made it convenient to bring it out with me in true vacation dad fashion.

But I’m not on vacation. And with these books, I’m almost OK with that. Each book is basically a condensed vacation — find your hotel, figure out where to eat, drink, hang out and absorb the culture; there are even recommendations for what souvenirs to buy.

But why, you might ask, could I not just watch one of the many travel shows on TV for a similar experience. Instead of living vicariously through those adventurers, I’d rather choose my own adventure with the options that were curated in these guides. Should I choose to look through the eyes of someone who’s been to those places, each guidebook contains essays by those who have been deeply affected by the city they’re writing about. It’s just a matter of time before I get to see the city myself.

The respite that comes with booking a vacation is gone, instead filled with dread about leaving home. But my Monocle Travel Guides have become my portal to traveling again — a reminder that there will still be places to go once we’re through this.

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Tyler Chin is Gear Patrol’s Associate Staff Writer.
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