It seems that every other week in Richard Carpenter’s Real Deals another women’s business has joined the travel industry. On bikes, on hikes, on safaris, out West, up north, across the Pond, women are traveling together, and cornering them has become smart commerce. (Other than to shoot game or play or attend one, do men travel together?)
Marybeth Bond won the Lowell Thomas Award for best travel book with “A Woman’s World: True Stories of World Travel’’ (Travelers’ Tales, 2003) by several dozen contemporary voices, many of them writers. Then she had a best seller last year with “50 Best Girlfriends Getaways in North America’’ (National Geographic, 2007). This spring she delivers “Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide” (National Geographic, 272 pp., paperback, 15.95). Bond is described on the jacket as “a travel expert, spokesperson, and motivational speaker” and it is this last calling that may, or that should, seem quite personal to the reader.
“Live Life to Its Fullest’’ she advises in the introduction, noting the differences in the ways women travel and that the women she is speaking to may be mother and daughter or sisters or grandmothers, not just girlfriends. The ensuing 10 chapters are organized on, well, a fantastic scale – by which I mean places you might have fantasized about in thinking of a destination. Cosmopolitan Cities are Paris, London, Sydney, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires; Spectacular Spas range from Bali to the Czech Republic; Castles Fit for a Queen range from Ireland to India; Lending a Hand takes you from Jamaica to Romania. Each chapter describes five places, and, yes, Jane Austen gets her mention in the Glorious Gardens chapter.
Bond assures the reader that she has visited almost all of the destinations; she has lived in Europe for six years and the South Pacific for one, and been to India seven times. Her enthusiasm is palpable, even in the smallest details: boldface signs to Best Markets, What to Come Home With, Best Tours, Best Splurge, Best History Lesson, Best Stroll, Events to Fly in For, Get Active, Local Food, Where to Stay, Rates and Packages, others that in a word or three pique the reader's curiosity about a place, and that staple for the savvy traveler, One Click and You’re Off followed by websites.
Sprinkled throughout, too, are brief stories from Bond’s network of friends and shaded boxes with tips on packing, seeing your dentist before you go, being alone in New Zealand, FAQ about volunteering, how to find a language school, and even A Night at the Opera (where? Cairo) and My Favorite Day (where? Buenos Aires). The list of resources preceding the index is also wide-ranging. (Typical of National Geographic, the 5-by-7-inch book is handsomely produced throughout. But pictures are left to the readers’ imaginations; this is a provocation to travel, an encouragement, not a substitute.)
Bond warns that she has tossed out the “average places, accommodations, and experiences,’’ in favor of challenging the reader to use her money and limited time to the best effect. And then, like any good writer, Bond has aimed to seduce the audience along for the ride, and done it so straightforwardly as to make it seem like something every reader could do with her girlfriends. Yes we can.