My folks were also touched by wanderlust. My dad was in the Air Force (a radio DJ, best job in the military!) and my mom had decided to stay and work in Europe after her visit to Norway in 1964, and they met at biergarten in Wiesbaden. She eventually became a travel agent.
Her wanderlust and love for history found an intersection in the books she read. My dad loves reading, but he's more of a non-fiction history kind of guy (which is awesome in a completely different way). My mom was an avid, nay, obsessive fiction reader, and I reaped the benefits as a kid, getting her books when she was done. I read Shogun by Clavell and Centennial by Michener, I read Ivanhoe and The Thorn Birds (alongside Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, of course). Later in life, we shared Alison Weir books, Pilgrim by Timothy Findlay, Sharan Newman's Catherine leVendeur mysteries, among so many others.
As a kid, two books that really stood out for me were by M.M. Kaye, Shadow of the Moon and Trade Winds. The former is a story of Kashmir and Afghanistan in the mid-19th century, the latter a story of life in Zanzibar in the 19th century, featuring a wonderfully named heroine, Hero Athena Hollis. I was so impressed by Trade Winds that I wrote a fan letter in 1986, when I was 15. To my great joy, and continuing glee, she wrote me back.
I've carried this letter around in my Box of Special Things ever since, and count it as one of the cooler events of my early life.
April 20, 1986
Dear Ms. Nelson,
I'm so glad to hear that you enjoy reading my books. It was kind of you to write.
I'm afraid you wouldn't like Zanzibar if you went there now! I'm so glad I saw it before it was spoilt. The place is now full of 'worker's flats' on the western model; and the new 'far-left' government have driven a wide--very wide--main street right through Zanzibar City, knocking down all the lovely old Arab houses, and getting rid of all the fascinating, winding, twisting, narrow streets. Oh dear! So sad--
I've had a lovely life, and I am very grateful to have been able to see, and live in, such beautiful places.
Best wishes to you -
Mollie M. Kaye
Thank goodness for Mollie Kaye, who took the time to write to a kid in California, and thank goodness for my folks, who took the time to read to me, and thank goodness for my mom, who had great taste in, and abiding love for, historical fiction. I sure miss her.