St. Olaf College | News

Embracing the travel bug at home

Photo captured during the Active Adventure in Croatia program with St. Olaf College's Alumni and Family Travel in 2019.
Photo captured during the Active Adventure in Croatia program with St. Olaf College’s Alumni and Family Travel in 2019.

Although most members of the St. Olaf College community have had to put a stop to travel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, your love for travel doesn’t need to be put on hold as well. Books, music, movies, and so much more can transport you to brand new places all over the world. 

Inspired by this notion, Director of Alumni and Family Travel Heidi Quiram reached out to St. Olaf faculty, staff, emeriti, and retirees for their recommendations, and they readily stepped up to the plate. More than 50 members of the St. Olaf community contributed to the list with everything from poems to a website with virtual hikes in Ireland to favorite novels to television shows. 

We hope this compiled list of resources provides you with an opportunity to travel virtually while at home and inspires you to continue learning about the world and our place in it. 

Here’s a small selection from the list in no particular order. View the full list of recommendations

David R. Anderson ’74
A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson

“Published in 1775 by the great 18th-century literary figure Samuel Johnson. It’s his journal of an 83-day trip through Scotland, focusing on the Hebrides. Lots of great Johnsonian prose. Read it alongside James Boswell’s A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. Boswell, Johnson’s biographer, accompanied him on the trip.”

Steve Romenesko
Assistant Director of Student Activities, Office of Student Activities
Somebody Feed Phil
Netflix series

“There’s also a season or two under the name I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, as it started as a PBS show. I love it because it’s a very human and enthusiastic look at travel with an undertone of beautiful silliness.” 

Jodi Malmgren ’92
Director, International and Off-Campus Studies
The Way

“With Martin Sheen, about the Camino de Santiago, one of the oldest Christian pilgrimages and a UNESCO world heritage site.”

Brian Greening
Director, TRiO Student Support Services
“Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” by Louis Armstrong

“This is my favorite travel song, and one of my favorite tunes regardless of theme. I’m an unflagging advocate for NOLA, as I spent a lot of time learning about and living in the Crescent City while working on my dissertation. It’s a lovely song — one that became a siren song for displaced and returning New Orleanians post-Katrina. Regardless of the circumstances or my own mood, Armstrong’s ode to his hometown always makes me feel better, more at ease, and connected to the people and places on the other end of the Mississippi that matter so much to me.”

Jenny Howenstine ’98
Associate Dean of Admissions, Director of International Recruitment
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Murial Barbery

“I love reading contemporary and historical fiction set outside of the U.S. almost as much as I love traveling. Instead of reading books set where I plan to go, I prefer those set in places I’ve just returned from so I can extend the trip and picture the places and things I’ve just seen. (This one is set in Paris.)”

Paul Niemisto P’08
Professor Emeritus, Music
Oodi, the Helsinki City Library

“One of the most amazing buildings to be erected in the last decade is the Helsinki City Library. The Library ‘Oodi’ has some virtual tours available online. Nothing quite like it. I was in Helsinki as it was being constructed, but I haven’t been in yet since it’s finished.”

Jane Becker Nelson ’04
Director and Curator, Flaten Art Museum
Drinking French, by David Lebovitz

“Traveling is so much about tasting. While we’re staying close to home, I’m finding expansiveness in this new book, which includes both stories about and recipes for iconic French cocktails and aperitifs.” 

Brian Borovsky ’94
Professor of Physics
Fantastic Voyage, by Isaac Asimov

“I remember reading this book when I was young and being absolutely captivated by the idea that you could travel through the human body. Racing through blood vessels in a microscopic submarine, defending your ship and crew against white blood cells, risking the dangerous vibrations of sound waves in the inner ear, all in an effort to save a person’s life … now that’s an adventure in a totally different world!”

John Barbour
Professor Emeritus of Religion
Bad Trips: A Sometimes Terrifying, Sometimes Hilarious Collection of Writing on the Perils of the Road, edited by Keith Fraser

“It is a good introduction to a lot of compelling travel writers, and each section is a very engaging account of some intensely demanding situations. It’s helpful in keeping your own travel tribulations in perspective!”

Chuck Huff
Professor, Psychology and Computer Science
“The Guest House,” by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

“When I led Term in the Middle East over a decade ago, I read this poem to my students when we arrived in each of the three countries we visited: Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt. But the most memorable time is reading it to them as we sat in the courtyard of Rumi’s mosque and shrine (where he is buried) in Konya, Turkey.”

Carla Manzoni
Visiting Assistant Professor, Romance Languages – Spanish
“De Usuhuaia a La Quiaca,” by Gustavo Santaolalla

“This was an early 1980s project by Léon Gieco and Gustavo Santaolalla to travel 4,500km and collect and record Argentine traditional folk music from Patagonia to the limit with Bolivia. A song inspired by this experience was included in Walter Salles’ ‘Motorcycle Diaries.’ In this video, the song is played by Santaolalla’s band Bajofondo Tango Club.”

Hannah Ryan
Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art
A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid

“In this searing work of creative nonfiction, Antiguan author Jamaica Kincaid addresses the tourist from the perspective of a local, drawing critical connections between tourism and colonialism that often go unacknowledged by those privileged enough to travel.”

Colin Wells
Professor of English, Associate Dean of Humanities
“Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen

“When I’m leaving for a road trip, I like to start things off with this song. The driving beat, which builds up to the line, ‘Baby we were born to run!’ sets the tone for a long drive.”

If you’d like to make a contribution to this list, please email us at 

Visit our website to learn more about Alumni and Family Travel, find more opportunities to travel virtually,  watch for COVID-19 updates to upcoming Alumni and Family Travel programs, and more.