Lonely Planet's A House Somewhere: Tales of Life Abroad explores what happens when we take the romance of travel one step further and settle down. The 26 stories read like an abridged edition of the past two decades' most popular travel books, with excerpts from Paul Theroux's Sunrise with Seamonsters and Pico Iyer's The Global Soul. For avid travel readers these will be old friends; for those new to the genre, it's a great way to catch up.
Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence launched the "house book" craze in 1989, and his contribution is acknowledged with an excerpt, along with a chapter from Frances Maye's Under the Tuscan Sun and many other tales of yuppies "slumming it" in old, country homes. While the storytelling is evocative, the collection's focus on writers complaining about the impossibility of finding a decent plumber in their quaint hamlet starts to grate. TIME Asia's editor Karl Taro Greenfeld offers an antidote with his claustrophobic account of a college semester spent in a Parisian loft, gambling his monthly allowance on games of Nerf basketball with a trio of dissolute Americans and an Argentine kleptomaniac. Scoured of romanticism, his story dwells on the conflict that comes with being a resident outsider: a fear of stepping into the unknown combined with the shame that comes from seeking the comfort of your own kind when you are supposed to be out making friends with the locals. Chris Stewart steps out of the expat ghetto—to his regret—in a passage from A Parrot in the Pepper Tree. In his tale of what happens when an outsider gets between a local man and his woman in Spanish Andalusia, Stewart asks, "What should you wear in bed when you are waiting for someone to come and kill you?"
The final tale, Simon Winchester's poignant coda to a life on the move, Coming Home in Massachusetts, celebrates tilling the soil as an act that instantly turns a place into a home. "In that moment I was utterly hooked ... Tractor smoke, fine Syrian tobacco, blue alfalfa and wild mint made a cocktail of, well, probably pheromones ... that produced for me a true olfactory epiphany. It was as though in that one instant the earth sang out: ‘Dig holes here. Put down roots.'"
As much as I loved living in Paris, the Seine's heady cocktail of diesel oil and stagnant water was not enough to make me tie the knot. Eventually I moved on, leaving my boat for other affairs: a dalliance with a house in Berkeley, a fling with a high-rise in Hong Kong. But I still look back on my Parisian home with wistfulness and a hint of self-satisfaction. At any gathering of Iyer's global souls, a houseboat in Paris trumps a penthouse in Manhattan every time.