The best books about living abroad

Who am I?

I left home in Melbourne to spend a year travelling in Asia when I was in my mid-twenties. I ended up living abroad for a decade in London, Bangladesh, and Myanmar before returning to Sydney in 2016. My first book is about the four years I lived in Myanmar and I’m currently writing my second, which is about the year I spent backpacking from Cambodia to Pakistan. My third book will be about the three years I worked as a journalist in Bangladesh. My plan is to write a ‘trilogy’ of memoirs. Living abroad has enriched my life and travel memoirs are one of my favourite genres, both as a reader and a writer.

I wrote...

Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

By Jessica Mudditt,

Book cover of Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

What is my book about?

After a whirlwind romance in Bangladesh, Australian journalist Jessica Mudditt and her Bangladeshi husband Sherpa arrive in Yangon in 2012, just as the military junta is beginning to relax its ironclad grip on power. It is a high-risk atmosphere; a life riddled with chaos and confusion as much as it is with wonder and excitement. Jessica joins a small team of old-hand expat editors at The Myanmar Times, whose Burmese editor is still languishing in prison.

Whether she is covering a speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, getting dangerously close to cobras, directing cover shoots with Burmese models, or scaling Bagan’s thousand-year-old temples, Jessica is entranced and challenged by a country undergoing rapid change.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of My War Gone By, I Miss It So

Why did I love this book?

I read this book many years ago and it was a time when I dreamed of being a war correspondent. It made me realise that I wasn’t cut out for it. Loyd’s unflinching account of the Bosnian War in the 1990s was so vivid that it made me physically recoil. I’d have become traumatised if I had seen the things he saw. I admired his powers of description and raw honesty. He is also addicted to smack, which takes him to dark places.

By Anthony Loyd,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My War Gone By, I Miss It So as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My War Gone By, I Miss It So is a uniquely powerful piece of writing, unparalleled in the genre. Ex-infantry officer Anthony Loyd arrived in the Balkans hoping to become a war correspondent. He wanted to see `a real war', and in Bosnia he found one. The cruelty and chaos of the conflict both appalled and embraced him - the adrenaline lure of the action perhaps the loudest siren call of all. In the midst of the daily life-and-death struggle among the Serbs, Croatians and Bosnian Muslims he was inspired by the extraordinary human fortitude he discovered. But returning home,…

Book cover of Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan

Why did I love this book?

I know that I have really loved a book when years later I can still remember not just its plot, but exactly where I was when I read it. I have fond memories of reading Zeppa’s book in my guesthouse in Kathmandu in Nepal after pouncing on a secondhand copy. It felt like meeting a new friend. 

Zeppa swaps her dull existence for a two-year teaching post in a Himalayan village. She has fascinating experiences and falls in love with a Bhutanese man. Some of the detail about Bhutan is darker than I expected.

I’ve wanted to go to Bhutan ever since. I came close to getting there was when I lived in Bangladesh, but ultimately, I never did manage it. It’s one of those places that have gotten away from me, but I hope to get there one day.

By Jamie Zeppa,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Beyond the Sky and the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jamie Zeppa was 24 when she left a stagnant life at home and signed a contract to teach for two years in the Buddhist hermit kingdom of Bhutan. Much more than just a travel memoir, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is the story of her time in a Himalayan village, immersed in Bhutanese culture and the wonders of new and lasting love. Whether you're travelling to Bhutan, looking for the best travel writing around, or wishing to be transported to a culture, mindset, and spiritual ethos wonderfully different from your own, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is a…

Book cover of Almost French: Love and a New Life In Paris

Why did I love this book?

What’s not to love about a book set in Paris about a journalist who falls in love with a Frenchman? This book is a delight. Turnbull writes beautifully, and with modesty and humour about making every faux pas imaginable in Paris. It’s light and insightful at the time. The pages practically turned themselves.

By Sarah Turnbull,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Almost French as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Almost French takes readers on a tour fraught with culture clashes but rife with insight and deadpan humour - a charming true story of what happens when a strong-willed Aussie girl meets a very French Frenchman.

Backpacking around Europe, twenty-something Sarah Turnbull meets Frederic and impulsively accepts his invitation to visit him for a week in Paris. Eight years later, she is still there - and married to him. The feisty journalist swaps vegemite for vichyssoise and all things French, but commits the fatal errors of bowling up to strangers at classy receptions, helping herself to champagne, laughing too loudly…

Book cover of Falling Towards England

Why did I love this book?

This is a really funny book. It is the second volume of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs, and it’s set in London in the sixties. James moves to London from Australia to find fame and fortune as a writer and playwright, but things do not go smoothly. I remember snorting with laughter as he describes having no money and nowhere to live, so he crashes at a friend’s place. His friend has bought just a new mattress and James has no blankets and is freezing, so he sleeps in the plastic packaging that the mattress arrives in. He said he rustled like a packet of chips all night long.

By Clive James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falling Towards England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first volume of Clive James's autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs, we said farewell to our hero as he set sail from Sydney Harbour, bound for London, fame and fortune. Finding the first of these proved relatively simple; the second two less so. Undaunted, Clive moved into a bed and breakfast in a Swiss Cottage where he practised the Twist, anticipated poetical masterpieces and worried about his wardrobe . . .

Falling Towards England is the entertaining and erudite second part in Clive James' life story, which he continues in May Week Was in June, North Face of Soho and The…

Book cover of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

Why did I love this book?

I rarely read books twice (just because there are so many great books in the world and not enough time to read them), but I recently reread this book and I’m so glad I did. It was as fresh and funny a second time around as it was the first. Newby has such deadpan humour and often describes himself as a bumbling fool. The title is classic Newby understatement – the hike that he did was no ‘short walk.’ The fights he had with his fellow hiker, a diplomat called Hugh Carless, were so entertaining. 

Newby reveals very little about himself, which was interesting to me because most of today’s memoirs are tell-alls (I’m as guilty of this as anyone). I was entranced by the way he described the peoples and landscape of the Hindu Kush mountains. It was because of this book that I backpacked through Pakistan, and I got to see a tiny portion of the Hindu Kush when I travelled along the Khyber Pass. It was just as amazing as he described it.

By Eric Newby,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic of travel writing, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is Eric Newby's iconic account of his journey through one of the most remote and beautiful wildernesses on earth.

It was 1956, and Eric Newby was earning an improbable living in the chaotic family business of London haute couture. Pining for adventure, Newby sent his friend Hugh Carless the now-famous cable - CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE? - setting in motion a legendary journey from Mayfair to Afghanistan, and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Kabul.

Inexperienced and ill prepared (their preparations involved nothing more than…

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