I've had this series idea in my head for a while, and I can't think of a better way to begin than in honor of Julia Child's 100th birthday.
When I lived abroad for the very first time, for four weeks in a cramped sublet apartment just off the Rynek in Krakow, I first read My Life in France. And ever since, I've been firmly convinced that there could have been no more perfect timing.
Julia's book is all about France, of course, but more than that, it's about adjusting to a new life in a new place. She was no novice to life abroad by the time she moved to France, but she still approached everything with a sense of wonder. And that was how I encountered life in Poland for the first time, barreling through with a similarly naive exhilaration and timidity, as I attempted to assimilate each new cultural experience into my holistic understanding of the world.
In the years since, I've tried to remember the wonder that Julia still found in France. I would never have anticipated that the more I travel, the more novelty itself begins to feel routine. I think Julia has a lesson for every traveler and ex-pat: a reminder to soak in the culture of your adopted home with gusto, until it's begun to reshape you (at least a little bit) into the person you're meant to become.
For further reading, there's a great feature on Julia in the New York Times today. (I'd argue, though, with author Julia Moskin's subtle assertion that Julia Child 'turned the tide' on second-wave feminism's attack on the homemaker. In my view, Julia's redefinition and celebration of the role was itself a feminist act, although she may not have considered it one.)
There are some books that can transport you halfway around the world, and some of those are even better when packed in your carry-on bag. Pack This Book is a series of pre-trip reading suggestions for those about to travel, whether to a new country or your local library.