Winter Wonderlands are fine and dandy for the first couple of days. But once the festive decorations come down, we’re left with the grey slushy of winter. Time to pull out the best travel comics to escape winter! You don’t have to splurge out on flights or stress over COVID travel plans. These comics are your ticket to cozy thoughts with soft colours and warm breezes on your skin. Comic books have always been a visual treat for escaping our troubles (albeit temporarily). Why not pick out a few for escaping winter?
So what makes a great travel comic? Is it the illustration, with all of the little details that make it look like you can really see the location? Is it the story building around you and drawing you into another land or culture? Maybe it is the character who, like you, is looking to escape to somewhere else, looking for something else? Each of these factors can bring out the best in any travel comic book. Often, it is all of them combined. The real secret comes from how you feel after reading it. If the writer has you looking for a travel guide when you finish, I think that would make it one of the best.
The Best Travel Comics
An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
It seems like the dream holiday: an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe and Scandinavia, thanks to a book tour. Lucy Knisley has documented everything in this graphic travelogue with beautiful watercolour artwork to capture the very atmosphere. It is a raw retelling, sharing the ups and downs of travel far from home. What I love most about this book is how Knisley shows the whimsical romance of travelling and still shares the anxiety and vulnerability of her life, her work, and her various locations. Okay, so it may not be the ‘warmest’ book to read during winter, but it will definitely have you thinking about how to journal your next escape.
A Week in Warrigilla by Teloka Berry and Pi (Webcomic)
Have you dreamed of hitting the road and exploring country towns in Australia? A Week in Warrigilla is all about the road trip through regional Queensland, Australia. Three days into their getaway, girlfriends Hazel and Willie find themselves trapped in Warrigilla. The comic is surreal horror, with a few gothic vibes, and a whole bunch of mystery and adventure. The secret ingredient is the adorable relationship between Hazel and Willie, two ace/aro girls who just seem to nail it with relationship goals. The webcomic started in 2018 and made it on to the Ledger Awards Long List (Australia’s national comics and graphic novels awards). The final episode was uploaded in September 2021 with a truly satisfying ending. And for the record, this is exactly what regional Queensland is like. Spooky supernatural feels and everything!
To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg
Casey and Steven met as college students on a study abroad trip in Morocco. Something clicked and they kept in contact after returning to their respective homes in California and Maine. But the travel bug had well and truly bitten. This is their story, escaping their own winter and travelling the world together. Casey and Steven start off teaching English in China and eventually end up in Timbuktu. The partnership between Casey and Steven extends beyond the story they share; you can see it (almost feel it) in the way the illustrations and words come together. If you’re looking for comics to escape winter, this graphic novel is going to inspire you to simply pack up and go for a warmer place.
Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage by Fabien Grolleau and Jérémie Royer
Charles Darwin escaped the cold of winter in England to explore the warmth of South America (convince me otherwise). While many of us know this was the trip that led to his famous Theory of Evolution, Darwin’s journey aboard the HMS Beagle included so much more. Grolleau and Royer have captured Darwin’s wonder and curiousity, spreading it across pages and pages of storytelling. Everything about this book feels exceptional. It is mostly accurate with the history and characterisation, with a little poetic license here and there. Most of all, it is meant to evoke you to learn more, explore more.
The Girl From the Sea: A Graphic Novel by Molly Knox Ostertag
Morgan wants to escape her island home — I’ll swap with her for winter! The truth is, Morgan doesn’t feel like she truly fits in. She wants to finish school, escape her family and friends, and find who she wants to be. And then one night, Morgan is rescued by a mysterious girl named Keltie. A girl who wants to kiss Morgan as much as Morgan wants to kiss her. Suddenly, the island doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Sometimes when we want to escape a place (or a season), we really are trying to escape who we are in that place. This is a book about Morgan discovering who she really is and how she can make that work where she is (and who she is with). Came for the island setting, stayed for the blossoming relationship.
Ruins by Peter Kuper
Samantha and George plan to spend a year in Oaxaca, Mexico. Samantha wants to follow her family heritage and learn about her past, while her partner George is in it for the unknown journey. The key to this story is the Monarch butterfly and its annual migration pattern all the way down to Mexico. The symbology alone is a reminder of how fragile our travel experiences can be, even when we are using them to escape. Kuper does an amazing job filling every scene from Mexico with warmth and passion. Definitely the better alternative to cold winter nights.
Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle
Burma (also known as Myanmar) is HOT! It’s beautiful but it is seriously a very warm climate. It is the kind of place you can slowly wander around and explore, so long as you have the time. And Guy Delisle definitely had the time. Burma Chronicles is a series of cartoon vignettes shared by Delisle after his wife is relocated to Burma for work. Delisle takes on the role of house-husband with their young son, and slowly adjusts to the difference in climate, lifestyle, and his new role in life.
The Venice Chronicles by Enrico Casarosa
Don’t get too excited: Venice at this time of year is cold. But that doesn’t stop you from dreaming of being there in the spring! The breathtaking watercolour and pencils make this one of the most breathtaking comics to escape winter. Casarosa was an Italian American storyboard artist with Pixar, having recently worked on Luca and La Luna. It’s the same dream-like artwork featured in this book, as he uses the canals of Venice like the main character.
Feelings: A Story in Seasons by Manjit Thapp
If the seasons remind you of emotions, then this is the book for you. Thapp has used the six-season calendar of some South Asian countries to show just how attuned we can be to the environment around us. She shares a visual journey through one year of emotions, where moods change as quickly as the weather (e.g. monsoons. Nuff said). Thapp has taken on the challenge of depicting feelings with symbolism and colours in ways that are so relatable. This book is not intended to make you feel better but it will help you feel seen and definitely not alone. It is such a great depiction of South Asia’s climate, you can easily add this to your comics to escape winter.
Suterare Seijo no Isekai Gohan Tabi: Kakure Sukiru de Camping car o Shoukan shimashita (The Forsaken Saintess and her Foodie Roadtrip in Another World) by Kogami Nana and Yoneori
This one is a pleasant surprise. Rin Takanashi is the main character, summoned to another world as a saint. However, her special skill is…survival. It is of no use to the royal family! However, it is perfect for Rin — she can travel the world, explore the outdoors and do her own thing, without any concern of whether she will survive. Rin doesn’t have to care about the big problems! What a truly amazing escape that would be! The series started in September 2020 and is ongoing. However, word of advice: There is a lot of foodie-lover goodness in this story. Eat before you read.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Priyanka’s mother escaped India, but Priyanka has no idea why. As a second generation Indian girl, Priyanka has a burning desire to visit India and learn more about her family heritage. One day, she finds a magical Pashmina that opens up a world filled with the wonders of India. Guided by the spirits of an elephant and a peacock, Priyanka tries native food and picks mangoes from the trees. Everything she sees tells her more about her family but there are still secrets left unspoken; especially from her mother. I wish had a magical Pashmina but this book is almost as good. It definitely is one of the best comics to escape winter!
The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill
This one is less about escaping to a warm place and more about drinking warm tea while you escape to a whole other world. Put the kettle on and snuggle in with this warm-and-fuzzy read. It follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, who lives in a world with tea dragons. After finding a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta takes on the responsibility and learns how to care for it; a dying art form shared by tea shop owners. After reading this, all I want to do is pour myself a big mug of Jade Mountain Green Tea and escape the winter.
Akissi: Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet, Mathieu Sapin, Judith Taboy, Marie Bédrune
I love this collection of short comics about a wild little girl creating chaos throughout her Ivory Coast town. Akissi chases thieving cats, tries to pull out her own tooth (do not recommend), stays up late watching sci-fi cartoons, and run barefoot around the neighbourhood. It’s all about the innocence of her childhood, and it is a great escape from the winter blues. We all have that childhood fave we want to revisit, especially in the darkest days of Winter. I reckon Akissi would be more than happy to show us around her town.
Billie Holiday: The Graphic Novel by Ebony Gilbert and David Calcano
This one requires some atmospheric music to help you travel. Load up “Summertime” with the luscious voice of the one and only Billie Holiday. This fully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of Holiday’s rise to fame as one of the best musicians of all time. It shares the making and recording of some of Holiday’s most famous hits, including the powerful “Strange Fruit” considered to be the first protest song of the civil rights era. The story is powerful, the art is inviting, the subject is fascinating. Everything about this will warm you up on a cold winter night.
This list of the best travel comics to escape winter is mostly intended as a dream list, to inspire your reading when you can’t travel yourself. However, if any of these suggestions have worked a little too well and you are looking to travel, check out our suggestions for How to Pick the Best Travel Guides.