Traveling and reading go together like fish and chips, bacon and egg and bangers and mash. Sorry for the food similes – maybe we’re hungry! There have been some outstanding travel books to ignite your wanderlust down the years, including all the famous classics no real traveler should have missed, as well as more recent tales of the romance of the road, action, and adventure that will inspire generations to come.
It would take several posts to do them all justice, but to begin with we’ve chosen some of the very best travel books that will get the bug biting again and you’ll be digging out your backpack in no time.
Led by Destiny: Hitchhike Around the World
This might be something of a biased entry, given that the author is from Cez’s hometown, but it’s also one of his favorite books of all time. Late Polish writer and adventurer Kinga Choszcz takes us on a journey through her five-year hitchhiking adventure around the world, and it’s a must for anyone with a desire to travel. A powerfully inspiring, dreamlike and goose-pimple-inducing page-turner – you won’t sit still for long after finishing. In fact, this book is responsible for converting Cez from a rat-racer to a world-traveler.
Gregory David Roberts
The (semi) true story of an Australian armed robber and former heroin addict who escapes prison and flees to India. What he does there is nothing short of astounding. He sets up a field hospital in the slums, works in Bollywood, runs a counterfeit passport operation, is imprisoned, fights for the mujahedeen and falls in love. It is said that Roberts wrote the book twice while incarcerated – a true testament to his resolve and an inspirational tale regardless of what is fact or what is fiction.
On the Road
Perhaps the most seminal travel novel of all time, Kerouac’s classic is as powerful today as it was when it was inspiring the beat generation in post-war America. His alter-ego Sal Paradise transports us across the states in a whirlwind of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The book has been the catalyst for thousands of hitchhike adventures and probably thousands more, as well as an inspiration to travel writers everywhere.
Garland’s 1996 debut novel did more for Thailand’s economy than their own tourist board. Centred around a group of young backpackers and their search for an island paradise, there’s more than a hint of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, as the protagonists attempt to immerse themselves into and establish a utopia away from the bright lights and overpopulation of Bangkok. A modern-day masterpiece – but a shame the film adaptation didn’t quite live up to it.
Into the Wild
Perhaps a better book to movie adaptation was Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, based on the non-fiction work of the same name. In the book, writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer explores the adventures of Christopher McCandless, an American traveler and self-proclaimed “Supertramp.” McCandless gave up everything he owned and left to travel into the American wilderness, tragically starving to death in rural Alaska. In spite of this, he has become a hero to millions and an inspiration to anyone who desires to follow their dreams.
Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton, and Joshua Foer
A recent addition to the best travel books of all time, Atlas Obscura is a hard copy taken from the pages of the website of the same name. An outstanding resource, it focuses on the world’s weird and wonderful, off the beaten path destinations, and the quite frankly bizarre sights and attractions that you wouldn’t normally think of visiting. Guaranteed to make you see the planet in a different light – it’s a fascinating coffee table inclusion.
Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s 1988 novel has sold millions of copies in multiple languages worldwide and is often cited as the most inspirational travel book of all time. A little touchy-feely to others, it nonetheless inspires the reader with its simple tale of a shepherd boy following his dreams. Endlessly quoted in internet travel memes, The Alchemist will no doubt ignite your wanderlust – particularly for the deserts of North Africa.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Another inspirational travel tale that made the transition to film, The Motorcycle Diaries is a memoir from the mind and adventures of a young Che Guevara. Together with his companion Alberto Granado, they rode their 500cc motorbike some 5000 miles across Latin America, and the work recounts their trials and tribulations and the social injustice they experienced along the way. Upon completion of the epic expedition, the communist revolutionary swore to fight for the poor and oppressed across the continent.
A Walk in the Woods
We couldn’t finish our rundown of inspiring travel books without the inclusion of at least one Bill Bryson novel. A Walk in the Woods is an autobiographical tale of Bryson and friend attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail as out-of-shape, middle-aged men. What follows is – in signature Bill Bryson style – a true, informative and inspirational narrative that will encourage you to strap on your hiking boots and get out there on those trails. Or just pick any other one of his books and go from there.
The road not taken…
As ever, we can’t include everything we’ve ever read or all the inspirational travel books that are out there, but we’ve chosen these tomes to get you started. Read them in an order you like – but just make sure you read them – we’re pretty sure you won’t be stuck behind your desk for very long. Better yet – pick one up at the airport when you’re already on your way. Happy travels and happy reading!