By Conal Morrison
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had wanderlust ever since I could walk. My mom tells stories of how I would often just disappear around the block as a child, only to be found surveying the lands around my home from the top of a tree. Fast forward to 2020, when I had finally saved enough money as a student to travel. And well, we all know what happened next.
In my desperation to travel and stave off my wanderlust, I dove headfirst into adventure novels and travel books. The ones I found the most interesting and the most fulfilling were the unusual tales of travel. Those who made their way across the Earth in ways not many would dare to try. And so I give you five books that will change the way you travel.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel By Rolf Potts
Its full title, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, is a bit of a mouthful, but don’t let that put you off! Rolf Potts states that“Vagabonding involves taking an extended time-out from your normal life: six weeks, four months, two years to travel the world on your own terms.”
He tells us that “Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life”. I personally adore this book; it has inspired many of my own travel plans, including my intention to motorcycle my way across all 50 states of America. If you wish to skip over all the touristy stuff and get deeply immersed in your own discoveries, I cannot recommend this book enough.
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia By Paul Theroux
Trains have always been a subject of fascination for me. In my tiny home country of New Zealand, apart from in a couple of the big cities on the North Island, passenger trains are virtually non-existent. So a book about travelling by train on a giant loop from London to Tokyo and back definitely ticked some boxes for me.
In The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux doesn’t sugarcoat any part of his journey across the planet and, at times, comes across as prickly. But his dry humour and the sheer rawness of the story makes up for it. This book is less informative than Vagabonding, but it gives a beautiful snapshot of what the world, and more importantly, what travelling the world by train was like in 1973 when the book was written.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail By Cheryl Strayed
Wild is a true tale of incredible tenacity. A woman who has had her life completely fall apart decides to make a change. She decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, starting in the Mojave Desert and making her way up into Washington State, a journey of 1100 miles. Alone.
This story shines a light on the mental aspect of travelling and how simply being in nature can be so healing. I myself have experienced this on various walks and multi-day hikes around my home country. Travelling by foot can be an amazing way to really get to know the place you are in, as you quite literally are there every step of the way.
On The Road By Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a true story about Jack Kerouacs’ journey across North America in the 1950s. It’s a whirlwind of early mornings spent intoxicated and late-night underground Jazz. Kerouac travelled across the continental states in a car with his best friend, drifting from one place to another.
There is a certain romance in that, as I’m sure we’ve all wondered what would happen if we get in the car and go wherever the wind takes us. This book begins to answer that question and may just inspire you to start planning a trip.
World Travel: An Irreverent Guide By Anthony Bourdain
The late, great chef, author and presenter Anthony Bourdain is a man who has seen most of the world. In World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, he shares his vast experience and shows you some of his favourite places in the world. The book also features short stories and essays from some of Bourdain’s friends and family who have travelled with him, giving other unique perspectives on the places he has visited.
Admittedly this book is more about the destination than the journey, but it’s a great read for anyone looking to plan new adventures.
So there you have it, five books that hopefully will change the way you travel or get you thinking about your next adventure! Whether they inspired you to take a train across Asia or walk a thousand miles, I hope you found at least one book worth reading. And I wish you safe travels on your next journey! Drop any other suggestions for great travel books in the comments below.