12 Inspirational Travel Books Everyone Should ReadPosted: January 9, 2016
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.’ Written in the last years of his life, this book reflects on Hemingway’s time spent living in the French capital during the 1920s, where the literary iconoclast drank, smoked, and discussed life with the likes of James Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald as he struggled to make it as a writer.
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Another book set primarily in the the City of Light, Orwell’s second novel is a harrowing but poetic account of his twenties spent living in poverty. Working 15 hour shifts in the hell’s kitchens of fancy 5-Star Parisian hotels; sleeping in doss houses; picking cigarette butts from gutters; and unable to afford food for days on end, Orwell somehow manages to romanticise the life of a ‘down and out’ in a way that humanises the underworld societies many may not even have been aware existed.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac’s masterpiece and symbol of The Beat Generation movement, On the Road doesn’t need much of an introduction. The book which inspired millions to rebel against the establishment sees Kerouac and his friend Neil Cassady cross the United States multiple times as they become embroiled in a free-spirited adventure driven by jazz, drugs, and sex.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
This is a retrospective account of Orwell’s time spent fighting with the militia against fascism in Spain. He had travelled solely to report on the Civil War that was taking place, however became so engrossed in the matter that he ended up enrolling and joining the fight himself. The book excellently depicts the lows of warfare whilst again bringing humanity to the fore; attaching political understanding and clarity to the events that took place, from the inadequacy of the equipment provided, to long periods of boredom spent crouched in grotty trenches, to the near-fatal bullet wound he received.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
A teenager at the time, Laurie Lee left his house in The Cotswolds during June of 1934 with nothing but a beat-up violin and mountains of tact. Busking from place to place, what ensued was the epic journey autobiographically depicted in this book which took him on foot to London and then all the way around Spain before the Civil War, as fought in by Orwell, caused him to return home.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Utterly hilarious and absurd, this cult classic follows the story of Arthur Dent as he is whisked away from planet Earth by his best friend, who happens to be an alien, moments before it is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Following the advice given to them in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, the pair then shoot all over the galaxy in a nonsensical quest to save themselves and uncover the answer to the question: ‘What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?’
The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
Before he became a Marxist revolutionary and anti-imperialist martyr, Che Guevara undertook a spontaneous motorcycle journey with his friend Alfonso to explore the vast South American continent. Under the guise of leprosy doctors these 23 year old, fresh-faced, medical graduates jumped on a haggard two-wheeler and began the comedic, ad-lib, adventure documented in these travel notes. From Che taking a dump out of a window into someone’s orchard; to Alfonso accidentally shooting the dog of a stranger who had been kind enough to give them a bed for the night; to the infamous Anniversary Routine trick they deployed to get free meals, The Motorcycle Diaries shows life through the eyes of this young man on an innocent adventure and quest.
Into the Wild by John Krakauer
In Into the Wild, Krakauer tells the real-life story of Chris McCandless; a 21 year-old who sold all his belongings; gave his parent’s entire college fund to charity; and hiked out into the Alaskan wilderness under the pseudonym of Alexander Supertramp. Inadequately prepared for the environment his decomposed body was then found four months later by a group of hunters, McCandless having become stranded in the bush and starved to death. In the brilliant 2007 theatrical release Sean Penn directs Emile Hirsch in the starring role.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
The only advice book I’ve included in this list, Vagabonding explains how one can take extended time off from work to travel and provides the necessary steps required to do so. It includes financial advice, tips on how to handle adversity, suggestions of possible destinations, and ways to help those suffering from wanderlust achieve their dreams. A very pragmatic and useful guide from which I’ve taken and implemented much advice.
The Beach by Alex Garland
The 2000 film adaption of this book starring Leonardo DiCaprio has become a cult classic among travellers. The story follows a young English man called Richard who, when backpacking through Thailand, learns of a secret Utopia hidden on an unknown island far from the tourist trail. As he becomes ingrained in the small community residing on this paradise’s beach however, not all is as it initially seems.
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain boards a steamship for a pleasure excursion around Europe and the Holy Land; the ticket paid for by a magazine for whom he satirically chronicles the incidents and adventures he experiences along the way. Half-travel guide, half-comedic observations made by the author, when released in 1869 it was regarded as a landmark in travel writing. As summarised by the great man himself: ‘Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s life.’
The Road by Jack London
The Road is an autobiographical novel by the Call of the Wild author from the time he spent travelling across the United States hopping on and off freight trains, begging for food, and bullshitting the police. It is a short, jovial, account of life as a hobo during the economic depression of the 1890’s, and includes stories of London being thrown in jail; tricking strangers; and acting as a general vagrant.
My own full-length travel book is now also available. It follows my misadventures across five different continents as I got comatose drunk on the Thai islands; kicked out of a Hungarian lap dancing club; kidnapped by the mayor of a Peruvian city; crashed a mountain bike on the world’s most dangerous road. and much more. The e-book version can be downloaded from Amazon here