‘The world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page’- Saint Augustine
Nothing excites the soul like thoughts of travel, and emotive literary eloquence can give us the inspiration we need to plan an adventure. Travel writing is a true art form, with the author placing as much impetus on the setting as they do the characters, inviting us to take a peek at their own cultural influences and life-affirming experiences. With that in mind, here are six travel books we recommend you read, but be prepared to get itchy feet, as you’ll soon be yearning to take your own voyage of discovery.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is – a phrase that Garland highlights so well by finely balancing the myth of the perfect voyage to the Far East with Western idealism. The Beach looks through the eyes of a realist as we share his thoughts, feelings and actions on what we would all expect to be the paradisiacal voyage of a lifetime. Colloquial without cliché, the main character and the setting are as perfect and as flawed as each other. A must-read for the adventurous.
As John Steinbeck neared the end of his career, he embarked on one last road trip with his dog, Charley, across his beloved homeland of the United States to “rediscover this monster land” after years of living in New York City and travelling abroad. Travels with Charley is a fascinating account of beautiful scenery and chance encounters – a thoughtful and witty travelogue and an inspirational read for anyone wanting to take a trip on the open road.
Before Bill Bryson upped sticks and moved back to the US, he took one final farewell journey around the British Isles, taking a nostalgic and humorous look at modern British society and its countless eccentricities. From unusual place names to some of the country’s unfrequented oddities, Bryson lets us laugh at ourselves whilst instilling British pride as we’re urged to explore our little island.
In 1996, Bryson left Britain and returned to the US. One day he stumbled upon a stretch of the Appalachian Trail: a 2,100-mile track that spans the Appalachian Mountains. He sets out on an adventure, weaving in lessons of history, geology and entomology with his usual doses of humour, escapism and intellect. A Walk in the Woods is a timeless classic and great inspiration for wilderness exploration.
Dervla Murphy had a dream and twenty years later she turned that dream into a reality by cycling across the globe through nine countries on her trusty bicycle, Roz. An extraordinary adventure that takes you from Ireland to India, through harsh weather and agonising terrains as Murphy encounters the exotic and graciously describes the beauty of cultural peculiarities. Full Tilt will motivate you to step outside of your comfort zone and fulfil your life’s ambitions – a truly charming read filled with wit and wisdom in equal measures and certainly one for those with a passion for cycling.
Ever fancied a four-month train journey from London to Paris, through Istanbul, Asia and the Middle East? Ok, it’s not everyone’s ideal expedition and Theroux doesn’t quite paint a rosy picture, but relays a real human experience without any bias. An artful realist and storytelling genius, Theroux writes it as he sees it, from experiencing beautiful and life-affirming moments to becoming worn down by the long journey. Honest, witty and entertaining – an essential for fans of travelling by train.
Also published on Medium.