Miss traveling? You’re not alone – here are seven books that’ll give you that same sense of wonder and inspiration, until we all get to travel again
1. ‘The Pilgrimage’ by Paulo Coelho
Before writing the worldwide bestseller The Alchemist about a young Andalusian shepherd journeying to the pyramids of Egypt in search of gold, author Paulo Coelho went on his own pilgrimage to Santiago or Camino de Santiago, in a quest for a sword. Following the route of the famous network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in Spain, Coelho is accompanied by his mysterious mentor Petrus, as they undergo a series of trials, have interesting encounters and experience curious events. This adventure that ultimately turns into a journey of self-discovery, can inspire people to walk the Camino de Santiago.
2. ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac
This semi-autobiographical novel by Jack Kerouac is a classic and timeless novel, set after World War 2. It follows Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (based on his friend Neal Cassady) as they travel across America, driven by a love for life, freedom and jazz. The two go on a series of journeys that take them from New York, Denver, San Francisco to Mexico. Hitching rides and boarding buses, they stray away from conventional society, meeting hobos, drifters, fruit pickers and migrant families, and encounter America, uncensored. This may not be a typical road trip novel as it is a celebration of youth and the exploration and experimentation that comes with it, but certainly inspires us to take the road less travelled.
3. ‘The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rachel Friedman
In this memoir, quintessential good girl-turned-adventurer Rachel Friedman, who always does what is expected of her, does the totally unexpected – she buys a ticket to Ireland on a whim, casting obligations aside. There she meets a free-spirited Australian girl, an intrepid adventurer and her total opposite (or so she thinks) who she forms an unlikely bond with. Together they go on a year-long adventure that takes them across three continents, during which she discovers a side she never knew she had. She finally realises that the world will not end just because she doesn’t do what is expected of her, and learns to simply live in the moment.
4. ‘Out of Africa’ by Karen Blixen
This autobiographical novel by Danish writer Karen Blixen beautifully captures the African plains and savannah, its untamed wilderness and mysterious tribes. A story centred around Blixen’s farm located at the foot of the Ngong hills in Kenya, the book recounts various incidents and events that take place on the farm, and the many visitors that drop by. A loving tribute to Kenya, it later captured in the movie starring Meryl Streep and featuring epic sceneries of the African wilderness, which in turn inspired among millions an enduring love for Africa, the safari and camping in the wild.
5. ‘1000 Places to See Before You Die’ by Patricia Schultz
More than 10 years ago, this book spurred millions of travellers to hit the road, and it continues to be a quintessential guide for the intrepid traveller. Covering each continent, author and veteran travel guide writer Patricia Schultz curates a bucket list for travellers, from museums, grand hotels, hidden islands, cathedrals and opera houses, to sacred ruins, castles, festivals, restaurants, remote villages and more. What makes this book a big hit is its emphasis on inspiring life experiences, instead of merely providing a list of tourist hotspots. Taking us off and on the beaten track, it leads readers on the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition, to the Alhambra in Andalusia, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the home of Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson in Western Samoa.
6. ‘The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia’ by Paul Theroux
Considered by many to be a classic in the travel writing genre, The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia chronicles American novelist Paul Theroux’s three-month journey by train from London to Japan, through the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Unlike conventional travelogues, Theroux seems less preoccupied with detailing the destinations he visits – often just skimming through cities with a line or two – than he is with capturing visuals and the characters he meets on his travels. Evoking the mystery and romanticism of early British writers encountering ‘exotic’ cultures in Africa, the Middle East and Asia for the first time, the book’s timeless appeal lies in the essence of travel: that it’s the people you meet and the journey, not the destination, that makes travelling worthwhile.
8. ‘Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story’ by Tony and Maureen Wheeler
Everyone likes a rags-to-riches story, and there’s no better one than that of Tony and Maureen Wheeler. As newlyweds, the couple set off on a year-long expedition to explore Europe and Asia. Little did they know that their first self-published guide book, written while stranded in Australia with only 27 cents to their name, would go on to become every backpacker’s bible and the basis for the most successful travel publishing company in the world. Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story is a unique blend of autobiography, business history and travel book, covering the couple’s various travels, early days in getting the business off the ground and current ventures.