Recently at a large party as we entered we were handed a name tag and a pen. We were told to write our name, how we knew the birthday boy and our favourite thing. It took me all of a nanosecond to add “travel” under my name. A close second on my favourite things to do list is reading. In particular I like to combine the two and read travel books.
I have scoured back through my Good Reads list, reliving many of the books I have read over the years, and below are ones that have stirred up that travel bug within me.
The Accidental Adventurer is Ben Fogle’s story about going from an inexperienced teenager to someone who has had some amazing adventures and done some mind-boggling things. He will give almost anything a go, having walked to the South Pole, rowed across the Atlantic and competed in the Marathon des Sables. Ben has also gone on to be in many television shows. He doesn’t proclaim to be a writer, but this book is written in an interesting way and is easy to read and keep on reading
This was the first book I read that really made me realise that there are people out there that just travel, and build a life and livelihood around that. All I could think of for most of the book was how much I would love to be able to do the things he does. In reality I don’t REALLY want to spend weeks in Antarctica, or run hundreds of kilometres, and I definitely don’t want to be in any television shows. What I envied was the freedom to do whatever he wanted.
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure is the story of Sarah MacDonald, an Australian journalist. In her twenties she backpacked through India, and swore she was never going back there again. A few years later as part of Sarah’s job she was transferred back there. Her story tells of the utter chaos of India and her search to sooth her soul.
I have always had a fascination with India. I love the romance of the Taj Mahal and the stories from the time of the Raj. The colour and energy are amazing, and the way things are perfectly ordered within the chaos. I particularly love the food. I am also daunted by the chaos and overwhelmed by the noise and sheer number of people. All this without stepping foot in the country, but by reading Sarah’s book and others like it.
This is one of the most memorable travel books I have read over the last few years. Jon Krakauer is an American journalist and mountaineer that was invited to join an expedition to summit Mt Everest and to write about the experience. Unfortunately this was the ill fated 1996 ascent that resulted in the deaths of eight people. What struck me most about this book was the reflections Krakauer made months after returning to the USA. His many “what if” questions were heart wrenching.
Doesn’t really sound like one of those travel books that provide inspiration does it? There are some great parts that describe the joys of mountaineering and encourage just getting out there. It is also a great reminder to prepare thoroughly, and even then things can go wrong. I probably would never have attempted Mt Everest – I have never seen snow and I am not a climber! It’s not for tourists who can pay the money, this is a serious pursuit for the professionals only. A timely reminder for any tourism activity.
I couldn’t write a list of inspirational travel books without including Michael Palin. I have read most of his books, and watched the tv series he made too. Here I have chosen to include “New Europe” because that is exactly where we are travelling next year and a lot of the initial interest was taken from this book. He travels through 20 different countries in Eastern Europe, and in his usual style gets involved with the locals and looks for unusual or off the beaten path attractions.
Like Palin, I knew very little about Eastern Europe when I read it. After reading about his journey and doing some research I just had to see it for myself. Our plan was to spend only a couple of weeks getting a taste of the culture, but it was two and a half months before we left the area. I credit this book with arousing my curiosity.
Every traveller knows about Lonely Planet. A whole generation has relied on their guides to help them navigate around the world. This is the story of how it all came about. Tony and his wife Maureen talk about the first trip they did which resulted in their very first book, Across Asia on the Cheap which eventually became the best selling South East Asia on a Shoestring. They also talk about the business journey they had with Lonely Planet, and their decision to sell the company.
I just loved reading about the Wheeler’s sense of adventure as they travelled long term. They did it with no plans and no money, showing that travel is possible for everyone. They were then able to turn their experience into a successful company through sheer hard work. Despite the Wheeler’s success, they still enjoyed travelling in a similar style for many years to come. This was the start of my realisation that I didn’t have to be rich to travel.
The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes By Christopher Kremmer
Journalist Christopher Kremmer has written about his ten year journey through the Middle East and other nearby countries to learn about carpets. His travels were completed before 9/11 changed a lot of the attitudes towards this area of the world.
I have been intrigued by a lot of the countries that Kremmer travelled to since we almost moved to the area a few years ago. I immersed myself in anything I could get my hands on that could teach me about the culture and countries. Even with all the volatility in the region, I still love to travel here and Kremmer has helped to show there are many reasons to visit. Of course it is not safe to go to some places at the moment, but do your research. Many of the countries Kremmer visited are safe and just waiting to show visitors around.
Like Michael Palin, I could not compile a list without including Bill Bryson. I have again read and enjoyed a few of his travel books. Notes from a Small Island documents Bryson’s trip around the United Kingdom. He always manages to find unique and interesting locations that no one has ever heard of and then describes them in a funny and interesting way. I always spend half of my time while reading on Google looking up the places he mentions. I so want to jump on a plane after reading Bryson’s books.
Notes from a Small Island was the first of Bill Bryson’s books I read and it made me see that there are many small interesting places in a country if you just look. Sure the big tourist attractions are just that for a reason, but some of the more interesting and unique experiences can be found talking to people in smaller locations.
There are so many other travel books that I have read over the years. All of the above have been memorable and I have put plans in place to visit many of the locations. I have a huge travel wish list already, but I am still always looking for new destinations to visit. I’d love to hear in the comments below what travel books can you recommend to inspire my next journey?
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