They say books can take you anywhere. That reading is a great way to visit far away places, without having to move an inch. I agree. Words combined with an open mind, can really take you away.
But what if you want to take that literature induced wanderlust to the next level? Then you allow books to feed your day-dreaming, add new places to your wish list and, eventually, go to the destinations that you have once read about.
We have invited a group of talented bloggers to share with us those special books that have inspired them to travel. They are not necessarily books about travel, but stories that have made them dream about a specific destination or, in general, about traveling around the world.
Books that inspire travel:
The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
The last few years have been jam packed with adventures all around the globe. A quest of sorts to learn about the world through my own senses, and challenge myself in new ways. However, after awhile, it can all get a little mundane, and that’s just what I was feeling in the past few weeks. Fortunately, “The Happiness of Pursuit” was in my bag.
Chris’s book is like a guide to living a more fulfilling life through quests which often, but certainly not always involve travel. He uses his own quest to visit all 192 countries in the world as a companion to the dozens of other quests he describes that others have pursued, to help understand what makes a quest, why you should do it, and what to do when it doesn’t go according to plan.
So as I arrive on my 10th trip to Myanmar to finish a project that I’ve been working three years on already, I’m glad that “The Happiness of Pursuit” is in my bag to remind me that I’m traveling and doing this all for a reason.
By Dustain Main of A Skinny Escape
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
At first, Khaled Hosseini’s tragic tale of a childhood lost in Afghanistan might seem like an odd choice as a favourite travel book. The Kite Runner was given to me as a gift after my first trip to Pakistan. I liked Pakistan, I knew that needed to return after Hosseini’s nostalgic descriptions of kite flying in the crisp spring air, schoolboys stumbling along dusty laneways on their way home, and cricket in the streets.
Between Pakistan and Afghanistan the lines are often blurred; I stand on my rooftop, sipping milky chai, and watching kites flutter in the afternoon haze. The road from Pakistan to Afghanistan is not a safe one, and the furthest I’ve been along it is at Hasan Abdal, near Islamabad. There, as we wound our way through the streets, I spotted some young boys walking down a side lane, their kite catching the sunlight.
By Tim Bligh of Urban Duniya
Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer
As a lifelong avid reader, many books have fired my travel imagination, but perhaps none more so than Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer. I grew up listening to Katmandu, the incorrectly spelled hit song by Bob Seger, and had always dreamed of visiting the capital of Nepal. After reading Iyer’s novel I knew I had to make it a reality.
From the moment I set foot in the land of the Himalayas, Nepal became my absolute favorite destination. I visit as often as I can, staying with a local Nepali family that adopted me during my initial visit in 2010. Though Iyer’s novel was set in the 1980’s, during a time when Kathmandu was the de facto escape for burned-out hippies, I was worried that my latter day experience might be disappointing, but aside from the disappearance of the video night tradition, much of what he described hasn’t changed one iota.
By Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen
One of the most inspiring travel books I have ever read on the road is Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen. It’s a very emotional and powerful read, that tells a story of Tibetan women whose lives are forever changed when Mao’s Red Army crushes Tibetan independence. Brauen’s mother and grandmother are therefore forced to flee from their Tibetan homeland, traveling across the frozen and breath-taking Himalayas to freedom. Their journey is extremely challenging and troublesome, but also inspiring. In this powerful, poetic, global memoir Brauen tells how the lives of three generations of Tibetan women were forever changed so that you can get familiar with Tibetan history, culture and traditions.
I definitely recommend this book to everyone who wants to travel to Tibet or China and experience ever-lasting journey across the stunning Himalayas. I loved the fact this book was so touching and I’m a very emotional person.
By Agness of eTramping
Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham
Samoa was “the” place that I wanted to visit. I was inspired to visit here and many other places in Polynesia, by reading the Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham. He was as controversial in his writing as was in his private life, which probably made visiting more appealing.
Because I had read about the Aggie Greys Hotel in the capital city of Apia, that is where we headed. We visited both islands that make up Samoa – Upolu and Savai’i. I remember getting on the boat going between the islands and having some chooks put on my lap and then a large Samoan lady lay on my shoulder and went to sleep. We found the Samoans to be easy going, pleasant and happy.
My favourite memories are of the flowers and the people going to church all in white and singing so beautifully. The other is waking up to smoke gently covering the island as they prepared the umus – their ground ovens, and the wonderful smells from them.
By Paula of Contented Traveller
An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof
The book that has inspired me is called “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” by Ann Vanderhoof. The book is about the author and her husband who leave their crazy lives in Canada behind, board their own boat, and sail to the Caribbean documenting their adventures along the way. They describe living in Grenada and daily life visiting the markets, cooking with the spices that are grown there, and interacting with the friendly locals.
This book is also a sequel to her first book, “The Spice Necklace” and some of the same people are mentioned, which made it feel as though I was also visiting old friends. I thoroughly enjoyed both books and thought fondly of them when I traveled to Grenada myself. I found the locals on the island to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. Be sure to buy some spices while you are there as well!
By Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Maybe this is a bit cliché but ‘The Alchemist’ is one of my favorite books which inspire travel. I’ve always wanted to see the Egyptian pyramids and the desert and this book just made that desire stronger.
Another reason I love this book is because it’s all about the self-discovery and how we should follow our hearts and dreams and also free ourselves from fear. Fear is something that we travelers often experiences and this book is all about debunking that myth.
By Zorica of EuroTribe
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
“The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane by the airport”. This is a passage of the second page of Shantaram, and also describes how I felt upon arrival in India.
The story of Shantaram describes the life of Roberts, who escaped from an Australian prison and then fled to Bombay. In Bombay he joined the mafia, landed in the notorious Arthur Road Prison, went to the Afghan war, played in Bollywood movies, lived in the slums, started a free health clinic and fell in love.
Shantaram holds a special place in my heart and I think it’s must read for everyone who travels to India. Roberts manages to take you to the soul of India and describes both her beauty and her dark side. It’s is an extremely powerful, vivid and most importantly honest book. I read Shantaram during my solo-trip to India and and it gave me a better understanding of Indian life around me. I also visited some places mentioned in the book, such as the famous Leopold Café in Bombay. Shantaram is beautifully written and one the most epic adventure novels you will ever read.
By Manouk of Bunch of Backpackers
Operating Instructions for London by Ronald Reng
Back in 2011, I visited an American friend of mine who studied abroad in London, UK. When I came back, I had about a year left of my undergrad studies. Towards the end of my bachelor’s the desire to study somewhere abroad was quite strong. I accidentally came across this book called “Operating Instructions for London“, which I loved reading.
It is written by a German journalist called Ronald Reng who has lived in this vibrant metropolis for five years and is telling funny, interesting stories about England’s capital. All the little details he mentions, the anecdotes he tells, the loving way he describes the city and its people – it just made me want to go. I also remembered all the great impressions I got when I visited my friend. My “English” wanderlust was spurred and it was bound to happen: I moved to London for a year.
By Julia Haase of The Redhead Story
Floreana by Margret Wittmer
I came to the Galapagos Islands to work as a volunteer for a tour operator. I happened to be living with the ancestors of one of the first settlers of Floreana Island. Those settlers just came after the First World War to the Galapagos and wanted to start a quiet life far away from civilization in Germany. They set up everything themselves, built their house and had been completely self-sufficient. I am the opinion that people nowadays could learn a lot from them and their perspectives.
Margret Wittmer wrote the book “Floreana” about her life on the island and some mysteries which happened there. People who visit the Galapagos Islands (and maybe even Floreana) should definitely read the book.
The day after I finished the book I went to Floreana. It was great to finally compare the image I had in my head of the place with the real one. We visited places they used as their kitchen, saw where they built their house, how they got their drinking water. They are people who left their conventional lives when it was impossible to stay connected with family and friends at home and created a life on their terms. A very inspirational story!
By Stef of Food and Photos Around the World
Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
When I read Falling Leaves, the autobiography of Adeline Yen Mah, an unwanted Chinese daughter, I was 14 years old. I read about suffering in a way that was much more vivid than anything I had read before. I realized that I knew very little of the Chinese traditions and the cultural differences. I wanted to understand, to make sense of what I had read. I wanted to travel to China.
In my first year of university, I gained a place on a government funded program which sent a handful of UK students to China. The program promoted cultural connections between the UK and China. In China, I spoke my first Mandarin words, ate my first hot pot, and visited my first Chinese temple. Though I will never really be able to fully understand what Adeline Yen Mah suffered, her story combined my own memories of China will always stay with me.
By Charlie of Charlie on Travel
Burma, Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid
I write about food and travel; beautifully photographed cookbooks of exotic locations are especially inspiring to me. I have been a fan of food writer Naomi Duguid for years, and I anticipated the release of Burma, Rivers of Flavor. Little did I know I would be so inspired by the stories and images of the Burmese people, that I would find myself traveling there less than a year after purchasing it.
The recipes are delicious and each chapter combines a bit of historical perspective, culture and intimate stories of her travels in the country. I couldn’t wait to challenge myself to eat mohinga, the national breakfast of choice, in the morning and visit a primitive tofu factory built on the stilt houses of Inle Lake. I still am trying to process all that I discovered on my adventure to Myanmar.
By Alison of Green With Renvy
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Don’t be fooled – fiction can provide amazing travel inspiration, and I’m going to come clean and admit that the Harry Potter series was the main motivation which took me to Scotland, UK! With much of each movie set taking place amongst the beautiful highlands, dramatic moors, rolling hills, rugged coasts, dazzling lochs, and medieval castles, traveling here and discovering magical locations as described in my favorite book series was as if I had stepped into the pages of the storybook myself.
For mad Harry Potter fans like myself, be sure to take in both Glencoe and Glenfinnan Viaduct when traveling throughout Scotland.
By Megan Claire of Mapping Megan
Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India by Rory MacLean
“In their search for answers, the original Intrepids took the time to plunge off the beaten track. […] Then, guidebooks began to spoon-feed itineraries to time-poor travelers who could afford neither doubt or a year away. More and more, travel became entertainment not travail, change of scene not a life change.“
The way travelers (and more specifically budget travelers) go around these days, is completely different than during our parents’ generation. Before, the so-called intrepids adventured themselves in areas of the world very less explored. Now, not only we can physically get mostly anywhere, we can also find out how to get there or what to see and do once we’re there.
This is a travel story from the road, while MacLean retraces the route once traveled by large groups of hippies back the 60s. We depart from Turkey, on an overland trip that finally takes us to India. It focuses on the details of the past and present of these places, the people who inhabit them, their cultures and traditions. Ultimately, this travel story shows us how travel has changed and how the world has become smaller ever since. Also, how travelers have helped shaping the places they have been to, bridging cultures and blending ways of thinking. East meets West.
After reading “Magic Bus”, I sure feel like taking my sweet time on the road. Also, it serves as a reminder of my impact as a traveler – whenever I go somewhere, not only I absorb something from the new place I am at. I will always end up leaving something behind too. So that little something better be something good!
By Zara of Backpack ME
What books inspire you to travel?