For lots of us, one of the great joys of travel is having some extra time to read. Whether that’s on a plane, in a hammock or on an overnight coach journey – a book is a compelling (and relaxed) companion.
These five books are indeed great companions, but they also do a rare and special thing – they conjure up our innermost desires to hit the road. Even if you can’t pack your bags and leave everything behind, at least you can throw yourself into the romance of doing it. Here are our top 5 Books That Will Inspire You to Travel.
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
As fresh as the day it was written, Jack Kerouac’s seminal adventure is the original road trip. Main character Sal Paradise (based on the author himself) is a bored writer cooped up in his auntie’s house. That is until he is inspired to travel America alongside the novel’s contagiously intrepid (and reckless) hero, Dean Moriarty.
First published in 1957, this is the book that came to define the Beat generation of writers and poets who came out of New York City in the late fifties. Kerouac’s chef-d’oeuvre was typed feverishly over three days and as such we are left with a poetic and inspiring stream of thought.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
As with On The Road, author Gregory David Roberts chose not to use his own name in this autobiographical account. Unlike Kerouac though, Roberts was an escaped convict! Shantaram tells the tale of ‘Lyndsey’ or ‘Lin’, who breaks out of Australian prison and seeks refuge in Bombay.
Lin throws himself into Indian life and begins to build lasting relationships with those around him. His vast array of exploits include setting up a makeshift hospital in the slums, joining the criminal underworld and making a spiritual pilgrimage into enemy lands. This is an incredible adventure that rips and roars through all 936 pages. Don’t let the page count put you off, you’ll be left wanting more.
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is a factual and deeply compelling narrative about an intelligent, intense and idealistic young man who cuts off all ties to his middle-class family and embarks on a journey from South Dakota to Alaska. Living out of a backpack, Chris McCandless drifts from place to place under the name Alexander Supertramp.
Despite giving up his material possessions – and living a marginal existence – he continually enlightens those he meets. That is until he opts to head into the dangerous Alaskan wilderness, unaccompanied. Be prepared to question your very existence…
In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson
Compiling a list of 5 books that will inspire you to travel and omitting Bill Bryson and/or Australia could be considered sacrilege. Not only does this book tick both boxes, it also happens to be Bryson’s best piece.
In a Sunburned Country chronicles a journey from the east to the west of this vast and largely vacant country. An expanse so vast, in fact, that we discover Atom bombs go off unnoticed. This and other random facts and anecdotes are told with Bryson’s trademark effervescence and wit. I challenge anyone to read this book and not agree that Australia is “the most dangerous place on earth”…
The Beach – Alex Garland
Khao San Road, Bangkok – the first stop for Western travellers heading to South East Asia. This fictional piece (the first on the list) begins with our protagonist in amongst the masses on Thailand’s most infamous road. Seemingly disillusioned with his lack of opportunity to tread new paths, Richard hears of a hidden utopia and begins his quest to find it.
This is a tale of discovery and coming of age: not even paradise is without social trouble and illness. There are hallucinogenic moments akin to a Vietnam War film and surreal episodes of seclusion and madness. Even if you’ve seen the film with Leonardo DiCaprio or visited the Beach itself (now a popular tourist spot!), this book’s as much a rite of passage as Khao San Road itself.
There it is. 5 books that will inspire you to travel. But that’s only five – and we’re always looking for more! Please add your faves in the comments section below.