Since I was small, I’ve been a reader. And when I find a book that I love…I’ll read it again and again. Yearly, if not more. As a kid, those books were the Little House on the Prarie series, Heidi (I read it every single time I was sick)…and later books like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.
My idea of THE ULTIMATE is laying in a hammock on a breezy balcony reading a great book. Or travelling to experience some place new.
Love of travel or wanderlust or itchy feet or vagabondage (that’s a real word!) is tough to shake. So…if you can’t get out there and travel at this very moment, here are some books that make you feel like you’ve visited a new place.
You can plan the actual trip later.
Here are some of my favorite books that really make me want to travel.
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux: Paul Theroux is an amazing writer, my travel hero. In this book, published in 1975, he takes a 4 month train journey from London to Asia (India, Japan and more) and back. He recounts his travels through the characters he meets and his dry dry humor.
It makes you want to take an epic train journey. The Old Patagonian Express (his train journey from Boston to Argentina is also a great read.)
PLUS, his nephew is married to Jennifer Aniston. OMG.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Anne Vanderhoof
Bill Bryson does it to me every time. A good natured American travelling solo, making incredibly astute observations and always finding something funny. I’ve read a bunch but these are my favorites.
In a Sunburned Country: I’ve always been a history buff and the idea of Australia didn’t do much for me. But this book tells of Bill’s travels from one side of the giant country to the other and it’s hilarious. As he says, there are more things that can kill you in a horrible way in Australia than anywhere else.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Middle aged Bryson hikes this trail, trudging, huffing and puffing and makes it super funny and informative. If anyone is up for the 2000 mile hike through 14 states, I’m totally game.
I might last about 15 miles but we could give it a go.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia Oh good grief I love this book. Gilbert finds herself after a tough divorce by eating her way through Italy (sigh), going to an ashram in India (made me TOTALLY want to do that – one day) and finding love in Bali (double sigh). If you’ve seen the movie and are thinking you don’t need to read the book? You are wrong.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, John Krakauer: After months of preparation and climbing, a deadly storm kills 8 climbers as they near the top of Everest. You in? No. Me neither. But you can’t put this book down and it makes me want to do something physical that I didn’t think I could do. Maybe Kilimanjaro? Or Victoria Peak? One day. The 2nd is on my Belize Bucket List.
Papillon (P.S.) by Henri A crazy jail break from an isolated impenetrable island prison off the coast of French Guiana in the 1930s. The main character, called Papillon for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, is on the run across the southern Caribbean for years before he finally lands in Venezuala. It’s hard to put down…and strangely makes me want to visit the North Coast of South America.
Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts: Another prison break! This time a convicted armed robber escapes from a prison in Australia to India on his way to Europe. But he finds that Mumbai is the perfect place to disappear.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Marteen Troost, The American author and his wife move to the tiny island of Kiribati in the South Pacific expecting paradise and find that they are completely out of their element. Power shortages, trash and a government that is completely inept. He calls it “coconut Stalinism” – but as he says at least Stalin got some things done. Super funny book.
American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen – This is a book about food. It explains why the best American maple syrup is made in the craggy hills of New England, the smoothest avocados are from Mexico and why location matters. It makes you want to visit each and every spot.
Maybe go fishing in the Yukon River.
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.), The memoir of a man who joins the Peace Corp when China first opens up to foreigners and his experience in a city in China as one of the first visitors. A great read and it really makes me want to go to China.
The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel Missionaries pack up their young family and move from Georgia to Belgian Congo, Africa (now the democratic Republic of the Congo). They are ill prepared…to say the least. EXTREME culture shock and a great book.
Travels (Vintage Departures), Michael Crichton I loved many of Michael Crichton’s fiction bestsellers…and there were LOTS. His books, from Jurassic Park to the Andromeda Strain, sold over 200 million worldwide. You can tell he’s well researched from his book but he was actually a Harvard trained doctor and had a column in the NY Times at age 14.
This book of short stories on travel account both trips around the world…and his journey into things like astral project and ESP.
If you want to stick a PIN in it, please do.
PLEASE…let me know if you have any suggestions!