Books that will make you excited to travel again
From memoirs to photo books, these travel page-turners are sure to satiate your wanderlust while you are staying safe at home, writes Natarsha Brown.
“How wild it was, to let it be.”
Cheryl Strayed left an indelible impression on people the world over when her memoir was published. Struggling with her mother’s death and the loss of her marriage, Strayed decided to tackle to arduous Pacific Crest Trail, which in full is over 4,000 kilometres. The book is both a beautifully written insight into this incredible hike across the Western USA and a reawakening for the author, who rediscovers her passion for life throughout the trials and tribulations of this adventure. The best seller has not only been translated into 30 different languages but was also adapted into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.
On The Road
“The only people in life for me are the mad ones… the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles.”
Based off his very own travels across the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, On The Road is one of the earliest pieces of work that explored the counterculture that took hold throughout the 1960s and has since become one the great American novels. The story follows Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and their Beat Generation friends as they road trip across a country still recovering from World War II and going through a dramatic societal shift, from New York to Denver to San Francisco to Los Angeles. Along the way, there’s jazz, poetry, parties and a contagious momentum.
Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
“According to Icelandic folklore, thousands of elves, fairies, dwarves, and gnomes – collectively known as “hidden people” – live in rocks and trees throughout the country. It is no wonder, then, that the world’s only elf school is located in Reykjavik.”
Whether you are planning ahead for an adventure, or just love to learn about obscure places from the comfort of your armchair, this book will transport you – through descriptions, photographs and maps – to 600 of amazing yet strange wonders in every region of the world. From New Zealand’s dazzling glow-worm caves and bone museums in Italy to a baobab tree in South Africa that is so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably and a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches still on display in England, Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected and the overlooked.
“If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
What traveller doesn’t daydream about an imaginary and undiscovered island surrounded by crystal-clear waters and sporting pearl-white sands? That’s the premise behind this cult classic. However, The Beach surprises readers by challenging them to rethink the way they perceive paradise. The novel follows Richard, a British backpacker who heads to Thailand and learns of a secret community hidden on a seemingly utopian island, which he risks all to find. Reminiscent of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, this story may be best known for the Hollywood adaption starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which is equally thrilling.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paul Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. However, on his quest, he finds himself instead – and riches far different but far more satisfying. This international bestseller is brimming with messages about courage and chasing your dreams, and is peppered with important life lessons.
In A Sunburned Country
“The people are immensely likeable – cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted, and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian. The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner. Life doesn’t get much better than this.”
It’s hard to pick a favourite by travel writing legend Bill Bryson, but this tour through Australia is one of his finest works and perfect for some domestic travel inspiration. It’s not your typical guidebook, full of humour, interesting facts and great storytelling as he explores the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet.
“I pictured a low timber house with a shingled roof, caulked against storms, with blazing log fires inside and the walls lined with all the best books, somewhere to live when the rest of the world blew up.”
Patagonia is one of those destinations that constantly crops on ultimate bucket lists, and Bruce Chatwin’s novel has no doubt inspired countless adventures to this majestic place. In Patagonia charts a six-month journey made by the author in 1972 from the Rio Negro to the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia. The tall tale not only details the out-of-this-world landscapes along the way but also the accounts of people living in remote towns across the region.
Eat, Pray, Love
“I think I deserve something beautiful.”
Chronicling Gilbert’s one-year trip across the globe and her attempts to rediscover her zest for life following a life-changing divorce – in which she eats her way across Italy and discovers the importance of spirituality in India before eventually falling in love among the rice terraces of Bali – this book was a sensation upon release. Holding a place on the New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks and adapted into a movie with actress Julia Roberts as the lead, this memoir remains an inspiration for women the world over planning a solo trip.
“People who live on continents get into the habit of regarding the ocean as journey’s end, the full stop at the end of the trek. For people who live on islands, the sea is always the beginning.”
Coasting tells the story of Jonathon Raban’s 4,000-mile journey around his native Britain in a 32-foot ketch, using only a compass for navigation. The author’s adventures at sea are absorbing, as he throughout mediates on his country (which at the time as going through drastic cultural change and the Falklands War of 1982), his childhood and the elusive notion of home.
Born To Ice
“If we lose ice, we lose the entire ecosystem.”
No coffee table book collection is complete without this vivid photo book by National Geographic photographer, marine biologist and ocean conservationist, Paul Nicklen. Born and raised in Arctic Canada, he has had a lifelong love affair with the polar regions. Born To Ice is overflowing with wildlife – leopard seals, walruses, polar bears, narwhals and more – and gets you thinking about the effects of climate change on these vulnerable landscapes. The humbling images capture the ethereal beauty of the Antarctic and Arctic, and are but of few of the two-million plus collection he has captured throughout his travels.