Inspiration for trip planning can easily come in the form of a great book. In fact, there's abundant literature which reminds us just how special the act of traveling is. Historical accounts or plots of pure imagination can inspire us to start saving for that next vacation or maybe even pack a bag and walk straight out the door.
Books and stories have always been a dependable source in experiencing a journey unlike any other. For example, there are few who can think of Monterey, California without remembering the captivating tales of Cannery Row as told by John Steinbeck.
Once you've dived into stories describing destinations and the people who visit them, it can be hard to separate those images from reality. Perhaps even more difficult is fighting the urge to see a place for yourself. Writers immerse their readers in every emotion and experience, leaving them to add another city, country, or region to their bucket list at the close of the final chapter.
The best of these pieces of travel literature are those that inspire readers to do just as the author did: travel! From road trips to train rides, 10Best chose some of the most popular titles that illustrate just how important travel is to understanding the world and oneself.
Road in Banff National Park — Photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
This tome has become a staple for those who are bitten by the travel bug. Chronicling a trip across North America as a “Beat” with one of his friends, Kerouac takes his readers on an adventure of self-fulfillment. It has been critically acclaimed as the novel that brought people to quit their jobs, leave their lives, and take off on the road to experience all the world has to offer. Kerouac details the road’s vagabond and hippie culture with startling appreciation for their love of adventure. The novel inspires carefree travel and the importance of choosing the right companion to share in those unexpected experiences you are bound to encounter.
John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley
In 1960, Steinbeck and his poodle Charley set off to explore America and its ever-changing landscape. This road trip favorite is a story as endearing as it is informative. Steinbeck pays close attention to changes in scenery and people, illustrating just how different life can be in separate regions of the same country. He writes in awe of nature and provides a unique look at his own life as an author infamous for his portrayals of California in other novels. The book has become a favorite among those who have a great appreciation for the natural wonders of America and enjoy assimilating into the lifestyle of any area to which they travel.
Traveling with dogs — Photo courtesy of Macman68/Flickr
Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Rebecca Solnit takes a different approach to travel assimilation by profiling the importance of walking while visiting new places. Her unique novel, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, is made for those who list “long walks on the beach” as an element of the perfect date. She stresses how important and rewarding it is to take a long walk at every destination one travels to.
By examining historical accounts, Solnit informs her readers of how poetic a simple walk can be in learning about people, places, history, and nature. It can actually be a rather scientific look at the act and purpose of walking, but it nonetheless inspires its readers to get up, get out and seek no form of transportation other than ones own legs. The concept will sit in the back of your mind as you plan your next travel itinerary.
Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar
Other than walking, most tourists stick to the three modes of transportation: planes, trains, and automobiles. While road trips and flights abroad are common, train travel has become slightly overlooked. However modern trains have been making a comeback by adding luxury features and highlighting scenery that can’t be seen from a highway or miles overhead.
Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is a railway odyssey in which Theroux travels by train across continents. He travels round-trip from London to Tokyo, observing passengers and cities with a humorous critique. The novel reminds readers of the great aspects of train travel: ever-changing views, personal interactions, and traveling in comfort while remaining actively engaged in the route itself. Traveling by railway allows for a sampling of destinations and demographics, just as Theroux is never shy to point out.
Train ride — Photo courtesy of Ian Collins
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World
Rita Golden Gelman similarly craved an experience of engaging with several cultures and places. Her novel, Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World, is a story similar to those who enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. At the age of 48, she left her home in Los Angeles to embrace a life of constant travel and discovery. Full of experiences both beautiful and frightening, she is an example to readers that dreams of the world should never be put to rest. From Mexico to the Galapagos Island and Borneo, Rita let her curiosity and enthusiasm guide her as she transitioned through cultures. As a Nomad she was constantly on the verge of discovering new destinations and there’s no doubt her ability to adopt such a lifestyle is a feat in itself.
Backpacker — Photo courtesy of Mav
The Geography of Bliss
This delightful book is another documented journey around the globe. Eric Weiner sets out across four continents in search for the most fulfilled and happy residents. His approach to the journey is one that should be taken by any traveler in hopes of finding a destination that will provide a positive and memorable experience.
He finds some of the happiest persons in Iceland, Bhutan, and India but he also reflects on what makes them stand out from the others. He considers their amenities, landscape, and wealth among other traits in hopes of understanding the source of their smiles. Weiner’s travel diary is humorous, optimistic, and inspirational to those who want to find a place in the world worth traveling to.
Each of these novels approach travel in a different way and yet the authors seem to pull upon the common thread of adventure. Whether by foot, road, train or plane, each traveler is eager to meet new experiences and cultures. Their stories evoke the desire to understand the surrounding world through first-hand interactions and encourage readers to not be limited by circumstances that may keep them from becoming tourists.