By Tobias Handke
It’s hard to put into words how incredible travelling is.
Immersing yourself in new cultures and experiencing how other people live in different countries is one of life’s great joys, but we can’t all jump on a plane and explore the world at the drop of a hat. That’s where travel-related books can help out. Whether you need the inspiration to book an overseas trip, want to research a country, or just wanna live vicariously through someone else while stuck at your 9-5, these seven books will help wake up the travel bug and get you back exploring the world.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho: An ex-girlfriend gave me this book when we were living in the UK, and I have to admit it had a big impact and inspired me to chase my dreams. The Alchemist is an easy to digest novel that’s part fiction, part self-help, centring on a young shepherd who journeys from Spain to Egypt and discovers the meaning of life along the way. It’s a powerful and well-written work that will have you wanting to chase your dreams and book a one-way ticket to anywhere.
On The Road – Jack Kerouac: Another novel that will get the travel juices flowing, On The Road is based on Jack Kerouac’s wild travels across America. Released in 1957, the novel shines a light on the bohemian lifestyle of the late 40s and early 50s, as we follow Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac) as he leaves the comforts of New York and embarks on a trip across the West, hitching rides on railway trains, falling in love in Los Angeles and partying in New Orleans. It’s a personal story about one man’s experiences travelling and how that helped shape his character, but it’s also relatable to anyone who’s taken a long journey during their youth and found out who they really are.
The Beach – Alex Garland: Forget the film version with old mate Leo (below), Alex Garland’s novel is a much more descriptive and in-depth tale about a backpacker’s search for a pristine, untouched beach in Thailand. The novel adds more exposition as we learn about the characters backgrounds and motivations, and includes a number of entertaining subplots. Described by fellow British author Nick Hornby as ‘a Lord Of The Flies for Generation X,’ the novel is a great read for backpackers looking to find the perfect travel destination.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide To The Art Of Long-term World Travel – Rolf Potts: I’ve seen a fair chunk of the world and done some long stints on the move, but nothing compared to Rolf Potts. The American travel writer spent a solid decade on the road and collected his experiences in Vagabonding. Great for those going on their first trip or seasoned vets, Potts novel is an inspirational book full of travel tips, insights and firsthand knowledge about making your way around the world solo. Potts even discusses reassimilating back into normal life once you return so you don’t suffer from the post-holiday blues.
No Reservations: Around The World On An Empty Stomach – Anthony Bourdain: We lost a real one when Anthony Bourdain passed away in 2018. The celebrity chef and travel guru had a knack for writing and talking about food in a way that connected eating with local cultures and human interaction. No Reservations: Around The World On An Empty Stomach is a companion piece to the hugely successful doco series of the same name and features never-before-seen photos of Bourdain’s travels along with witty commentary and untold stories from the great man. Not only is this book a fantastic reminder of how charismatic Bourdain was, but it’ll also inspire you to try new foods while travelling and discover local cultures like never before.
Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson: You can’t write about inspiring travel books without mentioning Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. Although the Gonzo journalist doesn’t travel to any exotic lands (outside of the ones in his mind) or far-flung locations, his descriptive and hilarious tales of his drug-fuelled adventures with his attorney friend in Vegas are mind-bending. Whether it inspires a bender in Vegas or a drug-induced jaunt in South America, this book is a fantastic look back on the intertwining nature of 60s hippy culture, substance abuse and how much fun it is to be a tourist.
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts: Shantaram is the story of an Aussie bank robber and heroin addict who escapes prison and flees to India where he discovers his true self. This semi-autobiographical novel from author Gregory David Roberts is a gripping read and almost hard to believe—which could be true as many people have disputed chunks of the story. Roberts’ protagonist Lindsay finds himself living in the slums of Mumbai, working for the local Mafia and, once again, in prison. It’s a detailed and accurate depiction of India in the 80s and will bring back memories for anyone who’s ever visited that neck of the woods.