Exploring the world is easiest when it’s a page flip away.
It’s hard not to get lost in books, especially when they take you for joyous rides around the world. Indeed, words are vehicles transporting us to specific times and places while opening the gateway to our wildest dreams and imaginations. And if you think about it, a destination feels even more fascinating when experienced from the perspective of literature (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Norman Lewis’s Naples ‘44 and George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia). So need a little spark to boost your travels? Look no further than the following six iconic books, responsible for our wanderlust and undying passion to explore the world.
1. On the Road.
Written in 1957 by Jack Kerouac, this novel is undeniably one of the most classic travel tales to exist. The story follows young protagonist Sal who embarked on a trip heading west of America, leaving his New York City life behind. The character hitchhiked, made friends along the way, and rode the waves of life the way only a nomad with existential crisis could. This Beat Generation opus is a high force to reckon with because it perfectly captures the sedentary frustrations that would ultimately compel city dwellers to pack up and chase their horizon. It’s interesting to note that Sal eventually grew stronger a person as the result of his travels and the consequent highs and lows he had to go through. Nothing, in our opinion, captures the core purpose of wanderlust quite like this story.
2. Into the Wild.
Much like On the Road, Into the Wild explores the theme of exploring the unknown. But unlike the former, this book is nonfiction piece tinged with tragic extremity. Pieced together by Jon Krakauer, the story follows the last few years of hiker Christopher McCandless’s life, which he spent surviving the cold Alaskan wilderness until his death from starvation in 1992. While we wouldn’t wish his fate on anyone, we would definitely recommend to aspiring travelers his inspiring practice of following the heart. If there’s anything valuable that McCandless had taught us, it’s the magic of taking chances, meeting new souls, and making great memories. After all, that’s ultimately what traveling is all about.
3. Eat Pray Love.
Another remarkable nonfiction in our list, Eat Pray Love is New York-based author Elizabeth Gilbert’s account of her spiritual exploration abroad following two relationship breakdowns. Ripe with raw emotions that metropolitan conventions cannot box, Gilbert decided to embark on a year- long travel journey spanning across three very different countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. Her eventual self-discovery, wittily punctuated by self-deprecating jokes and heartfelt monologues here and there, is proof that travel indeed mends heartbreak. Through Gilbert’s honest narrative, travelers, especially female, learn that embracing new things and life’s unexpected challenges is ultimately good for the soul.
4. Paris Was Ours.
If you find yourself resonating with ideas of Paris of late, then Paris Was Ours is a good book to have and hold dear. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why we fell in love with the city and visit as often as we can. Showcasing works of 32 writers from all over the world, the book consolidates their respective journeys of adapting to the Parisian life after moving there. From learning to cook French cuisines to studying the language, there are plenty of Parisian anecdotes to inspire awe and exert lasting effect on general readers and Francophiles alike.
5. The Alchemist.
Paulo Coelho has an intoxicating way of delivering words, evident in the way he prompts the reader to mentally travel in every book. The Alchemist, published in 1988, is no exception. The story follows Santiago, a young Andalusian shepherd, who travelled great distances to Egypt in hopes to decipher a recurring dream, believed to be prophetic. The climax of the plot is reached when Santiago encounters an alchemist, who revealed to him the philosophical truth that the treasure he’s been searching for has in fact always been his journey. At the core, the book implores the reader to examine the reason for one’s doing, not just the outcome that he desires out of it. Mirrored in this vein, it’s not hard to see why traveling is a meaningful activity: more important the destination that we aim to reach is the journey that take to get there.
6. The Beach.
Unlike the metaphorical delivery of The Alchemist, The Beach approaches the traveling mind quite literally. Written by Alex Garland, the book centers around English backpacker Richard’s journey as he settled on a secret Thai island. His exotic and tropically lush experience gradually took for a cold dive when he realised that there’s more to the island’s mystery and backpacker community than he bargained for. What we love about the book is that it poignantly illustrates the all-too- familiar common trap that backpackers fall in search of “paradise”. Many young travelers tend to impose ideals on themselves when embarking on the path less traveled, only to painfully realise that’s it’s all an illusion they’re responsible for. About to embark on a backpacking journey? The Beach is definitely the companion to bring along; it gives you the occasional dose of reality check as you cruise along.