Books have a fantastic power to transport readers to other worlds, places or times—so much so that often the best-printed adventures can have us ready to pull on our boots, grab a backpack and jet off ourselves.
There are so many wonderful travel novels out there that will have you lusting after faraway lands and ready for exploration. Along with beautifully showcasing countries you may have never visited; they provide poignant reflections on the act of travel and the positive transformations it can instigate. These five are some of my favourite, and all great examples of the true inspirational power of the written word.
1. “Into the Wild”– Jon Krakauer
“Into the Wild” is based on the very true, yet somewhat harrowing, story of Christopher McCandless—a tireless nomad and dedicated vagabond—and his search for wild isolation, a search that took a route that no one could have expected.
Put off by society and the consumerist nature of the American world, in an incredibly rash decision, McCandless donates his college fund, ceases communicating with loved ones and sets off on a solo mission across the States. Becoming increasingly disenchanted, he delves further and further away from human civilization before finally settling in an abandoned school bus deep in the Alaskan wilderness. While idealistically believing he can survive off his own back, his arrogance in the face of wild Mother Nature proves to be his downfall.
This is an incredibly impacting story, and while we’re not looking to recreate the journey anytime soon, you can’t read this book without considering grabbing a tent and heading out into the woods for an off-grid adventure of your own. If you can’t get enough, the film adaption is also available online for subscribers to American Netflix.
2. “Road of Reflection: El Camino de Santiago”– Rachel Stainer
There are many books written about this famed hike, which follows the route ancient pilgrims took to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. However, this wonderfully refreshing piece of writing by Rachel Stainer is probably the most easily digested of them all.
It’s written in a very colloquial style in a quaint diary format that discusses the trials and tribulations of long-term walking holidays as well as the spiritual significance of this walk. The writing makes you feel as if a close friend is telling you about their recent trip away. The musings about spending time on the road, the hustle and bustle of hostel stays and the accounts of the myriad of interesting people she meets along the way sing a song of the true wonders of travel. If this book doesn’t make you get off the sofa and don your hiking boots, then I don’t know what will.
3. “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” – Isabella Bird
Originally published in 1879, “A Lady’s Life in the Rockies” is a piece of travel writing from a time when the world was still largely undiscovered and adventure meant finding paths where no man had gone before. Isabella Bird was a truly unique woman in her day, casting aside her assigned gender role as homemaker and setting out to explore the world.
She visited almost every corner of the globe, but by far her biggest written success documented her time in the Colorado Rockies. There she sought shelter in makeshift settlements, used trails made by bears and wild animals to navigate the most remote mountains, and far surpassed the boundaries of the physical and mental capabilities assumed of women at the time. This novel is not only sure to inspire wanderlust, but it is also an incredibly powerful feminist statement.
Bird’s work is sure to make you wish for a type of travel that has long disappeared from our world, where information centers and guided tours didn’t define the experience and solitude could still be found. If you can’t get enough of dreaming about these kinds of adventures, her entire bibliography offers recounts of many exciting, wild journeys across the globe.
4. “The Alchemist” – Paulo Coelho
This is a novel that you’ll find on almost any books-for-travel list and with good reason. Written as a moral message about following your dreams, the story is a perfect testimony to what happens when you give yourself up to the traveling experience and let yourself be guided day by day.
Young Santiago is an Andalusian sheep farmer who, through a series of dreams and prophecies, is led to believe that there is treasure hidden in the pyramids of Giza. He sells his flock and takes a boat to Africa, where a criminal takes advantage of his naïveté and robs him. Santiago is forced to fend for himself and adapt to his environment; this is where his true adventure begins.
There are no words to explain how powerfully this book can ignite your wanderlust. Its wonderfully reflective nature encapsulates the potential for self-discovery that travel ultimately brings. The many mysterious and wonderful lands where Santiago travels call for readers to follow in his footsteps. If you buy one book off this list, then I recommend you opt for this one.
5. “Lonely Traveller” – Sereno Sky
The self-publishing movement has brought many otherwise unknown writers into the limelight, and there is no better example of this than the work of Sereno Sky. Sky is a self-proclaimed hippy and child of the movement in the sixties, and his novel is based on his adventures around the notorious hippy trail that took eager travellers through Europe and into Southeast Asia.
Bernardo is a young and hopeful individual who feels disenchanted by the hate and destruction of the modern world. He sets off to Amsterdam before heading south in search of answers to his questions. On the road, he meets endless like-minded people who inspire his search and remind him there is still good in the world.
This novel provides a wonderful mental journey, as well as a physical one, which is why it’s such a powerful cause of itchy feet. Sky’s own wanderlust shines through each page, and if you can’t get enough, his Tumblr page showcases endless pictures, quote and thoughts that are a perfect accompaniment to the story.
Know of any other books that deserve a place on this list? Be sure to leave a comment below.
About the Contributor: Caroline is a blogger for Culture Coverage. When she’s not writing, she’s an avid traveler who loves a good book that she can take on her adventures with her.