I started traveling the world long before I actually started travelling the world. Through books I discovered places, people and experiences I never even knew existed. I almost knew what it was like to cross arid deserts, climb the highest mountains in the world, feel hopelessly lost in a new city and see, with my own eyes, some of the most magnificent wonders of our planet. Almost. You see, that’s what wanderlust is all about it. That immensely un-fightable urge to just pack and go. To see, to smell, to witness and to never forget. Because there’s only so much satisfaction one gets from watching a documentary or film, or scouring Google for the most breathtaking travel photos.
Of all the ways one can travel – without actually travelling – reading would have to rate as the most evocative of all. Well-written travel books, penned from the soul, have the power to inspire wanderlust in even the most ardent couch potato.
Travel for a month, for a year, or forever. Read one of our Top 10 Books to Inspire Wanderlust…and travel you will.
1. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho, to inspire wanderlust
If you could gather all the inspirational meme quotes on social media nowadays, and intertwine them with an enticing travel storyline, you’d get The Alchemist. “When you really want something, the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
Every dreamer with travel in their soul but fear and apprehension in the hearts, ought to read The Alchemist. It matters not that Santiago is on a journey from Spain to Egypt. What matters, to the dreamer, is that a young boy is out to follow his dream, his destiny, irrespective of what others want for him. Irrespective of what everyone else is doing. The Alchemist taught me, all those years ago, that following your dream and doing whatever it is that makes YOU happy is not selfish but rather, almost an obligation. Life is precious and short. Don’t waste it. Go travel!
2. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Right, before you shoot me, hear me out!
I know Eat, Pray, Love is nowadays seen as the bible for (mostly) love-sick young women with romance in their hearts and rose-tinted glassed on their faces. But let me tell you, a decade ago I was precisely that and, if you happen to be a woman, you are either there right now, or once were. I devoured Elizabeth Gilbert’s well-written travelogue on a 6-hour train ride across Italy. It was literally the only thing which made forget that it was 40 degrees, crowded as hell and I was sitting on my suitcase the entire time. I was on my way back to Sydney from a tour guiding stint in South America. Within merely days of visiting my family, I emailed my boss and asked for a new guiding contract, this time in Africa. Eat, Pray, Love is just another chick-love travel book, you say? Read it at the right time in your life and it’ll be all the wanderlust-inducer you’ll need to pack your bags and set off to explore the world.
3. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
I’m not insanely fond of Kerouac’s writing style, and I may well be the only one. Nevertheless, the man has penned some of the most iconic travel quotes of all time and, for this reason alone, I love reading his musings. On the Road is a fantastical collection of journeys through the USA at a time when sex, drugs, rock’n roll and hippie backpacking was all the rage. You may not relate to the first three, and may not even be particularly interested in travelling in the US, but listen, if you’re also a lover of “the mad one, the ones who burn with desire, the one who never yawn…” then Kerouac’s poetic travel philosophies will definitely strike an inner spark. A classic travel bible that’s inspired wanderlust in countless adventurers for the last 4 decades, On the Road is a must-read for anyone who dreams of freedom and the open road.
4. National Geographic – The Photographs
Alright, so I stand corrected. It’s not only written books which inspire wanderlust, incredibly stunning photographs can certainly have that effect as well. Most especially when said photographs are taken by some of the world’s best photographers. Number 4 on our list of Top 10 Books to Inspire Wanderlust is one of the most enticing coffee table travel books you’ll ever come across. The particular edition I have was published in 1994 and even though I’m sure more editions have been printed since, this version is the most iconic to date, in my humble opinion. That haunting cover photograph of the green-eyed Afghani girl would have to rate as one of the most striking photos ever taken in history. From this alone, you know that travelling the world through National Geographic – the Photographs will be a feast for all the senses.
5. The Old Patagonian Express – Paul Theroux
From the brutal but spellbinding contrast and magnificent landscapes of Patagonia, to the mystical Inca heart at Machu Picchu, Theroux recounts the tales of his most frustrating and exhilarating experiences travelling through the Americas, and takes you along for the mesmerizing ride. What I like most about Theroux is his unwavering realism. Not every place is a paradise, not everyone is nice, and not every journey is amazing. Loneliness and misery are also part of the game, and it’s this genuine take on travel that tugs at the heartstring of every long-term traveller. Perhaps, a bit too judgemental for my liking (especially towards other travellers) but Theroux is, nevertheless, still a master of his craft. And The Old Patagonian Express is the epitome example.
6. The Travel Book – A Journey Through Every Country in the World – Lonely Planet
This one taps the inner travel competitor within us all. It scratches that nagging itch to tick off boxes whilst travelling, even though there’s nothing we loathe more. My favourite coffee table book and the one I still have stored somewhere in my mother’s garage (sorry mum, just a few years longer…surely I shall want to stop and ‘make house’ someday?) Well, no chance of that happening if I keep flicking through this book every time I go home for a visit.
Impossibly inspirational to a fault and highly informative, The Travel Book does it all. Yes, it may also force you to stick post-it notes on all the pages of countries you have already visited. Guilty as charged!
7. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Marquez is often described as “the man who put Colombia on the map”, and it is indeed true that this Nobel Prize winning author has done more for the country, and the whole Latin America region, than any tourism campaign ever could. When he passed, just two years ago, even the Colombian President dubbed him ‘The most famous Colombian who ever lived”. So famous was he in the 1970s, that he actually took the role of negotiator between the Colombian Government and FARC rebel leaders. But anywho, don’t let this be the only thing which spurs you to read One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The fictional story, written in the late 1960s, is set in a fictional town and centred on a fictional, multi-generational family. A family which, mind you, never actually travels. The beauty of this incredibly inspiring novel is that it is seen as a representation of small, rural life in Latin America and makes the reader, and traveller, develop a deeper appreciation of the places and faces he/she encounters along the way. If you want a book that will inspire you to look beyond the most celebrated sites of any place, then One Hundred Years of Solitude may just be the travel book for you.
8. Mawson: And the Ice Men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen – Peter FitzSimmons
It’s quite amazing that it has taken this long, and one rather famous Australian, to finally publish a gripping tale of famous Antarctic explorers. If you’ve ever had any interest in the White Continent or the resilience of human nature, then you’ll find this book difficult to put down. The so-called Heroic Age of exploration, a time when men literally elbowed each other out of the way, so they could be the first, the fastest, the most accomplished in what was – and still is – the most enigmatic continent on our planet. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, on the most desolate and unforgiving place on earth, we live through the despair, the tragedies, the sickness and the eventual tale of survival of one of the world’s most incredible explorers. An Australian.
The story grabs the imagination of the most adventurous traveller, the historian and, to be honest, anyone who loves a gripping read. Beautifully written and impressively vivid, FitzSimmons’ Mawson: And the Ice Men of the Heroic Age brings to life one of the most astonishing travel tales of the last century. The book also makes you quite grateful to visit Antarctica on an expedition cruise in the 21st Century, so that’s a lovely bonus.
9. No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach – Anthony Bourdain
It’s safe to guess that most of us have fantasized about eating our way around the world, and through No Reservations, one comes very close. Or, at the very least, one can salivate one’s way through the world! Love him or hate him, Bourdain is a force to be reckoned with, and when it comes to the food travel genre, there’s no one who can compete. What helps the man’s popularity, of course, is his profanity-laden commentary, and although hard-core followers may be disappointed (there are more photos than writing) there’s no doubt this book will tickle the taste buds of even the pickiest of travellers. Want to explore the world, one delicious bite at a time? Go ahead and devour No Reservations (if you dare) and Bourdain may well convince you that going half way around the world, for an unforgettable meal, is as good an excuse to travel as any other.
10. Left Beyond the Horizon, Christopher Many
I’ll start this review with a confession: Christopher Many is my partner. We met in Africa back in 2008 and have been travelling together ever since. But please, don’t take this as a blatantly subjective review. Take it for what it really is: a loving ode to one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring travel books I have ever read. Left Beyond the Horizon tells the tales of Christopher’s journey around the globe in a dilapidated Land Rover, through 100 countries, over a period of 8 years from 2002 to 2010.
Christopher’s take on the world, his endless curiosity and the way he dissects everything he observes are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise far-too-often subjective travel book world. This isn’t a diary as such, it’s not a Land Rover manual, nor is it a self-involved travelogue. It’s an honest look at people, cultures, politics and societies, which manages to literally ignite the curious traveller’s mind. One that makes you think about the world, and discuss it, over endless cups of coffee. One that teaches you to leave you preconceived notions behind, to stop listening and following mass media, and to just GET OUT THERE…just so you can make up your own mind about people, countries, and humanity as a whole.
Will Left Beyond the Horizon make you want to travel the world for the rest of your life? Worked for me!
Hope we’ve encouraged you to pick a new bedside table companion, with our list of Top 10 Books to Inspire Wanderlust. But remember that while it’s true that a book can make you travel the world…an airplane ticket does it better.
Feeling inspired to travel to Latin America or Antarctica and pen your tales? Don’t let anything stop you! Chimu Adventures can help you plan the journey of your dreams. Click here for more information.
Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”