There’s more to the genre of travel literature than Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Here are five travel books sure to give you wanderlust.
by Nikhil Sreekandan
It is a known fact that the millennial generation has been particularly receptive to the travel bug, that they would rather travel the world than put down roots and settle down. While the Generation X saved to buy a house and build a family, the millennials save to uproot themselves yet again as they move to a different country for the next year or two.
This philosophy of looking at travel as a necessity rather than a luxury is probably down to how millennials place a high emphasis on being unique, a major part of which is growing their own identity through culturally rich experiences and exploration of the unknown — both of which travel delivers thoroughly.
But, it’s easier said than done. Here are five travel books to inspire and educate the wanderer in you.
1. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, and Dylan Thuras
Atlas Obscura is a well-known online platform, manned by a global community of explorers, who have created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods. It basically serves as a bucket list for the hardcore adventurers and travellers out there who are well-tired of the cliched Paris-Milan-Brussels Europe itinerary.
Atlas Obscura, the book, celebrates over 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world, inspiring in the reader equal parts wonder and wanderlust. The book revels in the weird, the unexpected, and the mysterious. And every page is a testament to how strange and marvellous our world truly is. With its fascinating descriptions, hundreds of photographs and maps for every region of the world, it is one of those books that you can pick up anywhere and just start reading.
2. Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa
At the age of 24, Jamie Zeppa said goodbye to her fiance and her plans for graduate school and packed her bags to the other side of the world. A Canadian who had never been outside of North America before, she moved to the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan and started work as an English lecturer at the Sherubtse College near Trashigang in Eastern Bhutan.
The memoir details her experiences and transformations after spending three years in Bhutan. It reads very much like a day-to-day journal, and at the same time, it is a log of the personal awakenings and realisations she had while she was living there. Zeppa’s memoir is one of those rare gems which reminds us that there are still places that are so wondrous and strange that a journey there has the potential to transform your entire being.
3. Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon
Back in the ’70s, Ted Simon decided to travel the world on a motorcycle. The journey, which took place between 1973 and 1977, saw him cover 78,000 miles through 45 different countries. Riding a Triumph Tiger 100, a 500 cc motorcycle nicknamed the Jupiter, Simon spent four years on the road, living with peasants and presidents, in prisons and palaces, through wars and revolutions.
Considered to be a bible for bikers, the book was first published in 1979, two years after Simon completed his journey across Europe. And, in the past 25 years, Jupiter’s Travels has changed many lives and inspired many to travel. Jupiter currently resides in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
4. The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
The Places in Between is a travel narrative by the Scottish author about his solo walk across north-central Afghanistan in 2002. Stewart started his journey in Herat and ended it in Kabul as he followed the Hari River from west to east. Along the way, Stewart met Taliban commanders, teenage soldiers, foreign-aid workers and he was even adopted by a retired fighting mastiff, whom he named Babur in honour of Afghanistan’s first Mughal emperor.
Critically applauded, The New York Times Book Review named it one of the Top 10 books of 2006, a distinction the NYT rarely gives to travel books. An account of the author’s walk across the length of Afghanistan, immediately after 9/11, this one’s got to be inspiring.
5. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
In this bible for long-term travel and backpacking, veteran shoestring traveller Rolf Potts shows how anyone armed with an independent spirit can achieve the dream of extended overseas travel. From financing your travel time to determining your destination and adjusting to life on the road, this book has it all.
No other book has even come close to expressing the philosophy of long-term travel as Vagabonding has, and that is saying something. If you are planning on hitting the road for a couple of years or have always dreamt of travelling overseas, this one’s a must-pick. It will show you that long-term travel is possible.
Nikhil Sreekandan is a journalist with a desire to explore life through the stories he chases. An engineer who found recluse in the world of words, he is a journalism post-graduate from Cardiff University. He works as a content editor at Nature inFocus, India’s leading platform for nature and wildlife. When not lost in cinema, contemporary literature or his earphones — there is a genuine attempt at ‘giving chase’, and it is beautiful.