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10 Best Travel Books to Inspire your Wanderlust
Books,  Travel

10 Best Travel Books to Inspire your Wanderlust

The truth is for me, like most, the desire to travel invariably begins not at the terminal of an airport, or at the sound of tire to tar, but rather within the pages of a book. Within the imagination. A tale of a lost soul, the journey of a brave young girl, or the eloquent description of a particular sight or scent of some far off land. Well, that was at least the beginnings for me.

If you’re a little older you may remember the likes of Enid Blyton and adventures of The Famous Five! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, Wind in the Willows, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, or one of my all-time favourites, Roald Dahls, The BFG. Though I am completely biased to all of the above-mentioned – and especially anything by Roald Dahl – I have in hindsight come to understand the very important and priceless gift books play and the very fundamental part reading now fills within my life and my exploration of the world beyond my own. Thanks mum!

Though I am still a ridiculously slow reader, I still find myself drawn to reading, still drawn to the very same kind of adventures, old tales and especially those which promise a little bit of magic, or a lesson or two between the pages. Whatever the pull, the following books have inspired me to look a little closer, think a little deeper and explore a little bit farther than my own front door.

The following 5 are my favourite igniters of what they call wanderlust:

1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

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If you have yet to read this book, do yourself a favour and FedEx this one. You will not regret it. This book is extraordinary. It isn’t a travel book in the classic sense, but it is one that will jolt you awake to what it means to be alive. It will yank you out of any complacency and will you to get out and live! To quote Jonathan Carroll, author of White Apples:

Shantaram is, quite simply, the 1001 Arabian Nights of the new century. Anyone who loves to read has been looking for this book all their reading life. Anyone who walks away from Shantaram untouched is either heartless or dead or both. I haven’t had such a wonderful time in years.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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This book will change your life. The story of a little Andalusian shepherd boy, this book is filled with magic, mysticism and incredible wisdom. Paulo Coelho is an incredible writer and The Alchemist is – in my humble opinion – a work of art. If you wish to follow your heart and need someone to help you do just that, remember the name of Santiago. This book will move you.

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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This is the unlikeliest of suggestions under this banner. But for some reason I can’t help but hold this one up as a contender. This book is raw, tragic and powerful and no doubt leave you changed by the end. It is a story of friendship, family, politics, love and sacrifice. The reason though that I loved this book so much too was the incredible story of the culture. It was for me an open door to glimpse into a world unlike my own and one of the very reasons I am completely enamoured by the Middle East.

4.Eat Pray Love By Elizabeth Gilbert

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Though the movie left me a little deflated, this book was magic. I’d read Eat Pray Love many years before but is a very palpable reason for wanting to visit Bali; and India for my own. The commercialisation of the idea is a topic for another day. But not taking away, this book was one of the most liberating and inspiring reads of my life. I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert to be a huge influence; or if not THE catalyst to the solo female traveller movement. This book is, to me, the gateway drug to independence, self-discovery and a world of unequivocal wonder. Quoting the Los Angeles Times:

A meditation on love in many forms… Gilbert’s wry, unfettered account of her extraordinary journey makes even the most cynical reader dare to dream of someday finding God deep within a meditation cave in India, or perhaps over a transcendent slice of pizza.

5.Into the Wild By Jon Krakauer

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Terrifying…Eloquent…A heart-rending drama of human yearning.”

New York Times

Gripping, mesmerising, tragic this book will stay with you. Meld into your fibres and into your very soul if you let it. Being based on a true story makes Into the Wild an even more powerful story. If you’ve ever yearned for freedom; to peel off the societal pressures; to pack your bags and leave all you know behind in search of something, this book delivers all and more.

The following 5 books are on my list of reads to follow:

6. On the Road By Jack Kerouac

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On the road is said to be a book that has changed every reader who has ever picked it up.

Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naiveté and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.  

7.Vagabonding By Rolf Potts

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If you know anything about my current journey it is the very tangible influence of Tim Ferriss; and The 4-Hour Workweek. When I saw that Tim has written the forward for this book, I knew I had to read it. If anything, it may hold at least one fundamental pearl of wisdom worth shifting my perspective.

Vagabonding easily remains in my top-10 list of life-changing books. Why? Because one incredible trip, especially a long-term trip, can change your life forever. And Vagabonding teaches you how to travel (and think), not just for one trip, but for the rest of your life.

—Tim Ferriss

8.The Motorcycle Diaries By Ernesto Che Guevara

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There is almost no man or woman alive that has not heard the name, Che Guevara. The Marxist revolutionary is a symbol of rebellion and the face of pop cultural “coolness”. What you may not know is that there is a memoir of his journey. Which now lists as a New York Times Bestseller, no less. The Motorcycle Diaries are a tale of a young Che Guevara in search of adventure, America and himself.

Travelling changes us in a way or another. Sometimes we are aware of that change, other times we are not. Let the world change you and you can change the world.

Che Guevara

9.The Shadow of the Sun By Ryszard Kapuscinski

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Ryszard Kapuscinski was born on 4 March 1932 in Pinsk, Belarus. He was a Polish poet, journalist and publicist and regarded as one of the essential voices of the twentieth century. The Shadow of the Sun, translated by Klara Glowczewska, is Kapuscinski’s story of 1957, postcolonial ruled Africa through his eyes. By the reviews and sentiments shared about the man and this story, it feels cheating that I have as yet to take this one in my hands and devour it whole.

A highly detailed, heartfelt, but unsentimental introduction to Africa’s afflictions and a quiet love song to its profound appeal.

The Wall Street Journal

10.Arabian Sands By Wilfred Thesiger

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Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer and travel writer was born in Addis Ababa, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1910. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. Subsequently sickened by the softness and rigidity of the Western life he had come to experience. In the spirit of the ‘ordinary man’, T.E. Lawrence, Thesiger’s Arabian Sands becomes a record of a vanished world. If you are keen on exploring the life of the Bedu or Arabia; before the pipelines and tarred roads, Arabian Sands is easily the spirit of the desert.

What’s your favourite travel book? Do you have a book that has changed your life or perspective on the world? One that has caused you to pack a bag and buy a one way ticket? Completely enamoured by a place, people or culture? I would love to hear from you!

10 Best Travel Books to Inspire your Wanderlust

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