There’s something wonderful about reading a truly inspiring book. And in my view, I think reading and travel can have a lot in common. A great story can transport you to another world, creating images in the mind that are almost as strong and visceral as being somewhere in the flesh.
This World Book Day, I asked some inspiring travel bloggers from around the world to share their favourite books that inspire travel…
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The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is a mystery book set in Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century.
It tells the story of a young boy who discovers an old book and tries to find out more about its author. What starts as an act of curiosity turns into a life-threatening race to discover the truth about the elusive author.
Barcelona is described so beautifully in this book, that it makes you want to hop on a plane and explore the locations that were mentioned. And guess what? You can even take a ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ themed walking tour.
Or – My Path In The World
Buy The Shadow of the Wind
The DaVinci Code series – Dan Brown
Some fiction books take place in worlds full of fantasy; others set their characters down in the middle of a real city.
This is exactly what Dan Brown does in his Robert Langdon series (‘The DaVinci Code’ series). Brown transports his reader to cities like Paris, London, Washington D.C., and Florence. His intimate knowledge of the details of these well-known cities helps readers walk along streets and through back alleyways familiar to most residents.
Better than just being virtually transported by a book, though, Brown’s vivid descriptions make his readers want to leave his books behind and visit the cities he describes themselves.
Though accompanied by a fictitious plot, the cities of Brown’s novels are so real they encourage travel. The reader can go and walk the same streets, visit the same museums and buildings, and see the same intricacies in paintings and sculptures described in his books when they travel.
Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives
When I was younger, I found myself at the library one day in front of a book called “Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives.” I promptly checked it out and continued to repeatedly renew it and hoard it until Santa Claus finally brought me my own copy!
Since then, I’ve proceeded to read this coffee table book from cover to cover multiple times. The book mentions popular tourist attractions (for example, Mt. Kilimanjaro) and suggests another similar but less discovered destination or activity to rival it (climb Mt. Stanley in Uganda instead.)
There are so many unique places you’ve likely never heard of and hidden destinations to fuel your wanderlust and lengthen your bucket list. Especially for the adventurous traveller, this book is a goldmine!
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil highlights the eccentric residents of Savannah, Georgia, and the city’s surreal setting. The book is based on real life story and highlights several famous Savannah local celebrities. It was made into a Hollywood movie in the late 1990s.
Reading the book brings you to the well-preserved town in the Southern United States, where antebellum houses surround many of Savannah town squares with huge live oaks and draping Spanish moss. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The city was considered so beautiful, in fact, that Union troops in the American Civil War spared it from being burned down in the 1860s.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha, a story about a woman who becomes the leading geisha in pre-war Kyoto, and then how the traditional Geisha world changes during and post WWII, brings to life this fascinating world. It vividly describes a hidden, traditional world that still exists today in some form, whilst ending with a segue into modern Japan.
The fantasy world that Memoirs of a Geisha brings to life made me excited to visit Japan, and it did not disappoint. The thing I love most about Japan is this juxtaposition of very traditional and very modern. From painted geisha and maiko walking the streets of Gion in full makeup and kimono to hidden temples, bamboo and maple forests, splashes of cherry blossoms and ryokan inns, traditional Japan is alive and well, living alongside the modern neon, crazes and garish buildings that epitomise modern Japan.
James – Travel Collecting
Buy Memoirs of a Geisha
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Outlander is a book that really inspired me to travel.
Outlander takes place primarily in the Highlands of Scotland in the present day as well as the eighteenth century. Gabaldon’s romantic and fulsome descriptions of the Scottish countryside, its people and its history really ignited a burning desire to visit Scotland to see all this for myself!
From her colourful descriptions of the idiosyncratic Scots people to the flora and fauna of the Highlands, Gabaldon paints a very romantic vision of Scotland. Of particular interest to me are the Neolithic stone circles found all over Scotland that are of primary importance to the story.
I’ll be visiting Scotland for the first time in September 2019! I couldn’t be more excited to see all the brawny and brave Scotsmen!
The Beach – Alex Garland
The Beach is a book fully weaved into the fabric of backpacking culture. A novel full of lessons about perfection, friendship and letting go, Garland takes you on a whirlwind quest to find paradise.
Although protagonist Richard believes he has found the ultimate dream island, his fairytale quickly spirals into a nightmare. This isn’t as off-putting to readers as it initially sounds though, with everyone wanting to believe they would deal with the turmoil of Richard’s situation far better than he did.
Despite being released over twenty years ago, it is still a story that resonates with travellers and the hunger for an undiscovered paradise still remains, deep within explorers everywhere.
Mountain High – Daniel Friebe
Daniel Friebe’s Mountain High is the book I always go back to when I’m seeking inspiration for my next adventure.
While it’s aimed at road cyclists wanting to explore Europe’s mountain ranges, even if you don’t fall into this category, the book will undoubtedly delight you.
It’s a coffee table book (think glossy shots of some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in Europe) but, unusually, it’s also packed with cleverly crafted, well researched stories around each mountain pass. These leave their mark on you long after you’ve finished reading; you end up with a real sense of the geography of the area but also the world history and cycling folklore that surround the mountain roads.
If you’re a cyclist (or an armchair cyclist) and you love mountains, it’s a must buy. It would also be great for anyone wanting to drive some of the most spectacular roads in Europe!
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
In order to find herself again after divorcing, Elizabeth Gilbert embarks on a year-long journey to three very different countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia.
What’s captivating about reading her story is how she takes you with her through the streets of Italy as she describes strolling past historical sights, indulging on the local cuisine, and seeking friendship with the people of Rome.
In rural India, she immerses you in the religious and cultural ways of that region as she describes them from a place of assimilation. Not having anywhere to stay in Bali, Elizabeth makes you feel comfort trusting and accepting the hospitality of an unknown place.
In introducing me to the history and community of other countries, Eat, Pray, Love has inspired me to make traveling a priority for my family so that we may enrich our lives through cultural experiences.
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air is a bestselling book by journalist and writer Jon Krakauer. It covers the story of the Everest tragedy back in 1996. The author writes deeply about the Everest region, traditions and mountains. He tells interesting stories which happened at Everest, explains the history of the mountain and covers the first ascensions.
This is a great book to read if you are planning to hike in Everest region, on the Three Passes trek or Everest Basecamp trek. I actually read this book when I was hiking Three Passes. I also recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about climbing Mout Everest one day.