Reading has been a huge part of my childhood to the point that it’s already been augmented into my daily routine. I believe some of the great things about growing up around books is that it not only carves out a lot of room for your imagination, but it also allows you to empathize with the author, instantly transporting you from Point A to Point B, tasting the flavors pouring onto his taste buds, feeling the wind greeting her face as she drives along the coast.
I thought of sharing my favorite travel reads with you today because I think it’s something worth writing about. The inspiration these books have given me throughout the years has influenced me deeply to stay invigorated and excited about traveling, immersing myself in new cultures, and to bravely take my chances out on the open road.
1. Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson
I remember taking this with me to Bali, and it was very sobering to see the raw and human side of Craig Thompson - that there was a piece of him attached to the loneliness and the struggles in his art. Reading about his solo adventures in Morocco, the desert, and different parts of Europe made me realize how sacred and subjective travel is in a person’s formative seasons. Another book of his that I absolutely love is Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, which I read before I left for Thailand. Blankets, which I read during my teenage years, is a favorite, too.
2. A Fork in the Road edited by James Oseland
I’m such a fan of anthologies because I have a horrible attention span, so reading bite-sized stories keeps me in the zone. This is one of my favorite books because it hits two birds with one pebble – food and travel! Each short story is a peek into a renowned food person’s experience of a country and connecting it to food. (I believe that food is the best way to know a culture!) You have Under the Tuscan Sun’s Frances Mayes (she’s known to make this incredible chocolate cake), Aussie-born Curtis Stone, and The Guardian’s resident food critic, Jay Rayner, among many other contemporary individuals who can successfully crack you up with their witty remarks and make you feel like as if you were right behind them during their travels.
3. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This book, really. And forever. Alexander Supertramp is my hero. Some people think he was a complete nutcase. Watch the movie first then read the book. More on my feels~ about Supertramp’s extraordinary life here.
4. Condé Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places
I have yet to crack these two books open, but I have high hopes for them. Here you have a compilation of short stories from some of the greatest writers (both travel and literary) of our generation. What we really made me get these books was seeing Nicole Krauss’s (author of The History of Love!), Africa-based Philip Gourevitch’s, and Pico Iyer’s names on the cover. Hehe. :p
5. Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller
Through Painted Desserts is one of my forever favorites also. I have such a fond memory of reading this book. I was lying down on a hammock a few feet from the ocean, on what I’d like to think was a perfect day. It was on a sunny February morning. The breeze was cool, and the salty air lingered with the crash of the waves. That was the background music as I turned each page of this life-changing novel. I discovered one my favorite quotes here: “Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”
6. Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World by Pico Iyer
Pico Iyer’s works have always been hit-or-miss for me. Video Night in Kathmandu was a bit of a struggle to read, while I almost dozed off while going through The Lady and the Monk. His TED though talk about finding home really moved me and left me speechless in contemplation. This book, though, Falling Off the Map, was what drew me to adding a trip to Iceland on my Bucket List. I guess, as an introvert, I’m a fan of big open spaces that allow me to empty my thoughts. If you’re seeking to learn more about the isolated places in the world, this book is a great place to start.
7. Walden and Selected Works by Henry David Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” – Henry David Thoreau
Being disconnected from the Internet has now become a luxury most of us (heck, me included) often gloss over because it has become part of our lives. Thoreau’s works always ground me back to the rudiments and essentials of living – almost scratching the lines of survival – and it makes you think about the joys of living simply and the absurdity of living in excess, which I think is something we forget a lot these days.
8. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Eric Weiner is a hilarious character. He describes this book as “a grump’s journey to discovering happiness around the world”. His pieces are hilarious and sincere, and I very much appreciate the honesty and straightforwardness of his accounts around the world. It’s a pretty good choice of travel lit if you’re looking for something light and easygoing that has bits of existentialism strewn across its pages.
What I am excited about though is to read his latest piece, Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine. He also has an exceptional piece on the New York Times about Thin Places, a geographical concept that I’m currently obsessed about.
9. Dark Lands by Tony Wheeler
If you’re into politics, this book is a page-turner. It gives you a glimpse of how things really are (drug cartels, mass killings and all) in contrast to all the heightened beauties paraded on National Geographic and other travel books that boast of lush jungles and grandiose landscapes. There are parts of this book that are pretty disturbing as well – not recommended if you plan to visit these places any time soon, haha!
10. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing by Don George
Don George is one of the world’s most respected travel writers, and this book is a gold mine of knowledge for aspiring travel writers out there. I couldn’t find a copy here in Manila (well, we found one in the Manila Book Fair, but it was strangely overpriced), so I borrowed this copy from my friend Meya. Haha! I’m in the middle of reading this right now – so far so good. It’s rich with tips, prompts, and other nuggets that can furbish your travel writing. Hopefully I find a copy of my own soon because I’m itching to vandalize the pages of this book in yellow highlighter. :p Hi Meya.
11. A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Frequent flyer Anthony Bourdain has always captured my attention with his life’s work. I’m a huge, huge fan of his. I was even blocked out of Reddit when he guested there because I was spamming the feed with questions (none of which got an answer, sad to say). I’m taking this book on a trip with me soon, and after reading Kitchen Confidential, I am expecting nothing more than another amazing wisdom-filled book by Bourdain.
Other books that aren’t in this entry are Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries. Perhaps there are other travel books that you can recommend? Feel free to share them with a comment below. :)