Travel books can be a terrific read whether one is planning a trip or stuck at home for the present. From the classics to contemporary authors, travel books can inspire, entertain and inform the active or armchair traveller.
One of the most classic and beloved books of travel literature is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. This book tells the tale of the author’s walking journey across Europe in the 1930s in between the two world wars. In a contemporary follow-up of sorts, Nicholas Crane took a similar journey 60 years later in the 1990s. He wrote about his walk across the Continental Divide in the book Clear Waters Rising.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of hopping on a train to see how far it goes, another classic, Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, tells just such a story. From the familiarity of London’s Victoria Station, Theroux travelled to the far reaches of the rails into Russia and Asia. This is one of the best books on long-distance train travel ever written.
Laurie Gough is the very picture of the free-spirited traveller, and Kite Strings of the Southern Cross details her adventures in Fiji, Bali, Malaysia and beyond with humour and thoughtfulness. She does not shrink from describing the perils of life on the road but survives it all with her sunny optimism intact. Women in search of inspiring travel books often find the genre dominated by men and will find this one particularly compelling.
Dervla Murphy is another unconventional woman writer of travel books. The Irish writer’s first book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, tells the story of a cycling journey she took in the 1960s across Europe and through Afghanistan to India. It’s her later books that may be even more compelling, however, simply for the fact that her adventurous travels continued in her 60s and 70s in such books as Silverland: A Winter Journey Beyond the Urals and The Island that Dared: Journeys into Cuba. Murphy also wrote in earlier books such as Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule in Unknown Peru about travelling with her young daughter Rachel proving that no obstacle is too great for the dedicated adventurer.
Redmond O’Hanlon is one of the most intrepid adventure travel writers with excursions into the Congo, Borneo and the Amazon. He wrote about those journeys in the books Congo Journey, Into the Heart of Borneo and In Trouble Again. He also his detailed his experiences in the North Atlantic on a trawler in Trawler.
While the days of explorers writing about their excursions into lands previously unknown by their audiences may be behind us, inspiring adventurers still remain. Free spirits can look beyond exhortations to buy travel guides here for the usual tourist destinations and seek adventure far from the beaten path in still-uncharted territory just as these writers did.
Also See 5 Classic Books Everyone Should Read