5 books to inspire your wanderlust
From the frantic meanderings of Jack Kerouac to a more philosophical appreciation of what it means to travel, each and every story has its own way of portraying the beauty of travel. If you’re debating heading out on the road, here are 5 books to inspire your wanderlust.
1. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
No list of travel stories can exclude Jack Kerouac’s fabulous On the Road. The ramblings of himself and his friend Dean (Neal Cassidy) truly capture what it means to travel alternatively. Published in 1957, it still rings true today. I always make sure to keep a copy in my pack for when travel becomes gruelling and I don’t want to do it anymore. Kerouac – easily – will have you believing the road is life.
Another beautiful element of Kerouac’s writing is his various love stints. They always resonate and it makes the book that bit more relatable. A favourite passage is when Sal (Kerouac) has to leave the woman he’s with and hitchhike onward (albeit with a heavy heart): “We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time.”
Simply put, On the Road is the greatest story ever told.
2. The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World. – Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner
A fantastic story following three friends who set out to experience the world. We follow the self-proclaimed “Lost Girls” through their every step as they interpret the meaning of travel, people, love and what it means to exist in this world. From favela funk parties in Brazil and volunteering in Kenya to a yoga retreat in India, the growth in characters is beautiful to follow, and the book shows what travel can teach you about the world and your place within it.
Though the story takes a while to get going, it’s worth every second. Seen through novice eyes to begin with, by the end we’re following experienced travellers who examine the wonder and revelations they’ve learned from being on the road together. It is beautiful to experience the various stages of the trip with each author and see the conclusions reached about how travel has impacted them. I was truly sad to finish this book, and it’s written in an easily readable way, making it difficult to put down.
3. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Here we follow the famous travels of Christopher McCandless across North America, hearing the voices of people he met along the way, including his parents, and the public reception to his travels. Krakauer delves deep into the story, relating it to others who have tried similar feats of living in the wilderness for extended periods of time and why he was so interested in the story. The interviews give a clear perspective of McCandless and let the reader make up their own mind on whether he was silly to attempt living in the Alaskan wilderness, or if he was a kid with a dream that stopped talking and took action to pursue it. However, Krakauer jumps back and forth between stories and timelines, meaning it can sometimes be confusing to follow the narrative.
This story hits home and inspires the naive, childlike-wonder side of us that simply wants to break free. As everyone in the book says, McCandless had the bravery to pursue his dream of heading into the wild.
4. The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton
This is more philosophical than other books on the list, and de Botton references his own travels and the travels of others to analyse why we travel. It provides some fabulous insights and though it can feel quite long, the revelations are worth it. Insights such as, “Desire elicits a need to understand”, and, “It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not…” give a validity to travel and why we undertake it.
Posing numerous questions, he uses a variety of examples to look at why we get lonely on the road, how we appreciate foreign places and cultures (or don’t), why we wish to travel in the first place and how it changes us. De Botton also uses other sources to back up his analyses, giving credibility to his arguments. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with his ideas, it certainly poses interesting ideas as to why we travel.
5. The Road – Jack London
The Road follows Jack London’s freight hopping around the United States in the 1890s and is wonderfully, frantically told as he begs for food, lives day-to-day trying to get from here to there, and attempts to avoid rail workers and police. He brings the reader on a Canadian Pacific freight train, documenting the lingo, the processes involved and the hassle with “shacks” (brakemen). We also see him land in Erie County Penitentiary for vagrancy, and upon his release he brings us clear across Canada following another freight rider – or “stiff” – Skysail Jack.
London has a fabulous sense of urgency and adventure in his writing that inspires a wonderful sense of wanderlust. It is a quick read that is hard to put down and is as frantic and adventurous as being on the road. As London so fabulously says: “I went on ‘The Road’ because I couldn’t keep away from it…”
Feel like you want to head out on the road? Check out my 6 tips to start hitchhiking.