This is not meant to be a list of the “best travel books or writers.” It is simply a list of those books that quickened my pulse at the thought of travel and adventures in foreign lands. These are the books that inspired and fostered my wanderlust:
On The Road by Jack Kerouac – After first reading this as a teenager, I’ve gone back to the well many times. The frenetic pace of the story, fueled my earliest bouts of wanderlust.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts – I discovered this in ’07, and it really opened my eyes to what is actually possible and how accessible the world of long-term travel can be.
Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse – I could easily relate to the theme of Narcissus wandering the world to find himself and become fully realized. Feeling the bite of wanderlust at an early age, but being discouraged by many people from pursuing the course of travel and adventure had been a constant theme in my life until I chose to disregard their opinions and endeavored to please myself and live life my way (Link to why I travel).
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh: Adventure is a Risky Business by Tim Cahill – Cahill has a way of describing his adventures with such irreverence and humor that really makes it feel as though he’s having way more fun than the rest of us. You may have little desire to canoe down the Amazon but you can still thoroughly enjoy his escapades from the comfort of your warm living room.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – Everything about the feel of this book made me want to live in France and Spain. I’m still working on that dream.
American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China by Mathew Polly – This tale of a young American who drops out of Princeton and travels to the Shaolin Temple in China to study Kung Fu for two years is filled with humor. It does a great job of providing many insights into a vastly different culture while not taking itself too seriously. This is a very fun and funny read.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville – After reading this in college, I was all about Melville for many years. Although, I am no big fan of the sailing and the ocean. I can relate immensely with the feeling conveyed in the opening paragraph of this book (A perfect first paragraph if you ask me):
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.”
When I start to feel that way, I know it is time for another adventure.
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