10 Travel Books That Will Inspire You
Travelling is one of the most visceral educational experiences that anyone can try. Some travelers have managed to translate their own experiences onto videos and paper, allowing others to have a glimpse of the truths and insights inherent to absorbing new destinations. Here are some of the most inspirational travel books out there.
The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots From a Hidden War – Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
Silva and Marinovich are one-half of the four members of the Bang-Bang Club. The four photographers managed to capture South Africa’s transition from apartheid to modern democracy. It’s certainly not a lighthearted book, to say the least. However, in the middle of the violence and war, the Bang-Bang Club peppers in instances of genuine comradeship and exhilaration. This makes the book a rollercoaster ride through South Africa’s post-apartheid townships.
The Famished Road – Ben Okri
African magical realism finds a spectacular foundational standard in The Famished Road. This novel centers around spirit children who can move effortlessly between the physical and mystical worlds that simultaneously exist around them. Join the children as they navigate a fictionalized version of the author’s native Nigeria, complete with both human and spiritual dangers that dwell at every turn.
Finding Beauty in a Broken World – Terry Tempest Williams
Finding Beauty in a Broken World chronicles three of the author’s travels across the globe. Williams observed a prairie dog town in the American Southwest and studied mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. In Rwanda, she joins a group of people who survived the Rwandan genocide in building a war memorial from the rubble. The genius is in how she puts these events together – proving that rarely is there a truly self-contained event in life.
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
Be warned: this is no ordinary travel book. A Long Way Gone is the author’s account of being a 12-year-old child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. It details Beah’s journey from the moment his childhood was forcibly taken from him, up to the time of his rehabilitation from the life of a child soldier. It’s an extremely troubling book, but also a story of great inspiration and travel insight.
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Little Prince deserves every accolade it has garnered over the years, including being one of the best-selling books of all time. This magical and insightful book is a political and environmental warning, an inspiring magical tale, and a short book on modern philosophy all at once. The Little Prince is a must-read for the imagination.
Travels With Myself and Another – Martha Gellhorn
This book is a retelling of the years that the author spent adventuring throughout the world, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by others. Travels With Myself and Another is told with razor-sharp humor and the insight of someone who’s seen almost everything. American non-fiction writer Rosemary Mahoney calls the book “witty, vivid, political, and thoroughly enjoyable.” And by the way, the “other” described in the title is Gellhorn’s husband, Ernest Hemingway.
Vagabonding – Rolf Potts
Penned by Rolf Potts, the original vagabond, this book is the ultimate guidebook to long-term travel. Apart from the logistical necessities required in “vagabonding,” Potts also goes into the mental and spiritual insights that he garnered from spending a decade on the road, including walking through Israel.
Travels in the Interior of Africa – Mungo Park
Penned by the Scottish writer and explorer Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior of Africa is a classic display of Park’s wit and equanimity even as he’s thrust into harrowing situations. His retelling of the instance when his horse and clothes were robbed is a must-read, and so is his advice for explorers who come face-to-face with a lion. But perhaps most notable of all is the fact that in 1799, The Guardian states that Travels also functions as an eyewitness argument for abolishing slavery – in Park’s unmistakably Scottish dry wit. William Wordsworth, Herman Melville, and Ernest Hemingway are just some of the writers that have been inspired by Park’s 1799 book.
The Beach – Alex Garland
This book about a hidden paradise island in Thailand captured the zeitgeist of the late ’90s and eventually inspired the 2000 film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie version of The Beach, in turn, inspired many to go and see Thailand with their own eyes, leading to a tourism boom in the country.
DiCaprio’s international stardom was doubtless instrumental in the worldwide success of The Beach. After all, it was just a couple years after he starred in Titanic also known as one of the highest grossing movies in history. Foxy Casino’s Titanic game based on the 1997 film is proof that even today, James Cameron and DiCaprio’s collaboration resonates with audiences.
The game features DiCaprio with co-star Kate Winslet in a 21st-century tribute to the film’s lasting influence. Meanwhile, The Beach combined DiCaprio’s post-Titanic star power and the style of Danny Boyle, who directed Trainspotting. The two created a nuanced travel-themed film that explored the best and worst of humanity.
And it wouldn’t have been possible without Alex Garland’s iconic novel. Read on to see how even paradise itself isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Which are your favorite travel books?