Before I ever started traveling, I read.
I sailed the Atlantic with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I flew over the plains of Africa in West With the Night. And I sat in the bleachers in the dusty West Texas country and watched High School Football with Friday Night Lights.
Besides a few trips to Canada and Bermuda, I’d never even left the country until I was in college. While traveling seemed like a big adventure, it wasn’t the adventure that I really cared that much about back then.
It seems crazy to think about that now.
The Start of My Wanderlust
I guess you could say I ‘officially’ got bitten by the travel bug on my first overseas trip. It was for my sophomore year spring break, one of those all inclusive deals 5 days flight and hotel and transport to London.
Why not? I figured.
When I look back now, after all the months I’ve spent traveling abroad, it was really the awakening of my love of travel. Now, going to Europe for 5 days is nothing, most of my trips are at least 5 weeks.
I credit that trip with getting me really excited about travel. The next year, I signed up to do a semester study abroad program in The Netherlands, where I got to go all over Europe.
I loved every second of it.
Since I’m able to work for myself, I’ve settled into a travel schedule that works for me. I usually travel 3 or 4 times a year, but for extended trips, with a few shorter ones thrown in.
Just this year I spent 7 weeks in the UK, and a month in Portland, Oregon. Next week, I’ll be off to New York City for a few days.
So when I’m not traveling (and not working) you’ll find me reading.
I still feel that draw that I did when I was younger, I love reading books about new places that I’ve never been. Or reading about places that I’ve been to get a better feel of different countries or cultures.
In this post, you’ll see just a few of the books that helped craft a wanderlust in me. If you can’t travel, read.
5 Books to Inspire Travel
Yes, I am an admitted Anglophile. I love going to the United Kingdom, and it’s not just because of my friends (sorry friends). The entire island is just jam packed full of history, especially literary history, that makes it absolutely irresistible for travel. So you might think that I’d pick something like Shakespeare…
I went sci-fi fantasy with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere which mixes the world of London Above (the London we all know) and it’s London Below (the crazy world Gaiman creates underneath London proper). I challenge you to ever hop on the Tube in and around London and not think of this book after you’ve read it.
A Walk in the Woods
I actually first read this book during my study abroad trip (we had no WiFi and only 1 tv in the whole dorm, how did we make it??). It’s by Bill Bryson, an American who spent years living in England, and then came back to America and decided to walk the Appalachian Trail (AT). The trail runs 2,000 miles and goes from Georgia to Maine.
As a New Englander, I’ve heard quite a bit about the trail and have even hiked a couple of portions myself. But A Walk in the Woods helped to reignite my love of the great outdoors and I wanted to spend more time on the trail.
If you want to live through the trials and tribulations (and laugh out loud) as Bryson huffs and puffs his way along the AT and learn about the people, cultures, and areas that touch this part of America, this is the book for you.
I’m from Boston (bet that comes as a shock), so any child from Boston will tell you just how much of a role PBS played in their lives. Since PBS is out of Boston and features a lot of educational programming, it was on often in my house. So beyond years and years of Sesame Street and Mr. Rodgers, I got well acquainted with the chef Julia Child.
Even then, before HDTVs and epic production, she was made for tv and was completely captivating as a host. It was only later that I found out what a fascinating life she lived.
That’s why I loved My Life in France. It highlights how she went from housewife to America’s most famous chef, all while detailing her day to day life in the markets and food stalls of Paris and Marseille.
If you’ve ever read (or watched) any of the Sherlock Holmes series, then you’ll be familiar with Mycroft, Sherlock’s secretive older brother. I hadn’t given him much thought until I saw that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, yup the NBA superstar, and Anna Waterhouse had written an entire novel dedicated to Mycroft Holmes.
The book is set in the late 1870s. It follows Mycroft and his best friend a Trinidadian man of African descent who is living in London named Cyrus.
Now, it wouldn’t be a true Holmesian experience without a bit of a murder mystery. So we follow along as Mycroft and Cyrus head to Trinidad to solve the case. It was interesting to see more about an island I didn’t know much of anything about, especially after the alleged end of the slave trade during a very turbulent time in this area of the world.
When I was in college I spent an entire summer devouring books about Mount Everest. It was after the 1996 expedition season ended in disaster that Into Thin Air came out, and Jon Krakauer’s vivid description of the mountain left me fascinated and wanting more.
I credit this book for skyrocketing Nepal to near the top of my bucket list for years after. While I never had any interest in getting to the top of the mountain…just a biiiiiit too dangerous for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to get a glimpse of the peak in real life.
While I haven’t gotten there yet, I still pay attention to what’s happening on the mountain. Unfortunately, there still continues to be a lot of controversy and disasters that happen on the mountain.
What Books Inspire You?
These are some of the books I’ve read that have inspired me to travel. Now, what about you? Do you have any unconventional reads that have made you want to drop everything and head there? I’d love to hear them in the comments.