Books to Spark the Travel Flame
Because there is literally no end to the books that inspire us. And that’s kind of the point. Books transport us to places near and far, fathomable and fictional. Captivation first grows in our imagination. Then, the really good books, the ones that matter to us, may actually blossom into more than just words on a page, but words which spark a travel flame.
And help us follow our dreams into a better story.
The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton
“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”
Forget another book on where or how to travel. De Botton is concerned with why we travel and has some astute and honest observations on what gets us out the door and what the journey actually looks like once we’re in the midst of it. An enriching draught of fresh water for any thirsty traveler.
Travel to: anywhere, with an enlightened perspective.
Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller
“Everybody has to leave; everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”
In search of light and beauty and God, Don takes a slow trip across America with one of his friends, knowing there will be surprises, unexpected joys, and difficult trials littered along their path. But he goes all the same. With humor and a gentle grace, Don speaks in a way we can imagine ourselves there, whether at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, broken down in the desert, or enjoying the hospitality of strangers.
Travel to: America, via VW van.
Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler
“The collision of politics, geography, and faith has dominated nearly every story in the Middle East since the birth of writing. It also dominates the greatest story ever told. Nowhere is the struggle between faith and violence described more vividly, and with more stomach-turning details of ruthlessness, than in the Hebrew Bible. Yet nowhere is it described with more humanity and hope.”
Desiring to answer the question, “Is religion just a source of conflict or can it be a source of peace?,” Feiler journeys into the war-torn regions of Israel, Iraq, and Iran to seek hope in modern times through tracing the ancient stories of the Bible. Whether religious or not, Feiler’s book is for practitioners of reconciliation and a better way forward, starting with going way, way back to where God was born.
Travel to: the Holy Land.
Hawaii by James Michener
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
I’ve been fascinated with the Hawaiian islands and culture for some time now and Michener never disappoints in painting a picture of epic proportions when it comes to places and people. From the creation of the islands through to her becoming an American state, Michener takes us through the rich history of Hawaii through the eyes of select people and families. If you’re not frightened by large volumes, Michener’s is an enchanting tale.
Travel to: Kazakhstan… Joke joke joke.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”
“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
Considered by many to be one of Hemingway’s best works, the subtle and sublime story of love and jealousy and what could have been hangs with a small group of expatriates through the cafés and streets of Spain. Mixing the desires of men’s hearts with the veneer of travel, Hemingway’s pursuit resonates with the human experience.
Travel to: Pamplona, to run with the bulls. Would you?
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
I appreciate such honesty, doubt, and confusion. That’s why On The Road is sitting on my bedside table. As a man on a journey, I want to peek in on the journeys of others to see what questions they’ve asked and what conclusions they’ve discovered. Or at the very least, which stories they’ve chosen to tell along their way.
Travel to: the 1950’s and 60’s, on the road toward meaning.
The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho
“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”
Wanting to walk the Camino de Santiago myself, I am captivated by anyone’s accounts of their own mystic journey along that way. Especially Coelho, whom I greatly enjoy. With wisdom and a way with words, Coelho’s time on this ancient path is certain to unearth all manner of beneficial insights.
Travel to: Spain. To walk the Camino de Santiago.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
This is one of those classics whose genius title beckons you to explore her pages and the secrets resting within. ‘An inquiry into values’ is an inquiry I can get on board with and I look forward to discovering where this Zen takes me.
Travel to: the nearest road stretching into the horizon.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison
“Bleary-eyed one morning, with caffeine still missing from my system, I fumbled my way along the dusty path to the guest tents, calling out ‘Good morning!’ in as cheery a voice as the hour would allow (it was barely after five o’clock, and the sun had only just cracked the horizon). I heard a rhythmic thumping, getting rapidly louder, and I turned to find 1,600 pounds of pissed-off cow bearing down on me. Clearly it disagreed with my assessment of the morning.”
Aside from my uncanny ability to relate to that cow, this book comes to me through my wife, whose love for Africa means there are few books about the place which are left to go unread by her. I appreciate memoirs written with humor and readability, as they are a window into a different life full of choices I’ll never have made.
Travel to: Africa in general. Botswana in specific.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
“’That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.’”
I’d never heard of this one until a friend recommended it. But then I found out Maria wrote for Arrested Development and now I’m certain this book will be good. Interesting to see people’s paradigms and insecurities and the choices we make when faced with the hardships and boredom of life.
Travel to: Antarctica or Seattle.
What’s on your list? What are the ones you cannot put down or the ones to which you return? What words inspire you?
What books motivate your feet?