But it can be done, and there are plentiful books out there to prove it.
From cheap holidays to traveling the globe, stepping into a new country will open you to a new world of culture, adventure and self-discovery. Here is a list of ten reads – classic and contemporary – that will inspire you to book that ticket.
Jack Kerouac: On the Road
Part of the post-war Beat Generation, Kerouac wrote this perennial American classic based on travels across America. Sal Paradise is the narrator (and writer) whose friend is the sparky Dean Moriarty. Together they hitchhike from New York to Denver to San Francisco to LA, taking the reader on a journey of ups and downs, via jazz, meeting new people, poetry and questionable substances.
Alex Garland: The Beach
In a contemporary Thailand where floods of gap year students come for an ‘escape’, UK traveler Richard looks for something more, using a map he acquires from a madman called Daffy Duck. He soon finds and joins a harmonic community on an island but can such a utopia exist? With an ending that differs somewhat from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie version, it questions Western society and our idea of paradise.
Mayes’ memoir of buying and renovating an abandoned villa in Tuscany will transport you to rural Italy. Lyrically written (the author is a poet after all) with sample recipes (she’s also a good cook!), you will be able to see, smell and taste Italy through her words. Fans of Mayes will also enjoy A Year in the World and Under Magnolia.
Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
Chaos ensues as Hemingway’s Lost Generation couple, Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes, sojourn around the nightclubs of Paris and the bullfighting rings of Spain. With plenty of alcohol to aid them, Hemingway’s masterpiece is a reflection of the post WWI generation that was full of angst and disillusion.
The Journals of Captain Cook
World famous 18th century explorer, Captain James Cook, kept first-hand records of his incredible global expeditions. From the Antarctic Circle to the Arctic Sea, Cook brought back detailed accounts of Australia and New Zealand. The courage, ambition and skill are enough to instil the intrepid explorer deep within anybody.
Nancy Pearl: Book Lust to Go
With topics ranging from ‘A is for Adventure’ to ‘Zipping through Zimbabwe’ Pearl gives readers the lowdown on what to do where. She also recommends books – fiction and nonfiction – to read on your travels. Consider it a sort of library for travel books and itineraries.
Sara Wheeler: Terra Incognita
It’s not all sunshine and sunbathing, as Wheeler details in her account of seven months spent living in the Antarctica. The journalist traveled from Ross Ice Shelf to the Pole itself, to the West Antarctic ice sheet to the Antarctic Peninsula, and wrote about everyday life in such vast yet intense conditions.
Tony Horwitz: A Voyage Long and Strange
Be taken on a journey of myth and adventure, as Horwitz retraces the travels of Europeans who ventured to America in between Colombus’ sailing in 1492 and Jamestown’s founding in the 17th century.
John Krakauer: Into the Wild
This is the true account of Chris McCandless, who abandoned going to grad school in favor of walking deep into the Alaskan wilderness for a solitude existence. His body was later found along with accounts of his journey under the name ‘Alex Supertamp’.
Hunter S. Thomspon: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The author’s true tales on his quest to find the all American dream, amid a cocktail of drink, drugs, sports journalism and outrageous escapades. Aside from pure entertainment, it will inspire you to ‘buy the ticket, take the ride’.
Image by Moyan Brenn, used under the Creative Commons license