Books Inspire Travel – Part One
We travel the world over for many reasons. To explore iconic cities like Paris and London. To experience ruins, historic sites, charming neighbourhoods and in search of our heritage. There are countless ways we are inspired to travel; from watching movies like Indiana Jones or television shows like Game of Thrones, maybe even a song like Kokomo. For many of us it’s the stories within our favourite books that inspire us to travel.
So, I’ve set off to find at least one book for every country that could inspire you to travel there. And I’ll need help so I’ve called upon my fellow travel bloggers. I asked them if there was a book that inspired the to travel to a specific country and I was blown away by the response. They came back to me with everything from fiction to non-fiction and childhood classics to new indie author reads. And so begins what will hopefully be an epic series that will not only offer great reads but most probably inspire you to travel with the encouragement of books that span the globe.
The following seven books inspire travel across the globe, from Germany to Fiji and Papua New Guinea to Peru.
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – My pick
I’d been to London, England a few times but had never really ventured farther afield until after I read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. I’ve become a big fan of his witty writing and humble adventurous spirit.
After almost 20 years of living in his adoptive home of Britain he decides to move back to the United States. But before his move he decides to take a trip around the island. From coast to coast, through oddly named small town after the next, Bryson writes of the interesting yet quirky people and places he encounters. Poking fun at meal choices and weather he spins the staunch English into a strangely entertaining and heart full bunch. He had me laughing out loud from the very first page and after reading the last page I knew I had explore more of England. So, last year on my epic solo Europe & UK adventure I decided to travel through the charming countryside of England and browse its small towns in search of characters out of Bryson’s novel – and let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.
Goodbye to Berlin by Chrisopher Isherwood – Tamason Gamble from Travelling Book Junkie
This book, whilst non-fiction is not really a travel book although it did inspire me to book a flight to Berlin before I had even finished reading it. This is one person’s eyewitness account of what happens in Berlin, Germany pre WWII? Christopher Isherwood highlights the highs and lows of life in Berlin in his short biographical observations from a person who would have potentially been persecuted during the war itself. Split into six short stories, all with inter-linking characters, we trapeze through 1930’s Berlin, getting a brief glimpse of what Germany must have been like before the imposing regime of Hitler embarked on his epic take-over.
So why did this inspire me?
I wanted to see Berlin through my own eyes after reading about the wonderful city through the eyes of another. I remember watching TV when the Berlin Wall came down, thinking to myself how awful it must have been for people to feel so constricted in their movements, so when I picked up Isherwood’s book and read about how freely people could move around I wanted to explore.
Since Isherwood was writing however, Berlin has seen many dictatorships – Hitler, The Russians and The Berlin Wall – making this a city of evolving faces. I went expecting to see a city hardened by itself past but all I found were warm, welcoming individuals wanting the world to know that they have moved on from their tragic past.
The Way of the World by Nicolas Bouvier – Monika M from Amused Observer
The Way of the World by Nicolas Bouvier made me think of Iran for the first time. I heard a lot about the country as it has been popular with my travelling friends for quite some time, but it was that book that made me put Iran of my travel bucket list.
The Way of the World is the story of an epic road trip that twenty-four-year old Nicolas and his friend took in the 1950s. They set off from Europe to India and they travelled slowly, not rushed by anything or anybody. It is not a simple report of a trip or a string of adventures and you won’t find deep analysis of the countries they passed. Yet, through the descriptions of everyday life and meetings with local people and all the difficulties they encountered on the way you learn a lot because Bouvier is a very observant and entertaining author. The language is rich and descriptive and it’s easy to imagine people, places and events. I’m jealous both of Bouvier’s travels and his writing style.
The Iran I visited, which is over 60 years older than Bouvier’s Iran, seems to be a totally different country. For tourists it is a fascinating place with a long history, hospitable people and delicious food. Many people are still afraid to go there, and there aren’t many tourists yet, but those who decide to explore the country on their own will almost certainly fall in love with it. I didn’t expect to see the country as described in the book. Too many years have passed, the world has changed too much and travel has become too easy to be so special nowadays. Yet, Iran is still the country off the beaten track and the book can teach you how to enjoy slow travel.
Papua New Guinea
Four Corners: One Woman’s Solo Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak – Vanessa Workman from The Island Drum
Four Corners: One Woman’s Solo Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea, is the book that has inspired me to dream of travel to Papua New Guinea. It’s the true account of a young American woman who travelled solo to Papua New Guinea to follow the adventurous footsteps of British explorer Ivan Champion, who in 1927, was the first person to successfully cross the island. Kira also aspired to be a travel writer, which led her to seek more diverse travel adventures and challenges. She accomplished both goals, not only becoming a successful travel writer but she also became the first woman to successfully cross Papua New Guinea.
I read this book when I was still working a ‘normal’ job at a hospital. I was a good ten years older than Kira but I had fantasies of adventure and exotic lands. Kyra as a person (not necessarily as a woman) drew me in immediately. I wanted to be the person who was also brave enough to colour outside the box of lifestyles and travel. Her encounters in Papua New Guinea were an exciting glimpse into a fascinating culture and I immediately put that destination at the top of my bucket list. Her writing was honest, witty and intelligent and to be able to combine this with the telling of such an adventurous tale had me spellbound. I still haven’t travelled to Papua New Guinea, but in many ways I am already following in Kira’s footsteps and I’m sure I will eventually follow them to the shore of Papua New Guinea.
Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham III – Lance & Laura Longwell from Travel Addicts
In college, a professor had us read “Lost City of the Incas” by Hiram Bingham III. The book, and the story behind it, captured my imagination and was a large reason for our visit to Peru in 2010. While we didn’t set out to discover any lost lands, our trip was every bit the journey of self-discovery that drove Bingham.
The Lost City of the Incas is the story of the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition and the discovery of Machu Picchu. Yale’s Professor South American history, Hiram Bingham, became enchanted with stories of Inca warriors in Peru during his trip to the 1908 Pan American Congress in Chile. He heard tales of a lost capital of the Incas in the Andes Mountains. The Lost City of the Incas chronicles the tale to discover this capital. Bingham is a magnificent storyteller and his book draws readers into the Andes jungle with him. Blending both stories of the archaeological digs and trips to other Incan sites, Bingham weaves a story of the last days of the Incas while he struggles to interrupt his discoveries. However, Bingham’s woven narrative lacks a significant amount of historical accuracy and is laced with ethnic attitudes that were common during his day. Bingham’s chronicles of Machu Picchu’s discoveries aren’t quite accurate. Machu Picchu wasn’t, as he believed, the last capital of the Incas. And Machu Picchu wasn’t totally lost – the indigenous Quechua Indians knew it was there. Yet Bingham’s “re-discovery” and ultimate PR campaign in National Geographic and Life magazines put Machu Picchu on the world map. Tourists soon followed. There can be no doubt that anyone who has seen a picture of Machu Picchu perched high in the Andes Mountains is impressed by the location. Bingham’s tale, while maybe not accurate, does capture the attention of anyone who reads it. Many believe Bingham is the inspiration for the Indiana Jones series. Whether that’s true or not, Bingham did inspire us to visit Peru and make our own trek to Machu Picchu.
360 Degrees Longitude by John Hingham – Tara Marlow from Travel Far Enough
John Hingham writes about his family’s adventure of travelling the world, before an incident in Switzerland takes the trip in a whole new direction. After more than a decade of planning, John and his wife, along with their two children, aged eight and eleven, travel around the world. They visit 28 countries over a year, experiencing a lifetime of adventures, learning not only about each other but also how much a family can weather if they do it together.
This book has inspired me on so many levels: When you plan your dream, it will happen. How travel can show you how resilient you can be and how much it can connect you. After reading about all of the places John and his family explored, Switzerland was the place the stood out most to me. Zermatt particularly. Probably because it was the turning point in the book. But I fell in love with this place. I want to see the boulder that Katrina fell from. I want to have coffee in a restaurant overlooking these gorgeously described mountains. I want to take the tram to the top of a mountain and imagine what life would be like to live there. I want see the Matterhorn.
Switzerland is now on our Living List (we refuse to call it a Bucket List as it’s what we LIVE for) because of this book. We will be exploring Zermatt and more next year when we begin our own World-The-Round adventure (read the book, you’ll understand the reference). This is a great book for all ages. I’ve read it five times now, my husband twice and my seventeen year old is planning her own travels, based on some adventures described by John and his family. We’ve even gone so far to read some of the books on the Hingham’s WTR reading list, inspiring us even more.
Maya by Jostein Gaarder – Rain Campanilla from Words & Wanderlust
On a flight from Brunei to Brisbane, I got hold of the book, Maya, by Jostein Gaarder. Just how Gaarder validated my views on the world through the eyes of Sophie Amundsen in one of his more popular books, Sophie’s World, he ushered me to anew door with Maya.
He spoke of Taveuni, a tiny Fijian Island just over a thousand miles away from my home in Auckland. I have heard of it before, from David, a Polynesian boy I dated for fourteen months. His family owned a piece of land there. He referred to it as the “Garden Island,” where everything planted thrived. Sometimes, he spoke of it as the “Last Paradise.” Garden Island and Last Paradise, both of which was mentioned by Gaarder in his book. I wondered if it was fated: me getting hold of a book that was more philosophical than it was fiction; a novel telling stories that I have already heard from a local I once bared my heart to; and a piece of literature where the line between fantasy and reality, of time and space– was blurred.
Taveuni sits directly on the 180-degree meridian. It means to say that the International Date Line runs through the island’s very soil, making one part of the island today, and the other, tomorrow or depending where one stands, one can also be today, and the other, yesterday. At once, I fell in love. I kept the discovery my own little secret and held on to it; vowed that I will live the dream one day, when the time was right.
Have you been inspired to travel after reading a book? Let’s hear your recommendations!