Books that Inspire Travel – Part Two
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 here is books inspire travel volume two. I hope the series will not only offer great reads but inspire you to travel.
Missed volume one? Click here.
The following seven books inspire travel across the globe, from Portugal to Italy and China to the USA.
Books Inspire Travel Volume Two
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier – My pick
Night Train to Lisbon follows a strange Latin teacher, Raimund Gregorious, as he sets out on an unexpected journey that will change his life forever. After a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman in his home town of Bern, Switzerland and stumbling upon a mesmerizing book in his local used bookstore written by a Portuguese doctor, it’s as though Portugal is calling to him. Breaking all routine he heads to Lisbon by train in search of what, he’s not quite sure – the man who wrote the thought provoking book? a break? or something he’s not yet aware of?
While preparing for my epic solo adventure to the UK & Europe that I took last summer I was reading books that took place in Europe. One such book was Night Train To Lisbon. While Lisbon was already in my sights after reading Night Train to Lisbon I knew I had to travel to Portugal, to see this fabulous yet gritty city for myself, to meet its people and perhaps find my own Lisbon. While I didn’t find Mercier’s Portugal, I did feel the lurking subtext.
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann – Patty Berwald from American in Tuscany
The first time I went to Venice was in my Junior Year in College with my classmates from the Tyler Scuola di Arte in Rome. It was April and the City, though it floods more severely and more often today, was damp, dank, shrouded in fog, mysterious and beautiful. It captured my imagination and filled my senses. Naturally I chose Death in Venice to read for our existentialist class while we toured, and I reread it there 20 years later when I returned with my family.
I became obsessed with the visuals of the grey waters flowing between pilings and buildings, the connected and disconnected islands within the City proper and in the lagoons, the decadent, gold washed, Moorish architecture that suggests the exotic tastes, powers and needs of the Doges, adding a 17th century context to the invention and ambition it must have taken to concept and build a city served, protected and, also, ruined by the sea. Venice exerts a controlled chaos over its inhabitants, rulers and conquerors. She literally encourages the visitor to wander map-less and submit to its temptations and mysteries.
Thomas Mann’s story is about the shame of illicit love, the grief of aging and the intangible, fleeting nature of youth and beauty. As Venice continues its graceful decay, perfection is ruined and unreachable. Romance, loneliness, the isolation of deep, uncontrollable passion and longing, all seem at home in Venice. Sadness, greatness, awe, discovery, the losing of oneself among the winding streets and the bridges that connect and punctuate the intersections of canals and pedestrian thoroughfares, are all felt simultaneously, mimicking the desperation and confusion of the main character Aschenbach. Sigh…….
Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat – Billie Frank from Santa Fe Travelers
We’re big fans of road trips and William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America, first published in 1982, is a must read for road trip enthusiasts. My husband Steve and I love road trips and Moon’s 13,000 mile plus journey around the perimeter of United States on back roads (the blue lines on the map, hence the book’s name) spoke to us. He eloquently shares his 1978 journey made in a 1975 Ford van-turned camper that he named “Ghost Dancing.” He visited big cities with familiar names such as Nashville, San Antonio and San Francisco and discovered small towns with quirky names like Simplicity, Virginia; Only, Tennessee; Paradise, Arizona and Remote, Oregon. From then on when traveling we scanned the walls in restaurants to see how many calendars they’d tacked up. Read the book if you want to know the significance of these.
Moon traveled slowly, taking time to talk to people along the way. Today, too many of us either fly over or travel across the country on the vast interstate road system missing the blue highways that dot the American landscape. We celebrated William Least Heat-Moon’s spirit last year exploring back roads between the Arizona/California border and southeastern Ohio. It was a voyage of discovery and we loved it. If you want to see a side of America often missed, read the book, get inspired and hit the road. Part of our back road journey is chronicled here.
Exploring Australia with Arthur Upfield – Marion Halliday from Redz Australia
I love a good travel book. And I’m a sucker for a good whodunit! So I was thrilled to discover a whole series of 30+ Australian crime novels, each set in a different place WAY off the beaten track, I was stoked. Even if they were written over 50 years ago!
Author Arthur Upfield’s novels feature enigmatic mixed-race Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte – “Bony” – who travels Australia solving cold cases. But with setting as important as character to the plot, Upfield’s descriptions of the remote and unusual locations Bony visits evoke a sense of place inspiring to those who, like me, want to see the ‘real Australia’. After emigrating and serving in the Australian army during World War 1, Upfield travelled extensively in Australia, using his varied travel and work experiences and the colourful characters he met as the basis for his novels. Upfield’s knowledge of aboriginal customs and post-colonial tensions are a key feature, with both worlds skilfully brought together in Bony who draws on his dual-nationality heritage to solve his cases with a blend of traditional police work and traditional Indigenous skills – and a deep understanding of the land.
The landscapes of these quintessentially Australian novels are as relevant now as when Upfield observed them. I see, for example, the Darling River in flood, the sinister side of the Grampians, the remote Kimberley before modern day communications contracted the world. I find eastern South Australia in drought, the vastness of the Diamantina basin, the desert’s all-encompassing sands where secrets and motives for murder are buried.
And then I see them in real life.
Finding an Upfield novel I haven’t read is exciting. There’s the tight plot. There’s the picture of Australian life as it once was. And best of all? There’s the new and intriguing landscape to discover!
Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten – Mimi McFadden from The Atlas Heart
I had seen J. Maarten Troost’s book, Lost on Planet China, a few times at the bookstore but never picked it up until about a month ago. Once I read the back, I was immediate entranced by his sense of humor and non-politically correct attitude. I brought it home with me and dived into his controversial yet truthful tales of life in China. He wrote about how he went to China to explore whether it was a place and culture he could move to with a family and integrate into. He went all over the country to the big sights, cities, and small countryside towns that gave a brief break from the heavily polluted air and masses of people. He may have even accidentally stepped into North Korea at one point on a joy boat ride. I found myself laughing uncontrollably but also noticed my curiosity peaking with each page I turned. To be honest, China was a country that had never been high on my list of places to visit, but after reading this book I started researching more about traveling there and eventually put it as my first stop destination during my trip to Asia this coming fall. What inspired me was the difficult nature of China that only sounded like a challenge waiting to be tackled. Troost paints a picture of a place that is not always glamorous but rewarding and lovable in its own smoggy and sometimes interesting smelling way.
I want to travel to China to see if I have a similar experience, to see if I find a connection to a place that has gone through so much change in past decades. It could be the most intriguing place I’ve traveled to as of yet and that alone is worth the journey.
New Granada: twenty months in the Andes by Isaac F. Holton – Karin from Girl Astray
I bought this book for two dollars in San Francisco and the vendor couldn´t believe somebody wanted to read it! It is a 19th century travelogue written by Isaac Farewell Holton who describes the land of what is Colombia today as he journeys from the Caribbean coast up to the Andes mountains. He first takes a set of steamers that need to be pushed up by slave-like workers against the powerful flow of the river Magdalena and later on he walks a great distance from the town of Honda across the Andes and finally to Bogotá. Holton is fascinated with nature and as a knowledgeable botanist, he describes plants in a great detail. Nevertheless, he also writes about the culture, customs, food, wear, architecture, organization of the society, education system and so on. Aside from being detailed and organized, his writing is also very funny and ironic at times. Surprisingly, he does not issue racist comments in regards to the native population, rather he observes and comments on the personality and his own experience. Although I discovered this book right after leaving Colombia where I have lived for more than a year, I loved reading it as I have visited many places described in it and also because sometimes, things haven´t changed all that much. Later on, when I have returned to Colombia, I was happy to have the opportunity to see the country through a different pair of eyes that belonged to a year 1857 traveller.
Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne – Aleah Taboclaon of Solitary Wanderer
Before I traveled to Thailand, I had already read the book-turned-movie The Beach, and although the islands were expertly described, it didn’t make me want to travel there. One reason may be because I’m from the Philippines, an archipelago chockfull of islands and beaches just as beautiful as the ones written in the book. (Though the author did say that the original inspiration for the movie was Palawan, an island in the Philippines.)
Things were different when I first read Bangkok Days by Lawrence Osborne, whose vivid descriptions of the Thai capital and its various interesting characters made Bangkok so alive, so real, for me. I read it again when I lived in Bangkok for four months, and I could perfectly relate with Osborne’s characterization of the city. It’s a highly recommended book for those who have yet to travel to Thailand.