It turns out that On The Go’s UK office is infested with bookworms! Being travel fans, we’re all rather fond of anything that inspires us to travel. And what’s better than hitting the old sofa with a good book? Perhaps settling in just after take-off and delving into something that resonates with your romantic rambler’s soul? (Alright let’s not get carried away…) Here are some great reads that have inspired us to hit the road and see the world. See if they do anything for you.
1. Georges Prosper Remi (Hergé): The Adventures of Tintin
At a time when travel was limited to the rich and famous, Hergé’s tales of adventure provided people with a rare glimpse of the rest of the world. Millions across the world still love Tintin, and now it’s even easier to follow in his footsteps.
2. Jack Kerouac: On The Road
Ah Mr. Kerouac, who along with Burroughs and Ginsberg, is considered a progenitor and pioneer of the so-called Beat Generation and hippie movement. Based on spontaneous road-trips across America, On The Road is highly acclaimed and definitely worth a read. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll.
3. Hunter S. Thompson: The Rum Diary
One of Thompson’s earliest works, The Rum Diary wasn’t published until much later in Thompson’s career. It follows the story of a journalist named Paul Kemp, who moves from New York to work for a newspaper based in Puerto Rico. Like most of Thompson’s work, there’s excessive and frequent consumption of alcohol and other drugs. It’s fast-paced, violent, and soaked in alcohol. And it’s a great read.
4. Gregory David Roberts: Shantaram
This novel follows the story of an Australian convict, heroin addict and general ne’er-do-well, who escaped from prison and decided to travel to India. Over the next ten years he established a medical clinic, worked in Bollywood, got involved with the Bombay mafia and fought with guerrillas in Afghanistan before being recaptured. If you can withstand the feeble cod-philosophy he insists on force-feeding the reader, the descriptions of the people and places he encounters along the way are vivid and somewhat inspiring. Oh, and let’s not forget that he wrote the book three times, as the first two drafts were destroyed by his captors. One can’t help thinking that the story grew in the telling, but it’s fun anyway.
5. Bill Bryson: Notes from a Small Island
Although first published in 1995, this humorous travel book makes for enjoyable reading. Bryson has a witty way of unpacking nuances of British life that are simultaneously familiar and faintly bizarre when seen through his eyes. It’s all very good natured and pleasing to read, especially if you’re planning a trip to the UK.
6. Alex Garland: The Beach
Just before baby-faced Leo DiCaprio donned his baggies and reduced adolescent girls the world over to wobbly-kneed jabbering love zombies, Alex Garland wrote this tale of utopia gone bad. The film was a massive hit and inspired legions of western travellers to head to Thailand. The book’s not bad either.
7. Hotel at the Roof of the World: Alec Le Sueur
This is a humorous tale about managing the Holiday Inn Lhasa in Tibet during the late 80s and early 90s. It’s a first-hand account of what it’s like to live in Tibet and the attempts to provide typical western Holiday Inn service in a country that was enduring some pretty extreme circumstances. Highly recommended.
8. Seven Years in Tibet: Heinrich Harrer
Casting heart-throb Brad Pitt in the lead role as Austrian mountaineer and former Nazi SS soldier Heinrich Harrer ensured that the film would get a great deal of attention, particularly from the afore-mentioned wobbly-kneed jabbering love-zombies. I avoided the film, but our team here rates the book pretty darn highly. An interesting perspective on Tibet at a time of political and social upheaval.
9. The Alchemist: Paulo Coelho
Winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author, the only way you’ve not seen or heard of this one is if you’ve been living under a rock that was underneath another, much larger rock. Translated from the original Portuguese, the story follows an Andalucían shepherd boy on his quest to find treasure in Egypt. Along the way he meets an assortment of strange people, the book eventually emerging with the core philosophy of ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.’ Warm, fuzzy feelings.
10. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries traces the journey of a young Guevara as he travels 8000km across South America, witnessing social injustice, exploitation and persecution of the poor along the way. It’s the classic traveller’s tale of transformation, self-discovery and awakening. Grab your diary, buy an old Norton motorcycle and hit the road.
We know this is a Top 10 list, but it wouldn’t be right to exclude the most famous epic of them all:
11. Homer: The Odyssey
Serving as the blueprint for countless tales of travel and hardship, this epic poem is the ultimate travel story and fundamental to the modern Western canon. The poem follows Odysseus (or Ulysses if you’re Roman) as he travels home after the fall of Troy. And it was rather a long trip: after the 10-year Trojan war, it takes him 10 years to get back to Ithaca. It’ll take a while to read too. Best save this one for your round-the-world trip!
What are some of your favourite travel reads?