The Books, Movies and Documentaries That Inspired Us to Travel in 2008

Old lady at Schwedagon in Yangoon, Myanmar

Old lady at Schwedagon in Yangoon, Myanmar. Photo by Tarmo Jüristo.

Inspiration to travel can come from anywhere. You taste Gang Panang at your local Thai restaurant and begin to dream of enjoying the real thing in Thailand; you sip Guinness on a hot day and wish you were at a pub in Dublin; a friend’s “Sweet As Bro” t-shirt recalls your time in New Zealand, and you hope you can get back soon.

Books, movies and documentaries are another great source of inspiration. For this post, I asked travel bloggers to share a book, movie or documentary that inspired them to travel in 2008. They wrote back to me with all sorts of different titles, listing everything from a chick flick set in Ireland to the Bible. If you’re in need of some fresh reading or viewing material this holiday season, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your tastes here.

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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Recommended by Melanie Waldman from Travels With Two

My husband and I traveled to Yellowstone this year, prompted by Chapter 15 of this witty and fascinating book, a literary attempt to explain just about the whole of natural science.

It turns out that this bubbling, steaming tourist attraction is actually a massive caldera known as a supervolcano. It last erupted 600,000 years ago, leaving a 40-mile hole in its wake. Bryson interviewed a slew of geologists to find out when, if and how Yellowstone might blow again. The verdict is terrifying.

Looks like an eruption could happen any time, without warning. Lethal ash could blanket not only the U.S.’ most popular national park, but much of North America, as well. This could kick off a “volcanic winter” and possibly even whittle human population to almost nothing. And best of all, it’s theorized this catastrophe is already long overdue.

After reading this, seeing Yellowstone for ourselves seemed suddenly…pressing. Our resulting August trip was truly spectacular, and thankfully calm.

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
Recommended by Ant Stone from Trail of Ants

July two thousand and three eight. The North Sea drifts by the panoramic window of the Hurtegruten ferry I’d blagged my way aboard, and I’m sat amid its chatty human cattle. As I cast my gaze to the distance, cobalt waves begin to tickle the underbelly of a playful sun. My pupils sink in harmony to the early chapters of Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There. The next time I was to raise my eyes a star-studded curtain had brought the day to an end, and a noble old man delivered a look of disdain because apparently I’d missed His finest sunset. A day or two later, I alighted in Hammerfest at sunrise to discover timid reindeer revealing a rocky uphill trail. When I reached the short summit, I gasped the words “thank you” to Bill. My lifelong guide.

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird by Bruce Barcott
Recommended by Erik Gauger from Notes from the Road

Of all the books I read this year, this non-fiction environmental thriller by Bruce Barcott was the most engaging. It focuses on the eccentric and sharp zookeeper of the Belize Zoo, whose fight to save a wild slice of neotropical jungle from a national dam project forced her into a strange and ugly battle with the elites of her own adopted country. Barcott’s account dabbles in commonwealth law, the natural history of Central American animals, the history of dam building and more, all within the context of a fast-paced environmental fight. I finished this book the day before I left to interview a ragtag group in the Bahamas who are trying to save their six mile island from a golf course development. The book was a brilliant reminder that environmental travel writing can be effective, personal and engaging.

The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen
Recommended by Ken Madsen from Bird Year

Could all of the animal species on earth have fit on Noah’s ark? Does Charles Darwin deserve his reputation as the scientific earthquake that rattled the foundations of the way we think about species? Anyone ever heard of Alfred Wallace? I hadn’t, before reading The Song of the Dodo. Does the hapless Dodo deserve its reputation as a stupid flightless bird that deserved to go extinct?

Many of us love to travel to an island. You can comprehend the scale of an island. It doesn’t take long before you feel almost at home. If that is true, then people feel more at home now than ever before – since we are creating “islands” of habitat by our increasing fragmentation of the natural world. In The Song of the Dodo, David Quammen challenges our preconceptions about the dark spectre of extinctions in the plant and animal world, and how our own actions affect the futures of the other species with whom we share the planet.

Our Bird Year journey was a 13,013 mile trip without using fossil fuels for transportation. We explored bird habitat and learned first-hand about the incredible struggle of migratory birds in a world of change. Take your own migratory trip with David Quammen and gain a new appreciation for the Dodos of the planet.

The River at the Center of the World, Revised: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time by Simon Winchester
Recommended by Jamie Sinz

This book follows Simon Winchester and his Chinese companion as they travel along the Yangtze River and back in time through China’s political, social and spiritual past. Their journey begins in the Pacific Ocean outside of Shanghai and continues through the heart of the country until they reach the river’s source high in the Tibetan Himalayas. Along the way, Winchester tells anecdotal stories about their encounter with proud entrepreneurs gazing at Shanghai’s Pearl TV Tower, a pack of swimmers traversing the waterway in memorial to Chairman Mao’s triumphant swim of 1966, Tibetan roadblocks in which bribes are the only way cross and much more. Winchester weaves these stories seamlessly with the history of China in a way that you nearly forget what is part of his journey, and what happened hundreds of years ago.

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems. Edited by Mark Eisner.
Recommended by Sarah Maxwell from Palabras de Portenos

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Pablo Neruda’s birth, Mark Eisner compiled a collection of new translations of Neruda poetry that builds upon the work of the past. These new versions strive ever-closer to the core message Neruda wrote with his beautifully intoned Spanish words. They carry Neruda’s themes and ideas across a language, until they transport the reader to the mystical origins of Machu Picchu, through the United Fruit Company’s plunder of Central American lands, across Chilean vineyards, into the waters of the Pacific, and onto the heights of his matrimonial love. The history, natural beauty, culture, and passion spoken of in these poems will without a doubt make you yearn to submerge yourself in the South American landscape. But, don’t worry, even if you can not get there, Eisner’s translations of Neruda’s words paint a vivid enough picture that you will feel as if you see what Neruda describes. In the (translated) words of this unforgettable Chilean: “Poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.”

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Recommended by Curtis Foreman from Flashpacking Life

Once upon a time in 1951, Jack Kerouac fed eight long rolls of paper into his typewriter and assaulted it until it spat out On The Road, a sprawling masterpiece about driving and hitchhiking back and forth across America with an assortment of drunken, drugged-up, self-absorbed proto-beatniks.

I read it at 19 and thought it was the best thing ever. I read it again last year at 32 and realized that I had to get the hell out of the apartment.

Critics have called it passe, corny, and appalling. TIME Magazine called it one of the best 100 novels of the 20th century. Dated or timeless, brilliant or merely self-indulgent, On The Road contains some of the most naked, passionate, musical, and heartbreaking prose you’ll ever read about friendship, travel, and the forces that inspire us to keep moving.

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman
Recommended by Debby from Tea, Sugar, a Dream

From Indonesia to Mexico, Thailand to New Zealand, Israel to Nicaragua, Rita doesn’t just travel by herself to nine countries in fifteen years; she lives in them. But she doesn’t just live in them either; she immerses herself in their cultures and in their people. She becomes part of families and communities by living as a local in villages, and in homes, by learning not only about customs, but also by becoming personally involved with the people and their lives.

Rita discovers that communication and connection with people manifest itself in many forms of participation, which results in a sense of belonging, and a feeling of home, as well as some personal growth for Rita. Rita learns their languages, she teaches them hers; she cooks and eats and tastes; she sings and dances; she reads to children and visits schools; she wears traditional clothing; she attends ceremonies and celebrations; she smiles and laughs.

Rita is an inspiration. She confirms that people experience the same emotions, and that “we share a core that makes us human.” And words such as trust, friendship, generosity and kindness prevail all over the world.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
Recommended by Greg from Greg Wesson’s Esoteric Globe

Earlier this year, I was sitting on a plane flying to Houston reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Alan Weisman imagines what would happen if humans were to disappear from the planet, and in doing so highlights the impact that humans have on the earth. After reading the chapter on the Petrochemical industry, I went down to see the masses of refineries south of Houston pumping out oil-based products for our consumption. Not your typical tourist site, but seeing the miles of tanks, pipes and smoke-stacks highlights the depth of our effect on the earth. The book reminds us that we may not have much time with sensitive areas like the glacier atop Mount Kilimanjaro, and that we should be mindful of how we travel. Plus, I know I have lots of time to go and see Mount Rushmore. According to the book, it will take more than 7 million years for the faces to erode from the face of the mountain.

An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot
Recommended by Dave from The Longest Way Home

A return trip to Afghanistan after the Russians left and right before the Taliban arrived is where Jason Elliot starts his Travelogue. I began to read it as a lone traveller myself and found inspiration oozing from every chapter. Why we travel is often written about, but why we return is truly aspiring. Where else but in the most barren of landscapes, alone, can you find answers. This book not only brings one a learning of Afghanistan’s rich cultural history, but also on how impending war and current peace changes a person, and a people.

I remember quoting a passage from Jason’s book in my own journal:

“I encouraged him, in the usual way that you wish for others what really you want for yourself, to have complete confidence in himself and never be afraid to be alone, to further his travels and always question the meaning of things.”

For me, this is travel.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Recommended by Craig Martin from Indie Travel Podcast and author of the Travelling Europe ebook

Once again Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was a prime mover in my travel motivations this year. Conrad’s dark, edgy and — above all — slow journey to “the horror” reminds me how important it is to travel into the self whilst journeying into the unknown. It’s powerful message of colonialism, injustice and human suffering motivates me to remain cynical and tread lightly. Heart of Darkness is in the public domain and available as a Project Gutenberg e-text as well as an audiobook from Librivox.

Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman’s Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China & Vietnam by Erika Warmbrunn
Recommended by Amy Meeussen

Imagine biking across Mongolia and China. You are are all alone on a sketchy bike, following an old goat trail through the vast Gobi landscape. Imagine all of the people you’d meet and the miserably uplifting and wonderfully sad moments that you would experience along the way, as you slowly pedal through deserts, mountains, and strange villages. Erika Warmbrunn takes you into her personal experience as a solo traveler, through the hardships and the revelations of her daily life. She has a great respect for the people and cultures that she runs into, and her attention to the details of the landscapes, peoples and foods that she encounters, make it possible to forget yourself as you delve deeper and deeper into her journey. And when it’s all over, if you feel anything like I did, you will drop everything, buy a bike, and start pedaling off towards the horizon.

Minnesota Off the Beaten Path by Mark Weinberger.
Recommended by Linda from Travels with Children

Because most of my travels are within a few hours of home, Minnesota Off the Beaten Path has led me on many adventures with my kids. Sometimes I grab it, and other similar books like Oddball Minnesota and Minnesota Museums, when we head out the door, and I find our destination even as my husband drives. Because I love wide-open spaces, these back-roads, out-of-the-way museums and landmarks often serve up just what we’re looking for: something interesting, uncrowded, and close to home. Offering more than just listings, the Off the Beaten Path books provide enough information about destinations that we can make an informed decision about visiting new places. We don’t often get to go on extended vacations, so these books have helped us find good day-trip ideas.

A Year of Adventures: Lonely Planet’s Guide to Where, What And When to Do It by Andrew Bain
Recommended by Michelle Duffy from Wandermom

If you’re wondering where to go or what to do on your next trip, then check out A Year of Adventures by Andrew Bain. This Lonely Planet book is a delight for any traveller who’s (temporarily) at home. The author takes a week-by-week, month-by-month approach to introducing fun, novel, exciting and sometimes challenging places to go and things to do worldwide. There’s definitely some things he mentions which I know I’ll never do (the Death Valley Ultra-marathon for example), but there’s plenty that I could do – most of which I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t chanced on this book. Now I just have to figure out how and when to do them.

The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden
Recommended by Anna Etmanska from Budget Trouble

I’m not sure how The Circle of Karma ended up in my hands. But I do remember it was sometime last year and I had absolutely nothing new to read in English. And so I started reading it. It was either that or drip batter acid into my eyeballs out of sheer boredom.

It was slow going at first, I admit that. The book was written in a style that I’ve never been a fan of – poetic, rich and descriptive, or “lyrical” as some reviewers like to call it. It’s a variation on the evergreen “coming of age” story, but since it’s set in Bhutan, it’s not your average “a girl becomes a woman” tale. Why? Because Bhutan is not your average place to grow up.

The story follows a teenager who needs to travel to a distant village to perform a scared Buddhist ritual in the memory of her deceased mother. But that’s just the beginning of it. What happens next? Read the book. But be prepared for the possible consequences. When I was done reading it, I immediately booked a trip to Bhutan. Just a friendly warning, you know.

The Art of Travel by Alain de Boton
Recommended by Ben Hancock from The Daily Transit

This past summer was at once harsh and brilliant. It was hot and it was new and it was relentless. I had moved back to South Korea after four years Stateside, and the ensuing months brought little of what I had anticipated. Despite my comfort with the language and my past experience in Seoul, I felt isolated in the city – withdrawn and introspective. The feeling confounded me. Here I was, out in the world, and I was missing it.

What I found between the covers of Alain de Boton’s The Art of Travel was comfort in that my experience was not unique. Boton takes great care in detailing how a vacation to the Caribbean caused him to face the unsettled parts of his character – how the ceaseless workings of his brain distracted from the simple beauty of the beach.

In this poignantly explored piece of travel philosophy, Boton gave flesh to vague internal observations I had long carried around, and forced me to expand the way I view people and nature. In this sense, The Art did not inspire me to travel as much as it did provoke me to look deeper into my surroundings, be curious and keep going.

Adventuring With Children: An Inspirational Guide to World Travel and the Outdoors (Avalon House Travel Series) by Nan Jeffrey
Recommended by Jeanne Dee from SoulTravelers3

I love this classic book and think every family should own it! The subtitle says it all: “An Inspirational Guide to World Travel & the Outdoors”. This book is just chock full of gems and great information. She really covers everything from how to do hand laundry to keeping up violin practice while adventuring as a family. She has twin boys and a girl, so lots of practical experience over the years in many different modes from yachting and camping to hiking and biking on short and long trips. It is one of our “bibles” on our open ended world family world tour that I have used over & over.

The Bible
Recommended by Pickled Eel

I had just spent a rather interesting trip to Baghdad on business (it is a tough gig getting in there with a backpack at the moment). I had thought envious thoughts of my brother, in some secret squirrel unit of some sort making his way to old Babylon’s ziggurat in the middle of the night in the middle of the Iraq War in 1991. With a few spare days in Amman it suddenly occurred to me that another ancient site, not as exotic as Babylon but quite unique in its own way, was nearby – Mt Nebo, the site of Moses’ end of the road out of Egypt and the jumping off point for the Israelites invading Canaan. It was a place I had read about since I was a kid. Moses, a character common to three major religions, has a special place in the local lore and standing on Mt Nebo proper was an interesting experience to say the least. Getting there was the normal diversionary fun, past souvenir stalls owned by friends of your driver who happen to have handicapped relatives, paying ridiculous fees to see twelfth century churches with three tiles in a mosaic on a seven square meter empty concrete floor, and badly contrived markets built in 1974. But there was none of the usual tourist trappings on Mt Nebo and the Old Testament story of Moses viewing Canaan came alive in my imagination as I stared down from an empty hillside onto the Jordan River and Jericho, only a few short miles away and gazed across to the high ground on which Jerusalem sits. The Dead Sea shimmers through the haze and I could understand at a glance how inspired this approach into Canaan really was – it would have been nearly impossible to invade up along either bank of the Dead Sea. And you could easily imagine Moses here on this promontory watching his nation pour down into the valley. That is the mystery of the Middle East – you are always conscious that you are walking on ground that has been trod for thousands and thousands of years. You don’t need to believe the Bible to get a sense of that. But the stories of its old books haunt the place nonetheless, including an old patriarch who sat up here looking at his ultimate, unreachable goal. I found it an inspiring stop, with a strong sense of place and patriarchal presence and the hint of emerging civilisations that touch our lives even today. It was a brilliant day trip and to be recommended if you are ever in Jordan – but I would still like to get up on that ziggurat in Babylon.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Recommended by Christina from Solbeam

I spent the majority of 2008 living in India and the book that instantly rose to the top of my personal top 10 list is the same that gave me a fictional look into the non-fictional reality of the daily lives of the locals I watched breeze by through the window of my commuter train. I trash books on Chapter 1 if the author can’t write. Rohinton Mistry dances with the divine chaos of India in sentences and sentiments so eloquent they leave you dizzy. He opens a window into the non-fictional history of India, and with it, your senses and understanding of one of the most foreign countries and cultures in the world. You, first-hand, explore many levels of the caste system, and fall in love, and in sorrow, with the lives of those from the most rural of villages to India’s biggest cities, not excluding the transition in between. When you close the book, at the expense of a numbed heart and the sacrifice of tears, you understand how tragedy and beauty can actually intertwine. And that is what I would call, Rohinton Mistry’s master craft in, A Fine Balance.

The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson by Anita Thompson
Recommended by Steve Shoppman from The World by Road

Not long ago Hunter S. Thompson passed away. His legend will always live on, and his writing style is something that will inspire many upcoming writers for years to come. Recently, Hunter’s wife Anita wrote a book about his life, his rules for life, and what made Hunter Hunter. It is a quick read, but does not lack in words to give a new outlook on the path towards becoming a cutting edge writer. He wrote about everything from the Kentucky Derby to mainstream sports to politics to drug abuse, and regardless of the topic, it is easy to see how his approach to life produced some of the most controversial and respected writing of the last few decades.

Adventure Capitalist and Investment Biker by Jim Rogers.
Recommended by Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere Travel Blog

In one book he goes around the world on a motorcycle and in the other he takes 3 years to drive around by car. What I like about the books is that he has a totally different take on things than most travel writers.


Vice Guide to Travel. Directed by Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith.
Recommended by Nathan from Nathan Shipley Travels the World

These guys are kind of crazy. They went to an actual Pakistani arms bazaar and test-fired guns. While neither particularly culturally sensitive nor overly pensive, Vice’s Guide to Travel DVD is certainly inspirational for someone looking to really get off the typical tourist track. The “reporters” take a unique and often humorous look at some far-flug destinations by going to Chernobyl, talking to PLO boyscouts in Beirut, and exploring Rio’s favelas, to name a few. Even if it isn’t the most thoughtful travel video you’ve ever seen, it certainly is the polar opposite of anything Rick Steves has done and should get you thinking about your own ways to challenge yourself and explore something actually different on your next trip. For me, that’s perfect.

The Little Travelers Japan DVD(Bali and British Isles also available)
Recommended by Debbie Dubrow from Delicious Baby

Traveling with young children to a far-off destination like Japan or Bali might seem like an unachievable dream, but these DVDs make it seem easy and are a great way to introduce young children to foreign cultures. Free of gimmicks like cartoon characters or annoying jingles, they’re pleasant for parents and kids to watch together. The video follows two young girls as they board a flight to Japan, and begin to explore their rental home and the country. My kids were fascinated as the girls showed them where they slept, what the house was like, and other details of everyday Japanese life (exactly the things my kids would focus on if they were in a Japanese house for the first time). Local customs, like removing shoes on tatami mats, were woven in with the other details about daily life, and that seemed like it would be helpful if we were actually planning a trip to Japan. This is armchair travel at its best.

Ceremony of Evala in Togo
Recommended by Andy the HoboTraveler

This is the chant or music from the Ceremoney of Evala in Togo West Africa. I made this video when I was there, it is a rights of passage ceremony where they wrestle with the fat of a dog on their body. After the ceremony they are deemed worthy to marry.

This is what I think of when I think of inspiration for travel.

Emmanuel’s Gift. Directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern.
Recommended by Julie Schwietert from Novoarte Travel Blog

Watching Emmanuel’s Gift didn’t make me want to jump off the couch and hit the road.

In fact, I was motionless after watching the moving story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a Ghanaian man who rides his bike 600 miles across Ghana–with his one leg– to raise consciousness about people with disabiltiies. The documentary shows Yeboah journeying to the United States and receiving an artificial leg, then returning to Ghana to distribute 100 wheelchairs to other disabled Ghanaians and beginning to tackle his next goal: starting a sports academy that will employ disabled workers. He ultimately aspires to run for political office.

Emmanuel’s Gift made me want to be more conscious about how to make my travel more meaningful for the communities I visit. After watching this inspiring documentary, I found myself being more thoughtful of the needs of others, and recognizing how little actions taken by people with privilege can make a positive difference. To see how Emmanuel inspired me, please visit Collazo Projects to read about the Voices of Mompox program I started with my husband in Colombia.


P.S. I Love You. Directed by Richard LaGravenese.
Recommended by Shannon Hurst Lane from Traveling Mamas

P.S. I Love You is what one can call a date movie or chick flick. It stars Hilary Swank, whose character is deeply in love with her Irish husband (Gerard Butler). When he passes away from illness, she sinks into a deep depression. From the grave, he sends her love letters and upbeat messages, encouraging her with missions, one of which is to take a trip to Ireland.

The scenery of Ireland and the emotions of the people come through in this sad, yet very romantic movie. It makes one want to cozy up in a pub for a pint of Guinness, remember younger days of backpacking, and just falling in love. Be sure to bring the tissues for this flick that ends on a very happy note, in a beautiful destination.

The Motorcycle Diaries. Directed by Walter Salles.
Recommended by Kyle Crum from On Our Own Path

The movie the Motorcycle Diaries, about Che Guevara’s travels through South America via a motorcycle, reminded me that traveling is not just about leaving home see places, but it is a vehicle in which to change yourself. Through his travels, Che was able to see how the rest of Latin America was living and it made him realize all of the injustice that existed in the world around him. While my solution wouldn’t be armed revolution like Che’s, after seeing the movie, I wanted to go see Latin America for myself, see what has changed since Che’s time there, and form my own opinions about it.

Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn.
Recommended by Dave from The Longest Way Home

I will admit to not having read the book. Alone in a Nepalese guest house I watched this film beside a wood fire. I didn’t know what to expect. But the end I felt like I had a deeper feeling in how we each must live out own lives. Yet never go beyond out depth of travel.

Sean Penn’s screen adaptation tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a student who gives up all his worldly life and worth in search of freedom. Making sure his dysfunctional family cannot trace him Chris travels alone for two years as a nomad working odd jobs. Finally settling into a life alongside nature in an abandon school bus in the middle of nowhere.

Foolhardy dysfunctional youth, or a young man struggling to break free of invisible bonds that have inspired many a traveller since? The film lets you decide.

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Discussion »

  • #1Ant

    Lived up to my expectations with this one Eric, good on you mate. But what happened to Shantaram? I thought someone had nominated it. One more thing, what about your own – what would be your choice?

  • #2Eric

    Hah, unfortunately the guy who said he’d review Shantaram never sent through the review! It was a popular pick though – 3 of you mentioned it. I’ve definitely got that one on my Christmas wishlist now:)

    My choices… One of them is listed above – Into the Wild. Not so much inspired me to do what he did, but piqued that interest in doing something wildly adventurous. And at the moment I’m reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Twain always inspires me, mostly in his writing style and storytelling capacity, but also the people and places he depicts. He inspires me to travel because I’d love to write with the same level of astute observation that he writes with.


  • #3Diana Scimone

    Reading this fabulous list, I realize how many of the books I love are really travel books:
    Exodus, by Leon Uris
    The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye
    Room with a View, by E.M. Forster
    The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim
    Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, by John Wood
    and the book I’m currently reading: Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
    You didn’t include children’s books on your list, but I’ll (shamelessly :-) ) recommend the series I wrote to introduce kids to other countries and cultures and of course the joy of travel: Adventures With PawPaw ( ).
    Thanks for a great list–I now have many more books to explore.
    Diana Scimone

  • #4Deneen

    I was an English major in university and have always been a lover of everything British. Whenever I read Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Adam Bede, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Cranford, I want to hop on the next flight to England. I recently red a book set in the countryside of France (Bon Appetit by Sandra Byrd) that has grown a desire within me to travel to France.

  • #5Luanne Mattson

    I applaud the inclusion of Bill Bryson’s books. He’s the kind of guy you’d love to travel with… so funny and weird stuff always seems to happen to him. My inspirational travel book is Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. Ah, a lovely look at people and places that really are off the beaten path!

  • #6Rich

    A Year of Adventures by Andrew Bain is great. Adventuring With Children: An Inspirational Guide to World Travel and the Outdoors sounds like a great present for my wife.

  • #7Tanya

    Great list! Adding some of these to my must-read list as I write

  • #8Sam Daams

    Wow, what a fantastic list! Will definitely be using this to tinker with my Christmas wish list :)

  • #9Lifecruiser

    Thx every one! Such an excellent list! Wow! That list may cause me to start reading books again. (I haven’t been reading for ages, because I prefer reading travel blogs instead :-)

  • #10PickledEel

    Thanks for this collection Eric. You set a high standard with Twain. But you are right – his powerful imagery embedded in my ten year old head still has me hankering for a visit to those parts of the US. Shame about Shantaram. All the publicity about Leopolds in the recent “kerfuffle” in Mumbai threw him back in the spotlight. It is a 900 page book you simply cannot put down – Christmas holiday reading to be sure. But if you want a feel for the sort of character the author is search You Tube for him. There are some public speaking clips of him. He is completely captivating – his verbal story telling is equal to his writing.

  • #11Ariela

    Amazing article. Thank you for sharing this list.


  • #12Ant

    Pickled Eel – I’ve done the YouTube thing on GDR and thought the complete opposite, I was quite disappointed by the real him. A great story all the same.

  • #13angelina hart

    Thanks Debbie for The Little Travelers inclusion! I wanted to comment on Tales of a Female Nomad. This is the book that lit my fire for travel again and had me packing up the girls for Bali. Now we’ve just returned from Iran- a remarkably good location for family travel. Honeymoon in Purdah is a good funny read from a Canadian gal who pretends to be on a honeymoon with her gay friend as they travel through Iran. What I consider good bathtub reading.

  • #14Dave

    Yep, you can’t go wrong with Shantaram. Sequel or follow up is long over due. Though I hear Jonny Depp has bought the rights to the movie…

  • #15Ant

    @ Dave – Johnny Depp was shooting Shantaram in Hampi, India earlier this year (March/April).

    @ Everyone Else – Read it now, before Jack Sparrow ruins it for you!

  • #16Audrey

    I second (third?) Shantaram as a fantastic read – the descriptives and treatment of India (especially Mumbai) is amazing.

    For Italy, I’d recommend “Within Tuscany” by Mathew Spender. His stories really give an appreciation and accurate depiction of life in a Tuscan village.

    Another book that comes up often in discussion during our travels is “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond. It’s not a travel book, but more of a macro history of the world. It explains how certain societies, cultures and regions developed as they did and how the development of (and who had) steel, weapons and infectious diseases changed the course of history in some regions. Although I don’t agree with everything in the book, it does provide a framework for attempting to understand the development and culture of some of the places we’ve visited.

  • #17Eric

    Well I’m pleased to say I got a copy of Shantaram for Christmas, so I’ve taken your advice and started that this week. Loving it so far!

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  • John: I’ve always wanted to hitch hike across the USA.
  • Sara Wikoff: I found your post very interesting. I am just a Freshman in college and I have not decided my major yet....
  • John: Great advice, I always buy charcoal tabs in case I get an upset tummy.
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