Self-Help Travel Literature
Okay, so you’ve thought about what it would be like to travel the world. You like the idea, though you’re filled with trepidation. What would it be like not to have a safety net? Money? What if everything goes wrong? Could I really do this on my own? Here are some books that will either quell your fears or make you realise this isn’t for you. If it turns out to be the former, they contain invaluable advice on how to go about planning your trip. Excited? So you should be. Click on the link to purchase.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts is probably the most famous book of its kind. Published in 2002, the book is a guide for people who wish to take extended time off work to travel the world. Potts is a veteran of shoestring travel. His book shows how anyone with a desire to travel and an independent spirit can achieve their goal through careful planning. Among other things discussed in the book are: financing your travels, dealing with adversity on the road, and working and volunteering abroad. One of the best investments you’ll ever make.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by Mathew Kepnes is a recent publication by possibly the most famous travel blogger of them all, Nomadic Matt. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s got a popular website you can check out here. Much of what is in this book is available for free on his website, but if you want a resource you can access any time, full of great tips from getting cheap flights to saving money on pretty much every aspect of travel, this is the book for you. It also helps that the information is completely up to date.
My favourite travel stories – books with a sense of adventure that elicit a desire to hit the road and see the world.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac was first published in 1957 amid a storm of controversy. It is among the most famous travel fiction of all time, and has often been compared to another American classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. While Twain’s novel is about a black slave floating a raft down the Mississippi river in search of freedom, Kerouac’s is about a post WW2 hipster, motoring across America’s heart in search of an altogether different type of liberty. On the Road defined the counter-culture ‘Beat’ generation, a phrase coined by Kerouac himself, and has been hugely influential to many artists, including Bob Dylan, The Doors, Van Morrison, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was and still is a controversial novel by the writer and humourist Mark Twain. Originally the controversy centred around the book’s perceived crudeness, aided no doubt by the the author’s decision to write the book in vernacular English from Huckleberry’s perspective. Today it is focused on the proliferation of the ‘N’ word throughout the novel, causing some to call for its censorship. Whatever your opinion, it cannot be denied that the book has been hugely influential, and personally I think its status as a classic is deserved. One of my favourite books growing up, it is in essence an adventure story, the two protagonists being Jim, a slave in search of freedom, and Huckleberry, a poor white boy, who decides to join Jim on a raft down the Mississippi river.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a best selling true story about Christopher McCandless, an ascetic adventurer who met his tragic fate in the wilderness of Alaska in 1992. The story relates how McCandless chose to fall out of society, eschewing a conventional lifestyle, his experiences travelling around the western United States, his final journey into the ‘Last Frontier’ Alaska, and eventual demise. In some ways it’s a cautionary tale, acting as a warning to those who take unnecessary risks in inhospitable climes. But conversely, Christopher’s journey is also inspiring. The Into the Wild movie was a critically acclaimed adaptation of the book, directed by Sean Penn, which was also a major box office success.
King Solomon’s Mines is a Victorian era adventure novel by Rider H. Haggard. Written over one hundred years ago, it was the original ‘lost world’ story, preceding Indiana Jones and the like by some eighty years. The reason it is on this list is simply because I love it. I read it as a child, so that may account for my affection, but it really is a great yarn. The protagonist is Allan Quatermain, a big game hunter in Africa. He stumbles across a map of dubious authenticity, depicting the fabled lost mines of King Solomon. He and his friends decide to set of in search of the treasure, and of course they run up against a barrage of problems, not least a hidden world occupied by a people on the verge of war, and the most evil creature in all fiction, a witch called Gagool. It’s out of copyright now, so you can get the kindle version here for free. If you would like a hard copy click the link above. There’s also a sequel with a similar premise, but equally as good, called Allan Quatermain.
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