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  • Simanta Barman

10 Travel Books to Change the Way You Wander Around the World

“To travel is to live” – an oft-quoted statement revered by travelers around the world. But how many of us delve into the depth of the statement? Do we live to travel or travel to live? The answers may vary but one thing is sure that we all learn a good lot while traveling, be it the mantra of simpler living, adapting to a new culture and food habits, or getting attuned to a new language and lifestyle experience. We do learn and grow like that.

Travelers around the world resolve to step into a world outside and to meet with new experiences from all spheres of life. This openness conjures up gratitude and perseverance in them. However, the path is not so smooth. There are so many hurdles on the way for travelers of all kinds – be it safety concerns, laws and regulations, and other subsequent factors. But, in spite of all these, they do venture out, take risks, and sustain with the greater flow of life.

However, it is always better to be prepared and more importantly to learn. And in doing so, it is the books in the form of travelogues, travel memoirs, or guidebooks that come as the primary source of knowledge and inspiration for the travelers. Travel books are not only documents narrating a trip, but also treasure troves of mindful experiences and vivid descriptions of a place. They act as companions for travelers planning a trip. As the pandemic has kept us all inside our homes barring all travel activities temporarily, what can be a better way to keep our travel genes intact than reading some masterful travel books?

Keeping that in mind, we have curated a list of travel book recommendations to help you beat the pandemic blues as well as to keep your travel genes at check. From Pacific Crest Trail to Indian bazaars, from lush forests to vast oceans, we have covered it all. Let’s check it out.

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Published in 2012, Wild is a travel memoir by American writer, author, and podcaster Cheryl Strayed, where she narrates her journey of self-discovery through an 1100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. The memoir is based on Cheryl’s hike in 1995, a phase when she was devastated by her personal miseries and hence sought out for an escape to win her own self back. And she succeeds in the end.

This book is about a journey of self-discovery through hardships and misery, where a woman goes out into the woods and come out triumphant against all odds. The vastness of the landmass, the harshness of the snow, the stillness of the nights, and the mindfulness of a solitary traveler all converge together to form a coherent whole which gives the readers a sense of peculiar belongingness. More than the physical journey, it is her quest for discovering herself anew from the bruised past she left behind that is more touching.

The book reached No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list and was the first selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. Subsequently, it was made into a movie by Reese Witherspoon, where she starred herself and was released in 2015.

2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published in 2006, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia is a memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, where she narrates her journey around the world after her divorce and the discoveries she makes on the way. The book had been on The New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks, one of the longest stints to date. The 2010 movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts made the book even more iconic with all the critical accolades it received.

The book centers around Gilbert in her mid-thirties, when she grows discontent with her marriage and files for a divorce. She then embarks on a journey of self-discovery where she eats her heart out in Italy, gets spiritual lessons in India and experiences love on the shore of Bali in Indonesia. And hence, she beautifully weaves all her anecdotes in these three prime phases of her journey.

3. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a master of travel writing. He has a great collection of travel books under his name. Notes from a Small Island is his humorous take on Great Britain from his travels around the great nation. First published in 1995, this book is an account of Bryson’s travels around Great Britain before he moves to the US, his native country. Here, Bryson narrates his experiences from every nook and corner of the island as he reaches out and talks to people from as far afield as Exeter in the West Country to John o' Groats at the north-eastern tip of Scotland's mainland. He also gives historical commentary on the rich heritage and culture of the British. In a 2003 poll conducted by BBC Radio 4, the book was voted as the book which best represented England by its listeners.

4. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux

First published in 1975, The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia is a travelogue by American novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, where he narrates his four-month journey in 1973 by train from London through Europe, the Middle-East, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. It also takes into account his illustrious return journey via the Trans-Siberian Railway. Theroux embeds themes of colonialism, American Imperialism, poverty, human experience, and hardship into the book. His vivid descriptions of the places and people he

meets along the way through the diverse nations alleviate the book into a document of history.

5. The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Not every trip is about just visiting a place and its attractions, some are beyond the ordinary and this is what The Songlines achieves. Published in 1987, this book is a fusion of both fiction and non-fiction, where Chatwin combines his travels to the Australian Outback with the metaphysical culture of the Aboriginals. Here, he traces the deep history and spirituality surrounding the Aboriginal “Songlines”, which determines the paths taken by their ancestors in the process of creation of the Earth. These lines are invisible, yet they create the core of the spiritual universe of the Australian Aboriginals. Chatwin narrates the journey of his protagonist through the Aboriginal lands to trace the solemnity of the “Songlines”. In the process, he explores various other philosophical concepts and the external factors of traveling through deserts and rough patches.

6. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The extraordinary journey that made many fall in love with Alaska and left them with a bereaved feeling at the end is what Jon Krakauer’s masterpiece Into the Wild stands for. Released in 1996, this book is an extension of a 9000-word article Jon wrote about the life and adventure of Chris McCandless, who perished into the woods of Alaska in 1992 and survived for 113 days all by himself. Jon traces McCandless’s earlier days and his perceptual changes towards family and society which eventually pushed him to take such a bold decision to venture out alone into the wild with minimal belongings. The book became a worldwide hit and got etched in people’s memory with its movie adaptation starring Emile Hirsch in 2007.

7. City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple

Published in 1993, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi is a travelogue by famous historian William Dalrymple. This book is an account of Dalrymple’s times in the historical capital of India, where he spends a year observing and documenting the places and people from a close quarter. Along with his descriptions of the ancient ruins and the modern establishments, Dalrymple also embeds his search for the origin of the stories of the Mahabharata. In doing so, Dalrymple makes many discoveries surrounding British rule, Sepoy Mutiny, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The book is both a travelogue and a historical document.

8. Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Irish author Dervla Murphy narrates her extraordinary solo cycling journey from her native country Ireland to India, passing through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. She took the journey in the 1960s and the book was published in 1965. She only had a pistol for her protection and with that; she braved the numerous odds on the way through rough terrains, extreme weather, and vast water bodies. Murphy’s determination to stick to the journey even after facing extreme physical as well as mental challenges shows how age is just a number in front of sheer will and perseverance.

9. The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World by Shivya Nath

Shivya Nath is an Indian travel blogger who quit her corporate job to pursue her dream of traveling around the world. In the process, she gave up her home and became a digital nomad with no permanent address to come back to. She sold most of her possessions and went out into the world, facing challenges after challenges yet standing up to them. In this book, she narrates everything from her personal choices, relationship status, and emotional constraints to the practical challenges of being a solo female traveler. On top of that, she is a vegan and an advocate for sustainability.

10. Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure by Monisha Rajesh

Monisha Rajesh’s take on the romance of train travel around the world is a modern masterpiece of travel writing. Here, she chronicles her seven-month journey by train along with her fiancé across the world. The Trans-Mongolian Railway to Beijing, an 11-day journey including stopovers in Irkutsk, Siberia, to visit Lake Baikal (“the deepest, oldest and largest freshwater lake in the world”) and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia are some of the key highlights of her journey. Her attempt was to seek a global congeniality of train travel around the world and she succeeds in it, instead of all the hardships on the way. The book eventually went on to win the National Geographic Traveler Award for Best Travel Book in 2019.

We hope you liked this comprehensive list of books we researched and wrote about so that everyone can enjoy the feeling and absolute bliss of travel while staying at home during this pandemic. These are all highly rated and reviewed books - and all for good reasons. Go check out our other blogs and read more about movies and culture to immerse yourself into while at home!

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