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The Best Books to Read to Inspire your Travels

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 06 / 09 / 2017

Gap Year Advice

The Best Books to Read to Inspire your Travels

Books allow you to escape into a world of adventure and excitement, but for most readers, they then have to go back to their mundane lives…Luckily for gap year students, you have the chance to have an adventure for yourself, discovering what freedom really is. However, if you are still not quite sure that being away from home is your thing, or you just don’t know where to go… look no further because here is a list of some of the best, award-winning, books that will definitely inspire you to pack your bags and go on an adventure for yourself.

1. On the Road- Jack Kerouac (1957)

On The Road is famous for its groundbreaking style and rapid pace, portraying a world of defying convention. This semi-biographical novel takes its readers on the wacky, energetic, dangerous road trip of a lifetime through 1950’s America. Sal Paradise documents the places, people and stories him and his hell-raiser friend, Dean Moriarty, pick up along the way. Obsessed with drugs, alcohol and women, this novel epitomises the meaning of freedom… Although I wouldn’t quite recommend taking travel ideas from this book, it will certainly make you want to get out and explore the world…

QUOTE: “…the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing... but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night…”

2. The Beach- Alex Garland (1996)

Garland’s novel is about a few backpackers in Thailand, who, through strange events, come across an Asian Utopia. On this beautiful island lives a self-sufficient community. Although at first, this seems like the ideal existence for our freedom seeking protagonist, this garden of Eden idea doesn’t last long. The Beach is one of the most captivating books around-backpacking to the extreme! And although it does get a bit dark towards the end, the author's descriptions of South East Asia are simply gorgeous…

Still not convinced? Watch the trailer of the great film adaptation (and who doesn’t want to see Leonardo di Caprio at his finest…)

QUOTE: “And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it's not some place you can look for. Because it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life when you're a part of something. And if you find that moment... It lasts forever.”

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3. Into the wild – Jon Krakauer (1996)

Possibly one of the most captivating books on the list, Into the Wild is about a boy who has had enough of his seemingly perfect ‘American dream’ life and decides to hitchhike to Alaska. Once in Alaska, he treks into the wilderness north of Mt McKinley… I won’t give away the rest, but be assured it is deeply moving. His search for enlightenment, through solitude and contact with nature, is something that will make you want to drop everything and escape...one of the best books around.

QUOTE: "The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

4. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure – Sarah Macdonald (2002)

Sarah Macdonald’s 'Holy Cow’ captures, in an incredibly humorous tone, the unfortunate trip of a journalist to India. Finding it hot, poverty stricken and unpleasant, she swears never to return. It is only several years later when she follows a lover out again that she realised its spectacular beauty and individualism. This book will definitely make you want to explore the culture-filled lands of India… probably more enjoyable for the females out there

QUOTE: “India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It's rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It's all the extremes.”

5. A cook’s Tour: global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines- Anthony Bordain (2001)

This book explores the world whilst looking for the best meals each place has to offer, so if you’re a fan of food…like so many of us are, this book is a must read. It steers away from the expensive food so is also great have for a reference if you find yourself in one of these countries. It's meals and recipes are too delicious to be read on an empty stomach.

QUOTE: “They're professionals at this in Russia, so no matter how many Jell-O shots or Jager shooters you might have downed at college mixers, no matter how good a drinker you might think you are, don't forget that the Russians - any Russian - can drink you under the table.”

“What is love? Love is eating twenty-four ounces of raw fish at four o’clock in the morning.”

6. The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia – Paul Theroux (1988)

The Great Railway Bazaar is Paul Theroux’s account of his intrepid journey by train through Asia. He recounts the epic routes he went on, people he met and stories he heard. He describes the dangerous positions he found himself in, as well as the idyllic landscape he came across. This book will definitely encourage the inter-railer in you to blossom.

QUOTE: “Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories.”

7. The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway (1926)

This all-time classic, The Sun Also Rises, is sure to make you want to run with the bulls in Pamplona. The book is based on a group of British expatriates living in France. They decide to leave their wild, hedonistic nightlife, to travel to Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermín. Here they witness the running of bulls and bull fights and the moral dissolution that comes with them. Hemingway captures the essence of the post-World War 1 generation in this powerful and beautifully written book.

QUOTE: “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bullfighters.”

The places, people and journey’s all of these authors create for their characters has made for a deeply inspiring list of books… However, if you’re still looking for inspiration and don’t have enough time to read ALL of these, head over to our Gap Advice blog about the best films to watch that will inspire your travels.

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