Guest Author: Caelyn Woolward
Books have the potential to have a profound impact on your life. They can persuade you to change your mind, push you to make a choice, motivate you to work harder or trick you into staying under the blankets longer. But what about those that make you want to get up, pack your bags and explore the world? Some of them are inspiring while others make you sit back and reflect on something far bigger than yourself. We’re looking at five books that have a bit of both, and if it doesn’t make you want to get up and do something, then you need to read it again.
Most people know Into The Wild as that movie about the philosophical college graduate who has everything, but throws it all away to go an adventure that ultimately ends in tragedy (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t had the chance to watch it). The true story is written by writer and mountaineer, Jon Krakauer who tried to understand and gain insight into why Chris McCandless, a gifted student, carefully disposed of all his possessions and walked away from his life. As an explorer, Krakauer understands the thirst for adventure and as he tells the story, we go with McCandles on his journey through the wilderness and the bitterly cold Alaskan Wilderness. Krakauer manages to portray freedom and the pull of nature in a way that is both exhilarating and frightening. It’s a book that will not only make you aware of the beauty and power of Mother Nature, but also forces you to contemplate the complexities of the human mind.
There’s a common denominator between the books on this list; all the characters are barking mad. Instead of stepping on a plane with too much luggage, checking into a four star hotel in the Maldives and spending ten days swimming, these characters climb mountains, wade through icy waters, hitchhike in the middle of nowhere and camp out under the stars. Let’s be honest, the latter may be daring, but it’s also a lot more fun. Coasting, set in 1982, is a travelogue covering Jonathan Raban’s 4,000 mile journey around Britain, which he made on his own with just a compass for navigation. His only companion was a restored 32-foot ketch that took him across the freezing waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The physical voyage runs alongside the journey that his thoughts and memories take as they digress into his childhood (he’s the son of a vicar of the Church of England) and the state of Britain under Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands War.
Diverging somewhat from the seriousness of one man who gives up everything and another who contemplates life, war and politics, Notes from a Small Island is an amusing, irreverent travel tale told by a man who is equally as funny and batty. After spending almost 20 years in Britain, Bryson (bestselling author of Made in America) decided to go back to his home country. But before leaving, he sets off to explore the UK, the country that has become his home. Amidst the jaunts and hilarious social commentary, there are important moments of nostalgia that allow readers to see just how much Britain has to be proud of – even if we have places named Shittington and Upperthong. Notes from a Small Island will simultaneously have you in stitches and appreciating the country that gave the world zebra crossings and Shakespeare.
No Best Travel Book List would be complete without Clear Water Rising. Nicholas Crane undertakes an unlikely and extraordinary journey: a 17-month trek along the string of mountains that stretch from the Atlantic in Spain to Istanbul. It’s a different kind of travel story; you get an inside view into the will and determination needed to endure intense cold, hunger and loneliness, and you also get a view of the freedom and independence that comes with connecting with nature so intimately. So why would a married man with a stable life do something like this? Crane says that he wanted to explore Europe’s last mountain wilderness and meet the people who live far away from the modern world.
Believe it or not, this book isn’t on the list because the snow leopard is one of the rarest and most beautiful creatures to ever walk the Earth. It’s here because this beautifully written piece encompasses both the natural and spiritual world and shows how the two intertwine. Author Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller journeyed into the depths of the remote mountains of Nepal to observe the Himalayan blue sheep. They were also hoping to catch a glimpse of the seldomly-spotted snow leopard. Their journey also takes a spiritual path when Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, embarks on a quest to find the Lama of the Shey at the shrine on Crystal Mountain. They undergo a spiritual awakening about reality, nature and power. And do they ever spot the snow leopard? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Author’s Bio :
Caelyn Woolward is a writer for Essential Travel Magazine and Blog, an online UK publication, which explores the exciting world of travel and the benefits it brings to people who want to open their minds and broaden their lives.