I have seen so many lists online lately centered around travel: books to inspire your wanderlust, or to cure it (as if that would work). What makes me crazy is what ends up on the list. So I made my own. For my first ‘5 books’ post here are my 5 wanderlust-worthy books.
1. Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, along with most of South America is a big open spot on my bucket list. But, as I like to read about places before setting off, I decided to go ahead and jump into one of the books I’ve been sitting on to read. Initially I’d planned to read The Last Days of the Incas first, but once I got down to it, this was way too tempting. A writer looks to follow in the footsteps of an explorer, the explorer in my mind (he is thought to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones after all), and heads to Peru.
What we think of as The Inca Trail, is actually just one of many Inca trails. And there is so much more to see to beyond Machu Picchu – and as a bonus, those other places have significantly fewer tourists. This book gave me the history of the discovery of Machu Picchu, the relations between Peru and the US in terms of exploration and excavation, and most importantly, it altered my ideal plan for a trip. There is so much more to see.
2. Neither Here, Nor There
This was the first Bill Bryson book I read. I started it on a plane. I laughed out loud, turning to the scared passenger belted in next to me ready to share what was so hilarious, only to realize they probably don’t care. If you want to relive your European backpacking days, this book will do it. It flips back and forth between Bryson and his best bud Katz (also in A Walk in the Woods) in their early 20s, and Bryson recreating the trip as a grown man.
Spoiler: You don’t actually want to do the whole backpacking and hostel thing beyond the age of about 24.
3. A Moveable Feast
Paris, and really most of Europe in the 1920s was a whose who of American culture. War was over, and those with the money to do it, were back to their grand European Tours. This, though, is the story of the Hemmingways, Fitzgeralds, Emile Zola, and their whole motley gang, living the good life, by which I mean, somewhere just above scraping by and still being able to booze it up with big parties, and trips to the Mediterranean. This book will put you right into the middle of the Left Bank. And may have you looking for plane tickets to Paris.
4. On The Road
The original American road tripper, Jack Kerouac chronicles his back and forth across the country, mostly hitchhiking, and couch surfing, as we’ve taken to calling it, in this fictionalized story of his own moveable feast. The books features other Beat writers, some by name, some character. Inspired by the artists in A Moveable Feast, the Beat writers had a similar style and desire – write about what was and be honest about it – yet took it a step further. Kerouac became the face of the Beat generation awhile with the publication of On the Road.
This is probably the best, and easiest introduction to beat writing if you’re unfamiliar. If you are familiar with this, I recommend checking out either the Dharma Bums or Kerouac’s unedited, stream of concise version of On the Road: Visions of Cody.
5. The Alchemist
I was so against reading this book – I don’t remember why. It follows the journey of Santiago as he travels from his fields in Spain, to Morocco, and across the desert, into Egypt after treasures he saw in a dream. His journey brings him to a variety of people, including, yes, an alchemist. Santiago is following his dreams, but always scared with each step outside of his familiar life, and every idea that challenges his beliefs.
The Alchemist is a beautiful fable, and relatively quick read. If you missed it with each time is seems to be hyped, grab it the next time you’re at the library or book store.