Books to Inspire Wanderlust

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Books to Inspire Wanderlust

Nonfiction Books About Hitting the Road

It’s mid-August and the end of summer is a lot closer than anyone would like to admit. Maybe you didn’t have the chance to do as much vacationing as you would have liked to, or maybe you got badly sunburned and have vowed to never go outside again (like me).

Whatever the case, these books about wanderlust filled individuals will help to stave off the doldrums of returning to one’s regular life and may even inspire your next journey.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson

In 1977, Robyn Davidson set off from Alice Springs in Central Australia for the west coast, a 1700-mile trek through the Australian desert. With her were her dog, and four camels she had trained for the journey. Davidson’s fascination with the wilderness and respect for the Aboriginal culture is a sharp contrast with the then-attitude towards the Aborigines, making it easy to understand her disenchantment the world she left behind and the reasons for her journey.

Kon-Tiki:Across the Pacific by Raft by Thor Heyerdahl
In any year, sailing across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian Islands in an untested balsa raft with motley crew in an effort to prove an anthropological development theory might seem crazy.

Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl did just that -- in 1947.

Heyerdahl and his crew of five sailed from Peru on the balsa raft they had constructed themselves. The men were determined, even when experts had told them the reed lashings would disintegrate after 30 days. Undeterred, the men sailed more than 4,300 miles of open ocean to prove their theory. Heyerdahl’s book, released a year after his expedition, is an introduction to his successful career as an experimental anthropologist, environmentalist and peace activist.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
When the body of Christopher McCandless was found in a gutted bus in Alaska, it took months for his remains to be identified. Many remembered having met an articulate, ambitious, though perhaps foolish, young man, who planned to explore the wilds of Alaska, but knew him under the name of Alexander Supertramp. A year later, after he was identified, journalist and mountain climber Jon Krakauer attempted to uncover his path from his college graduation in Atlanta, to Mexico, South Dakota and finally, Alaska, while also divining what motivated McCandless to sever ties with his family.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex  by Nathaniel Philbrick
In 1819, the Essex set sail from Nantucket on what would be her final voyage. Done in by a sperm whale 2,000 miles off the coast of South America, the survivors, fearing they would be cannibalized if they made for the nearest land, tried to make their way back to South America. The story of the Essex was well publicized and Herman Melville even used one the survivors accounts as inspiration for Moby Dick some 30 years later. Philbrick also explores the culture of whaling, its place in Nantucket history, and the call of the sea that drove so many to take up the whaling life.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

If you are on the cusp of quitting your job and packing up on a ‘round-the-world adventure, this may or may not be the book for you. More than a “guide to insert-name-of country-here”, Pott’s book is essentially a ‘how to’ for lengthy and rewarding-yet-budget-friendly travel, using his many years of jaunting across the globe to provide advice from cheap airline tickets to making friends with locals.

He prefaces with, “[t]his book is not for daredevils and thrill-seekers but for anyone willing to make an uncommon choice that allows you to travel the world for weeks and months at a time, improvising (and saving money) as you go.” Maybe you’ll find you don’t get off on your usual exit next time you’re on the highway.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
You may have already read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, her memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after the death of her mother. It has been on many a book club and bestseller list, as well as being adapted into an acclaimed film starring Reese Witherspoon. If it hasn’t passed through your hands yet, it’s worth picking up.

Strayed’s journey is one of self-discovery, rife with introspection from the start. You’ll marvel at the sheer gall it took a 26-year-old woman to leave the remnants of her life behind and start out on a solo 1,100-mile backpacking journey, leave you wondering if you could likewise be capable of such a trek, and if so, what would be there for you to find on the trail.