Off the Beaten Path

Read FeedShaw/Watha T. Daniel Library

Off the Beaten Path

"Nomadland" and similar Nonfiction

These unique nonfiction titles -- and the individuals behind them -- reflect a pattern that has been growing across the United States over the past decade, as seen also on YouTube videos of #vancamping, #vandwelling, and other related trending taglines. Largely memoirs, these titles capture experiences of living out of backpacks, hitchhiking across the U.S., and creating a life that takes place primarily off the beaten path. The books below are popular titles and a couple have even been adapted into films. Some of the stories are about reinvention and some are about reclaiming what is lost. All present the curious reader with the opportunity to envision a life on the road.

Note: All titles are linked to their physical copies unless otherwise noted, and many are available as library e-books and/or e-audiobooks with OverDrive.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century by Jessica Bruders
Author Jessica Bruders records the travel stories of various people who have converted their vehicles into homes. They are constantly on the move to find jobs, land, community, and a sense of stability while enduring the many hardships they face in their lives on the road. The book provides many resources and information for those who want to try life in four-wheel drive, but what I think readers will enjoy most about this book are the many ways the people interviewed have changed and adapted to their ups-and-downs of life. The book has been adapted into a feature film currently showing in theaters.

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas
Walden on Wheels focuses on Ken Ilgunas’ decision to travel across the United States in pursuit of a life more adventurous than the one he had led up until his college graduation. Ilgunas wanted more than the 9-to-5 he had worked to achieve and to also live a life free from the strains of debt. Walden on Wheels is an opportunity to live vicariously through Ilgunas’ choices towards freedom and frugality and the mishaps that arise because of it. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into The Wild is the book that pulls Christopher McCandless from headlines back into the real world. Later adapted into a movie, Jon Krakauer’s biography of McCandless shows the lengths one man was willing to go to bring his ideology to life.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild focuses on Cheryl Strayed’s journey to becoming one of the very few women to hike the second-largest trail in the United States and amongst the very first to hike the trail alone. Her memoir, also adapted into a film, describes the alternative travel methods she took to complete her goals. This book is perfect for solo female travelers and readers who are considering hiking as part of their routine; Wild by Cheryl Strayed is sure to be a staple in their research.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term World Travel by Rolf Potts
Wanderlust is the strong desire to travel. This complete guide is aimed at would-be travelers who dream of traveling the globe through often unseen methods of travel. The guide channels writers like Whitman, Thoreau, and Kerouac’s On The Road as it inspires future travelers on their journey to travel the world. The guide encourages minimalism and provides resources for jobs that allow travel and websites that support of life on the road. The guide is full of positive insights and when taken with a grain of salt can provide beneficial advice to the homebody just as well as the vagabond.