To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Being able to travel is a wonderful gift, whether you fly, drive, bike, hike or – my personal favorite – sit in a comfy chair at home and read about other people’s adventures (the more exotic, the better).
Paul Theroux is a travel writer who can quite legitimately claim to have been there and done that, several times over. Dark Star Safari: overland from Cairo to Cape Town describes his travels on the right hand side of the African continent, from north to south. Theroux’s latest book, The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari is the fulfillment of a dream to go up the left hand side, from south to north.
You can’t really get to know a place unless you know something about its history. Paul William Roberts brings the past and the present to life in his writings. If I ever travel to Egypt or India, I’ll appreciate those places so much more having read Empire of the Soul and River in the Desert.
Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes is another wonderful thing about travel writings. Alice Steinbach left her familiar life at home to see the world, and takes us along with her in Without Reservations: the Travels of an Independent Woman.
Australia is definitely on my list of places to go, but perhaps not with Tony Horwitz. His adventures driving through the Outback and the colorful characters he meets make for great reading, though.
Freya Stark‘s travel writings are another source of inspiration for me. Travelling to isolated areas of Iran and southern Arabia in the early 1930s, she was one of the first Westerners to have ventured to these remote locations. Her book Perseus in the Wind is a collection of essays recounting her travels and philosophical musings.
Fictional travel writing has its place on my list, as well. My latest discovery in that genre is Seven: the Series. Each book in the series is written by a different author, relating the adventures of a group of cousins sent out to complete a task like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or discovering a mysterious location in Alaska. The personal journeys each character goes on are what really makes this series stand out. Don’t let the fact that these books feature teens put you off – the writing is amazing.
Speaking of fictional travel, you can’t get much more fictional or more fun than Dr. Seuss. His joyful book Oh, the Places You’ll Go is a must read, to remind all of us that life itself is a journey. Or, if you’re a Tom Cochrane fan, life is a highway. You get the idea…
Whether you’re going east or west, far or near, the old saying holds true : no matter where you go, there you are.