As part of our inspiration process while planning this trip we read a lot of travel books. I studied English at uni, and have always been a really keen reader although haven’t read much the last couple of years, and Rob reads religiously before bed every night and always has at least one book on the go.
We took inspiration from and really enjoyed:
Wild – Cheryl Strayed – Book / Film
An inspiring story of physical endurance, and also having the mental strength to step out of a bad situation and take a completely different route. Based on a true story, we loved the film starring Reese Witherspoon, and I also read the book which was pretty unputdownable. Also for me really inspirational given that she made the epic journey alone as a solo female traveller, having never had the guts myself to travel alone!
The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton – Book
A bit more of a philosophical look at travel… unsurprisingly as it’s written by a philosopher. I’ve followed Alain de Botton on Twitter for ages and always found him fascinating in interviews and pieces that I’ve read on his site, so when I found he’d written a book on travel I had to buy it. This looks at some of the experiences that have been common to travellers over the years and tries to unpick and explain these in more detail – brings together travellers from the past and present in a compelling way.
Around the World in 80 Days – Michael Palin – Book
An easier read, I got through this in no time during a trip to Florence earlier this year – initially I didn’t think I’d take too much from it as the route differs massively from the one we’re planning to take, but it’s well written, amusing and perfectly encapsulates the trials and tribulations of travelling, as well as those unexpected and amazing moments that take you by surprise but that you’ll never forget.
The Motorcycle Diaries – Book
I actually read this at university, when I wanted to find out a bit more about the man behind all those cliched posters on student walls. Following Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s incredible journey by motorcycle across South America. I’m planning to pick this back up again before we leave, as it was inspirational the first time round, and I’m sure I’ll take even more from it on a second reading before visiting so many of the places they visited myself.
Journey of a Lifetime – Alan Whicker – Book
I’d never heard of Alan Whicker before picking up this book at random in Waterstones, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – especially as Rob struggled to make it through the first few chapters. It took me a while to get into it, but what I really loved was that it tells a story about travel before it became commonplace, and before many places were well explored and well and truly on the ‘backpacker’ trail. From stories of spending time with dictators in developing countries to socialites in America, this is a fascinating set of travel tales taken from a lifetime of experiences on the road.
Everything by Bill Bryson – Books
I feel like I’m talking more about university in the few weeks I’ve been writing this blog that in the last 7 years since I left (I didn’t love my student experience), but I guess since this post is about books it makes sense. Bill Bryson has always been a writer I’ve loved, and he actually presided over my 2009 graduation from Durham as Vice Chancellor, so he had to have a spot on the list! Mr. Bryson’s travel writing is quite frankly, hilarious, and brings every destination completely to life through his witty anecdotes and fascinating stories. If I’m honest, I can find travel writing / films etc a little introspective and, uh, boring at times, but these travel books are anything but dull.
Eat Pray Love – Film
Wasn’t sure about this one being on the list – I really didn’t think I was going to like it, and I know that it gets some terrible reviews, but actually, I quite enjoyed it in the end. I’m a big Julia Roberts fan at the best of times, and she really impressed me in this. The film gives a great look at life in Italy, one of my favourite places, as well as Indonesia and India. Although it may be the opposite of our round the world adventure, I loved getting a more indepth look at her experience in the 3 countries she lived in on her travels. I also really liked that it was again about an independent woman, who, at a time when she should have been settling down, leapt out of her comfort zone to travel. Some of the ‘self discovery’ elements are a little cringe, but overall it’s worth a watch.
The Beach – Film
The most cliched of backpacker films, The Beach had to make it onto the list. Not only because my love for Julia Roberts is only eclipsed by my obsession with Leo, but also because it’s just a bloody brilliant film about the hippy travelling life. Who doesn’t hope to join a secret hippy community on a tropical island and escape from it all when they’re about to embark on their travels? This is another film where I really need to get around to reading the book. From gun toting marijuana farmers to shark attacks and a somewhat messed up love story, this really has it all when it comes to thrilling adventures in tropical locations. A little dark at times, I could watch this 100 times and not get bored.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Film
Having often been referred to while growing up as ‘a bit of a Walter Mitty character’ by my Dad, I was looking forward to watching this one. A whimsical adventure starring Ben Stiller, this film is great for pure escapism – the cinematography is also exceptional with stunning landscapes from Iceland in particular that have inspired me to visit one day. The concept of a lifelong underachiever following his dreams and going on a fantastic journey of discovering is heartwarming, and really pretty inspiring.
Living on a Dollar A Day – Netflix Series
Going a bit off plan here with a netflix series rather than another book / film, because I really didn’t expect to like this, but I ended up loving it, as did Rob. We thought it would be a group of posh boys pretending to understand the culture and poverty in central America in a very “Gap Yah” kind of way, but it actually comes across as thought provoking and genuine. Recording their time as they attempt to live on a dollar a day in Guatemala, this documentary series is an eye opener when it comes to how people in these countries live and the challenges they face. It sounds again, pretty cheesy, but it made us think more carefully about sustainable travel, and about the importance of respect and cultural sensitivity when taking a trip in comparative luxury through some of the poorest countries on the planet.
And one that seems to be on all the lists that I haven’t read and will be taking with me is On The Road by Jack Kerouac, on my course at uni, I never got round to reading it, so can’t wait to get my teeth into that while literally on the road. Rob will be taking….