Just because we can’t physically travel at the moment doesn’t mean we stop dreaming of travel and planning our next adventure.
What it does mean is that we can walk in the footsteps of others, all from the safety and comfort of our cosy armchair.
Here are five tantalising travel books to inspire and deliver a solid case of both envy and admiration.
Sinning Across Spain by Ailsa Piper
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to see this book in my Top 5. I have done a little bit of walking in Spain myself, so it was like a trip down memory lane for me as Ailsa strolled through familiar towns and villages on the Via de la Plata and Sanabres pilgrimage routes on the way to Santiago de Compostela.
Piper decides to fund her walk through Spain by having people pay her to carry their sins on the way to absolution in Santiago de Compostela. Believe it or not, it was the done thing in ancient times by the rich, lazy and sinful who could not be bothered (Sloth? Another sin?) to put in the hard pilgrimage yards themselves.
Piper has an easy style and the story almost takes on the rhythm of her steps. She gently reflects on her daily experience on the Way and contrasts that to what is happening in her sinners’ lives back in Australia.
This book is a must for anyone thinking about walking a camino in Spain. Great atmosphere and insight.
Worldwalk by Steven M Newman
It has been some years since I read this book, but it still resonates with me for its sheer audacity, insanity and simple faith.
In 1983, Newman set out from his home in Ohio (USA) with the plan to walk around the World. As you do!
To make life even more interesting he was determined to par his journey right back to the simplest of existence and vowed not to pay for accommodation. Instead, he would live off what the World provided and any generosity of others. While at first this struck me as him being a bit of a user and taking advantage of people, it evolved into the discovery of the World’s humanity and kindness.
Four years later he strolls back to his home and ‘normal’ life one again. How could you ever adjust?
This is not world-beating literature, but it is an enjoyable and fascinating read, and a fantastic insight into how to bring your dreams to life.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Yes, this a popular and much-hyped read, but you can’t discount what Strayed achieved both physically and mentally as she strolled the length of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on the West Coast of the USA.
I have strong admiration for people who tackle seemingly unattainable goals without letting common sense get in the way. While the PCT is a popular and well-known walking trail, Strayed had never undertaken any serious hiking before, she was over-packed and under-trained, and she was an emotional and mental basket case at the time. The PCT broke her and rebuilt her as she walked the entire 2 650miles (4 265km).
This is so much more than simply a walking book. It captures the essence of how to turn your old life on its head and transform it for the better.
Eight Feet in the Andes by Dervla Murphy
Murphy is another of those fearless ladies who simply saw an adventure and set out. In this story. Dervla drags her nine-year old daughter Rachel and a mule called Juana, nearly 2 100km through the Andes mountains in Peru. A truly stupendous adventure with plenty of hair-raising and death-defying moments.
Murphy is a remarkable woman, perhaps a little insane to endanger the life of her child, and the resilience and determination of Rachel should be acknowledged too.
Murphy is a fabulous writer and captures all the humour and hardship of the journey as well as the mist covered mountains and the warmth and welcome (or not) of the locals.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope
Like Murphy’s book, while not necessarily a backpacking adventure, this book inspires you to forge your own path and bring your dreams to life. If you have ever wanted to travel extremely remotely and challenge yourself on every level, then this book is for you.
After riding horses and walking 10 000km from Karakorum in Mongolia to Hungary in eastern Europe, Cope was named Young Adventurer of the Year by the Australian Geographic Society and Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic.
This is not an easy read, but well-worth ploughing through to get insights into countries and cultures that we just don’t hear about every day. It opened my eyes and mind to the culture, geography and tortuous political history in some of far-flung countries.
For me, all these books have a number of common themes running through them:
- Stamina: The determination to keep pushing on even when everything and everyone is screaming STOP!
- Resilience: The ability to withstand all sorts of mental and physical stresses in pursuit of a chosen goal.
- No Need for Perfection: They know that not every day will be pretty or comfortable, and sometimes they will fail, but they are OK with that.
- Openness of the Mind and Heart: A willingness to open themselves up to the landscape and the people who surround them. To look for the good in people and gratefully accept what the World provides, even if it is home-brewed rocket-fuel vodka and offal stew.
I hope this small selection brings you reading enjoyment and travelling inspiration.
Now, what travel books can you recommend to me?
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