The road trip is an enduring part of the human mythos. Seeing past your everyday environment and encountering what lives past your limited horizons is often a symbol of maturation.
Hopping on a plane to somewhere is a marvel of time and convenience, but you really appreciate just how far those metal birds fly when you try the same journey in a second-hand Ford Fiesta.
Some people live and breathe that life and have generously written about their experiences to give us a sense of what we’re missing. So, have a read of these books and just see if you don’t get the travel itch.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
The classic On the Road is unavoidably the first book on our list. The book is so packed with wandering across the highways of the USA that it reaches a level of activity that almost wearies you out at times – much like backpackers on their gap year having a week or two where they aren’t really sure why they’re travelling anymore.
At the same time, it’s an invigorating read, showing the reader how their choices affect their life and that one can get by without the conventional and mundane, but that we must be wary of letting ourselves fall into the depths of hedonism.
The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto Guevara
The young medical student that set off with his friend on a motorbike across South America was so affected by the things he encountered that he later became a bit of a revolutionary.
Their 5,000-mile trip started in Buenos Aires and took in famous sites along with terrible injustice across the western length of the continent, including Peru, Chile, the Amazon, Colombia, all the way up to Miami (which they reached by flying over a certain island that the author would become more familiar with later). A humbling and inspiring read.
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
This book about a bored housewife who leaves her old life behind to go on an adventure has been popular with dreamers since its publication in 2006.
The titular eating is done in Italy, the praying in India, and the slap and tickle is done in Indonesia, which, it must be admitted, is a pretty good effort – most people would probably just get all three done in Italy.
Round Ireland with a Fridge – Tony Hawks
Needlessly taking up a drunken bet to hitchhike around the coast of Ireland within a month with a full refrigerator in tow, Tony Hawks happily recounts his adventure in this light-hearted travelogue.
Unsurprisingly, the whole debacle is full of amusing encounters with people wondering why anybody would do such a thing and yet more than happy to help the author along his way – perhaps we can all take that as a metaphor for our own paths in life?
Voltaire – Candide
This classic novella satirising blind optimism is a wickedly amusing antidote to the typical “finding yourself” story that one often sees about long journeys.
The eponymous hero finds the world is much more disturbing than he imagined as he visits Lisbon, Suriname, Buenos Aires, Paraguay, England, Venice, Constantinople and El Dorado, the fictional city of gold and riches.
Admittedly Candide is the most fictional book on our list, but it was banned in most places for a long time, so obviously that makes it the coolest of the five.
(Featured image by ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser)