Books

One of my biggest travel inspirations is reading what other’s have experienced. The following are choices that most inspired me!


Shanti Bloody Shanti: An Indian Odyssey by Aaron Smithhttps://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51WzheJFBvL.jpg (2013, Roaring Forties Press).

I first discovered Smith in a condensed travel section in my local library while I was living in Australia. Frugally saving for our South America trip, the library was my free safe haven. I picked up my love for reading, and also found a new niche in the library. Literally.

Although India had not yet been added to my repertoire when I first read Shanti Bloody Shanti, I was captivated by Smith’s writing. India was quickly added to the “Must See” countries (until this point, I didn’t think I would return to Asia, after completing the Banana Pancake trail in SouthEast Asia–what was I thinking?!).

Funny, raw and scary Smith retells his adventures, tragedy, and search for self-discovery in a way that makes you want to book a ticket to India when you are finished. As with all travellers, travelled countries will always leave a mark.

I have since purchased the book and re-read twice. Highly recommended.


Magic Bus: On The Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India by Rory Maclean (2007, Penguin).https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61IGG1k0cmL.jpg

I have Lonely Planet to thank for this one. Recommended in Great Journeys (Bain, Baxter et al., 2011, Lonely Planet) on their spread about the Hippie Trail, the author travels to Pokhara in Nepal and I was weeks away from seeing it for myself. Very inspiration indeed!

To be honest, I didn’t fully understand the Hippie Trail until I read Maclean’s book. It brings the Lonely Planet generation a dose of what “travelling” was. Some of us were lucky enough to have parents who make the journey and all of us have it to be thankful for. Founders from many of today’s biggest travel guides make the adventure and opened a new book in the world of Tourism. Maclean visits the original stops for the hippie buses and talks to original hippies– those that never made it home.

Although political times have changed, and Maclean addresses that Magic Bus showcases the original backpacker journey – a perfect companion to the traveller-at-heart.


Turn Right At Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams (2012, Plume).

An impulsive purchase, Turn Right at Machu Picchu will always hold a special place in my heart. I was fortunate to pick up my copy from a street vendor in Cuzco, days before I started my own Inka Trek to Machu Picchu. I had only vaguely seen the title suggested in South America on a Shoestring (Louis, Dowl et al., 2010) and somehow I knew it was a title that would stay with me for the rest of the trip.
Mark Adam’s dives into the history of the Inka’s and talks to the ‘real’ situation of Machu Picchu – deeper than my guide went into! I became eager, trying to read through a few chapters each night with the goal of finishing it before I got to Machu Picchu. Although the goal wasn’t achieved, I finished the book feeling more privileged to have seen Machu Picchu in live and living colour. Adams makes history interesting, and although not everyone is going to read this on-route to the great site itself – Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a worthy read of Peruvian history and culture alone.

Letters From Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi (2010, Penguin).

letterfromburma

A book I felt necessary reading before my Myanmar trip in 2016, it offers powerful insight into a country rapidly changing. Although compiled before Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won elections in 2015, it’s amazing to read through her thoughts and visualise how the country is and used to be. From experiences under house-arrest to those as a child, Burma will forever be a special country. The senses are alive as she takes you on various journeys and special festivities around Myanmar. It’s a treat to experience this before visiting the country. Her stories resonated with me as I travelled through the developing country.


Blood River, A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart by Tim Butcher (2007, Vintage).

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I am not sure why this hadn’t fallen into my lap sooner, but I am glad it did! Purchased for my kayaker boyfriend, I actually finished the novel before he had the chance to even look at the cover! I have actually started re-reading it before our upcoming Africa trip and Tim’s account of H.M. Stanley’s original expeditions are just as exciting the second time around!

Following an almost Source-To-Sea style mission, Tim travels the length of the mighty Congo River. As I haven’t been to Africa (yet!*) I found his travelogue captivating. Although it’s a world that many misunderstand, one the strongest themes I recognise is the need to rely on strangers. While I was in India this year I surprised myself with how much I would very often rely upon and trust strangers in a variety of situations.

Do you have any suggestions? What books have you read that have inspired your travels, or helped understand somewhere you have visited?

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