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Books for Wanderers: Incredible Travel Stories From Around the World

Your feet start tapping, your spine tingles, and your eyes constantly drift toward the window to gaze dreamily outside. Whether you call it the travel bug, wanderlust, or nomadism, it’s clear that you’ve got it—and it’s time for you to GO.

If you’re happy staying put, stop reading this article and definitely do not pick up any of the books described below. Any of these novels could easily be the one that blows the lid off your humdrum routine and reminds you that the world is a vast, mysterious, and exciting place you’re not out exploring. Reader beware: you’ll have your bags packed before the last page is turned.

“The Way of the World” by Nicolas Bouvier

“You think you’re making a trip, but soon it’s making you—or unmaking you.”

In 1953, Nicolas Bouvier, a writer, and Thierry Vernet, an artist, strike out from their home in Geneva and head across Europe to the Middle East. With a beat-up Fiat, barely any money, and some travel journals that Bouvier would eventually shape into this book, the duo relentlessly push toward their final destination of the rugged and turbulent Khyber Pass. This true story follows their 18-month journey, and Bouvier’s words don’t describe characters and landscapes as much as give snapshots of life as it is lived. Across Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, Bouvier writes of free-spirited adventure, contemplative observations, and antediluvian cities.

At one point in the book, Bouvier and Vernet earn money by writing and painting in Istanbul. This city in particular captures a traveller’s imagination, considering that present-day Istanbul is seen as the enigmatic gateway between the East and West. As a reader, this is where you grasp Bouvier’s idea of being made and unmade by travel. You’re caught between excitement and discomfort because familiar and unfamiliar experiences are so closely intertwined in Istanbul. And this is also where you begin to appreciate (and want to absorb) Bouvier’s intense curiosity and relentless commitment to adventure.

Why You Should Pack a Journal and Visit

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With thousands of years of history that spans the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, Istanbul is a fascinating place. Time becomes hazy as women in full burka walk alongside fashionistas carrying shopping bags and backpackers wandering toward their hostels.  The city is teeming with a blend of traditional and modern, and you can easily picture Bouvier’s rattletrap jalopy parked outside a hooka café as Vernet paints the kaleidoscope of passersby on the cobblestone streets. And the historic sites…you’ve never seen anything like them before. The gorgeous architecture of the church-turned-mosque Hagia Sophia, the haunting underground Basilica Cistern, and the six iconic minarets of the Blue Mosque are just a few of the city’s defining elements. A visit to a hamam (Turkish bath) and a stroll through the exotic Grand Bazaar are must-dos for any visitor, as well as watching the sunset from the Galata Bridge above the teeming Bosphorus. Even back in 1953, Bouvier recognized the mysterious pull of Istanbul and his vivid descriptions will have you planning your next trip there.

“Round Ireland with a Fridge” by Tony Hawks

“I was beginning to understand how the Irish mentality worked. The more foolish, illogical or surreal one’s actions were perceived to be (and mine surely fell into one of these categories), the wider the arms of hospitality were opened in salutation.”

In a moment of heavy inebriation, British songwriter-comic Tony Hawks bets a friend £100 that he can “hitchhike round the circumference of Ireland, with a fridge, in one calendar month.” Never one to turn down a challenge, Hawks did exactly that and this novel is the result of his month-long adventure. The twist comes when, soon after he arrives, Hawks gets discovered by an Irish radio show and “The Fridge Man” becomes a local celebrity. Heavy with humour and the ridiculous premise of travelling with an appliance, you’ll read wonderful vignettes about the locals who embrace Hawks and his box fridge. From innkeepers to pub patrons to surfers to musicians, people from all walks of life come out to help Hawks. The book is funny and paints a beautiful picture of Ireland, but mostly it’s a testament to the good nature and whimsy running in the veins of Éire’s countrymen.

Would Hawks have had the same experience in other countries? Most likely not. When you turn the last page, you’re left with a keen desire to experience the hospitality and eccentricities of the Irish people, even if that means carting a toaster across the Atlantic. There aren’t many places on earth that would turn a drunken bet into a celebrated journey, and that’s what makes Ireland so special.

Why You Should Grab an Appliance and Visit

Ireland’s rolling green hills, misty ocean, and quaint pastoral scenes are simply stunning and as soon as you step off the plane, it will become clear that a visit to the Emerald Isle was long overdue. Hitchhiking probably won’t be your ideal mode of transport, but Hawks had the right idea about travelling Ireland’s circumference. Flying into Shannon or Dublin Airport and renting a car to travel the countryside beyond the big cities is the true pleasure of visiting Ireland.

If you want authentic, go to Galway. Known as Ireland’s “most Irish” city, it’s not unusual to hear people speaking Gaelic as you walk the cobblestone streets. Full of brightly painted pubs and numerous arts and music festivals, Galway is famous for its vibrant culture. Travelling north along winding seaside roads, you’ll see majestic coastlines, crumbling castles, and steadfast lighthouses. Stop at small towns like Donegal and Sligo for a Guinness and some fiddle music—this is where you’ll truly be immersed in Irish hospitality and conversation. Dublin is not to be missed either. Founded 1000 years ago, the capital and largest city in Ireland has grown into a cosmopolitan hub of culture and industry. Its various museums and historical sites also give visitors a clear picture into the country’s past, from the Viking settlement to the fight for Irish Freedom.

As beautiful and historic as Ireland is, the best part of travelling to the country is experiencing the humor and character of its people. That’s something Hawks conveys perfectly in his story and something you’re sure to experience yourself when you visit.

“In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson

“(Australia) is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn’t need watching, and so we don’t. But I will tell you this: the loss is entirely ours.”

Bill Bryson is an extremely popular travel writer, blending humour, history, and geography in his best-selling books. “In a Sunburned Country” is a thoroughly engaging read about Bryson’s exploration of Australia over the course of three visits. He not only relates his experiences and interactions with the people he meets along the way, but incorporates everything from 19th-century history to descriptions of natural resources. With his signature dry wit, Bryson repeatedly comments on the friendliness of the Aussies, the hot weather, and the dangerous animals that abound in the tough environment. From Sydney to Perth, and from Adelaide to the Great Barrier Reef, it’s obvious that Bryson loves this country as he describes each location along his travels.

Why You Should Book a Rail Ticket and Visit

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After reading “In a Sunburned Country,” you get a sense that Australia has somehow been overlooked and needs your attention. It’s a place of contradictions—home to notoriously peaceful, kind people and the most deadly wildlife in the world. Bryson’s vivid descriptions kick your wanderlust into high gear and taking a railcar around the country suddenly seems like the best idea ever.

But where to start? In Sydney, you can walk around the winged elegance of the Opera House, lounge with the beautiful people on Bondi Beach, or climb the Harbor Bridge for a panoramic view of the city.  Or head to the magical Blue Mountains; the oil from the densely populated Eucalyptus trees combines with dust and water particles to make the air shimmer blue and you feel like you’re in a scene from “Avatar.” Across the vast desert on the western side of Australia lies Perth, the capital. Swan River is the heart of the city, attracting bikers, sailors, hikers, and more. Another popular attraction is Heirisson Island, whose residents include a colony of Western Grey Kangaroos.

And then there’s the Great Barrier Reef—scuba divers and water lovers journey across thousands of kilometres just to experience it. As the world’s largest coral reef system, it is breathtakingly beautiful and comprises over 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and the only living thing on earth visible from space—if your restless soul is crying out for travel, that fact alone will pull you like a magnet to Down Under.

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Finding a Cure For Wanderlust

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You recognize your symptoms—the fidgets, the daydreaming, the dramatic sighs. Can you go another day without experiencing exotic Istanbul, a city with a foot planted in both the traditional East and modern West? Or eccentric Ireland with its warm hospitality, lush countryside, and quirky humour? And what about overlooked Australia, a land of happy people and lethal beasts? No, you simply can’t. If suddenly your life seems a bit colourless and you’ve clearly become afflicted with wanderlust, soothe your nomadic soul and get inspiration for your next trip with these incredible travel books.

Featured Image: Flickr/Creative Commons/Kate Ter Haar/Via/https://flic.kr/p/dRpekF