Books provide windows into other places, times, and lifestyles, taking us on a journey through the author’s words and our imaginations. You know the feeling: Your body is sitting on your couch, wrapped up in a cozy blanket, but your mind is trekking through the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountain range or rafting down the humid Mississippi River. Some authors bring their tales to life so vividly that the vicarious voyage just isn’t enough; they make you want to embark on an actual adventure.
For me, the earliest example of this was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Forget the realities of prairie life (aka the risk of scarlet fever, locusts, months-long blizzards, and more — eesh!); I could imagine nothing more exciting than slowly traversing the country by covered wagon. (The Oregon Trail game may be in part to blame for this.)
While people travel for a variety of reasons, from self-discovery to relaxation, we all know the feeling of becoming so entranced by a writer’s tale that we feel inspired to follow suit — whether that be trying to find ourselves in India or bonding with loved ones on the open road.
Here are 11 stories about amazing journeys that may inspire you to go on an adventure of your own:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is actually the book that inspired this list. The story follows Strayed’s real-life hike along over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a grueling trip, to say the least, but she makes it sound amazingly beautiful and rewarding. There’s something deeply alluring about the idea of going back to the basics and accomplishing one feat at a time, even if it comes at the cost of severely blistered feet.
The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker
The book that inspired the film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, starring Tina Fey, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker is an often hilarious account of a newbie reporter chronicling a “forgotten war.” As you’d expect, Barker’s experiences abroad are anything but ordinary, but she gains new perspective. While the region’s level of risk obviously doesn’t make it an ideal tourist location, the book may inspire you to travel outside of your comfort zone.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
An American classic, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn centers on the unlikely duo of Huck, a teenage boy trying to get away from his drunken father, and Jim, an escaped slave. The two end up rafting down the Mississippi River together, forcing Huck to reexamine his beliefs as he builds a close relationship with Jim. While I’ve always been disappointed by the turn their adventure takes (Tom Sawyer is the worst), the journey leading up to it is enough to make you want to strike out on a raft with a friend, if only for a day trip.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles what is basically the dream divorce recovery. No one wants their life to feel like it has fallen apart, but what better way to put it back together than by exploring the world? Whatever your situation in life, it’s easy to understand the appeal of reevaluating your path while taking the trip of a lifetime.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig is enough to make you crave the open road and time to just think. The book follows a father-son duo, joined part of the time by a pair of friends, as they journey from Minnesota to Northern California by motorcycle. It’s full of philosophical discussions and will make you want to get away from it all to assess your life.
Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer
A collection of 11 short stories, Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It is inspired by author Geoff Dyer’s travels around the world in search of his place in the world. What’s especially compelling is that his story has plenty of disappointment and misadventures, just like real life. Travel isn’t always full of movie-perfect moments, which Dyer embraces with humor and honesty.
The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman
Rachel Friedman ends up on an unplanned yearlong voyage in The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure. After buying a ticket to Ireland on a whim, she befriends an Australian girl who motivates her to extend her travels. The book will make you want to forget about focusing on the future and instead live in the moment.
Midnight in Siberia by David Greene
Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia follows author David Greene as he travels across 6,000 miles of the country on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Along the way, he meets fascinating people and talks to them about how their lives have changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It’s a fascinating cultural examination and reminder of how much we can learn from others.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof
In An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude, author Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve, fulfill the fantasy of many: They quit their jobs, rent out their house, and sail off to the Caribbean on a 42-foot sailboat. Over the course of two years, they explore numerous countries, adjust to “island time,” fish their dinner out of the sea, and meet interesting locals. Reading about their travels, especially the food, is enough to make you wonder why you haven’t found a subletter yet.
I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling
I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself of the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling recounts the time the author spent on a pilgrimage across the French Alps and the top of Spain. Walking the 1,200-year-old route, known in English as the St. James’ Way, ends up being an eye-opening experience. As Kerkeling overcomes the physical struggle, he documents his daily lessons and gains a sense of peace.
The Cruise of the Rolling Junk by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Not even the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were immune to the appeal of a road trip. Within months of getting married, the duo set off from New England in a decrepit car and headed south to Alabama. The trip inspired F. Scott to pen a series of pieces for Motor magazine, and their tales from the road will make you want to map out a route as well.
Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures