Inspirational Travel Books

Alongside exploring new places, taking a year away to travel with my family has given me a certain amount of “free” time. Not as much free time as I expected mind you, because it’s incredible how much time you can use up doing nothing when you’re not worrying about deadlines.

In the gaps between taking the kids around museums and pushing them on the swings, I have found a little time to read about some of the places we’ll be visiting later this year.

Here are my three favourite books so far, in no particular order (other than this is the order I wrote them down):

Sri Lanka – Elephant Complex (John Gimlette)

An amazing insight into the distant and much more recent past of Sri Lanka. At times inspiring and at other times very depressing, but always gripping.

The civil war is still within living memory for many Sri Lankans, but it’s not a topic that I really knew anything about before reading this book. You should read this book too if you want a thoroughly absorbing and incredibly well researched account.

However, this book isn’t only about the civil war, as it goes way back to the earliest known history of Sri Lanka and it’s places. This has added a few places to my must see list; hill country around Kandy and Nuwara Eliya; Trincomalee; Sigiriya.

It has also crossed at least one place off my list, with Negombo being described as Sri Lanka’s “watery Gomorrah” with a “long and unhealthy tradition of depravity”. Perhaps one to save for when the kids have left home.

USA – Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road-Trip Through Small Town America (George Mahood)

When the kids are all grown-up and I can afford to hire a convertible two-seater, then I’m planning an extended road trip across the USA. In the meantime, I enjoyed reading George Mahood’s account of his road-trip.

Buying a dilapidated motor in New York state, George drives with a friend across the USA to California, and then back again.

I managed to devour this book in a few nights while sheltering from the cold on our NZ campervan trip, so I could almost empathise with some of the road-trip experiences that George went through. I’m not sure I could cope with sleeping in the back of a car for very long, but George made it sound almost appealing.

USA – The Last Englishman (Keith Foskett)

As well as driving across the states, I’d also like to hike one of the great trails, and this book by Keith Foskett recounts his thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

A 2,650 mile walk from Mexico to Canada sounds like a silly idea. It most probably is. But at the same time this is an inspirational read that takes you deep into the challenges that you’d face if you ever tried to follow suit.

As the title suggests, Keith Foskett is a fellow Englishman. The logistics involved in walking across 2,650 miles of wilderness are mind bending, especially when you add the complication of living on the other side of the Atlantic.

While this book has definitely renewed my ambition to tackle a long hike, it has most definitely made me consider starting somewhere other than the PCT. Crossing high mountain passes in the snow, carrying a week’s worth of food, sounds way beyond my own ability.

Hats off to anybody who has managed to complete the PCT. Reading this book has given me some appreciation of the level of pain involved and the sheer perseverance required.

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