I really should have titled this “4 travel stories” since these are mostly specific parts of selected books that came to mind when thinking about enlightening voyage experiences. Tales of serendipity common enough to counteract soundbites of travel tragedy many modern media outlets tend to regurgitate for ratings.
Whether it’s you who needs a little convincing or that stubborn friend who won’t join you on an RTW, passages from these nonfictional tales can fortify large lacks of adventurous fortitude.
1. The Art Of Happiness (10th Anniversary Addition) By Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
There is certainly a connection between compassion and happiness as several studies have shown. Those two feelings being the central themes of this examination of the Dalai Lama’s theories, blended with a scientific analysis of his ideas. It’s not always easy to be happy when traveling, especially when you’re subjected to some of the scams that target tourists. For those of you who can relate to such situations, I strongly recommend you read Chapter 6 of The Art of Happiness. You may never look at getting ripped off the same way again.
2. Long Way Round
One of 8 great motorcycle books that will ignite your wanderlust and one that has personally influenced my nomadic side. Long Way Round is the dual-diary of Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, documenting their 3-month motorcycle journey around the world in 2004. Many of the negative comments about the book revolve around the fact that the two aren’t always happy and talk freely about the frustrations the road can bring. It is that aspect of the book I love however, as traveling certainly has a fair amount of crap stretches you laugh about later, after your first shower in 18 days. But one of the brighter (and funniest) tales in Long Way Round is the early chapter about Boorman and McGregor’s stay in Ukraine.
- Once you’ve read the story, be sure to check out the second part of the Long Way Round documentary to watch the experience unfold. Simply thinking about those scenes makes me chuckle.
3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X By Malcolm X and Alex Haley
The very moment I first opened the cover of this book I was unable to close it with exceptions for sleep, eating, and the occasional bathroom break. One of the most thoughtful sections of the The Autobiography of Malcolm X is Chapter 17, when he begins a series of visits to Africa and the Middle East before undertaking the Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj.
“I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land – every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike – all snored in the same language.”
-The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a staunch segregationist prior to that trip, however the communitas he witnessed in Mecca transformed him.
4. Thumbs Up Australia By Tom Parry
You might expect more than one disaster to happen to a British journalist and his French girlfriend, given they set off to travel nearly 13,000 kilometers…completely hitchhiking. Certainly Thumbs Up Australia [my previous review] is no fairly tale but as you’ll see toward the end of the story, the hitchhiking is really background to the human experience the travelers encounter.
This List Is Far Too Short, Considering The Possibilities
It’s tempting to add Jupiter’s Travels, The Pirates of Somalia, The Hidden Europe [my previous review], The Motorcycle Diaries, The Snake Charmer [previous review], Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea…and so many others to the list above. Then there are all of your comments and stories about how traveling has shown you people are fundamentally good. Still, fear and scary stories about the world tend to stick in our memories. For the most stubborn around you, here’s how to combat 2.5 million years of evolution and prevent your paleolithic brain from scaring you out of travel.
You’ve read far and wide so I’m curious, what books or stories would you have added to this list? I look forward to your literary feedback in the comments below.