Seven years ago this month I was backpacking my way through Egypt. In the previous six weeks, I’d already seen and done more new things that I think I’d done in the previous six years. Backpacking has this profound effect on his when we’re traveling. It’s that unfamiliarity that you find yourself in, day in and day out, that makes you open to new experiences and new ideas. But it wasn’t easy to get to that point.
After I’d decided to travel long-term, there were a lot of phases I went through. It started with a rush of excitement and then an immediate “oh my god what how why where when” which quickly took over. And, like I’ve always done, to answer those questions, I turned to books. Google helped a little, but after reading countless travel blogs (this is before I had my own), I still felt I needed something to hold in my hands, something to show me that this has been done, that this is possible. And that’s when I found myself in the bookstore in front of a thousand different travel books. But it was these three that finally, actually, helped.
These three books are the perfect inspiration for the aspiring long term traveler. If you’re planning a gap year or planning to quit your job to travel, they’re helpful guides on how to see the world. A taste of what you might encounter yourself. These are not books on how to set up a business, or how to make money from traveling—that’s boring. These are truly inspirational, exciting and intriguing. They’re full of adventure and if you’re on the fence about whether or not you should take that big trip yourself, these just might push you over the edge.
The 3 Best Books for Long-Term Travel
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
by Rolf Potts
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I think this might’ve been one of the first instances I encountered the word vagabond in a positive way. Vagabonding is about taking time off from your normal life—from six weeks to four months to two years—to discover and experience the world on your own terms. Rolf Potts has been vagabonding his way around the world for years, often on a tight budget and a strange will to see and do the spectacularly bizarre.
If you’re willing to prove a bit of adventurous independence, the book provides advice on how to travel long-term, from financing the trip, choosing where to go, adjusting your mentality and even includes tips on how to work and volunteer abroad. His follow-up book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer, is also worth a read. In that book, he explains the stories behind the stories. It’s a taste of what life like a travel writer is truly like—how stories are condensed and the truth is stretched to create the most engaging and interesting travel essays.
Lonely Planet’s The Big Trip
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When I first decided to take a gap year, I went to my local bookstore and found Lonely Planet’s The Big Trip on the bookshelf. It was an impulse buy and though I didn’t read it cover-to-cover, I found myself referring back to the book regularly. The beautiful photography served as the perfect inspiration to start planning my own trip. It’s now had several revisions and new editions, but still provides those essential pre-trip tips on how to plan a big trip.
After I’d decided on taking a big trip, however, I still had no idea where I wanted to go. That’s where this book with its regional overviews, maps and suggested itineraries came in. It served as a backbone for my own planning. This book is more comprehensive than Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding, but serves a different purpose. Lonely Planet’s The Big Trip is much more informative while Vagabonding is far more inspirational. Both were essential in my own preparations for my big trip.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
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One of my favorite travel books of all time, In a Sunburned Country, is a travel report on Bill Bryson’s adventures through Australia. Anyone who has been to Australia can attest to the strange environment, the bizarre animals, the unique history—and Bryson takes all of that and his own personal adventures to turn out a story that’s as funny as it is informative. It’s a bizarre look into the country while also very much a story about a trip.
It’s clear from reading the book that Bryson loves Australia, and yet his observations present a strange picture of an even stranger place. Even if Australia isn’t on your travel itinerary, the book is a look into the life of a traveler—the odd experiences you’re sure to encounter, the strange facts, the funny misadventures. Traveling is a trip, and In a Sunburned Country shows you how it should (and shouldn’t) be done.
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Looking for more travel books for inspiration? Read more book reviews here.
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