Nine great books that'll allow you to travel vicariously
Physical travel is tricky for now, but you can still explore the world through the written word
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Take a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from the Mojave Desert to Washington State with Cheryl Strayed.
At 22, she self-sabotages her life when her mother dies of cancer and her family scatters. Thinking that she has lost everything, she cheats on her husband by having indiscriminate sex, and starts to take heroin. Her husband leaves her (obviously) and she impulsively decides to hike the PCT with no experience - alone.
It's a memoir filled with angst, painful descriptions of bloody feet, loads of sex and how trying to survive the wild leads Strayed to deal with her inner demons.
2. Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Between 1998 and 2000 bestselling novelist Sue (The Secret Lives of Bees) and her daughter Ann go on a pilgrimage together in Greece and France. It's a dual memoir of mom and daughter as they tenderly write about exploring the sights and joys of the two countries, dealing with depression, coming to grips with aging and coming-of-age, and reconnecting as two adult women. Traveling with Pomegranates is glorious and honest in the storytelling of how it is to travel with a loved one.
3. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is truly one of the funniest writers in travel. If there is one book of his to read (OK, besides One Summer: America, 1927), this is it. Here he describes his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. If you want to learn about the long US trail, its history, environment, people and most of all bears, Bryson describes it expertly with humour.
4. A Hat, a Kayak and Dreams of Dar by Terry Bell
Who can even imagine kayaking 11,000km from London to Tangier? This is what South African journalist Terry Bell accepted as a challenge. In 1967. With no satnav. No internet. At the time, Terry and his wife Barbara were living as political exiles in London. Bell writes about their madcap adventure 52 years later, remembering it all through postcards and audio tapes. The little canoe with two people trying to make it on rough seas is pure hair-raising stuff.
5. Yes! Blacks DO Caravan! by Fikile Hlatshwayo
Fikile decides to take her young family on a camping trip, and this starts a fascinating story of a South African family's caravan journey. The trip began in 2014 and Fikile and her family visited over 60 caravan parks and extended their travels to Eswatini — an eye-opening trip through beautiful SA.
6. The White Album by Joan Didion
From California water systems and traffic control to biker movies and the design of shopping malls, the Manson murders and holidaying in Honolulu: it's the feel, the people, the paranoia of the late '60s early '70s. It's a time travel book. Perfect if you want to go back and experience what was happening then, at another crossroads in world history.
7. Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition - An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Froer et al
Made with armchair travellers in mind, this guide includes a special feature: a foldout map with an itinerary for the ultimate round-the-world road trip. It features the strange and wonderful - the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, the MC Escher-like stepwells in Jaipur, and the 45-year hole of fire called the Door of Hell in Turkmenistan.
8. Vagabond: Wandering through Africa on Faith by Lerato Mogoatlhe
Lerato travelled through 21 countries in Africa in five years. This is her raw memoir of going it alone, without money (most of the time), in countries that are still viewed as pretty darn scary to go to - places like Mogadishu and South Sudan. From meeting former president Thabo Mbeki at an event in Timbuktu to going to the genocide memorial in Rwanda, Vagabond is a real and honest account of living as a woman in Africa.
9. Old Glory by Jonathan Raban
This classic travel memoir was published in 1981 and remains a magical description of an epic journey down the Mississippi. This is not the Huckleberry Finn of his boyhood dreams. The people in the little towns along the way are treacherous, terrifying and sometimes downright heartwarming. A pleasure to read and a keeper.