Traveling can be exhausting. You accidentally started talking to that nineteen year old girl. Now the two of you are sitting next to each other on a 10 hour bus ride. She doesn’t stop talking about a world view and preaches that we should all live like this forever. It is such a shame she has to go home to uni. She thinks she will never be able to adapt to that boring life. The hostel was dirty and the people were rude. And she just couldn’t digest the food properly. A book is the perfect weapon to shut yourself off or to slap her in the face. A book could also be perfect to pick up this nineteen year old in the first place. If this nineteen year old scenario doesn’t apply to you, there are plenty of other times you are not in the mood for a where you are from and where you’ve been so far– conversation. You simply open a great book and ignore the things around you.
Reading a great book can take your mind to a whole different place. But when you travel you don’t necessarily want to be in another place. Traveling is already a form of escapism. And if you are in a place you want to be, why would you like to make your mind drift off to place that you tried to leave behind? That’s why I am reading books that add to my travel experiences instead of taking me away from them.
- On the Road. A great story about the freedom of traveling. I was hitchhiking through the Caucasus. After reading a couple of pages I started to feel a bit like Jack Kerouac and felt the inspiration to write my travel journal. Beside the fact that On The Road is a great story and amazingly written. It also shows that whatever happens will add to a great story.
- The Beach. This book is great for when you are surrounded by backpackers. You start to long for what every backpacker longs for but never gets: a unique experience where everything is possible and you are only surrounded by likeminded people who really understand the way to live your life. When I overheard two guys talking about a deserted beach camp on the Koh Rong in Cambodia I immediately tagged along. I truly felt like I was part of the novel, which made the experience more special. The same happened in India. We took kayaks to a deserted beach in Gokarna and arrived at this hippy camp where someone was just climbing into a tree to get us some coconuts, while another was smoking a joint. One of the guys even looked remotely like the Leonardo diCaprio from the Baltics.
- Shantaram. When I mounted on the 52 hour train ride from Delhi to Kerala I needed a weapon to kill time. Shantaram is 900 pages and would get me through this long prison like trip. It tells the story of an escaped Australian prisoner who somehow ended up in Mumbai. He describes the Indian people so well. When I looked up I from my book and saw my Indian train mates I grinned because I saw the head wiggle and the joyfulness. The book also saved my life once. At one point in the book a taxi driver hits a person the guide of the main character orders them to run. In a matter of seconds there is a great mob who is beating the shit out of the taxi driver. In Varanasi I hired a Rickshaw and drove into a motor bike. It was nothing serious but I broke an indicator and the head lamp. Within 2 minutes I was surrounded by ten men Quickly I paid the motorbike rider and got out of there as soon as possible. When I left I saw there were already thirty men around the motor bike all waiting to see blood.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I rode my motorbike from Hanoi to Saigon. The roads are beautiful but the 100cc engine cries like a dying lama. Fortunately I downloaded the audiobook of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. As the title suggests it uses motorbike riding and maintenance as a metaphor for life. Sometimes the metaphor is a bit too thought out. But it teaches you how being on the road is a great thing.
- The Alchemist. Most of you probably already read this little masterpiece. It’s good to start your travel with this book. It praises ‘the journey to the unknown’ and to follow your dreams. It teaches you that misfortune can lead to a better thing than what you’ve lost. You should always be open to what comes on your path, you never know what it leads to.