Not Your Average Travelogue: A Top Ten List

I love to travel and hate to fly. It’s truly an excellent combination – at least I’m not prone to panic attacks. I get it done and I’m surprised every single time the plane doesn’t crash. Because I do enjoy self-torture, I’ve flown at least twice per year for the last 15 years. An alternative and much less stressful (and let’s face it, somewhat more adventurous) way to enjoy travel: read about it. Some of these have travel as their main focus, some have travel as a secondary attraction, 9/10 are enjoyable.

Road Trip

As hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and in no particular order:

10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Not my favorite, but a classic. I refuse to see the recent film adaptation. Anyone care to convince me otherwise…?

9. The Beach by Alex Garland. One of the failings of the American educational system is its discouragement of a gap year. Not that I’d want Richard’s…

8. The Terror by Dan Simmons. This novel is the fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to force the Northwest Passage in 1845–1848. One of the best horror novels I’ve read.

7. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. I included this on my best books before blogging list, it’s a political satire and a black comedy about a vacuum cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent.

6. Anything written by Bill Bryson.

5. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. One of the few redeeming qualities about this novel (aside from the lyrical writing) is the evocative descriptions of the French landscape – absolutely gorgeous. The rest of it – less so…

4. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. Have I not convinced you to read this book yet? It’s a beautiful, melancholy story of love, redemption, travel, and loss (made into an excellent film starring Edward Norton).

“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”

3. The Stand by Stephen King. Though primarily the tale of government mischief gone wrong (thus potentially letting evil reign), the book also has one of the most horrific scenes involving travel through a tunnel.

2. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. In addition to traveling from New England to Colorado, there is also an alternative mode of transportation in the form of a personal inscape. For one character it’s a bike, for another it’s a Rolls Royce Wraith. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this decade and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys good fiction. I’ve always been convinced that if there is a hell, the soundtrack would begin and end with an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song. Glad I’m not the only one. As quoted in an interview, “I’m sure if you were going down to Hell in an elevator, the music playing would be the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album and it would speed up the farther you plunged”. Exactly right, Joe Hill.

And if you happen to like the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs, don’t tell me! If you have the same reaction I have, please commiserate (inane fact: I have the same reaction to Coldplay and Oasis as I do to Alvin and the Chipmunks).

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve done a lot of questionable things in my short life, few of which are comparable to the adventures in this semi-autobiographical novel.

“Good people drink good beer.”

Which is ruined by the fact that included in their serious drug collection is a case of Budweiser. Not good beer.

So…travel books? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Have you ever traveled anywhere solely because you’ve read a book set in that location? Sadly (or not), I have.

Image: Arabia Mountain Tumblr

39 thoughts on “Not Your Average Travelogue: A Top Ten List”

    1. And Stephen King, right? Because if there’s one author associated with Maine…

      A few of the places I went to specifically in Sweden were because of Stieg Larsson’s books. While I didn’t LOVE those books, I did like them and was fascinated by the area. I traipsed around subway stations, apartment buildings, tattoo parlors, etc. I now feel slightly less than cool, for lack of a better phrase.

      I lived in Maine briefly (Portland) – if you can’t tell I moved around a lot, but almost exclusively in the New England area.

      Where’d you go in Maine?

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    2. Actually, if you have time a whole (brief) geographic rundown on your honeymoon would be great. I think you said you did both east and west coast, or am I imagining things…? Both are equally likely.

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      1. Your question prompted me to get out my honeymoon photo album… which was nice given that we haven’t looked at it for about 13 years!

        We spent six weeks in the US – started with nine days in NYC then on to Rhode Island and Massachusetts coast – Eastham, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Provincetown. We drove up the coast to Maine, stopping in places such as Boothbay, Damariscotta, New Harbour, Newry and Bethel. After that we headed inland for the Fall leaves – Jackson, Berlin, Stowe, Conway in New Hampshire and a few days in Boston. Plus some time in Vermont (had to visit Ben & Jerry’s of course) and Conneticut.

        That all took about five weeks. Then we flew to San Francisco for five nights (our only west coast stop). My husband loved San Fran (the trip was his first visit to the US) and flirted with the idea of applying for a work transfer there! People often say that San Fran has a similar vibe to Melbourne.

        I had been to the US prior to that trip and travelled mostly the West Coast. I also went back two years ago and visited New York again, Miami (LOVED SOUTH BEACH) and paid my first visit to Vegas (to see Barry Manilow in cabaret).

        For my next US trip, apart from more of Florida, I really want to visit the Pacific North Coast – high on the agenda are the Douglass Fir forests (I did a little forestry at uni…)

        So, was that all too much info?! 😉

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      2. Nope, that was good.

        I should add that when you come back to the US, Denver (and Colorado) is quite a lovely place too. And you’d have a free place to stay if you so chose!

        I’ve been to all the places you listed in New England (and Florida). I shamefully have not been to San Francisco, but it’s high on my list of domestic vacations. You do know it never gets warm there, right? Not to mention how incredibly high the cost of living is, though I don’t know the cost of living in Melbourne (though according to all the happiness and well-being lists, Melbourne is a wonderful place). The engineering company I work for is seriously considering opening an office there. I can only hope.

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    3. Consider Denver and surrounds added to my list 🙂

      Is your company opening an office in San Fran or Melbourne? If Melbourne, you must find a reason to visit.

      Any plans we had to enjoy living overseas have ended – my husband is a barrister now and therefore his practice is entirely tied to Melbourne. Previously he worked for a large law firm that had offices all around the world – great opportunity if you have the flexibility. I always had vague hopes of him transferring to the US for a few years where I wouldn’t have been able to work (no Greencard obviously) but could have just traveled and had babies!

      In some ways it’s weird knowing that I am more than likely to live in the same city my whole life…

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      1. They are considering Melbourne! We’ll see what happens though, I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

        I’ve moved around quite a bit. Although I spent the majority of my time in New Hampshire (about 45 minutes north of Boston), I’ve lived in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado. I do hope someday to move back to the Boston area, but I found the Seattle area to be quite appealing too. I’m assuming I’ll stay in the US, but I’ve strongly considered somewhere in the EU (I’m half-American/half-Greek).

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  1. Great list! I’ve been meaning to read something by Bill Bryson, I’ve heard funny/great things about his books. Still need to get around to The Painted Veil…one of these days, I know I shall read it 😉

    I’m the total opposite, I enjoy flying and plane trips and even hanging around the airport (save this one time…I had an early connecting flight from Rome and OMG it was taking forever just to get my luggage checked in. I pretty much ran to the gate after going through the scanners; they had to hold the plane because there was like, 5 of us stuck way back)

    Have you ever traveled anywhere solely because you’ve read a book set in that location?

    Great Q! It’s funny because my family trip a few years ago was partly influenced by my reading of Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. I really wanted to go to Spain/Barcelona after reading it and managed to sneak it into our itinerary during our trip to France (which expanded to partly exploring the country, mwhahaha) 😉

    My TTT

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    1. I find the airport fairly horrifying aside from the people watching. The food’s awful, everyone is stressed out, people race to get on the plane (WHY???). I pretty much only enjoy the extra reading time. And if I have a connection, I swear the terminals I need are never near each other (I land in Terminal A and need Terminal E, etc.). Oh and because I’m cheap, I always get stuck flying at the off times – like the 6 am flights.

      I’ve never been to Spain, but it’s high on my list for three reasons: warmth, Gaudi, and affordable (relatively speaking).

      And you should tell me when your birthday is and I will mail you a copy of The Painted Veil – effectively guilting you into reading it. 🙂

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      1. lol, ahh, yes, the terminals being so far apart. Like, I get that they split the international from the domestic and stuff but it’s still ridiculous how far they can be (especially when it requires you to board a bus, lmao).

        Spain is <3, you'll love it (definitely warm! I went there at the end of August so it was more than just warm (Madrid especially) but it was always shining, which was nice) I made the mistake of not checking out the Gaudi apartments that he designed (opted to sleep in that morning, lol) but his work is amazing.

        LOL! That's one way to get me reading it (my birthday is way away, October 5) 😛 And you should tell me yours and I'll send you The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 😛 (I remember devouring it in one afternoon xD)

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      2. I forget which airport (maybe NY or LA), but I had to take a bus to the next terminal which then required I go through security again. I was already anxious, that did not help my sanity.

        My birthday is in a few weeks so I won’t hold you to the book – not that I’d complain… 😉

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      3. Eww, security again? I would be terribly anxious too, passing through security is my least favourite part of the airport experience (especially when you’re carrying a laptop) =S

        A few weeks away, eh? I can work with that 😉 I’ll email you 🙂

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  2. Fear and Loathing is definitely a good choice. We live about 3.5 hours away without traffic (there’s always traffic…) and used to make the trip out quite often when we were in college (hellllo turn around trips). I also love traveling, but I have no problem with flying at all! I have the whole teenage invincibility issue going on, I think.

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    1. I’m afraid of three things: planes, aliens, and spiders. The first I reluctantly deal with, the second I hope to never have to worry about (the movie Aliens scarred me for life), and the last one paralyzes me – so it’s all relative. Get on a plane vs. face a spider? I’ll get on the plane every time.

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    1. I’ve haven’t read everything by him, but what I have is pretty funny. And I agree, traditional travelogues can be quite boring. I like the historical ones ones on occasion, though I never envy the conditions they had to travel in.

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  3. Whenever you do these lists I’ve typically never read a single one on there it seems. I’ve read TWO on your list today. Success! Not really. I really think I need to pick up The Terror… I just saw it at my bookstore one time and big books scare me. It’s a problem of mine. I’m slowly making my way through King’s collection and The Stand still needs to happen as well. I should give On the Road another go. Maybe. (I quit the first time around).

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    1. The Stand does NEED to happen. Skip On the Road if you didn’t like it the first time – it won’t be better the second time. The Terror is very good, plus in my case he is a local author so I try and keep up with his books.

      And just so you know I spent last night waiting for the pictures of the glorious cupcakes from scratch….and nothing. Where are the pictures?!?

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  4. I’ve seen The Painted Veil on a few lists today! It sounds like something I’d really enjoy, so you’ve at least convinced me to add it to my to-read list. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my TTT!

    ~Merin @ Read and Reviewed~

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    1. Wasn’t it? It’s such a beautiful story, there are so many quotes that I adore from that novel. I’m also (probably oddly) fascinated by the idea of unequal love. I think it’s more common than popular culture would have you believe.

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      1. Agree- I thought the movie was well done,(love Ed nOrton) but it didn’t portray the sense of foreboding the book did. Great take- unequal love-I wonder how many books you could list under that topic?

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      2. Ed Norton is quite high on my list of favorite actors. Also on the unequal love list (and this one) is A Sport and a Pastime…

        So two so far.

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  5. Great list! I saw the film version of The Painted Veil and it was fantastic. I keep meaning to read it the book.

    Have I ever traveled anywhere solely because I’ve read a book set in that location? Well, in high school I developed a full-on obsession with Milan Kundera; I dreamed of going to Prague for years until I had the opportunity to study in Europe so was able to finally make the trek. Soooo worth it, even though I caught a terrible cold and spent days sniffling and sneezing my way through Budapest and Vienna afterwards.

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    1. I get sick nearly every time I travel – I blame the plane. Good travel is always worth it though. The last time I traveled I caught a cold that lasted nearly three full weeks – that shouldn’t even be possible. 🙂

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  6. I’ve wanted to read The Painted Veil for a while now, but still haven’t. The Beach and Fear and Loathing are both on my list as well, and are both trips that I wouldn’t want to take.

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    1. Parts of The Beach would be beautiful – the rest, not so much. Fear and Loathing would be a trip of a lifetime, though not one I’ll likely ever take.

      The Painted Veil is one of my top 25 books I’ve ever read, so if you get the chance I would very much recommend you read it.

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    1. Me too, but I just didn’t care for it. I found it to be fine (and not the exquisite kind of fine either). I refuse to watch the newest adaptation with Kristen Stewart because I find her to be a terrible actress (Snow White and the Huntsman was awful!).

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