What book ignited the fire under your seat?
As an avid traveler, I can swear at how vital literature has played a part in ratcheting up my craving to travel. There was Paul Theroux’s epic travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar, which made the idea of a long and arduous cross-continent train travel a charming one; or my personal favorite Jack Kerouac, who I singularly credit for inspiring me to a life of wandering, thanks to his spontaneous prose on On the Road. Without these books, I may not have seen much of the world as I have.
Describing the abundant advantages of travel, Saint Augustine was quoted in John Feltham’s English Enchiridion (1799) as saying “the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveler. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book”—an evocative passage that sums up the ultimate desire of modern-day travelers; to learn and discover whatever exists outside our comfort zones.
Here, fellow travel writers talk about their most memorable reads or the latest book they took with them on the road.
Izi Rafols, who forms one half of the couple travel blog Where The? Travels recalls the roving stimulus she got from E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India”.
“I remember watching the 1984 Film Adaptation back when I was in high school. I was in awe with how rich the cinematography was – of India, one of the countries I’ve been longing to see with my very own eyes – and how the film took you on an emotional joy ride with its complex yet charming story right to the very end. Being the dreamy teenager that I was, I knew as soon as the credits rolled that I had to get the novel! Fast forward to post-college, ‘destiny’ led me to my own copy after haunting used bookstores. I can’t even begin to describe the familiar fascination that hit me “like a face plant in the water after jumping off a cliff” as I devoured its pages. Maybe someday I can take it with me on an adventure to India just for added kicks!”
Glenn Martinez, the history and art enthusiast behind Traveler on Foot fuels his creative and wanderlust through the writings of our very own homegrown literary geniuses.
“I read essays by Ambeth Ocampo and Nick Joaquin for my daily dose of history and art. Gilda-Cordero Fernando and Felice Sta. Maria on local food traditions and culture. Usually after reading their books, that's when I have the motivation to travel. I like to believe that I am influence by their writing style especially on how they narrate their stories.”
Dong Ho of Eskapo is a fellow Paul Theroux fan who has channeled that literary inspiration into his numerous incursions to some of the off-the-beaten-path parts of China in the last couple of years.
"I only had the chance to see China today. Made me wish i had visited it years back. It seemed like the best way to know more about it is thru the eyes of the people who traveled there years back. The book ‘Riding the Iron Rooster - By Train Through China’ by Paul Theroux transports me back to the country's reformist era. Paul's unusual and often comical perspective on its people, its culture and the industrial boom influenced me the way to see a country when traveling. This has been my favorite because in this book Paul traveled by train in China. Train is my favorite mode of transportation, China is my favorite country in travel (so far) and Paul is my favorite travel author."
Rain Campanilla of Words and Wanderlust is another wandering soul deeply affected by the history of Mt. Everest and in her signature killer prose, she shares;
“Dog-eared and with pages yellowed through the years, I found the book on a random bookshelf at work, eventfully, around the time Nepal rattled to shambles. It was akin to finding a scripture— a detailed account on the terrain Mallory and Irvine took. It is believed that they were the first men who summited the mountain. But they did not make it back alive to tell the story. After the earthquake, I may no longer be able to go to Nepal, let alone Everest, sooner — or ever. But as a seeker of stories less told, my task from hereon, I feel, is to retell.”
Aware of the rollicking and poignant writing of Ron Cruz of Flip’n Travels it came as no surprise that he digs the humor laden travel writings of Bill Bryson.
“I like reading through any books by Bill Bryson. I have 5 paperbacks and 1 signed hardbound. Because reading him is effortless; there's no need to put on any special literary hat of some sort and pretend I can wax poetic like I just masturbated with Maya Angelou. He's right in the middle of the Iyer-Gervais continuum: Sarcastic, breezy, and at times pointless! But that's exactly the point.”
Miss Backpacker Kaiz Belga of Where Have you been lately? shares how reading the account of the tragic 1996 Everest expedition inspired her to realize a long standing desire to set foot on the world’s highest mountain.
“As we were strolling around Pokhara September of 2014, after our successful trek to the Annapurna Base Camp, we passed by a book shop filled with foreigners. I couldn't resist that intoxicating scent of books and squeezed myself into the swarm of bookworms. I took two novels with me when my husband handed me another title ‘Into Thin Air’ - Jon Krakauer's personal account of the tragic Mount Everest expedition he joined in 1996. Every hiker dreams of setting foot in the world's highest mountain and reading the book made me want to realize that dream even more. A year later, who would've thought that I was able to experience trekking into Mount Everest's thin air. It may be just at the base camp but all the sweat, headache, sleepless and cold nights were all worth it.”
The famed writer of the viral article “Date a Girl who Travels’ Aleah Taboclaon of Solitary Wanderer found the book ‘Bangkok Days’ almost mirroring her personal experience.
“Back when I lived in Bangkok last year, I wandered its streets aimlessly, with nothing planned and nothing accomplished. Aside from my thrice weekly schedule at the Crossfit box, I did nothing there but enjoy the city's food, fast internet connection, and daily people watching in Silom with my then-boyfriend. I felt like I was marking time, waiting for God-knows-what. I remembered this feeling well when I recently read ‘Bangkok Days’ by Lawrence Osborne, whose vivid descriptions of Bangkok and its varied characters are spot-on (and) captured my months in Bangkok perfectly with this sentence: "...it is understood among the full-time lammers that Bangkok is an asylum for those who have lapsed into dilettantism, as one might lapse into a temporary period of mental instability. The great projects, the ambitious flights of the mind--all trashed."
(this article appeared on the August 16, 2015 issue of Manila Bulletin)