I remain to be a very inexperienced traveller. Partially due to my mum’s incessant love of Cornwall and partially due to airport stress, my family holidays have always been somewhat modest. Whereas many friends were off on their third trip to Disneyland Florida, I was getting plastic bags strapped to my feet in protest to the Cornish drizzle. Although my brother and I had endless fun building cars out of sand on the beach, there was always a part of me that wondered what the other side was like; what it was like to experience ‘plane food’ and what lay beyond the rocky cliff edges of the British Isles. For all I knew, the world really was flat. It was only when I began reading some of my favourite books that I realised the excitement of a traveller’s world and the adventure that lay within. As cringeworthy as it is, books were my sole source of knowledge and adventure. These novels ignited my desire to ‘see the world’ and even if most of them are on the school curriculum, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth taking the time to read.
1. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Make that all of his books. From the powerful descriptions of Hosseini’s home country, to the italicised words of language I did not know, The Kite Runner presented another side to Afghanistan that I hadn’t previously seen in the media: an Afghanistan that took place in the background of conflict. Whilst the themes of friendship and betrayal are all too common, the change of location makes for a unique adventure.
2. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
I’m not going to claim to be one of those people who gushes that they read it before it was popular. I didn’t. Nevertheless, that doesn’t detract from what is a beautiful story in an interesting location of Pondicherry zoo, India. I had never heard of such a place as Pondicherry, yet Martel manages to attract readers with its French charm and although primarily fictional, the French-Indian culture is certainly engaging. Teamed with the wild sense of adventure that is the Pacific Ocean, the novel offers an exciting yet nerve-wracking glimpse into what it would mean to get truly ‘lost’ in a place.
3. Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen Mah
Okay, so there appears to be an Asian theme. I read this a few years ago, yet I still remember the autobiographical cruelty depicted in this story. Coupled with this maltreatment and punishment, comes Chinese tradition and history that proves to be simultaneously intriguing and shocking. The Shanghai ideology appears throughout the narrative and, for me, it remains one to be explored.
4. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne
This book list is definitely getting more depressing as it goes on. It’s true: an innocent boy getting gassed to death by his own father is neither pleasant nor light reading. Nor is it the kind of book that would make for inspirational travel motivation. Yet, for someone who has never really grasped History as a curriculum subject (i.e me), the book is a provoking representation of the injustice of the Holocaust. Considering I endured 10 whole years of History and Geography lessons, it’s pretty remarkable that this reading list has taught me more about the world we live in, than all of my lessons put together. Therefore, to visit a place with so much real history would hopefully bring me closer to a subject I had rarely touched before.
5. French Children Don’t Throw Food, Pamela Druckerman
A slightly obscure addition to the list, my last choice finishes a bit closer to home. In the parenting section of Waterstones (don’t ask), I came across the gingham cover that was to become one of my quickest reads. Having never seen the Eiffel Tower (yes, I just said that), it confirmed all my elusive ideas of Paris. Although I primarily took interest in the communication of the French to their babes (happy Linguistics student here), a part of me was left envisaging myself raising any future children
in the French city.
These books have been fundamental in giving me the desire to travel. If you, too, enjoy this combination, feel free to add to the list by writing a comment below.