Traveling is exciting, fun, and sometimes – life-changing. The idea of leaving everything behind to find yourself on the road is tempting for so many of us. In the last decades, self-discovery journeys have become incredibly popular, and some books were likely to influence that. As these days, many of us cannot leave our countries, let’s find some inspiration from previous nomads that documented their journeys on paper.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Today self-discovery trips are so common they barely surprise anyone. However, that was not the case back in the late 40s and early 50s. That was when American novelist Jack Kerouac went on the road-trip across the US and Mexico.
Kerouac was not chasing beautiful locations or capturing photos. Instead, he went on a road trip to solely immerse himself in the experience of traveling.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
In 1951, Kerouac published On the Road. Even though it was titled as a novel, and the names have been changed, the book was largely autobiographical and based on the author’s traveling adventures.
If I had to describe On the Road in one word, that word should be freedom. Freedom to leave everything safe and familiar behind, and freedom to explore.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
In her early twenties, Cheryl Strayed experienced two painful losses – her mother’s death and a divorce with her husband. Feeling empty and disappointed, she needed something to get lost in, something daring and challenging.
Therefore, she took the bravest decision in her life – to hike over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. All by herself. Without any previous climbing experience or training.
As Cheryl Strayed recalls in her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, this hike was less about physical challenges and more about mental ones. She had to face her deepest fears, lean into the unknown, and just keep going.
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” ― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Instead of weakening her, this solo hike gave her something she longed for deeply – healing for two of the most painful losses in her life.
The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt, by Isabelle Eberhardt
Isabelle Eberhardt was one of the most controversial women of her time. Born in 1877, she was raised and educated in Switzerland by her strict father. However, from very early on, Isabelle showed that she was unwilling to conform to the rules and moral standards.
She was seeking independence, and at the age of 20, she moved to Algeria, where she spent most of her time traveling in North Africa.
At a young age, she started wearing male clothing claiming that it gave her the freedom she longed for. Eventually, she started introducing herself as a man, and she was recognized as Si Mahmoud Essadi.
Throughout her short life, Isabelle Eberhardt published a few short stories under a male pseudonym. However, the biggest part of her manuscripts was published after her death.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”― Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
Eberhardt died at the age of 27 in a flash flood. According to the biographers, Isabelle always thought she would die young. This belief translated into her treatment of her own body, as she paid little attention to her diet, consumed alcohol and drugs, and traveled without fear of getting hurt along the way.
Picking up one of the books mentioned in the article is a sure way to get lost in adventures. Even if not your own.
Before you go
However, if you prefer visual stories rather than written ones, check out the movies below that were inspired by the stories mentioned in the article:
- On the Road (2012)
- Wild (2014)
- Isabelle Eberhardt (1991)