I love books. Always have.
I trace my passion for them to two separate, yet equally formative, experiences in my childhood:
1) My childhood insomnia that drove my mom to near insanity trying to get me to sleep, but also resulted in her pushing me enthusiastically towards using books as a means to cope…
2)The release of Jurassic Park in theaters during 1993. I was 9 yrs old and desperate to see this ridiculous movie directed by the man who brought me Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Being only 9 and barely allowed by my parents to watch a PG movie… I had a lot of convincing to do before I ever got into the theater.
After much pleading and cajoling, my dad finally said that he would take me to see the movie if I read the entire book first.
He most likely thought I would either never get through it or it would take me until I was 13 to complete it… at which point I would have been old enough to see it anyways.
But ohhhhh was he wrong.
Even at my limited 9 yr old reading abilities, I finished Jurassic Park in a week and was rewarded with an in-theater viewing of that epic flick. But I was also rewarded with an addiction to Michael Crichton novels and proceeded to devour everything from Andromeda Strain to Congo.
With all of the reading I have done since the age of 9, there is a definite thread I can trace back that inspired my ultimate decision to travel the world.
So let me introduce you to the 7 books that have shaped my life and convinced me to leave work, say goodbye to friends and family, and travel the world…
The Travel Catalysts
Warning: Do not read these first 2 books if you like working in your cubicle…
These first two books were probably the last of the books listed below that I read, but they are the two that really set this whole crazy travel plan into motion. They crystallized many of my unsaid thoughts about my goals for life and career while also kindling that deep desire to see the world…
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
I started following Tim Ferriss’s blog a few years ago and read The 4-Hour Work Week when it first came out in 2007. But I re-read it two years ago and it truly clicked with me. He might not have invented the idea of geo-arbitrage or lifestyle design, but the combination of many different concepts inspired me to rethink the standard college, career, and then retirement plan. I began asking why not me? Why couldn’t I reshape my plans for life and travel the world? Trust me… do not read this if you are happy pounding away at the keyboard inside your cubicle.
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
I was led to Vagabonding by a guest post from Rolf Potts on Tim Ferriss’s blog. This collection of stories from his years of traveling as a travel writeris packed with great advice on resources and places to see while seeing the world. More importantly, it is designed to inspire. World travel had always seemed like something done by the rich or the retired, but Rolf introduced me to the idea of living cheaply, but having rich experiences… Vagabonding! The book is littered with inspirational quotes from well-known travelers and even travelers just like me. If you don’t have a major case of Wanderlust before you read this, you will after. Be prepared.
The Mystical Journey
These two novels have layers of meaning, but are also inspirational travel stories. Both protagonists are open to their experiences on the road and live simply, without excess. I read both while on vacation with my family in Italy when I was younger and have always connected the simplicity of these stories with the beauty of travel.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
A young man spends his life searching for enlightenment; meeting and learning from the many people that he meets on the road. Told simply, it has a universal honesty that strikes at the heart of anyone who yearns for travel. You do not need a spiritual background to appreciate this journey or to understand the desire to better yourself by experiencing the world. It’s a quick read, but one that definitely opens your mind to the power of travel to shape the understanding of yourself.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Very similar to the life-changing journey undertaken in Siddhartha, The Alchemist is a simple yet moving tale of world travel and a personal journey. But really, read it if only for just this: “‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,’the alchemist replies. ‘And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams…’” Is there a better message than that for two people about to quit their jobs and travel the world?
Cross-Country Road Trips: Journey Over Destination
Sometimes the call of the road overwhelms all else. Many people ask us our plans and where we are headed… but is it wrong we have no answer? The journey can sometimes be the point.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
I am going to be honest… I have read this twice and I still cannot tell you exactly what is going on with some of the deeper meditations on western philosophy. They are wrapped in riddles and allusions, but I still find them mesmerizing. Plus, it could be a guy thing, but the discussion of motorcycle maintenance itself has a strange draw that is hard for me to explain. What really stuck with me on this one though, is the road trip – a father, a son, and their journey to the pacific coast on top of their Honda Superhawk motorcycle. Pretty cool.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakeur
Highly controversial in the unRulli household, but since Meg bases her opinion on the movie while mine is based on the book… it is my opinion that I’m considering here. Meg’s practicality will not let her get past Chris McCandless’s ill preparedness for the Alaskan wilderness; however, I can only focus on the romantic nature of his journey across America and his contrarian take on modern life. His passion for literature was an easy draw for me, but I can only hope that we are as open to friendship on the road as Chris was.
The Cross-Universe Road Trip: So Long And Thanks For All The Fish
Just because I’m a nerd at heart (Meg would say all over), I can’t resist adding this to the list. No matter the obstacles that arise while on the road, we should always find a way to persevere and have an adventure… just like Arthur Dent. Definitely get the audiobook if you can since it was originally written for the radio and comes across best in this form.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I did not read this as early in life as most fans, but it hit me just as hard. Funny, ridiculous, and always an adventure. Travel does not always have to be serious so why do the books that inspire us have to be? And plus, it actually answers the question that so many of the main characters in these travel books are asking: What is the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything? But i’m not telling… you’ll have to read it find out!