I’m one of those people who goes to bed telling themselves “Just one more chapter”, a mental refrain that always ends up at 3am with a finished book. As a child, I owned a bookmark printed with these words: “A book is a ticket to faraway places, to adventures and friends everywhere; and the best part is, you can travel the world without ever leaving your chair.” I still remember it, because it rings true. Books can take you anywhere you want to go, broadening your horizons in a similar way to travel.
Bill Bryson makes me laugh out loud, and I love travel literature as much as the next travel addict, but I don’t believe a book has to be a travelogue to inspire wanderlust; fiction can be equally as effective.
I’m speaking from experience. If you want to instil a love of adventure in a child, give them an Enid Blyton book. I spent my childhood building forts in forests and running through fields, thinking there was a secret passage hidden in every house, almost convinced I was the sixth member of the Famous Five. For me, it was a short hop, skip and a jump from imagining adventure at home to dreaming of adventure abroad.
I progressed to Little House on the Prairie, which had me longing to visit the American Midwest, while Anne of Green Gables made me imagine exploring Prince Edward Island. Later, Chocolat started dreams of France; Captain Corelli’s Mandolin gave me the urge to go to Greece; and The God of Small Things set the scene of southern India perfectly.
Recently, Beautiful Ruins captured the essence of Italy for me as I read, and devouring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels has made me want to visit Lagos. In reality, I want to go everywhere, and reading has only fanned the flames of wanderlust.
I’m not the only one. Writer Frankie Thompson blogs frequently about reading and travelling over at As The Bird Flies (she recently published a book of short stories inspired by travel), while social media maven Jayne Gorman set up a popular ‘Travel Book Chat’ on Twitter. In honour of World Book Day earlier this year, Telegraph Travel listed what they believe are the best travel books of all time – and many of them were fiction.
Wherever you are in the world, whether you’re an armchair traveller or a seasoned explorer, remember that a book is a ticket to a faraway place. Pick up a paperback (or your e-reader) and let the adventure begin.