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For hundreds of years, tales have been spun about the adventures of travelers in distant lands. Memoirs of these travels serve to inform – and inspire- its readers. The following list compiles travelogues written in the 20th century by authors as famous as Che Guevara to former 30 Rock producer Steve Hely. They range from serious to hilarious, but they all describe challenging yourself in a foreign location. Even if that location is our own Appalachian Trail! These books just may help you decide where to set your own gap year memoir…
“Best American Travel Writing” Jason Wilson: This annual anthology compiles the best travel articles of the previous year for easy, bite-size travel entertainment. Articles come from a variety of publications such as Outside Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and GQ as well as online magazines such as Worldhum and Slate. Guest editors such as Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer and Anthony Bourdain choose the articles to be published in their editions.
“The Ridiculous Race” by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran: Hilarious account of two TV comedy writers who challenge each other to a race in opposite directions around the world. The catch? No airplanes. This laugh out loud funny book covered a myriad of countries as the main characters lie, cheat and steal to win the coveted spoils: a bottle of scotch and eternal bragging rights.
“The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen: The Snow Leopard is considered a classic travel text. Set in 1973, Matthiessen and zoologist George Schaller travel deep into the Himalayan Mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard. The account blends the natural world of Tibet with the spiritual world of the Buddhists who live there, and explores the connection between the two.
“Blue Latitudes” by Tony Horwitz: A great choice for those drawn to the high seas, Horowitz retraces Captain James Cook’s original journey through Oceania. It’s both a modern account of the Pacific and an entertaining biography of the fascinating James Cook.
“The Motorcycle Diaries” by Che Guevara: Many people have seen the movie, but Che’s moving account of his travels by motorbike in South America is a must-read. Before he was a revolutionary, Che was simply a medical student on a gap year!
“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson: Required reading for any outdoor enthusiast or gapper that aims to conquer the Appalachian Trail on their year out. Bryson uses his trademark wit to describe his escapades with his buddy Stephen as they wind their way north from Georgia to Maine.
Books Specific to Gap Year:
“Gap to Great” by Andrea Wien: This newly published book is dubbed “A Parent’s Guide to the Gap Year,” and includes interviews with consultants, program directors and returned gappers. It also profiles programs and locations of interest to young travelers.
“The World Awaits: How to Travel Far and Well” by Paul Otteson: This book is perfect for the dreamer who needs practical advice on how to travel independently. Otteson gives loads of helpful information on mentally and logistically preparing yourself for adventure.
“Gap Year, American Style: Journeys Toward Learning, Serving, and Self-Discovery” by Karl Haiger and Rae Nelson: Haiger and Nelson survey hundreds of gap year students to explore the questions many people ask when considering a gap year. Parents and students will find this an interesting and illuminating read.
One More for Inspiration:
“Journeys of a Lifetime” by National Geographic: My husband and I dog eared and highlighted this coffee table book while planning our trip around the world. Six years later I still return to it whenever I want to plan a trip or daydream about how much is left to explore.