Big journeys, quirky transport, a punning title and a side order of self-discovery... These travel books rise above stereotypes thanks to their striking sense of place
Tim Moore has form in the zany travelogue department, but Gironimo! sees him back in the cleats that won him fans in Tour-traverse French Revolutions. This time though he’s sat on a mostly home-built wooden bike, all the better to realistically undertake the 1914 Giro d’Italia: the most gruelling bike race in history. Neither Italy, cycling or Moore’s legs look particularly appetising by the time he rolls back into Milan, but you’ll enjoy – and laugh – at the journey more than he does.
The Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car (or ‘a toaster-on-wheels’), is Vanessa Able’s chosen vehicle to tackle the planet’s most terrifying roads: the crowds, chaos and cattle that flow in all directions on India’s highways. As recounted in Never Mind The Bullocks, Able’s 10,000km roadtrip also trundles through the bits often left out of tourist itineraries – with a few romantic divergences – creating a rich snapshot of a colossal country.
Meanwhile, A Short Ride In The Jungle follows Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent’s solo jaunt over the 3,000km Ho Chi Minh Trail. As the mud of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia splatters her tiny pink moped, she doesn’t find herself; rather, she unearths unexploded bombs, remote tribes and pre-Khmer ruins.
Charlie Carroll’s The Friendship Highway portrays a blinker-free look at Tibet. His journey takes in Tibet’s raw beauty but also the intense weight of fear that sits on the populace, with Carroll punctuating his story with that of Lobsang, the local he meets who’s endured the Orwellian boot-stamps.
Following her own quietly gut-wrenching memoir, A Glimpse Of Eternal Snows, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth – Wanderlust’s resident GP for the past 20 years – returns to Nepal in more-fictional form for Snowfed Waters. Sonia is the downcast singleton-turned-charity worker whose richly drawn adventures in the Himalaya force her to rethink her low self-esteem.
Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy Of Walking comes with a considered flick of Gauloises ash. Lauding the link between walking and thinking, it explores how many of the greats philosophers were influenced by a fondness for strolling, and will send you to your boots with a sense of purpose.
While you’re out and about, you can put Natural Navigator Tristan Gooley’s advice into practice. The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs is an idiot-proof handbook that will enliven and enlighten your walks in equal measures.
Citysketch guidebooks offer another way to engage with locations: draw them. The books – London, Paris and New York – walk you through the highlights, with every page setting you specific scribbling challenges (“draw people waiting outside a Jewish deli…”) to complete the picture. Fun, creative, original.
No less imagination-firing is Daniel Start’s Hidden Beaches, which successfully shines a spotlight on the much-overlooked British coast. In short, for UK dwellers, there’s somewhere picturesque and very free somewhere near you.
Costlier is TASCHEN’s huge two-volume 100 Getaways Around The World – both in terms of the book’s price (£35) and the retreats it features. But this luxurious coffee table tablet is ideal for inspiring that special hotel stay – or maybe bludgeoning intruders.
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