How many times have you dreamed of traveling to a distant land after reading a travel story? Probably many. We learn, experience, and live vicariously through other people’s stories. Reading a travel memoir can awaken the sense of adventure within. It can signal the beginning of the journey, when we get the urge, the calling to escape the familiar and explore the unknown.
There are so many inspiring and great travel books out there that will make you want to jump on a flight. Here are just three of them. They’re inspiring in their wisdom, intentions, openness, and deep insights into the soul. Reading these books is a reminder that we know all the answers within us if we’d only listen, and that travel can stir up our inner wisdom.
The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred
by Phil Cousineau
“Travel brings a special kind of wisdom if one is open to it”, writes Huston Smith, in the Foreword to Cousineau’s book. Thus begins a book full of wise insights and contemplations on travel and the human soul. Cousineau is a firm believer in mindful travel. To travel mindfully, according to him, is to be aware: to see deeply, listen attentively, and feel “how richly the encounters are felt in your heart and soul.”
The book outlines the seven stages of pilgrimage, from the longing to go away, the call, and the departure, to the pilgrimage and ultimately, the arrival back home that calls for a reflection on the journey. A pilgrimage by Cousineau’s definition is life changing and is “the kind of journeying that marks just this move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel.” It is “an opportunity to reconnect with your soul.”
Yogis will find plenty of inspiration in “The Art of Pilgrimage”. Interspersed throughout Cousineau’s writing are worthy quotes from other writers, travelers, poets and spiritual figures including Buddha (“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path”), Basho (“Make the universe your companion”), and Thich Nhat Hanh (“The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make”.) If you are looking for a deeper, more soulful kind of travel, this is a highly recommended guide to read before and during a journey.
Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
by Lisa Napoli
Lisa Napoli’s open-hearted, touching memoir is not only about the story of Bhutan and her account of being there, but also about her personal growth, fears, and making peace with herself.
Known best as the “happiest place on earth”, where economic progress is measured in gross national happiness instead of GDP, Bhutan is a deeply spiritual Buddhist kingdom, a Shangri-La that is also on the verge of a transformation. To preserve the Land of the Thunder Dragon from getting ruined by mass tourism and the backpacking trail, the Bhutanese government charges each visitor $250 in tourist tax a day.
Napoli has been given the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime: to help start Bhutan’s first radio station. The book illustrates how a journey to a country or an encounter with a person can be the agent of change that helps you find deeper meaning in life. “Occasionally, a shakeup in location, or in the company you keep, can touch you in just the right way, awaken something inside you. At precisely the moment you need it.”
“Radio Shangri-la” is also a book about gratitude, giving, living in the present, and being in the flow. Napoli writes, “This whole Bhutan experience had dropped in my lap; how could you ever force a plan? Life just evolves around you, presents opportunities for you to reject or seize.”
Traveling with Pomegranates
by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
This heart-warming dual memoir by the author of “The Secret Life of Bees” and her daughter follows their travels together through the sacred places of Greece, Turkey, and France, as Sue struggles with turning her vision of bees into a novel and becoming older while daughter Ann is undergoing her own journey of discovering herself and her true path after a grad school rejection and a heartbreak.
“Traveling with Pomegranates” is a lovely intimate portrait of the mother-daughter reconnecting with their relationship, and a meditative, drama-free account of their encounters with feminine symbols and icons. It’s also a book about letting go and finding your purpose in life. Each author’s reflections of their journeys to the sacred places connect readers to the wondrous nature of the sites, ripe with the myths of the divine feminine, distinctly written in their own voices.
Title photo credit: Chris Fischer Photography. All rights reserved.