Best Travel Writing – Top 10 Travel Novels

It’s hard to find great travel writing, but it’s out there. Part of the reason for this is that so much travel writing is also considered nature writing or narrative non-fiction. Part of the reason is that the field is so competitive because of a lot of good authors competing for a relatively small market space. But there is a wide array of great travel fiction out there, and here is my list of the best ten travel novels I’ve read over the past couple years.

10) Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller. This is one I actually found in the “Christian Non-Fiction” section, which can be unfair. There’s no question Miller is a Christian, but he’s a writer first and foremost, he’s not preachy, and his questioning of his own faith, of reasons for existence, of who and what he is or is becoming is reminiscent of the fantastic soul searching that came from the travel writing of the Beat generation. Miller’s account of his trip is great, going through the moments of beauty, the necessity of good road trip music, and admitting his moments of embarrassment and fear as freely as any other part of his journey.

9) Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald. The early reading of this book can be hard, because after the first few chapters there’s a lot of the Western perspective, the whining of living conditions and poverty, the type of scorn you don’t care to read from travel writing. I’m glad I read the rest, because like “Through Painted Deserts,” “Holy Cow” is about the author’s journey. Sarah evolves and changes chapter to chapter in front of you as she sheds the scornful nature of an atheist “too smart” to fall for superstition, and she opens up, traveling through India and sampling all the different religious beliefs and practices as she becomes a humble Theist who learns happiness, learns to grow, and learns that alien cultures can have a lot to offer the open traveler.

8) Into the Wild by John Krakauer. I first caught sight of this book at a Barnes and Noble on one of the feature tables. I was on winter break from Alaska and visiting family in Iowa. I picked up the book, sat down, and read the entire work in one sitting. Travel book, journalistic book, nature book, adventure book-whatever you call it, this is one heck of a read, and the debate this book causes is deep and passionate. As a wanderlust traveler, I understand the drive the main character feels, as an Alaskan, I understand the native perspective of irritation, of the lack of understanding that nature is brutal and especially Alaska needs to be respected as such.

7) Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, by Paul Theroux. Paul Theroux is at his best in “Dark Star Safar,” where his skills of observation and his dry wit are on full display. Paul takes readers the length of Africa via overcrowded rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train in a journey that is hard to forget. There are moments of beauty, but there are also many moments of misery and danger. This is a narration of Africa that goes beyond the skin deep to dare to look at the deeper core of what is often referred to as “The Dark Continent.”

6) Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least Heat-Moon. This is an auto-biographical travel journey taken by Heat-Mean in 1978. After separating from his wife and losing his job, Heat-Moon decided to take an extended road trip around the United States, sticking to “Blue Highways,” a term to refer to small out of the way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue in the old Rand McNally atlases). So Heat-Moon outfits his van, named “Ghost Dancing” and takes off on a 3-month soul-searching tour of the United States. The book chronicles the 13,000 mile journey and the people he meets along the way, as he steers clear of cities and interstates, avoiding fast food and exploring local American culture on a journey that is just as amazing today as when he first took the journey.

5) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. There are tons of fantastic Bill Bryson books out there, and any one of them could hold this spot here. “The Lost Continent” is Bryson’s trip across America, visiting some common places (the grand canyon), but also exploring the back roads and looking for that familiarity that helps him remember home.

4) Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventures and Romance by Pico Iyer. Probably one of the best travel writing collections released in recent memory, this collection is under the name Pico Iyer, who helped to edit this collection. These stories come from the “Wanderlust” section of Salon.com and create a varied tapestry of travel writing that will keep the reader flipping from one writer to another.

3) A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. This is one of the all time modern classics in travel literature, as Peter Jenkins recalls the story of his 1973-1975 walk from New York to New Orleans. For many readers, this remains a rare travel book that grips you and keeps you. Known as a travel writer who will walk anywhere, including Alaska and China, Peter Jenkins says, “I started out searching for myself and my country and found both.” That sums up what travel writing should be all about.

2) Travels w/ Charlie by John Steinbeck. This was a novel that helped John Steinbeck win a Nobel Prize in Literature. “Travels with Charlie” is a fantastic travel narrative that gets to the heart of travel, the point of the trip, and the strange confrontation and realization that the places and people you remember are gone once you are. As he revisits the places of his youth that many of his books are based on, he realizes on seeing old friends that they’re as uncomfortable with him being back as he is with being there. A great story about travel, about home, about mourning lost history, about aging, and about America-this should be required reading for every high school student.

1) The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. The beat generation was full of great travel narratives, and Jack Kerouac was the master of powerful, moving, passionate language that unfolded stories like few people have ever managed. While “On the Road” is the most often pointed to travel narrative by Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums” is a better book. Full of passion, interesting characters and stories, and the kind of passionate language and powerful prose that made the beat generation writers popular, this Kerouac book is extraordinary and deserving of its number one spot.

West Bengal Travel Guide

Bengal has rich cultural heritage and a glorious past dates back to 3rd century BC. The region has been ruled by Mauryas, Guptas, Palas, the Muslims and finally the British. Bengal is the birth place of many great personalities, philosophers, scientists, patriots, and home to five Nobel laureates – Ronald Ross, Sir C.V. Raman, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen. During British imperialism, this region was divided into two provinces of West Bengal and East Bengal followed the policy of “divide and rule” to curb the rising of national movement in India. Present Bangladesh is the region of East Bengal and West Bengal is one of the 28th states of Indian Union.

GEOGRAPHY

West Bengal is bordered by Nepal and Bangladesh and the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya in different directions. From north to south, it stretches from Himalayan Mountain to the Gangetic plain and the Bay of Bengal. The land is mostly plain except the northern region, which comes under the Himalayan mountain range. On the basis of landforms, the state can be divided into the following regions: Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, Terai region, North Bengal plains, Rarh region, Coastal plain, Sunderbans, Western plateau and high lands and Ganges delta.

CULTURE

The rebirth of Indian culture has taken place in this region of West Bengal which added a new chapter in the evolution of Indian history as Bengal Renaissance. This region is the land of Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Jagdish Chandra Basu, Dr. C. V. Raman, Satyendra Nath Basu, U. N. Bhramcharya, Meghnath Saha, G. D. Birla, Girendra Sekhar Basu, P. C. Mahalanabish, Sishir Kumar Mitra, Debendra Mohan Basu, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Saorjini Naidu, Amartya Sen, Saurav Ganguly and many more. The culture of Bengal is deep rooted in its soil and is distinguished by festivals, music, cinema, drama and literature. Festivals in a multidimensional scale are observed in spiritual ecstasy in the state especially during Durga Puja.

CUISINE

Bengalis are fond of Bhaat (rice) and Machher jhol (fish curry). There is a wide range of dishes and cuisines with variety of tastes. Most of the typical Bengali sweets have their origin in traditional household kitchens. The most famous of all Bengali sweet is the rasogolla (a kind of sweet) which is best eaten chilled.

PLACES OF INTEREST

There are three distinct types of landscape in West Bengal. First is the Red Soil famous for its rich color to the terracotta temple of Bishnupur, second is the Ganges Delta in lower Bengal where the Bengal tigers meander and the third is the charming Rajera Hill Stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong lies in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern part of West Bengal. Some of the famous India Tours and tourist destinations of West Bengal are Kolkata the capital of the state offers Birla Planetarium, Fort William, Botanical Garden, Zoological Garden, Eden Gardens, Nehru Children’s Museum, Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, Nakhoda Mosque, St. Paul’s Cathedral Church and Kali Mandir of Kalighat. Some other excursions are Digha, Diamond Harbor, Haldia, Barrackpore, Chandernagore, Bandel, Sunderban Wildlife Sanctuary etc. Darjeeling one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world with breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas. Siliguri the gateway of Eastern India as it is the main transit point for going to Darjeeling hill region, Sikkim, Bhutan, Eastern Nepal and Assam. Kurseong a quiet township between Siliguri and Darjeeling noted for its secluded charm and Eagle’s Crag. Kalimpong secluded and tucked away in the corner under big Darjeeling umbrella, offers a quiet and relaxed holiday, against the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga. Mirik a nest in the hills, a long lake, a floating fountain and the glory of Kanchenjungha reflected in the lake waters. Dooars Valley forms a gateway to the hill stations of North Bengal and Bhutan and famous for unending stretch of virgin forests. Lava commands panoramic view of Jelep La and Rechi La passes, also the gateway to the Neora National Park. Lolay Gaon gives panoramic view of Kanchenjunga. The East Himalayas land of infinite charm with scenic views of Kanchenjunga, bewildering greenery, tea gardens, adventure spots, trekking and lots more.

BEACHES

The coastal trip of West Bengal extending from the Gangetic delta land to the border of Orissa offers breathtaking and eye-catching beaches of Digha, Shankarpur, Junput, Bakkhali, Frazergunj and Sagardwip.

WILDLIFE OF BENGAL

West Bengal’s wild life offers a fascinating diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. It is a delight for nature lovers. It is the home to the World Heritage Site – Sunderbans. Other major wildlife sanctuaries and parks are as under:

1. Neora Valley National Park

The Neora Valley National Park is located in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal bordered on the east by Western Bhutan. The forest of Neora Valley is one of the least tracts of virgin wilderness in the country harbors a wealth of flora and fauna.

2. Buxa National Park

The Buxa Tiger Reserve is located in the north eastern corner of West Bengal bordering Bhutan and Assam. It comprises of deciduous forests which are densely wooded and grasslands and is home to some of West Bengal’s most varied flora and fauna.

3. Sunderban National Park

It is located in 24 Paraganas district, has been designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 and is a part of the Project Tiger.

4. Singalila National Park

This National Park is famous for Rhododendron, Magnolia, Oak, Hemlock, Silver Fir, Juniper, Mailing Bamboo, Buk, Kawla, Bhujpatra etc. Fauna are leopard, serow, pangolin, elephant, chinkara takin, red panda, barking deer etc.

5. Gorumara National Park

Gorumara National Park is located in the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal famous for its natural population of the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros.

6. Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary

The sanctuary located in the Mountains of Bhutan and the confluence of river Torsa and Malangi is the home of several wild lives like one horned Indian Rhinos, Swamp Deer, wild boar, leopard and tigers.

WEST BENGAL FESTIVALS

The common and popular Bengali saying ‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’ which means thirteen festivals in twelve months that signifies the umpteen number of fairs and festivals that take place. Some of the famous festivals of West Bengal are Gangasagar Mela in South 24 Pargana, Kenduli Mela in Birbhum district, Jalpesh Mela in Jalpaiguri district, Vasanta Utsav in Birbhum district, Naba Barsho throughout West Bengal, Rathayatra in Hooghly district, Jhapan in Bankura district, Bera Utsav in Murshidabad district, Durga Puja and Deepavali throughout West Bengal, Rash Mela in Cooch Behar district, Jagaddhatri Puja in Hooghly district, Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival held in a series at Darjeeling, the Dooars and in Sikkim, Poush Mela in Birbhum district, Vishnupur Festival in Bankura district, Eid throughout West Bengal, Dol Purnima and Noboborsho.

CLIMATE

West Bengal has a tropical climate. The plains are hot except during the short winter season while the mountainous region in the north is cold. Generally there are six seasons – springs, summer, the rainy, autumn, mild winter and severe winter.

How About An Environmental Travel Kenya Safari

Ever heard of the famous Professor Wangari Maathai? She is a Nobel Peace Price Laurreate, the Member of Parliament for Tetu Constitituency, the founder and leader of the Green Belt Movement. With so many attributes to her name, she is the so down to earth Lady that you may not pick up from the large crowds she pulls campaining for the conservation of the environment both Globally and in Kenya, where she was born and Brought up.

Like in many many other countries in the world, Kenya has had its share of deforestation through illegal logging, land degradation by use rudimentally farming practices and burning of fossil fuels leading to the Global warming threat, where the world is expected to warm up by over 2 degrees centgrade over the next 100 years. It expected that increased temperature changes could lead to drastic and erratic weather changes with some parts of the world becoming either too hot or too cold. This is going to affect food production to an ever growing population especially in the less deveoped african countries making human survival harder than in any other period in the history of mankind.

Professor Wangari Maathai has has taken the leading role in organising communities and Non-Governmental organizations into condemming land grabbing, degazettement of forest land and illegal logging, throgh her Green Belt movement. Many youth groups and women organizations have taken the cue from her and started indigenous tree nurseries all over kenya. These initiatives are going to change the face of Kenya, making your dreams of that covetted Safari even more interesting, imagine all the bare countryside coming to life with lush green indegenous trees that save our soils from the from raging rain waters running into the rivers that feed our National animal conservatories.

As a tourist in Kenya, you could get involved. Lets call it an environmental Safari. You could help plant a tree or two. Let us exchange views. What is your country doing to conserve the environment? What lessons can Kenyans learn from from your countrys’ conservation efforts? Do you have an alternative to fuel wood that 90% of kenyans use? What will Kenya do with the menace of plastic waste management? The list is endless, but the options are there with you and the whole lot of us will appreciate.

Kenyans are a very hospitable people. They wil not mind to host you as a tourist as you travel to other covetted tourist destinations scattered all over the country. Talk of budget travel and you have it, it cannot come cheaper. There are many diverse tribes in Kenya and you are sure to be treated to the many traditional cuisine that are prepared in the countryside. You will also be treated to the many cultural events, unique to each cultural group.