By Candice Gaukel Andrews
When I was growing up, my family never "went away on vacation" like my friends' families did. I place the blame for that fact squarely on the shoulders of World War II. As a young man, my dad was sent -- compliments of the U.S. Army -- to France in the bottom of a transport ship to take part in the D-Day Invasion. It was the first time he'd ever been abroad. From then on, traveling just didn't have a positive association for him.
That's probably why, from the start, I was drawn to reading books set in wild, far-off places I assumed I'd never see; tales from authors who made location as powerful as any protagonist in their stories -- such as Jack London in his Klondike adventures, John Steinbeck in his California novels, and Robert Louis Stevenson in his South Seas fiction.
Since I've become an adult, however, my work as a nature-travel writer has taken me all over the world: from the sub-Arctic down to the Galapagos at the Equator and Patagonia and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere. I accredit my grown-up "urge for going, " as songwriter-singer Joni Mitchell calls it, to the many travel books I've read over the years.
Below, you'll find my 10 choices for the most inspiring travel tomes I've ever read. Through the years, they've taken me on introspective, imaginative, wild, reflective, and humorous journeys and road trips -- while never having to go "away on vacation."
1. Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau (Ticknor and Fields, 1854). This book was required reading in my eighth-grade English class as an introduction to the American Romantic Period in literature. Thoreau's goal was to immerse himself in nature in order to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection and to write a book about it. Simple living and self-sufficiency were his modus operandi. Although today he is often quoted on wall calendars and T-shirts as the model of rugged individualism -- "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away" -- what surprises most people is that he had his great, off-the-grid travel adventure not in the wilderness, but in a cabin at the edge of town, about two miles away from his family home. He showed me that adventures need not be far and big in order to be incredibly meaningful.
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