While I may dream of waking up to an undisturbed view of the sun rising over a white sand beach, the fact is not everyday is an adventure when balancing wanderlust with a 9-5 career. While The Pin the Map Project centers around how one makes the transition from cubicle to the open road, there are days when I’m not able to satisfy my travel bug with the wave of a passport and the purchase of a plane ticket. When the monotony of the corporate world, the rush of New York City and lack of immediate travel plans have me scanning airline sites like a religion, I turn towards the following feel-good books and inspiring travel movies that take me on an adventure, fuel my wanderlust & leave me breathless with excitement for my next trip.
The Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
A windowless office, muted grey desk and uneventful 9-5 job in New York City–that’s Mitty’s reality until a turn of events has him chasing a photographer across the world through Iceland. Mitty is a quiet, simple man with unfulfilled dreams, having been dealt a difficult hand by life–he finds that time has caught up with him too quickly.
Ironically, Mitty works at LIFE magazine developing iconic images of others embracing adventure. After a photograph of monumental importance is lost, Mitty is abruptly pushed outside his comfort zone as he ventures into the unknown, alone in search of the missing image. The Life of Walter Mitty is a simple movie based on a short story that is a testament to how seeing the world can transform a life. Once quiet and lost in his day-dreams, Mitty stops day dreaming and starts living by fulfilling his dreams and seeing the world.
The Way (2012)
I just watched this film and the pile of tissues surrounding me say more about how emotional and beautiful this movie is than my words ever can. The story follows a father who is an eye doctor from California living a rather stodgy, comfortable life. In contrast, his son, Daniel, is a 40-something year old dreamer determined to travel the world and experience life. With his father, Tom, not entirely onboard with his son’s plan the two remain a bit estranged as Daniel globe trots around the world. One fateful afternoon, Tom receives a phone call all parents fear as he learns that his only son has died during an attempted trek on El Camino de Santiago. The route of El Camino de Santiago stretches from France through Spain and is a spiritual path that leads to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Devastated by the loss of his son, Tom flies to France and decides to hike El Camino with the ashes of Daniel–determined to finish the trek his son died trying to walk. During Tom’s pilgrimage he meets a sassy Canadian, goofy Dutchman and stubborn Irishman that quickly become his family. Raw, emotional and inspiring–The Way is a testament to the transformative power of travel and the friends we meet along the way.
The Lost Girls
It’s the type of book you wish would never end. From the moment you begin reading The Lost Girls, it feels like you’ve hoisted your backpack up on your shoulders and fallen into step with Jen, Amanda and Holly as they simultaneously navigate their late twenties and the world around them.
Making their way from New York to Australia, The Lost Girls gives each girl’s perspective as they meet backpackers, volunteer in Kenya, find peace in India and battle irate taxi drivers in South East Asia. As I read The Lost Girls I walked away with life lessons, great trip ideas and destinations to store away as I plan for my own long-term tour in 2016.
The Wander Year
While most of the books I’ve read as of late focus on either solo travel or group getaways, The Wander Year follows couple Mike & Andrea as they put their San Diego life on hold in lieu of traveling the world. With stops along the way like Vietnam, Scotland and more–the couple candidly shares stories of travel mishaps, people met along the way and the intricacies of navigating a relationship while on the road.
Life is a Trip
A short read (128 pages long), Life is a Trip is about Judith Fein and her goal to show how cultural and experiential travel changes your life. Submerging herself in traditions, religions, ceremonies and customs along the way–Fein shines light on the beauty of the human race.
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Scoff if you must, roll your eyes if you will but Eat Pray Love is a fantastic read that looks at travel as a means of self-discovery. Based on the life story of Elizabeth Gilbert and her year-long adventure across Italy, India and Indonesia, Eat Pray Love focuses on solo travel and the lessons picked up along the way.
Rising from the ashes of a devastating divorce and failed relationship, Elizabeth decides that rather than seek refuge in yet another man she give herself a chance to heal and rediscover happiness on her own. As Liz makes her way from Italy to Indonesia, she confronts difficult truths about herself, learns lessons in love and loss and ultimately finds the strength to move forward and begin again. Determined to rediscover passion in Italy, find spirituality in India and balance the two in Indonesia, Gilbert’s memoir is set against the backdrop of beautiful countries that she brings to live with vivid detail. Eat Pray Love is both a film and novel but I recommend the book since the movie fails to capture the emotional depth and thought process that Gilbert shows in her words.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Cobblestone streets, the glistening Seine and romantic architecture–what is there not to love about Paris? Midnight in Paris is a homage to this city that has me wishing I could live a day in Paris of the 1920s and swap story ideas with the likes of Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.
A Cook’s Tour
I’ll admit it–I have a bit of a crush on the silver fox, cheeky wit and pointed attitude of Anthony Bourdain. Before his debut on The Taste, Parts Unknown and even No Reservations, Bourdain was just a chef and writer who decided to combine his two talents and hit the road. With nothing more than a desire to eat and travel, Bourdain pitched the idea-turned-novel of searching the world for the allusive “perfect meal.” While not every dish he ate was envy-worth (the iguana he had in Mexico sounded revolting) the read is hilarious, witty and honest to the point you feel as though Anthony is sitting across a table from you recounting his travels. In the end, Bourdain does find his “perfect meal,” which proves to be surprising and thought provoking..but no spoilers here!
Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Perhaps it’s a reflection of my age but I am drawn to films and movies that combine a desire to travel with the utter confusion and overwhelming prospect of being a twenty-something. The film, Vicky Christina Barcelona, follows the story of two American girls who decide to spend their summer in Barcelona. While one girl is a dreamer chasing some unknown mirage of the perfect love, the other is a realist who has over-planned each minute of her existence. Barcelona exposes the girls to new concepts, ideas and self-revelations that take them far from where they started. Woody Allen’s film is true to form in the sense that there is no over-the-top, fairy tale ending but rather a mirror for how travel affects each of us and what we choose to do with those lessons learned.
The Beach (2000)
Filmed on location at Thailand’s Maya Bay, The Beach follows the story of Richard–a young twenty-something in search of paradise and adventure. Having come to South East Asia, Richard quickly learns of a legendary beach that is said to be so perfect and surreal most people never find it. Determined to find paradise, Richard enlists two friends from his hostel to go find this mythical location. As most stories go, finding paradise comes fairly easy but adapting to an idyllic life proves harder than imagined.
The movie is beautiful and seems to address many themes that surround travel, such as the search for paradise, whether we can ever really disconnect from home and the affect tourists have on locations. At times dark, the film is an interesting movie that is sure to inspire wanderlust with its images of Thailand.
*I do not own the right to the photos in this post.