Now that the Journey Guide has launched, it’s time to tend to my own journey.
I’ll be laying low this summer on the blog and social media so I can do some dreaming and scheming about what’s next for A Sacred Journey (hint: a Pilgrim Principles online course!) and will be back in full force in September. Since we’ve been focusing so much on the practice of pilgrimage this month, however, I didn’t want to leave you empty-handed when it comes to inspirational travel, especially those of you who are intrigued by the Journey Guide but don’t necessarily have a specific trip on the horizon.
It’s true—life doesn’t always afford us with the ability to set off on meaningful journeys on a whim, but thankfully, books have the power to transform and transport us in the mean time no matter our budget or availability. Here are 10 travel memoirs for your summer reading that are sure to take you on an armchair pilgrimage:
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
“In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.”
A perennial favorite for millions of seekers!
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
“In this wise and engrossing dual memoir, she and her daughter, Ann, chronicle their travels together through Greece and France at a time when each was on a quest to redefine herself and rediscover each other. As Sue struggles to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel, and Ann ponders the classic question of what to do with her life, this modern-day Demeter and Persephone explore an array of inspiring figures and sacred sites. They also give voice to that most protean of human connections: the bond of mothers and daughters.”
I love that this is multiple journeys in one, including Kidd’s journey to becoming a (bestselling) fiction author.
Into the Wild by John Krakauer
“In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.”
Not exactly memoir, but a powerful journey all the same.
The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley MacLaine
“This is the story of a journey. It is the eagerly anticipated and altogether startling culmination of Shirley MacLaine’s extraordinary—and ultimately rewarding—road through life. The riveting odyssey began with a pair of anonymous handwritten letters imploring Shirley to make a difficult pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela Camino in Spain. Throughout history, countless illustrious pilgrims from all over Europe have taken up the trail. It is an ancient—and allegedly enchanted—pilgrimage. People from St. Francis of Assisi and Charlemagne to Ferdinand and Isabella to Dante and Chaucer have taken the journey, which comprises a nearly 500-mile trek across highways, mountains and valleys, cities and towns, and fields. Now it would be Shirley’s turn. ”
While I’ve watched Shirley MacLaine in films and on television, I’ve never read any of her books. Maybe now it’s time?
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
“In 1867, Mark Twain and a group fellow-Americans toured Europe and the Holy Land, aboard a retired Civil War ship known as ‘Quaker City.’ Throughout the journey, Twain kept a written record of his experiences. “The Innocents Abroad” is both a travelogue and a critique of clashing cultures—but more importantly, it is an entertaining and insightful work written by one of the great masters of American prose.”
Two words: Utter delight.
Long Way Round (and Long Way Down) by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
“Beginning in London, Ewan and Charley chased their shadows through Europe, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia; across the Pacific to Alaska; then down through Canada all the way to New York. Long Way Round is the result of their four-month, 20,000-mile joyride. Featuring original diary entries, travel maps, mileage charts, and dozens of photographs, this is a freewheeling, fully charged, and uproariously entertaining book about two world-famous individuals who chose the road not taken…and made the journey worthwhile.”
Yes, that Ewan McGregor! An intriguing TV series as well if you’re in the viewing mood!
At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
“As Tsh Oxenreider chronicles her family’s adventure around the world—seeing, smelling, and tasting the widely varying cultures along the way—she discovers what it truly means to be at home. The wide world is calling. Americans Tsh and Kyle met and married in Kosovo. They lived as expats for most of a decade. They’ve been back in the States—now with three kids under ten—for four years, and while home is nice, they are filled with wanderlust and long to answer the call. Why not? The kids are all old enough to carry their own backpacks but still young enough to be uprooted, so a trip—a nine-months-long trip—is planned.”
A new release from the founder of theartofsimple.net. Would love to do this with my someday family!
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
“At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”
As they said in the Gilmore Girls reboot, “Book or movie”? I admit I’ve only seen the film, so it’s time for me to read the book so I can answer the question once and for all.
Rick Steves’ Postcards from Europe: Travel Tales from America’s Favorite Guidebook Writer by Rick Steves
“In Postcards from Europe, Rick Steves takes you on a private tour through the heart of Europe — introducing you to his local friends and sharing his favorite travel moments — from the Netherlands through Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, with a grand Parisian finale. Whether you’re dreaming in an armchair, have packed, or are unpacking, Postcards from Europe will inspire a love of travel, of Europe, and of Europeans.”
Reflections from America’s (and my) go-to European guide.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
“Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.”
Again, not a memoir, but a novel influenced by an epic adventure and a classic that has no doubt inspired many journeys.
Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God by Lori Erickson
“From her childhood on an Iowa farm, Lori Erickson grew up to travel the world as a writer specializing in holy sites journeys that led her on an ever-deepening spiritual quest. In Holy Rover, she weaves her personal narrative with descriptions of a dozen pilgrimages. Her trips give Erickson the chance to reflect on her Lutheran upbringing, her flirtation with Wicca, and her admiration for Tibetan Buddhism. A trip to the healing shrine of Lourdes is intertwined with the story of her son’s serious illness as a baby, while visiting Thoreau’s Walden Pond blends with ruminations on being a writer.”
This title doesn’t release until September, but do yourself a favor and pre-order it. Then as summer begins to wane and it seems as if the season for adventures has ceased, you’ll have a special surprise arrive on your doorstep.
Happy reading! Enjoy your adventuring in whatever form it might be. “See” you in September!