Armchair travel: 4 books that will transport you around the world

Books are a fantastic way to escape the confines of quarantine, and hold the ability to take your mind to any country you wish. Here are four of our favourites that will see you experiencing the world without ever breaking lockdown.

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Bridging the realms of factual and fantastical, Shantaram is loosely based on the incredible life story of author Gregory David Roberts. Having pulled off an audacious escape from prison where he was serving 19 years for armed robbery, the book’s main character, Lin, absconds to India as one of Australia’s most wanted men.

It’s here that the story really takes off as he’s absorbed into the murky criminal underworld of Bombay, turning it into a thrilling page turner. But the real beauty of this novel lies in the immersive descriptions of the colours and culture, smells and sounds of India, which will undoubtedly put the country firmly on your bucket list - it has for us.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

As is too often the case, the film version of Eat, Pray, Love didn’t quite hit the mark, despite somehow becoming a box office smash. So as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its film adaptation. Elizabth Gilbert’s enthusiastically Oprah endorsed memoir is a tale of love, loss and personal discovery through travel, and thankfully, infinitely better than the film in our opinion.

Having acquired a husband, a house, a great career, and well on the path to motherhood, Gilbert realised she is lacking in the most important thing - happiness. So she does what any of us would and takes off to travel the world. Stops in Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love) allow her to discover a new lease of life and the one thing she’s searching for.

The Beach, by Alex Garland

This cult backpacking novel continues to thrill new audiences despite being published almost two decades ago. The story follows British backpacker Richard as he’s given directions to a mysterious, secluded island, described to him as a perfect utopia. What ensues is a dark and brutal parable of a vision of paradise dissolving into a hellish reality that you won’t be able to put down.

Strangely, life went on to imitate art somewhat when Maya Bay, the Thai beach where Danny Boyle’s movie adaptation of the book was filmed, got closed down indefinitely by the authorities. This came after resulting over tourism led to severe environmental issues, virtually destroying the beach.

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougal

Ok, so a book nominally based around the art of super-long distance running might not be your typical travel-inspiration read. But it was the main reason we ended up in a tiny town in a dicey part of Mexico, freezing our asses off while staying in the spare room of a family which was part of a little known tribe made famous by this story.

It follows author and journalist Christopher McDougal in his quest to discover the secrets behind the incredible feats of running that the native Tarahumara tribe manage to pull off, seemingly for fun. The story includes brushes with cartels, a thorough questioning of modern running science, and one of the greatest races ever held. The result is entertaining and inspirational, and fascinating even if you’re not into ultra running yourself. Which let’s face it, of course you’re not.

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