Literature and Travel – A Launchpad Either Way


Writers, more or less we are readers too. We read so much and in the end we write of fantastical stories influenced by the books we read.

But there is always this gaping hole. A little voice in our heads that tell us that this is not enough. We dream of how we can visit places described in our books, be the protagonist and set off on an adventure to see the terrain with our own eyes.

Travel and Literature 1

Iyer’s description of the desert in Iran in his essay is so clear that even a non-traveller like me could imagine the shifting sands and the dry winds brushing past my face. His description paints a beautiful image in my mind. It made me feel like, “Yes! I want to feel the excitement when I see the blaze of blue across the horizon”, and knowing that an adventure awaits me. The irony is that Iran is a place that Iyer has never visited prior to writing his novel, Abandon set there. What he did do was to bury himself in Sufi poems, novels and guidebooks of Iran, immersed in films and sieved out nuggets from those who’ve been. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, an author’s words is all the plane tickets that you may need.

William Dalrymple is another author that manages to evoke a similar response through his writing about India. In this excerpt he describes an ancient dance of the Gods, performed in the forest clearing of a village.

Travel and Literature 2

It gives you a more intimate glimpse, the type of thing that you can only see if you were actually there. This made me feel like packing my bags so that I could get a glimpse into the hidden world of India, beyond the negative stereotypes and the exoticism which it is normally associated with.


The thrilling climb to Everest Base Camp, the arts haven of Armenia, the wildlife of Africa and many more. Sometimes, these are adventures that we read about, but also get to live.We get to feel the Himalayan winds tingle our skin, we breathe in the spices in Istanbul’s spice markets and stand in awe of St Petersburg in Russia. We meet people who speak and dance to different tunes. We may lose a few pounds or our wallets along the way. We laugh, we cry, we scream, we scold and we love.

Most of the time, these sensorial experiences are more than we can contain. There are cities that romance us and induce us to make an inward promise to return at the next opportunity. We want to share the beauty and enchantment of these countries to our families and friends. But how?

Literature and Travel

I’m more of a writer and reader since my current bank account value does not allow me to travel (but I will get there someday). What inspired my wanderlust were books.

While looking for a new book to read, I chanced upon  . It was about travel writers and their favourite books. This intrigued me. I mean… travel … and writers? How could you even write when you are in a new country? I would be too busy snapping away at the perfect scenery and exhausting myself before I crashed onto my hotel bed at night.

But I thought about it, being a keen observer of everything that moves or remains still would help me to describe them to others. I would pay attention to how it feels to walk down the cobblestone streets in Mexico’s old towns, memorise how the sun or rain made me feel that day and the people that crossed my path whom I may never get to speak to.

Writing would help me describe the places that I have been to or even the ones that I may never get to see. The books that I have read described places that ignited my desire to visit them. Similarly, I would want to share my experience in the other country with others and inspire them to travel too.

Why does travel and books go so well hand in hand?

As writers, we are constantly creating new places, real or imaged, and we need to be constantly inspired to create these settings for our books. So we travel, to be inspired by a new environment, or to speak in a different tongue and see with new foreign lenses.

As travellers, it might be a way to share the experience with others. But a deeper reason would be that somewhere in our hearts, we were touched by the place. We feel so much for the place. We want to tell the world that “Hey! I have been to _____ and it’s FANTASTICALLY AMAZING!”

In the end, one thing will lead to another and writers travel and travellers write. I hope you end up doing both. Regardless of your starting point, it’s a launch-pad either way.

There is an immense sea of books to see the world, so if you don’t know where to start, click   to read 5 Latin American books we’d recommend!

Have you ever read a book that made you want to travel? Or has any of your travels inspired a blog post, an essay or maybe even a poem? Share it with us! Email us at if you do, we are dying to hear it.