There’s nothing quite like a good book to transport you somewhere else, and great travel writing can take us places we perhaps don’t have the money or means to travel to.
We’ve put together this list of six writers who will be sure to coax out your adventurous side and feed your wanderlust. We’ve tried to include some writers you might not know much about – but definitely should!
If you’re a bit of a travel writer/blogger yourself be sure to share with us – we love to read about what our students are up to! Or tell us who your favourite travel writer is, we’re always on the lookout for tips!
In over a dozen books, Stark charted journeys that were seldom undertaken by Westerners, let alone Western women. She spent around 40 years travelling by herself in the Middle East and Afghanistan, publishing her first book, Baghdad Sketches, in 1932. An intrepid, maverick, and pioneering explorer, Stark’s body of work remains highly readable and inspirational to this day.
Jane F Geniesse, the author of Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark, described her as “… a remarkable painter of landscape through words. She caught the flavour of places and people with delicacy and charm, as the talented observer and wordsmith that she was. She will be remembered as one of those extraordinary British women who ventured out to see a remote part of the world with fresh eyes and a joyful nature, and her books will stand forever as a testament to a determined and courageous traveller.”
Iyer is the author of more than a dozen books, ranging in focus from the Dalai Lama, globalism, Revolutionary Cuba, Islamic mysticism, and more.
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere is perhaps an unexpected title from a famed travel writer, but in an interview with The Guardian, he explained: “Movement only makes sense when placed in a context by stillness, and stillness only has life within the context of what you’ve seen while moving around the world. A traveller like me probably needs stillness more than anyone, just to stay sane!”
His popular TED talk ‘Where is home?‘ considers ideas of home, travelling, and stillness.
Swiss writer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, lived a short but eventful – and turbulent – life. Schwarzenbach was a gifted writer, restless, androgynous, a lesbian, a drug addict, and an active member of the antifascist resistance – unsurprisingly, this put her at odds with her wealthy, conservative family.
In the space of 10 years she produced more than 300 articles and 5,000 photographs from her journeys across Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Africa. Amongst the few of her works so far translated from German into English is All the Roads are Open: The Afghan Journey. In 1939, Schwarzenbach and Ella Maillart left Geneva in a Ford and became the first women to travel Afghanistan’s Northern Road. As well as escaping a troubled Europe in search of a place untouched by “Western neuroses”, one of Maillart’s motivations for the trip was to help Schwarzenbach shake her morphine addiction and recover from previous bouts of depression.
Jan Morris is one of the most celebrated writers about place (as she’d prefer to be known – she isn’t fond of the term “travel writer”) in Britain today. Venice is considered by many to be one of greatest travel books ever written, beautifully capturing the atmosphere of the city through a mix of history, anecdotes, and personal observations. Written more than 50 years ago after Morris spent two months in the city with the British Army, Venice remains a compelling read and certainly an essential one for anyone with an interest in travel writing!
Morris has written more than 40 books including: The Pax Britannica Trilogy, an impressive history of the rise and decline of the British Empire; Hav, a Booker-shortlisted novel, which brings together the genres of travel writing and science fiction; four titles alone about Venice; and many collections of essays.
In 1972 Bruce Chatwin was interviewing the architect and designer Eileen Gray when he saw a map of Patagonia she had painted. “I’ve always wanted to go there,” Chatwin told her. “So have I,” she replied, “go there for me.” And so, by 1977 he had published In Patagonia and his career as a travel writer was launched.
Recurring themes in his work cover the topics of restlessness and wandering; borders and exile; and art and objects (he left a successful career at Sotheby’s to pursue a career as a writer). He was a recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, a Man Booker Prize nominee, and has been named by The Times as one of the “50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945”.
Like Annemarie Schwarzenbach, Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss traveller and writer who lived a tragically short life. Eberhardt was the illegitimate daughter of an aristocratic mother and a Russian anarchist, who left Europe for North Africa and joined a mystical Sufi Muslim sect, dressed as a man, survived an assassination attempt, and died in a freak flood in the Algerian desert. She spoke seven languages by the time she was 20 and was fiercely intelligent.
“I will never be content with a sedentary life; I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere,” she wrote in her travelogues, which were posthumously published after her death at the age of 27. She became a member of the Qadiriyya Sufi sect, which was dedicated to helping the poor and strongly opposing French colonial rule, which was no doubt the reason an attempt was made on her life.