During the trip, we’ve been finding lots of information and inspiration from different sources and we love to share. These are different books, movies, and music that are related to the things we have been up to this year. Updated as we go.
Updated December 16, 2013
- Book – The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner
It is probably Jennifer Baggett’s fault that we’re here in the first place. She was giving a talk about their book at a travel show that we visited and by the end of the day, we were coming to terms with a trip of our own. This book is their travel account from a year-long trip around the world. The story is interesting, writing is alright, but the travel style of 3 single girls is different from that of a couple or from that of a single traveler.
- Book – The Wander Year by Mike McIntyre
The author spent a year traveling with his girlfriend and sending regular reports on his travels back to the newspaper he writes for back home. An enjoyable and interesting read.
- Book – Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Oprah loves this book and therefore so does the rest of the world. It is an enjoyable travel log and it presents a good way to go about focused travel; eat pizza in Italy, pray at an ashram in India, and make some sweet love in Bali.
- Book – The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
In between other writing projects, the author chronicles his journey by train from London all the way to Japan and back (okay, it’s not exclusively by train). His trip takes place in the mid 1970’s and gives a great picture of travel on the rails back then.
- Book – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
The author writes of her attempt to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo. Another Oprah Book Club favorite.
- Book – A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson attempts the Appalachian Trail with a friend. Hiliarity ensues.
- Movie – The Way
An excellent movie starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez about a Father’s quest to walk the Way of St. James after the death of his son.
Part I: South America
- Book – Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Strange in a typical Vonnegut fashion, covers a shipwreck on the Galapagos. Gives some good background on the islands while making you hate war.
- Book – The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker
An interesting story of the quest to measure the shape of the earth in the 18th century in Ecuador. It gives a great representation of science and culture during that time period.
- Book – Savages by Joe Kane
- Movie – Apocalypto
This Mel Gibson joint from 2006 depicts the Mayan civilization prior to European explorers. We watched it in Spanish blaring on a bus in Peru and it is close enough to the Inca culture that we were about to explore to get me sufficiently pumped up to see it. It is a fantastically violent film but also completely engaging and fascinating.
- Book – Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
- Movie – The Emperor’s New Groove
This is a great, and often overlooked, Disney flick. It features David Spade and John Goodman as emperor and peasant in prehistoric South America. Pretty funny, good music. Cuscooooooooooo!
Part II: Africa
- Book – The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith
- Music – Kenny Rogers
I think we heard him on about every bus in Africa. They love him!
- Music – Tracy Chapman
Same as Kenny; inexplicably everywhere.
- Music – Bob Marley
Backpackers adore him already, but in the land of the real Ras Tafari (a.k.a. Haile Selassie I; former emperor of Uruguay), Marley is beloved.
- Book – Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
A great book on the life of a great man.
- Movie – Mad Buddies
This South Africa-produced comedy looked like it would be terrible, but it was actually quite entertaining. Two guys who hate each other end up on a reality show together. Flying ostriches.
- Movie – Mr. Bones
Another South African original along the same lines. A witch doctor from colonial times is transported to the present day. Completely ridiculous and also great.
- Book – The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
This is the first-hand account of a boy living in southern Malawi who taught himself to build a windmill power generator to power his house, among other things. He does this while facing starvation (due to a drought) and while trying to go to school despite lacking tuition. His accomplishments eventually got noticed in blogland and he ended up at a TED conference. An inspiring story and a great insider’s view of the part of rural Malawi where we worked. Also documentaried.
- Book – Water and Witchcraft by T. Mullen
The author did a 2-year tour in Peace Corps building gravity-feed water systems all over Malawi. It provided us good insight into the culture there.
- Music – Jim Reeves
Yet another American Country Music singer popular in Africa. He seemed to be contained to Malawi. The missionaries were quite effective here so it could be his gospel and Christmas music that they love. Oddly, also popular in India and Sri Lanka.
- Movie – The Lion King
“It’s just a Disney cartoon,” you may protest, but it actually gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the Serengeti. Also, surprisingly, we picked up a fair number of Swahili words from it; Simba, Rafiki, Asante sana squash banana (Lion, friend, thank you very much squash banana) and the once humorous to us but now reviled, Hakuna Matata.
Part III: Asia
- Music – Om Mani Padme Hum
In Nepal, there are only 3 songs and you can buy a CD with all of them on it. This religious chant is the most prominent and you will often hear it playing in a loop in about 50% of the shops you pass by. Surprisingly, I’m not tired of it yet. And, yes, the track is really 24 minutes long.
- Book – Little Princes by Connor Grennan
In Nepal circa 2006, there was considerable civil unrest and violence as the people attempted to replace their monarchy with a democracy. The bid eventually succeeded but it left behind many orphans and children separated from their families and no easy way to match them back up. The author chronicles his efforts to help these children and how he manages to return some to their parents. It gives a great account of life in Nepal during this period of upheaval and some truly inspiring tales of reunion.
- Book – The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
In the 1970’s, Nepal was still very unknown to much of the western world. The author had the opportunity to join an expedition to study the Himalayan blue sheep. He goes to deepen his study of Buddhism and to heal after losing his wife to cancer. This records his experiences of discovering Nepal and his search for the unusual blue sheep, the elusive snow leopard, and the mythical yeti.
- Book – Buddha by Deepak Chopra
This fictionalized account of the life of the first Buddha, Sidhartha Gautma, really brings the world of prehistoric Nepal/Tibet/India to life. It chronicles his life growing up as a prince, marriage, religious study, and, finally, enlightenment. It is a very engaging and entertaining way to learn the history of Buddha.
- Book – Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
- Book – Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide, a Cicerone guide
This was our guide throughout the Annapurna circuit trek and it did a great job. It read much more like a conversation with a friend about the highlights from his trek than a thorough travel guide; and this was perfect. Rather than having to wade through an exhaustive list of reviews, they mention maybe one place and it is fantastic. It got us where we wanted to go, we only got lost twice, and gave us plenty of tips from an experienced Annapurna trekker.
- Book (also movie) – Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer, Richard Graves and Peter Fleming
Heinrich Harrer was mountaineering in the Himalayas when World War II broke out. As an Austrian in British-controlled India, he was captured as a prisoner of war. He escaped and sought refuge in Tibet, a country that was, at the time, completely closed off to the rest of the world. After great hardship, he eventually settles in Tibet’s capital, waits out the end of the war, becomes friend and teacher to the teenage Dalai Lama, and watches as the Chinese begin their occupation. His account gives us a unique window into Tibet’s culture during a period of great transition before most of it was lost forever.
- Book (also movie) – Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
The author was along on an expedition to summit Mt. Everest when disaster struck. His party was caught in a storm and separated and many did not survive. He expertly reconstructs the events in this classic tale of mountaineering disaster.
- Book – Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws by Laura Pedersen
This is a quick read about a woman’s trip around India. She gives some nice insights and overviews of many of the cities in the country in a light-hearted way.
- Music – Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar is the Zamfir of the sitar. He brought the instrument and its music to worldwide popularity in the 1970’s and is still considered THE sitar master.
- Book (and Movie) – Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
This is a tale of religion, India, and a boy adrift in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger. It is a fantastic read for the story alone, but also gives great commentary on the world’s great religions.
- Book (and Movie) – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Though set in Afganistan, it was highly relevant to us for the insight into the kite culture which is alive and well in India. Had I not read this, I would have been very puzzled at all of the kites I saw falling down into the Ganges.
- Book – Rupee Millionaires by Frank Kusy
The author tells the story of his quest to become a millionaire in rupees (about 20,000 GBP) by importing goods from India in the 80’s and 90’s. It gives a good account of life in several Indian cities and how much things there were and are changing.
Part IV: Oceania
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