Reading books about self-discovery and travel can be the best way to spend your difficult days. The deep-digging, purpose-searching stories of others, who went on a journey, travelling the roads while spiritually discovering their inner selves, can show us just how beautiful and beneficial such an experience can be.
This post was first published on my previous blog When Woman Travels, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NOTE: I don't use affiliate marketing and this is why you won't find links to the books in this post. Instead, I invite you to try to borrow them first - from a friend or a library. And if you need or want to buy them, please check with your local bookstore before ordering online from big corporate sellers like Amazon. We all love going to bookshops and small local business is the spine of every community.
In our busy days, running between family tasks, social obligations and personal needs, we rarely have time to pause and think about our lives in a deeper way. We don’t analyse our feelings, therefore we don’t get to know ourselves better. As a result, we live our lives on autopilot. Time is short and to keep afloat with paying bills and family needs, we don’t have really a choice. This COVID-19 crisis, however, gave us a chance to do just that. We can’t push forward anymore without sitting and waiting; being present and mindful. It is time to travel inwards. It’s time to ask ourselves the most important question:
Am I the person I want to be?
Most often, we picture ourselves as we wish to be, not what we are in reality. The COVID times were good for, while self-isolating at home, to reflect on our lives and our relationships. To get to know ourselves better because, soon enough, the hamster wheel is back and we might regret that we didn’t use the time to learn and grow as a person.
Grab a book and start exploring. Discover yourselves by reading the stories of other people’s self-discovery and travels, and ask yourself the question – Who am I?
Dreams of My Father
Barack Obama’s first autobiography
Barack Obama wrote his first autobiography when he was still a law school student. The book came out as a result of his election as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review when he gained popularity and received an advance to write it.
Although written early in his life and lacking the style of the great classic writers, reading this book you can track easily where the grace, thoughtfulness, and compassion of future America’s president come from. Although a book about his father and Obama’s own personal pilgrimage to find his identity as a child of mixed race and cultures, I’m happy to say that his mother’s strong values and personality shine through the pages as the beacon of Barry’s future success and worldwide contribution.
A true story of travel within one’s innermost world, this book will also open the secret doors to the national philosophy and struggle for survival of the people in the countries where Obama’s life and search for identity will bring you.
Tracks – One Woman’s Journey Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
Sometimes, life pulls us in directions we can’t envisage but feel destined for. “I experienced that sinking feeling you get when know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.”
Difficult is a gentle word here. Robyn Davidson set out on a solo journey that had never been done before. Not by a white woman. Crossing the desert of Central Australia on foot and only accompanied by her camels and dog, it is a path walked mostly only by the Aboriginal people. It does not become clear if she found what she was looking for in taking on this challenging hike. Nevertheless, this is the most clearly defined book about self-discovery of all on the list. Reading it, it is a pleasure of unearthing the world hidden in the silent flats of the Red Centre, the remote life of the traditional Aboriginals as well as following one woman’s journey to question and challenge herself in a way that will help her to move on from whatever was pulling her back. To me, it seems this is a trip to freeing the spirit.
The Snakebite Survivors’ Club: Travels among Serpents
The Snakebite Survivors’ Club is probably the most bizarre of all travel books you can read. Yet, it is interesting and informative. In the year before my first trip to Australia, I was in London and found the book in one of the charity bookstores. As snakes and spiders were one of my concerns for my future solo trip to the Outback, I wanted to know more about them.
This book definitely gave me enough knowledge to feel … uncertain about what to expect. Snaking around the mix and match of the author’s stories of visiting the continents with the deadliest serpents, it is a fascinating read of a different type of discovery. One that, in addition to learning about a world you did not know existed, you discover your own limitations too.
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World
Rita Golden Gelman
Sometimes, life gives you lemons, and … you create a new life for yourself. Rita Golden Gelman was not a young woman when she was forced to take a different direction. After a sudden and unexpected divorce, she remembered what she always felt a pull to, before her middle-class comfortable life made her numb.
Suddenly finding herself alone, she took on an adventure. Since then, she has visited many countries and had written more than fifty children’s books).
In her book Tales of a Female Nomad, she writes about how her nomadic life had started, the challenges and risks she had taken at first, and how this unexpected adventure turned into a new lifestyle. A lifestyle that gave her the freedom to open her mind, connect with people all over the world, help when and where possible, most often through cooking in the world’s poorest kitchens, and ultimately finding the meaning of life.
Flourish is a book about a woman seeking the answer to the question “Is the possibility of becoming your ‘ideal self’ just wishful thinking”? Antonia Case is the editor of the much-loved Womankind magazine and co-editor of New Philosopher. In her book, she talks about how she and her partner left on a self-discovery and totally experimental journey to South America. This experience brought them to live life in their unique and purpose-driven way in which they welcome uncertainty, novelty, and learning every day, even after becoming parents of four children.
After reading the book and attending the author’s meet-up in Perth during her book tour, I am not sure that this is a book that will speak to everyone. Like all books, it features the author’s specific point of view on how to flourish in life, which might not be the same for other people. What the book does is give a wealth of information on the philosophical knowledge that humankind has acquired during the past centuries. It is filled with quotes from the most influential and prominent philosophers – from Kierkegaard to Descartes and Nietzsche.
Even though it might raise more questions than answers for some, Flourish brings to the forefront of our attention the existential questions that we often forget to ask ourselves if we wish to have a happy and meaningful life.
Travelling or sitting in our armchairs, comfortably snugged with a book, we have always the choice – to stagnate or continue the journey of learning. I hope these books about self-discovery and travel will help you fill your days with a deep understanding of who you are, not how others see you or expect from you.