6 great travel reads that have been made into films

December 17, 2012 by Lauren Rayner

Reading about our favourite or must-visit destinations and then seeing them in film is almost as enjoyable as travelling itself. Here are some of our picks for travel reads that have been brought to life on the silver screen. By Lauren Rayner. 

Man reading

For the road trip: On the Road, Jack Kerouac

In this popular 50s classic, Kerouac blends fact and fiction to bring us the story of Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty as they travel across America in battered cars, flexing the limits of conformity in a quest for identity and belonging. Against a backdrop of all-Americana, On the Road‘s themes of personal freedom became a manifesto for many travellers searching for their own meaning of the American Dream.

This year, the book was transformed into a film by Walter Salles, starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart. The film brings vintage America to life – it’s all cars, clothes and cool.

For the backpacker: The Beach, Alex Garland

Does true paradise exist? The Beach’s protagonist backpacker Richard believed it did when he was handed a hand-drawn map to what was possibly the last unspoilt paradise on earth. What he finds both affirms and tests his perceptions of paradise: the commune that has made the remote beach their home appears idyllic enough – but all is not as it seems…

This hallucinogenic story, treasured by many backpackers seeking out their own idyll, was transformed into the hugely popular 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Danny Boyle.

For the personal journey: Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

When divorcee Elizabeth Gilbert set off in search of a more meaningful existence, she touched a nerve with an audience of millions longing to do the same. This simple and humorous account of one woman’s ‘search for everything’ through Italy, India and Indonesia sold 10 million copies and remained on the New York Times Best-Seller List for over 200 weeks.

The 2010 film, starring Julia Roberts and directed by Ryan Murphy, was panned by some critics for failing to convey the spiritual depth that made the book so popular. But the Italian food, the rural Indian landscapes and the luscious Balinese scenery are just so pretty to look at…

For the adventurist: The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara

At 23, before he became the Marxist revolutionary icon, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara took a nine-month tour through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela – mostly by motorcycle, but with some horse-riding, bus, steamship and hitchhiking breaking up the journey. The poverty and injustice he encountered on the way is said to have left a profound impact on him, and the seed for his political future began to form.

In 2004 Walter Salles directed the biopic based on Guevara’s travelogue. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, the film received a standing ovation at the Sundance film festival, and took home an Oscar for best original song.

For the hedonist: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson

This controversial semi-autobiographical novel subtly morphs between the real and the imaginary, so much so that, as the New York Times wrote, when Thompson read it back later he couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. A classic example of 70s gonzo journalism (a rebellious journalism style blending fact with fiction), the book’s barely-there plot slips between fragments of real events and wild, narcotic-induced hallucinations.

The 1998 Terry Gilliam film starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro was a box office failure on release, but has since garnered a cult following, largely due to the psychedelic imagery and its ‘savage dissection of the American Dream’.

Some great travel read recommendations from our fans…

Colleen Williams, aka the @adlibtraveller loved The Island by Victoria Hislop. Read on her blog why it left her with the desire to travel to Crete and unravel its history.

On Facebook, Laura Jane Woods recommended Karl Pilkington’s An Idiot Abroad. She said, ‘I had to stifle my laughing whilst sitting by the swimming pool, on tour in Thailand.’

Terry Wise, also on Facebook, recommended the cult classic Photography for Dummies by Luke Hart – perfect for getting the best out of your holiday snaps!

Do you have any holiday book recommendations to add? Comment below to let us know…

 is Social Media Specialist at Flight Centre UK.