Travelling the U.S.A through its Literature

It has always been said that to read is to travel. Travel to another times; lands; worlds and dimensions. One can´t argue that as readers we have fought along with Harry, Ron and Hermione; that we have brought the Ring to the fires of Mount Doom with Frodo and Sam; and that we also fell down the rabbit hole as Alice.

However, what about those books which actually narrate a journey? Those books that takes as with Marco Polo following the Silk Route or a journey across the Globe in 80 days with Phileas Fogg. Those are the books that inspire us to take the backpack and hit the road as son as we finished them. Such books like: On The Road by Jack Kerouac; Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

Starting by the great Beat Generation novel; On The Road. This novel focuses on the  on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. Kerouac narrates the Americana Spirit of the late 40´s and beggining of 50´s in a jazz and drug fueled frenzy. If you´ve ever wanted to cross the United States in car from one Coast to the other, meet it´s different characters and experience it´s culture, this is your book. The two main characters of the book are the narrator, Sal Paradise, and his friend Dean Moriarty, much admired for his carefree attitude and sense of adventure, a free-spirited maverick eager to explore all kicks and an inspiration and catalyst for Sal’s travels. The novel is largely autobiographical, Sal being the alter ego of the author and Dean standing for Neal Cassady (a major figure and poet of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic and counterculture movements of the 1960s). However, if reading is not your piece of cake you can always check out the 2012 screen adaptation with the same name: On the Road.

Changing the perspective, we now have a woman as a narrator, and is also an autobiographical book: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. The book follows the journey that the author herself did along the Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S, hiking 1,100-miles, beginning in the Mojave Desert and hiking through California and Oregon to the Bridge of the Gods into Washington.

Seeking self-discovery and resolution of her enduring grief and personal challenges, at age 26 Strayed set out on her journey, alone and with no prior hiking experience. Wild intertwines the stories of Strayed’s life before and during the journey, describing her physical challenges and spiritual realizations while on the trail.

After the success of the book, and the later adaptation to the screen in the 2014 film Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, hundreds of women have been inspired to join the Pacific Crest Trail. Will you be one of them? The good thing: if you still don´t feel brave enough to endure such extreme hiking you can always enjoy the book or the movie under your cozy blankets at home.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer follows the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man who grew up in suburban Annandale, Virginia. After graduating in May 1990 with high grades from Emory University, McCandless ceased communicating with his family, gave away his college fund of $25,000 to Oxfam, and began traveling across the Western United States. This non-fiction book is reviewed in American High Schools and Colleges as a reading curriculum.

Into The Wild addresses the issues of how to be accepted into society, and how finding oneself sometimes conflicts with being an active member in society.

In 2007, Sean Penn directed the film adaptation of Into The Wild, and Pearl Jam´s frontman Eddie Vedder composed the film´s soundtrack for what he was awarded a Golden Globe (I highly recommend you to listen to it).