How did others get away from it all.
November 3, 2010 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Wanted: Stories of leaving it all behind (family, relationships, work, obligations etc) and traveling to a remote place for peace, to think and/or escape society.

Extra bonus points if the stories, be it fiction or non-fiction, detail 1.)what the actual act of traveling was like (sights and smells, logistics and bureaucracy etc) and 2.) the motivations of the person wanting to get away from it all.
posted by nomadicink to Writing & Language (48 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. Not the best written book I've ever read, but not nearly as much navel-gazing as Eat, Pray, Love.
posted by motsque at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2010


The obvious: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, and the film of the same name directed by Sean Penn.
posted by Plutor at 7:24 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Eat, Pray, Love too obvious?
posted by morganannie at 7:24 AM on November 3, 2010


The Good Mother
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on November 3, 2010


Is Eat, Pray, Love too obvious?

Actually, no I hadn't considered it as it seemed too trite, but the reminder is fine, thanks
posted by nomadicink at 7:26 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Good Mother is totally not what I'm looking for and seems to make no sense as an answer to this question. If there's something I'm missing about it, please let me know.
posted by nomadicink at 7:31 AM on November 3, 2010


Listening for Coyote by William Sullivan might fit the bill.
posted by usonian at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2010


William Least Heat-Moon , Blue Highways: A Journey into America. "When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: 'A man who couldn't make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity.'"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:36 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Going Native by Stephen Wright is kind of the anti-book to what you describe, although it's fabulous so it deserves a mention. It's about the first part of what you're after, leaving it all behind, but the meditation and thinking part is replaced by degradation and serial murder.

Still, more than any other book I've ever read it made me think about what it means to leave it all behind (for awhile, or forever).
posted by OmieWise at 7:36 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Moby Dick.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:41 AM on November 3, 2010


I just reread Travels by Michael Crichton. It ventures into the severely hippy-dippy at times, but about two-thirds of the book is about his adventures in remote places. I'm fond of it.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:42 AM on November 3, 2010


How about a documentary?

180° South. (It's on Netflix Instant Watch.)
posted by nitsuj at 7:42 AM on November 3, 2010


Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water.
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:47 AM on November 3, 2010


Joan Barfoot, "Gaining Ground"
posted by runincircles at 7:50 AM on November 3, 2010


Peter Taylor's In the Tennessee Country. Novel from the perspective of those left behind, really, but covers some of the motivations pretty well. Extra bonus points for being beautifully written?
posted by yamel at 7:50 AM on November 3, 2010


One of my favorites as a kid, My Side of the Mountain. Rereading as an adult I realize there's some preachy overtones, but I loved the escape/survival aspects of it. And it's a Newberry Award winner.
posted by kimdog at 7:51 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Steinbeck's Travels with Charley is excellent.
posted by Houstonian at 7:54 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Castaway by Lucy Irvine.
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.
posted by ninebelow at 7:55 AM on November 3, 2010


Oh yeah, movies and whatever are fine too, no need to limit things I guess.
posted by nomadicink at 7:57 AM on November 3, 2010


Two particular story types come to mind. One is the long-distance bicycle tour memoir, and the other is the long-distance sailing memoir. In each case, there will be many that lack the introspective angle you're looking for, but others that satisfy that requirement. They have in common that they're often some amateur telling the story of their own travels.

Bike touring: Miles from Nowhere was a particularly interesting example (which included a bunch of musings on class and poverty in India), but there are a lot of other relatively unknown stories out there. I'd recommend more, but my tastes run towards the adventure angle here.

Sailing: Maiden Voyage (an introspective round-the-world story), Through Europe at 4 Knots (family living on a sailboat as they sail down the Danube to the Black Sea), Bernard Moitessier's stuff (he was a round-the-world racer who famously dropped out of a race because he didn't want to face the crowds that would come with winning), Sailing Alone Around the World (down-on-his-luck sea captain undertakes the first pleasure circumnavigation), etc.

Oh, and I have to put in a plug for a couple of interesting books about long-distance rowing:
On the Water: Discovering America in a Rowboat by Nat Stone is very focused on the people he meets along the way, and
Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic's Edge by Jill Fredston is about the solitude and the fragility of the natural world.
posted by richyoung at 7:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller.

The Outermost House by Henry Beston.

And though this might be a bit tangential, Glenn Gould's Solitude Trilogy is an incredible listen.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone, by Mary Morris.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:09 AM on November 3, 2010


And Walden, of course.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:10 AM on November 3, 2010


Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is a literary nonfiction work by Edward Abbey. And may I suggest you look into other park ranger narratives.
posted by cda at 8:15 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


World Traveler, but it's not really that great.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:15 AM on November 3, 2010


"On Mexican Time" and its sequel.
posted by Melismata at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2010


Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica might fit the bill.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2010


Last of the Donkey Pilgrims is very good and gets into the nitty-gritty of why and how.

There is a more tongue-in-cheek coverage of a similar trip in Round Ireland with a Fridge, which is less about escaping the every day, but is still a very interesting travelogue.
posted by chiefthe at 8:40 AM on November 3, 2010


Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Schulman. I really enjoyed this memoir about living off the land for a summer.
posted by aspiring polymath at 8:42 AM on November 3, 2010


Two non-fictional classics of the escape-from-society genre are Tom Neale'sAn Island To Oneself (about living along on a very small island in the South Pacific) and Richard Proenneke's One Man's Wilderness">One Man's Wilderness about living alone in Alaska, in what is now Lake Clark National Park.
posted by namewithoutwords at 8:52 AM on November 3, 2010


My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel, although I don't think she thought of herself as escaping anything.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

And just about everything by Bruce Chatwin.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2010


Previously on MetaFilter: Tom Neale's An Island to Oneself is precisely this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:01 AM on November 3, 2010


Here's a much better link to An Island to Oneself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:02 AM on November 3, 2010


Kerouac - Big Sur
Into The Wild
posted by turkeyphant at 9:07 AM on November 3, 2010


Running to the Mountain by Jon Katz is a nonfiction memoir of a Walden-esque experiment by the author. The Poet of Tolstoy Park is historical fiction based on the true story of a man who told that he'll be dead in a year, so he moves away from his family to live the rest of his life in solitude.
posted by clerestory at 9:21 AM on November 3, 2010


A bit further out there but if we're not limiting things: Dajeil Gelian, in Iain M. Bank's novel Excession, is in retreat aboard the Culture GSV Sleeper Service after a romantic setback; the ship's AI's attempt to resolve her depression is one of the novel's two central stories.
posted by nicwolff at 9:22 AM on November 3, 2010


The Razor's Edge. Both the book and the movie are good.
posted by rhizome at 9:38 AM on November 3, 2010


Listening to Coyote: A Walk Across Oregon's Wilderness: two months on foot from the Pacific Ocean to the Snake River.
posted by catlet at 9:47 AM on November 3, 2010


Whoops. Listening for Coyote. Makes more sense when thinking about the trickster.
posted by catlet at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2010


Oh! How could I forget? Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2010


Amazing stories of artic exploration/travel abound but I'll present, what I think is, the most amazing true story of the modern world. It really includes much of 1 and 2 as well: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Not exactly what you asked for but I'll include it for it's awesome factor: Adrift

Both are, of course, true stories.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:06 AM on November 3, 2010


Dawn: Winter Journal by Phil Elverum
posted by at the crossroads at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2010


Stories of leaving it all behind (family, relationships, work, obligations etc) and traveling to a remote place for peace, to think and/or escape society.

That sure as heck sounds like a TAL episode synopsis, but the best I could find was this.

The classic example is maybe Walden.
posted by juv3nal at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2010


Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad. He was trying to escape his past due to the poor reputation he earned for abandoning a ship full of passengers while working on the crew. He settled on a remote island and became a leader of the people there.
posted by plinth at 12:15 PM on November 3, 2010


The Moon and Sixpence:
The Moon and Sixpence is a short novel of 1919 by William Somerset Maugham based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin. The story is told in episodic form by the first-person narrator as a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character, Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker who abandons his wife and children abruptly to pursue his desire to become an artist. [...]
posted by pracowity at 12:41 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two Years Before the Mast. One of my favorites books from the 19th century, but maybe that's because I have lived in many of the places it described.

Love the question, by the way.
posted by eleslie at 12:49 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler...can't remember much, only that a woman just took off - one day she was at the beach and she just walked away and settled in a small town, or some such. It was a while ago, and fiction.
posted by buzzkillington at 6:07 PM on November 3, 2010


The Book of Silence by Sara Maitland is meant to be very good. It's on my list.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 8:23 PM on November 3, 2010


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