On The Road by Jack Kerouac: Travel Book of The Month

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.”

kerouac on the road

About On the Road:

A major work of the postwar Beat Generation, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, documents the years of adventures Kerouac and his friends went on traveling across America as well as his close friendship with daredevil Neal Cassady. The novel is largely autobiographical and filled with an array of reflections and conversations based around the pursuit of self-knowledge and endless experiences.

What captured me best:

My obsession with the Beat generation started long before I read On the Road for the first time. I was a young Arts student at University when I randomly picked up a biography about this group of post World War II writers from the 1950s who changed America’s literary movement by rebelling against all levels of social conventionality. I admired their bravery and determination to change a structured system that was so strongly based on tradition and imitation. The Beats produced literature that was daring, emotional and more honest than anything I had ever laid eyes on before. When I read On the Road, I felt like I was in the midst of a talk with Kerouac himself. All the emotions and thoughts I had long been feeling regarding life were reciprocated and I finally understood the powerful effect candid writing could have on its readers. Kerouac typed up the scroll over a three-week period so the story reads like a long conversation that I felt fortunate enough to be included in.

Lessons I’ve learned from the book:

Growing up, my notions about life were loosely based around having a plan of who, what and where I wanted to be. This pressure to have it all figured out seemed soul crushing to me as I navigated my way through society’s many hierarchies. I always knew I was not destined to spend my life in just one place so it was only natural that I began looking for escapades from a young age. Fulfilling, as it may seem, constant wandering comes with its challenges. I often find myself questioning my decisions and struggling to prevent self-doubt from creeping in. On more than one occasion, Kerouac’s passion for the unfamiliar and his impulsive nature have reminded me of how vital it is to live a life that revolves around discovering where our own happiness lies rather than conforming to an existence others might expect from us. As we delve further into the workings of Kerouac’s mind, we begin to eliminate the feelings of guilt and isolation we are occasionally plagued with and go back to chasing our own dreams, no matter how crazy they might seem.

Why this book is a great read for the travel hungry:

Kerouac’s pursuit of happiness is wild and inspiring at the same time. He succeeds in delivering the all-important message of why experience is so invaluable and why life deserves to be lived in more than just one place. Anybody with the desire to travel will be driven to ignore the rules of what is right or wrong and just throw themselves head first into the next adventure that awaits. As Kerouac said himself, “there was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”

Photo by Carl.

Nadja Poljo
Nadja Poljo

Hayo's editorial assistant and travel book columnist. Endlessly wandering and sharing thoughts, ideas and stories. Currently based in Vancouver but originally from Melbourne, Australia.

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