Taking the Road Less Traveled

Follow in the footsteps of your favorite authors for a noteworthy getaway. One for the books, you might say.

Avid readers often wax poetic about how a truly great novel can transport you to another world, but few actually take the time to explore the worlds in which those worlds were created. What kind of cold, dark corner of the map birthed Anna Karenina? Where did the complex mind of Flannery O'Connor come up with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"? What kind of environment influenced Thomas Hardy's prose? Here, we've collected seven spots around the world that are worth a trip for those who aren't always satisfied by a novel's last line.

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Herman Melville's Farm: Pittsfield, MA, U.S.

Most people heading to the Berkshires are looking for a weekend of outdoor hiking or fall foliage-viewing, but why stop there? Breathe in a little history along with the fresh air, and hit up Arrowhead, the 19th-century home where Herman Melville wrote most of his great works, from Moby-Dick to The Piazza Tales (named after Arrowhead's porch), and hung out with buddy Nathaniel Hawthorne. A farmhouse and inn during Melville's residence, the 45-acre property is now a National Historic Landmark and open to the public, so feel free to walk around and look out from Melville's desk to see the same view he saw while writing about the great white whale. Just don't forget to give a polite chuckle when your tour guide introduces himself by saying, "Call me Ishmael."

Leo Tolstoy's Estate: Tula, Russia

If you're a fan of light reading (ha), you might have enjoyed a few of Tolstoy's literary musings, and if you happen to find yourself 120 miles outside Moscow (ha ha), you can visit Yasnaya Polyana, the beautiful estate-turned-museum where Tolstoy was both born and buried. He wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina on these grounds, and referred to it as his "inaccessible literary stronghold." We suggest visiting in May, when you'll be able to explore the surrounding town of Tula and still feel your face, but whenever you go, don't miss out on the hot borscht and tea served at the nearby Cafe Preshpekt, where recipes are said to be taken straight out of the cookbook of Tolstoy's wife, Sofia Andreevna.

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Thomas Hardy's Cottage: Dorset, U.K.

Not many authors were as influenced by their geographical upbringing as Thomas Hardy was, which—Anglophiles rejoice—mainly consisted of the scenic farmlands and hillsides of Dorset. The British countryside, as it appears in works from Mayor of Casterbridge to Tess of the d'Urbervilles, is about as integral to Hardy's narratives as the characters themselves, so die-hard(y) fans will appreciate visiting his home for an up-close and personal look at his cultural heritage. The picturesque thatch-roof cottage in Dorchester was built by his grandfather in 1800 and still stands pretty true to the original structure. Grab a pint from Trumpet Major, a nearby pub, after soaking up the atmosphere in the rooms where Hardy wrote Far from the Madding Crowd and roaming the surrounding woodlands, where you can let your inner Bathsheba Everdene out.

Flannery O'Connor's Farm: Milledgeville, GA., U.S.

There's not much we wouldn't do to learn about what was going on in Flannery O'Connor's Southern Gothic mind, but visiting her home in Georgia is probably about as good as it's going to get. O'Connor made waves in the Northeast after joining a prestigious artist colony in New York, but after she was diagnosed with lupus in 1951, she returned to her home state and transformed the family's farmstead into a writing haven. She spent every morning at Andalusia Farm on works such as Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, but perhaps the most unique of her pastimes at Andalusia was her tending of peacocks. She raised the domesticated birds by the dozen, and you can still see the proud creatures roaming the grounds today.

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Victor Hugo's Exile House: St. Peter Port, Guernsey, U.K.

Ever wondered what it's like to live in exile? Well, if Hugo's island escape is anything to go by, it's not half-bad. After Napoleon took power in 1851, Hugo and his family fled to St. Peter Port in Guernsey, just off the coast of France. A vacation to Hugo's Hauteville House not only sheds some light on where the controversial writer penned Les Misérables, but also allows for jaunts to a few lovely beach destinations and Hugo's favorite coastal, cliffside footpaths for an active and scenic holiday.

Zora Neale Hurston's Home: Eatonville, FL, U.S.

Don't wait for retirement to explore all the treasures Florida has to offer! Let Zora Neale Hurston quite literally show you around the sunshine state: the author contributed to Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, so you can get an intimate view of the writer's homeland through her own eyes. Of course, a lot has changed since it was published in 1939, but you can still visit Hurston's childhood home and the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church where her father preached. Consider a follow-up trip to Washington, D.C. for fried catfish and hush puppies at the Hurston-inspired restaurant, Eatonville, if you're still hungry for more after this adventure.

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