From pilgrimages documented by medieval priests and aristocrats to travel guides that have made exploration more accessible in the twentieth century, literature and travel have long been intertwined. Whether you need company for that long plane journey ahead or you’re at home and craving a story to fuel your wanderlust, there’s a travel book for you. The 15 travel books I’m about to share, are the kind I couldn’t put down. They sucked me in from page one and took me on a wild journey from the comforts of my couch, bed and hammock – no passport required.
Travel Books to Spark Your Wanderlust
Ten Years a Nomad
If you’re contemplating exchanging life at home for a life on the road, Ten Years a Nomad is a must read. Matt Kepnes aka Nomadic Matt is one of the most well-known travel bloggers who has spent the past 10+ years traveling nomadically. This travel book is an honest, behind the filter peak into the realities of long term travel. Mixed in with entertaining travel stories, Kepnes skillfully weaves in larger ideas on why we travel. From the limitations and sacrifices of long term travel and thoughts anyone should consider during their travels. As someone who has been traveling pretty non-stop for the past 10+ years myself, I could relate a lot this book. Kepnes shares many stories from his life before becoming a nomad. Some of which have never been shared on his blog. He write about the trip that changed his life, other pivotal travel moments in between and the event that lead him yearning for a sense of “home” once again. The book hits on many thoughts and feelings every traveler can relate to.
Watch a sit down chat with author of Ten Years a Nomad
This is one of my favourite travel stories of all time. A book you can pick up again and again, without it losing its magic. The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd in his journey to the pyramids of Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding a treasure there. The novel takes you on an epic adventure, but ultimately it’s a story about finding your destiny and how once you put your mind to something, the universe will come together for you. I read The Alchemist for the first time while traveling throughout India. After completing it, I immediately purchased another four of the author’s books. The way Paulo Coehlo writes is poetic. Every chapter is a work of art. Do yourself a favour and get this book!
Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents
Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s undeniable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures over the course of 15 years. The book documents her travels beginning in college, crisscrosses five continents, chasing both exotic lifestyles and romance. While this book is a great read for anyone with wanderlust, I’d recommend those who have just returned home from a long trip to read this book. This travel book may just give you the comfort you are yearning for and help you adapt back to your life back home or inspire you to move on.
Vagabonging: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
The term “vagabonding” is the act of taking time off from your normal life for an extended period of time to discover and experience the world on your own terms. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel teaches you how to do just that! Rolf Potts gives the reader a thoughtful and interesting look at long term travel based on his personal experience. Pott’s insights are those of someone who encounters many different challenges while traveling. For those who have traveled solo before, you may recognize some of the interesting situations that Pott’s describes. From saving to planning to life on the road, this book is a must read for anyone thinking about long term travel. When planning my own 10-month trip around the world, this book was my bible. For a first time solo traveler, it has a realistic perspective on enjoying travel while sometimes having to overcome hurdles.
The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World.
The Lost Girls is story of three women, Jen, Holly and Amanda, who are feeling the pressure of hitting certain milestones as their 30th birthday approaches (have kids, find a husband, get a big promotion). Basically, the story revolves around a life changing decision that many people right this moment are thinking about but most will not make. Instead of falling into the life pressures that accompany turning 30, the three friends make a pact to quit their jobs, leave behind everything familiar, and embark on a year long adventure around the world. Each of the women write different parts of the book, that covers four continents and a journey of over 60,000 miles. This travel book just may give you the push you need to ditch the job and take that dream trip.
Walking the Amazon
This is a real-life story about an 860-day expedition conceived and successfully completed by British explorer Ed Stafford. Walking the Amazon is about Stafford’s journey being the first person recorded to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. Even when Stafford faces incredible challenges such as alligators, electric eels and even vicious tropical storms, he keeps pushing forward. This is a remarkable travel story that will have you on the edge of your seat. At the same time, it will inspire you to go out and have your own remarkable adventure. Whether that’s in the Amazon or not is completely up to you.
The Kite Runner
A novel set against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, The Kite Runner follows 12-year old Amir who is competing in a kite-fighting tournament on the day of the invasion. The events of the invasion lead to Amir leaving for America. Years later his search for redemption leads him back to Afghanistan, now under Taliban rule. This was the first Khalad Hosseini book I ever read. Since reading this novel, any time another one of his books comes out, I know I have to read it. He has an amazing storytelling ability that will pull you into each page.
Based on the author’s own life, Shantaram is about Gregory David, a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escaped from Pentridge Prison and flees to Bombay, India. Here he establishes a free medical clinic for slum-dwellers, works as a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner and street soldier for a branch of Bombay mafia. This is and has been one of my favourite reads for years. It’s one of those rare books you won’t be able to put down despite it being nearly 1000 pages long.
The Good Girl’s Guide To Getting Lost
The Good Girl’s Guide To Getting Lost follows author Rachel Friedman’s journey from Ireland to Australia and South America. In Ireland, Friedman meets an adventurous Australian girl, who spurs her on to a year-long odyssey that takes her to three continents. Her travels introduce her to newfound friends and gives birth to a previously unrealized passion for adventure. Each new adventure Friedman has along her journey sparks more of a passion for travel and unlocks truths about herself she never realized before. The biggest lesson she learns is how to truly live in the moment!
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
Holy Cow is funniest book I’ve ever read. Never have I laughed out loud (too many times to count) while reading any novel the way I did for this one. This is the story of a woman who explores India as a backpacker and finds the contrasts in the country too hard to bear. After visiting India, she promised never to return, but ends up following her partner to New Delhi a decade later. There, she deals with all of the beautiful craziness that is India once again. The way she describes each experience will have you laughing so hard it will hurt. It will also make those who are the most adventurous, book a plane ticket to India right away (yup, I totally did that after reading this book).
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Set in Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story of two women born a generation apart. THe women have very different ideas about love and family, yet are brought together by war, loss and fate. This special bond that the two women have is what makes this story so special. As they face the wrath that comes along with war, they form a bond that will ultimately alter the course of their own lives and the next generation. It’s a story of how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice. In the end, it’s love is the key to survival. This may very easily become one of the best stories you’ve ever read. You can thank me later.
A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures In Extreme Cuisines
Cuisine and exploring new foods is one of the greatest pleasures of traveling. For former chef Anthony Bourdain, the chance to explore the world while looking for great meals is one he couldn’t turn down. A Cook’s Tour is not a fine dining book, but one about finding the best food wherever it may be, and it always inspires the wanderlust in me. This travel book is all about taking the cooking show out of the kitchen and getting adventurous. It also should not be read on an empty stomach!