This article may contain compensated links. Please read this disclaimer for more info.
I can’t imagine life without books. They take me through time and space to realities I never thought possible, they allow me to travel when I’m home, they inspire me to see more of the world, and they keep me entertained during long rides. How could they not be a big part of my life, especially the books full of wanderlust?
I was lucky enough to be brought up surrounded by books, so I found a liking in reading since I was little. Even if this is not your case, there are stories that will make you fall in love with books. Here’s a list of my favorite travel inspired literature, the books that all travelers should read for inspiration. I also asked some of my amazing fellow travel bloggers for their favorites, so you’ll find plenty of travel inspiration from literature!
Pro tip: Invest on a kindle. If you like to read while on the road (and who doesn’t?), you’ll save tons of space, you’ll carry less weight (hence being a more sustainable traveler), and you’ll get plenty of options to read according to your mood. Even your travel guides can be fit in the amazing gadget. And the battery lasts for so long that you might not need to charge it before you go back home. This is the one I have, and it’s always with me while I travel!
Books Full of Wanderlust: my personal favorites
Jamie Maslin starts his journey in Tasmania hoping to hitchhike all the way back home to London. After passing through the weather of four seasons, more than 800 rides, 18,000 miles (30.000 km), and 19 countries in three continents, he gets there. The magic is on all the adventures he has on the way, though. They’re funny, enlightening, endearing, and full of learning experiences. You get to see the best of mankind through the people he meets on the road… what’s more stimulating than that to follow his footsteps?
He also gives us some perspective in the politics of some of the places he visits. I read some reviews of people criticizing him for it, but, in my opinion, it only makes the tale richer.
The coolest thing is that every country featured in this well written, informative and inspiring book is on my list 🙂
The name caught my attention before I read a single review. And it paid off. Kristin Newman walk us through her full-of-wanderlust life. Was she feeling blue? She booked a ticket. Was she trying to get over a breakup? She booked a ticket. Was she celebrating a promotion? She booked a ticket. You get the idea, right? Her adventures are funny, sexy, empowering, candid and sweet. Especially the women that are reading this, get this book! It might be a bit to graphic for some, but I can actually relate to parts of it, so it was great form me to read.
For the series-lovers out there, Kristin is a sitcom writer. Remember in HIMYM when Robin went to Argentina and came back with Enrique Iglesias? Can you guess who wrote it?
I could have recommended pretty much anything from Bill Bryson, because you can’t go wrong with any of his books, but I chose A Walk in the Woods because I found it particularly inspiring. He was well into his forties when he decided to hike the Appalachian trail -the 2.200 miles (3.500 km) long path that goes from Georgia to Maine in the United States. He takes his not experienced (nor fit, but witty) friend with him, giving us an entertaining tale, accompanied with some lesson about the history of the trail, its flora and fauna, and the strength of the human spirit.
If the great outdoors are not your thing, you can go for his journey through the Old Continent in Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, or his account on the history of the entire universe in A Short History of Nearly Everything. He was awarded an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (one of the highest honors in the UK) for his contribution to literature. So it’s not just me recommending him!
For all of you who are wondering if the grass is greener on the other side, Steven Primrose-Smith has the answer. He biked through 22,000 miles (35.400 km) trying to see all the capitals in Europe (even though he has a weird way to count them). He experiences first-hand how people, food, roads and bureaucracy work around the continent, telling us all about it with a colorful and sarcastic sense of humor. His trip is hard and fun at the same time, like most things in life. There’s a lot to learn about oneself reading about his journey.
If you like his voice, there’s plenty more. He also wrote Hungry for Miles, where he tells us about how he lived with only £1 a day on the road; and Biking Broken Europe, the story of his tour around 39 breakaway territories in Europe, including some destinations I’ve already visited, like Nagorno Karabakh. They’re both witty and beautifully written.
I have mixed feeling with this epic, semi autobiographic novel by Gregory David Roberts. He takes us in a journey through the back streets of Mumbai, where he finds love and heartbreak, freedom and captivity, friendship and treason, and more self discovery than he ever thought possible. In a world of beggars and gangsters, where in one minute he’s on top and in the next he’s struggling to survive, he’ll reveal how he falls in love with India. And even if you haven’t been there, you start falling too.
Between deadly wars and Bollywood films, you go from loving the book to an agonizing read-with-one-eye-closed state. If you have thick skin, for sure you’ll enjoy it. If not, maybe find something better to do than suffer through this almost thousand pages long bundle of emotions.
Bonus track: The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals
My fellow travel blogger Bistra Yakimova and her husband went on a quest around the world to follow the locals and discover the best each destination they picked had to offer. From a dance show at the beach in Mauritius, to an off the beaten path village in China, to the desert in Chile, to the glaciers in Argentina, this light and simply written book will take you with them in their trips.
It’s lovely to read the stories of travelers that want to blend in the local culture and make new friends. That’s exactly what I love about traveling! Following the locals they learn about samba in Rio de Janeiro, happiness in the Dominican Republic, the busy lifestyle of Japan, and the hakuna matata style of Kenya. No matter where they go in their 14-countries-in-5-continents journey, the lesson is the same: do what the locals do to fully understand and appreciate your destination. And “leave parts of your heart and soul just in exchange for the pieces you take from everyone”. What a lovely thought!
→ Are you looking for even more inspiration? You can’t go wrong with these coffee table books : )
Books Full of Wanderlust: my fellow travel bloggers’ favorites
A favorite of Sheree from Winging the World
Craving a break from the rat race, writer Beth Jusino and her ever doting husband Eric decide to walk one thousand miles on the famous Camino de Santiago, through France and Spain. What follows is a tale of endurance and challenge, but above all else, beauty and love.
Beth is a truly gifted writer who has a unique way of transporting the reader alongside her, giving them a taste of her adventure and inspiring them to take on their own.
Aspiring hikers will adore this book and find many useful tips for planning their own Camino adventure, starting with the obvious: break in your trekking boots before you start the walk!
For those not quite ready to commit to the feet battering distance of Beth’s journey, fear not. You will still find something to love in this book. For me, the thing that I enjoyed the most is the way Beth finds beauty in the bad days. This is not just a Camino lesson but, in fact, something we should all try to do more often.
A favorite of Michael from Books Like This One
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is one of my favorite books for people looking for travel inspiration. It tells the story of how the author undertook a long-distance hike across the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to deal with traumas that had occurred in her life. The story of her challenges along the trail is interspersed with flashbacks to previous events that led to her starting the hike.
The story can be a huge inspiration as it shows the way that traveling, and specifically being active and in the outdoors, can lead to personal growth and help to move on from past events. It’s also inspirational due to the fact that Strayed had no prior hiking experience, so it shows what is possible once you set your mind to do something.
A favorite of Delilah from Our Travel Mix
Atlas Obscura’s mission, according to their website, is to “inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share”. Their book perfectly captures this mission, inspiring both wonder and wanderlust as it describes over 600 unique, unusual and hidden places all around the world.
Reading this book has helped me to escape the typical tourist path and see the world from a different perspective. You’ll be able to explore some of the more wondrous places on earth, from spectacular beaches to strange museums and obscure vistas.
In addition to the book, Atlas Obscura has built a massive website where they aim to create a repository of every wondrous place on the planet. This is well worth checking out since it gives a glimpse into some of the places you can expect to find within the book itself.
My only gripe with this book is that not every place they feature is entirely interesting –at least not from my perspective. This is probably to be expected, given the sheer number of places included.
A favorite of Alexander from Gourmand Trotter
A Geek in Japan, by Hector García, is a great book for those who want to travel to Japan. It’s a guide to the land of manga, anime, zen, and tea ceremonies. Even if you don’t have any plans of traveling to the land of the rising sun in the near future, this book will give you a quick introduction to a fascinating country – very different from most Western ones, yet quite similar in some ways.
Japan is truly one of the world’s most interesting destinations to travel to, and no matter your age, A Geek in Japan will spark some wanderlust and make you even more curious about Asian nation.
A favorite of Ioana from The World is my Playground
I read The Lost Girls eight years ago and to this date it remains one of the books that has had the most influence on my wanderlust. The book is written by three girlfriends from New York City (Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner) who go on vacation to Brazil and find themselves dreaming about taking a year to travel while dreading returning to work. Roaming around Iguazu Falls and in complete awe, a seed for their year-long adventure around the world is planted.
The book follows as they prepare for the adventure of their lives, their bucket list experiences on four continents, their challenges, and their evolving dynamic as they travel together for a year. Each chapter is written from a different author’s perspective, which gives you the chance to get to know all three as individuals, but also understand their experience as a group.
At the time of reading it, I had my own dream of leaving my corporate job to travel the world for a year, but like many, I was scared to take the leap. While reading about their experience at the Iguazu Falls, I found myself falling in love with it. As luck would have it, a work trip took me to Brazil later that year, and I jumped at the opportunity to book a weekend side-trip to see the waterfalls with my own eyes. It blew me away. It was one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve ever had, and I owe it to reading this book. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago until I finally made my own dreams come true and quit my job to travel the world, just like The Lost Girls.
A favorite of Or from My Path in the World
Victoria Hislop in her novel, The Return, narrates the story of a young British woman on a weekend break in Granada, one of the most beautiful cities in Andalusia in southern Spain. Through a meeting with an old local man, she discovers the history of Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the history of Granada in particular.
Apart from the painful past events, the author beautifully describes the city’s maze of alleyways and squares, the typical cafes and tapas bars, and the general Andalusian atmosphere, including the local Flamenco culture. She just knows how to make you feel like you’re in another place, and I immediately felt like I wanted to hop on a plane to Granada and see the city with my own eyes.
The book inspired my Andalusia road trip and made my visit a lot more meaningful.
A favorite of Rai from A Rai of Light
This book revolves around the tragic story of Chris McCandless, a young man who travels to the Alaskan wilderness in the hope of discovering something better after being disillusioned with a conventional life. He quits his job, leaves his family and friends, and abandons most of his material possessions to live as one with nature.
The travel quote, “not all those who wander are lost” seems to be the focus of this non-fiction biography by Jon Krakauer. McCandless is painted as a man with a brilliant mind and the soul of an artist, who didn’t fit into the modern world nor his family’s view of how he was supposed to be. Even though for some it may seem that McCandless was reckless and arrogant, I think he was brave on his search for meaning.
The writing is so appealing that although it’s clear from the beginning how McCandless’ story would end, I was hooked until the last page.
A favorite of Josh from The Lost Passport
I came across Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country” in my fifth and final year of living abroad in Thailand. Though not obvious at the time, this was one of the convincing factors in my eventual return home to Australia.
Bill Bryson provided a new perspective on the country. For the first time I viewed Australia as a tourist rather than a remote country which I longed to escape. Australia became a foreign land of unique and deadly animals, with stunning landscapes. He notably described Australia as having “tropical mountains running down to sparkling seas, sweeping bays, flawless beaches guarded by listing palms, little green and rocky islands standing off the headlands”.
Just a few months later I’d find myself living in Melbourne as a tourist, making regular trips down to The Great Ocean Road for long weekends of hiking, surfing and camping in the rainforest. That’s when Bill Bryson’s mentioned quote really clicked.
A favorite of Annabel from Smudged Postcard
Cornwall, in the south west of England, is the setting for many of Daphne du Maurier’s novels. Frenchman’s Creek is set during the 17th century on the River Helford which borders the northern edge of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula.
The story details the romance and escapades of Dona Lady St Columb and a French pirate as they rob and pillage their way through the region, pursued by the local noblemen. Dona, a bored lady of leisure, is an entertaining character. Dressing up as a boy and setting sail on a pirate ship, she is rather ahead of her time.
The story paints an idyllic scene of the River Helford with its tranquil waterways which remains green and undeveloped today. Even in the height of summer this is a particularly beautiful spot to explore.
A favorite of Nick from Wandering Wheatleys
One blurry intoxicated night, Tony Hawks makes a drunken bet with his friends. He claims that he can hitchhike around the Republic of Ireland with a mini-fridge –covering the entire circumference of the country in a month.
When he sobers up the next morning, he realizes what he has done, but rather than admit the error of his ways, he decided to attempt the challenge. So he sets off with his oversized appliance in tow; from Dublin to Donegal to Galway, an onward around Ireland meeting odd characters and experiencing Ireland’s famed hospitality.
During the ensuing adventures Tony’s fridge gets christened, they go surfing together, enter a bachelor contest, and temporarily become national heroes. It’s a fun tale full of humor and charm that’s guaranteed to make you want to visit the Emerald Isle!
A favorite of Darcy from Plan, Ready, Go!
In his New York Times bestselling book, The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner travels all over the globe exploring the countries that are supposedly home to the happiest people in the world. Weiner goes in search of the why… What is it that makes those places so happy or at the very least not unhappy?
Weiner spent many years as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, traveling to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan –certainly not the happiest of places. His travels take him from Bhutan to Switzerland, and from Thailand to Iceland (which the author claims to be home to the happiest people in the world, at least at the time the book was published in 2008). Weiner also pays a visit to Moldova, where the least happy people are, and he paints such a bleak picture of life there, that is easy to understand why the title.
All in all, Weiner covers tens of thousands of miles in his pursuit of what makes people happy and makes some surprising discoveries along the way.
A favorite of Daniel from Layer Culture
Whenever looking for new travel inspiration and new books full of wanderlust to give you motivation for a new adventure, pick up The Alchemist. Written by Paulo Coelho, this modern classic will inspire you to listen to your heart, follow your dreams, and start an adventure with a purpose.
This is an endearing story of a young Spanish shepherd who has a longing for travel and a desire to search the globe in the hopes of finding worldly treasures. However, what the shepherd learns along the way becomes essential wisdom and life lessons that can be transferred to the reader.
A favorite of Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
The Journey in Between is Keith Foskett’s story of his experience walking 1,000 miles along the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage trail that starts in various points throughout Europe and ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, where the remains of St. James are said to be kept. For him, it sparked an interest in thru-hiking, and he went on to write about his later hikes on the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, all of which are enthralling reads.
I had first heard about the Camino de Santiago around 2001 and had been wanting to walk it for many years, but something always made me put it off. Reading Foskett’s account of his journey gave me the inspiration I needed to put my dream into action. In 2017, my husband and I walked 800 kilometers of the Camino, starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small village in the Pyrenees just across the border in France. Even though I am not Catholic and don’t consider myself to be religious in any way, it was a very spiritual experience for me. The best part was the people I met along the way, some of whom I’m still in contact with.
The Camino renewed my faith in humanity and brought out the best in myself and the people around me. After that first pilgrimage on the Camino Francés, my husband and I made a pact to walk a different version of the Camino every year. In 2018 we walked the Camino Primitivo, and in 2019 we tackled a little-known route called the Camino de Madrid. After each one I’ve felt exhausted but reinvigorated at the same time.
A favorite of Louisa from La Passion Voutee
Americanah, a bestseller by Chimamanda Adichie, is often quoted as an incredibly thought-provoking novel that gives its readers a view of life from the other side of the lens. As a reader, a woman, and an African migrant, this novel invokes the longing and nostalgia of the unknown, and a desire to explore other cultures, traditions, and ways of life that might be in sharp contrast to your normal one.
And that’s not all! This book is a riveting mashup of love, independence and immigration, that imbues a desire to see the world, get away from your comfort zone, and maybe discover (or rediscover) yourself in the process. I can’t wait to see the 10-episode series once it airs on HBO in 2020. You won’t regret this read (it’s available in 29 languages!).
A favorite of Brianna from Curious Travel Bug
Ann Vanderhoof buys a sailboat, quits her job, and along with her husband, sails to the Caribbean for two years. If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your job and going on an adventure, this is your book.
On their journey from Toronto to Trinidad in the Caribbean and back again, Vanderhoof chronicles the adventures they have. Before this journey she wasn’t a sailor, so there is a lot of conquering her fears of sailing on the open ocean and learning about how to maintain the boat. There’s also a lot of Caribbean cooking. With fish, local fruits and veggies, the author includes recipes you can try at home.
Her stories about the Caribbean make you feel like you can smell the salty air and the ocean below you. It’s the perfect mix of travelogue, food, and sailing guide.
A favorite of Elisa from World in Paris
Round the World in 80 Days is one of my favorite travel books. This short novel by Jules Verne tells the adventures around the world of Phileas Fogg, an English gentleman of the 19th century, and his valet Passepartout. Fogg bets against his colleagues of the exclusive Reform Club that he can travel around the world and be back to London in only 80 days. That’s how Fogg’s adventure starts!
Fogg’s journey is full of adventures but also of misadventures that thread the story together. Follow Fogg and Passepartout through 4 continents to see if they will make it!
Round the world in 80 days is the kind of light and brilliant novel that I like to read from time to time. Also, this book inspired my tour around the world, although mine had a different itinerary. I definitely recommend this book for those in need of a dose of wanderlust!
A favorite of Jo from Backpack and Bushcraft
Miss-adventures by Amy Baker is a great read full of the realities of solo female travel. Her stories are from her trip through South America, written with a sense of humor that will have you laughing out loud.
Baker describes the many pieces of pre-trip advice given to her by friends, family, colleagues and strangers and how she ignored almost all of it. Some of those snippets of advice turned out to be accurate but that isn’t the point. She explored the world her way and learned lessons through her own mistakes.
The story is inspiring, as it makes you realize that adventure and mistakes are just part of the story. This –and some other book– gave me that final push to travel solo to South America during the summer of 2019. I’d say that’s inspirational!
→ Anything missing in this list that you’d recommend? I’d love to hear about what you’re reading… Tell me in the comments!