Travel books remind of VIP tickets that spark your wanderlust and take you to faraway places in an instant.
Last updated: January 30, 2024
What Is the Right Travel Book for You?
I’ve been traveling for quite a while. My first travels, however, looked very different from typical road trips, bus and train adventures, or even escapes to faraway destinations. I did experience all of them and much more, but through thin pages of hundreds of travel books that I could find at a local library.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and perused everything that would come my way. Travel books, however, have been my absolute favorite. Over the years, real voyages slowly sneaked into my life. I’ve got to walk through ancient Moroccan streets that reminded me of Scheherazade’s tales. Like Quasimodo, the famous hunchback of Notre-Dame, I looked down at the Parisian rooftops in awe. But the books are still my biggest travel guides and companions that teach, entertain, and let me dream.
Today I’d like to share a few of my favorite travel reads. Some of them are traditional novels that dive deep into culture and traditions of places they are set in. Others ignite your wanderlust by sharing the novelty of travel from an author’s viewpoint. Without further ado, here are the best travel books that will change your perception of the world forever.
TRAVEL BOOKS THAT WILL IGNITE YOUR WANDERLUST
1. The World is Our Classroom by Cindy Ross
The World is Our Classroom changes not only your travels, but also the wanderings of your entire family. I finished reading this book about a week ago and was completely convinced that traveling benefits kids, especially during their formative years, in the most extraordinary ways.
In this nature and travel guide, the author Cindy Ross reminisces on some of her family’s most memorable adventures. The World is Our Classroom includes numerous stories of two parents leading their young children through the most unusual experiences and places.
The family’s lifelong adventures started in the Rocky Mountains and took them all over the world. Throughout their travels, Cindy and her husband taught their kids about countries, nature, and history, using real life experiences. The World is Our Classroom is a perfect travel book for anybody looking for untraditional ways to raise their kids.
2. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia is one of the best travel books for those who decide to take time off to travel the world to find themselves and change their wanderings along the way.
In this memoir, Elizabeth Gilbert narrates about her adventures across Europe and Asia that took place shortly after her divorce. Along with ever-changing addresses, the author goes through a series of life-altering events and experiences.
3. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
A small town girl from a poor family dreams of a big city and can’t wait to get out of the place she calls home…
The beginning of this memoir made me question why I’d picked up this book in the first place. Another story of a poor to middle-class American family didn’t meet any of my expectations of a travel book I wanted to read at that moment.
But the more I read it, the more I was interested in the voyages of the main character, Amanda. I secretly envied her courage and determination to travel the world… until she had reached Somalia, her most difficult and dreadful experience ever.
On her fourth day in the country, Amanda was kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days. The young woman remembers and describes every detail of horrors she went through in captivity. Only an imaginary house in the sky that she returned to over and over again helped her survive all those nightmares.
Do I want to reread this travel memoir? Maybe, but not any time soon. The most valuable lesson A House in the Sky taught me was to put safety above all other things when traveling and exploring the world.
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a travel story about Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, who backpacks to Egypt in search of treasures. He doesn’t find any gold or silver. What he discovers, though, surpasses all his expectations and changes his outlook on life forever. Santiago learns to follow his heart, understands love, and masters the meaning of life.
The Alchemist is a great travel book for everybody who dares to chase his or her dreams and overcome a fear of the future.
5. Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
Some time later, Janice realizes that she can’t return to her previous corporate job. Instead she turns to writing and art that lead to the creation of Paris Letters. This travel book teaches you to embrace the unknown, learn to trust yourself, and believe that in the end everything will be all right.
6. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes
Under the Tuscan Sun is a travel novel that takes you to Tuscany, a picturesque region in central Italy. In this book, Frances Mayes shares her experiences of buying, renovating, and living in an old villa in rural Italy. The author goes on to describe her day-to-day life in her new home town, her relationships with new neighbors, and her passion for gardening and cooking.
In 2003, the book got the attention of Hollywood and was adapted for the film Under the Tuscan Sun. Yet as it’s sometimes the case with a book-to-film adaptation, the original is better, in my opinion.
7. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
The Year of Living Danishly is a great example of a travel book that dives deeper into traditions and customs and unveils all the insides of Danish culture.
In this book Helen Russell shares her experiences as an expat in Denmark. Before even moving to a new country, the author sets a goal to uncover the secret of what makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.
She takes this research slowly and learns a few new things about her new homeland every month. From education to work ethic, food and interior design, the Danes show the author their way of living and, most importantly, finding happiness in all of it.
8. Rediscovering Travel by Seth Kugel
As the name suggests, Rediscovering Travel inspires you to re-evaluate your travels. What makes you want to travel? New places, natural wonders, romantic cities, different cuisines?..
According to Seth Kugel, all of these can be a valid reason to venture to a new country and even continent. Yet the author encourages you to challenge yourself a little bit, get off the beaten path often and meet more locals.
Your travels should never be about the number of countries you’ve visited. You don’t even need to see such culturally-enticing places as India or Japan to have the most profound travel experiences. They are everywhere. It’s up to you to find them.
9. Everything is Going to Be Great by Rachel Schukert
Rachel is a twenty something new graduate from NYU who gets a small role in a play that is going on a European tour. After a clearly lucky fluke at the Vienna International Airport, Rachel’s passport never gets stamped upon her entry. The absence of the stamp gives the girl an opportunity to live and “find herself” in Europe for an unlimited amount of time.
This is exactly what Rachel does. She travels from Vienna to Zurich and later Amsterdam, getting into a few complicated love affairs along the way.
10. Scraping Heaven: A Family’s Journey along the Continental Divide Trail by Cindy Ross
One more untraditional travel book by Cindy Ross.
Cindy and her husband’s love of nature and hiking started way before their two children came into picture. And having the kids didn’t stop these adventurous souls from conquering new trails.
In Scraping Heaven, Cindy shares the story of how her family hiked along the Continental Divide Trail. Walking along the 3,100-mile trail that runs from Canada to Mexico is not an easy task for an adult, let alone a small child. Nevertheless, this family managed to do it, not one but five summers in a row.
11. Journey on the Crest by Cindy Ross
Cindy always knew that life had much more to offer than waiting tables and dealing with angry and annoying customers. She had already hiked the Appalachian Trail. This time she decided to walk 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada. Not an easy task…
To make things worse, the author had to find hikers who would join her on this months-long journey or hike alone. Cindy did both. And while some of her male companions were going home, unable to deal with the wilderness and altitude, Cindy kept going. It took her two attempts to finish the arduous hike.
12. The Lost City of Z by David Grann
The review on the back of this travel book left me indifferent. But I was walking down the narrow aisles of Powell’s City of Books in Portland and felt compelled to pick up something that would remind me of this iconic place.
I changed my mind after reading the book. David Grann did an amazing job tracing down the life and story of the 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett. Determined to find the mysterious City of Z, Fawcett together with his son and a son’s friend ventured into the Amazon jungle.
Unlike the previous expeditions conducted by the famous explorer, this voyage was unsuccessful. None of the three men returned back home. Later, countless expeditions took place in order to find out what had happened to Fawcett and his companions and possibly save them. With great losses, both human and financial, they failed to achieve their missions.
In the early 2000s, journalist David Grann came across a story about the lost explorer. The biography was so beautiful and mysterious that it completely occupied Grann’s mind. The journalist decided to conduct his own expedition.
He started with gathering information from libraries’ archives and personal diaries of the famous explorer. As Grann progressed with this task, he told an epic story of Percy Fawcett and his quest of the lost City of Z.
13. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun
Adam Braun was an ordinary young man from a not so ordinary Jewish family. From early years his parents instilled in their children such values as integrity and desire to help others. But a Semester at Sea was that turning point that transformed Adam’s life.
A keen traveler, he started exploring other countries with a simple question: “What would people want if they could have any one thing?” The first time Adam addressed this question to a small boy in India. “A pencil” – was the boy’s reply. Throughout his further travels, the author observed how people strived for education for themselves and their children. There was a big need for it, but no resources to build even a school.
These travel experiences persuaded Adam to quit his well-paid job and found Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization. The purpose of the organization was to bring education to the needy. What had started with just $25 grew to become an unstoppable force that built over 250 schools across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The Promise of a Pencil is more than just a travel book. It talks about hard work, commitment, and a strong desire to help people all over the world.
14. Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony and Maureen Wheeler
Lonely Planet guides are some of the most favorite travel books to read and take with you on vacations. They cover so many places and countries that you can wholeheartedly count on them while planning any of your trips.
But these travel guides and lately the company Lonely Planet Publications didn’t become famous overnight. It took years for their founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, to get where they are right now. Unlikely Destinations is their story of successes and failures, ups and downs, struggles and perseverance.
Unlikely Destinations is a travel book, an autobiography with a twist of business history and lots of adventures taken by two backpackers. Tony and Maureen’s days of backpacking are long gone. But they always remember how their first experiences of traveling across Asia gave birth to their business.
15. How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is a travel book full of recommendations and tips that the author, Matt Kepnes, have used to explore the world. Matt starts his guide with a personal story of how he went from being a medical assistant to becoming a full-time traveler.
Wired with a desire to see the world, the author started planning for his around the world trip by saving money. In this book, he offers tips on how to cut your everyday expenses and get good deals on transportation and accommodation.
The travel book has two parts. The first one prepares you for a trip. Here you learn about travel on credit card points, different discounts and types of accommodations. In the second part of this travel guide you read about specific regions and countries. Each section of this part gives tips on places to eat, stay, and explore.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is a book that you can read from corner to corner or by sections. Just pick your region and immerse yourself in it through the practical tips outlined by Matt.