“To travel is to live.”
However, some people are still a bit unsure if they can pull it off. After all, traveling costs money and time—not to mention the anxiety of going somewhere you’ve never been to before.
But then again, think of the memories you’ll collect, the lessons you’ll learn, the diverse culture you’ll uncover, the people you’ll meet along the way, and the wisdom you’ll gain through the years of traveling!
That is why we asked experts to help put together some of the best books on traveling that will help you get started on planning that trip you’ve always dreamed about.
Let’s have a look at their top recommendations:
Is Scandinavia really the happiest place on earth? That’s the question that journalist Michael Booth attempted to answer by traveling through the Nordic countries to investigate the truth of the Nordic model.
He sweeps aside the misunderstood hygge craze that has swept the planet in recent years and speaks to locals to find out just how happy they really are. There’s plenty of people-watching going on too, which any master of the art (including me!) will surely appreciate.
This part-travelogue, part-social study is written in a light-hearted comedic style and is the perfect choice for anyone who wondered whether the Nordic miracle really is all that.
The print book is quite bulky so I recommend grabbing the digital version if you want to read it on your travels.
Journalist Helen Russell set herself a target: Discover the secrets of Denmark’s purported happiness within one year.
Rather than hang around in the international hipster community of Copenhagen, she chose instead to move to rural Denmark.
She digs into Danish lifestyle in a much more intense way than many authors of similar books, taking up hobbies like cycling and choral singing to live a similar life to the subjects of her study as possible.
Her verdict? Rather than buying cushions and candles in an attempt to Scandify our lives, she recommends we all simply start trusting people more.
If you want to go beyond hygge and understand the true nature of everyday Scandinavian lifestyle, this “year in the life” is well worth a place on your bookshelf.
A Walk in the Hindu Kush, first published in 1958, is, in my opinion, one of the all-time classic travel books. What makes the book fascinating is that it tells the story of the on-foot trek the English author Eric Newby undertook through Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains in 1956.
Prior to that time, very few non-military westerners had ventured there, and since then, because of the on-going violence in the country, very few, other than army special forces personnel hunting down the Taliban, have been there. This in all probability will remain the situation for the foreseeable future.
No list of Best Travel Books would be complete without Kerouac’s American classic On The Road. In this semi-autobiographical story of Sal Paradise (one of Kerouac’s alter-egos) and Dean Moriarty’s journey across rural America in the 1940s, we discover the Beat counterculture which defined a generation.
It’s a great, inspiring read for anyone looking to escape the real world and provides encouragement to take the road less traveled.
Kerouac’s masterpiece is a stream-of-consciousness account of wandering across the US and into Mexico with his best friend.
He introduces the ideology of the Beat generation who were unique in their rejection of tradition and conformity. The book’s sheer energy inspires a hunger for new experiences and a passion for life.
The writing is immersive and experimental and teaches a way of looking at the world that feels brand new. The reader is brought along for the ride during this aimless wandering because of Kerouac’s unique voice and sharp descriptions.
It’s a book that really resonated when it was published in 1957 and yet continues to be relevant today as it inspires adventure seekers everywhere to find out who they really are, somewhere out on the road.
This is one of the best novels I have read and it really sucks you into the story. Whilst the book has received some criticism for being more fiction than fact, it would still rate as one of my favorite travel books.
It is an extremely thought-provoking and entertaining read, full of intensely vivid images that transport you to the colorful world of an Indian slum.
Like the author did in real life, the main character escapes from an Australian prison and flees to Bombay, hoping to hide among the multitude.
The book details his struggles to find a balance between normal life and his dangerous dealings with the mafia. By turns gruesome and sensitive, Shantaram takes the reader on a series of jam-packed adventures while introducing a large cast of characters that are fully human and come alive on the page.
It’s an intense and brilliant portrayal of India that makes the reader feel like you’re almost there yourself.
The story of Steven Newman, a former freelance journalist who decided at the age of 28 to pack his bag and begin a 4-year long journey around the world on foot.
This fascinating tale of adventure follows Steven’s epic journey across 21 countries on five continents and becomes a timeless lesson of hope and love through the eyes of a backpacker.
Steven Newman had never been out of the country before taking on this incredible trip, for which he had spent 5 years preparing. What follows is an odyssey full of encounters with many different kinds of people all over the world.
He allows himself to depend on complete strangers and is rewarded with incredible generosity, though he also has many harrowing experiences including several life-threatening situations.
Worldwalk presents a fundamentally optimistic view of humanity and inspires the reader to see that people are the same wherever we may go. The intimacy and vulnerability of his journey, walking on foot through all of it, makes this book completely unforgettable.
This was the first travel book which inspired me to travel the world in search of answers.
The Alchemist tells the wonderful story of an Andalusian shepherd who wants to travel in search of treasure. In his adventures, he finds himself instead.
This is an incredible travel adventure which inspired the world to seek the courage to follow real dreams. The author shows us, the readers, that life is about the journey, a journey of lessons and enthralling stories of snakes, love, dunes, and alchemy.
Desert Solitaire is a wilderness classic by Edward Abbey, a renown conversationist, and prolific writer, considered to be a modern Thoreau.
The book is autobiographical in nature and documents his experience in southwestern American backcountry, a solo travel experience in which he laments about the increase of technology and people in natural places.
This is coupled with the very real trials of survival and travel to make for a fascinating and inspiring read for those looking to find solitude in nature.
Less famous than On The Road (which could also easily go on this list), Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac describes the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and social wanderings of one of America’s great authors.
It is a fantastic travel book because it plants the reader in the heart of West Coast during the rise of the psychedelic era, and creates a longing for unbridled travel in order to discover what the world, even the world you already know, really has to offer.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is literally a world-renowned book, mostly because it combines the wanderlust of travel with the hopeful contemplation of life by a young man seeking love.
It is almost mythic in structure, moving very simply through stages, with a clear and focused plot of seeking a dream. It takes you to distant lands, fosters the belief that magic is possible and powerful, and is rooted in love, unlike most travel books.
Peter Allison, who originally hails from Australia, was a safari guide in Botswana’s Okavango Delta for many years, so who better to write true tales of the African bush?
In this book, made up of a series of essays peppered with wit and humor, his love for Africa and his passion to protect its animals shines through.
In each short story, he regales you with stories of his life as a guide, the interactions with his safari guests and tales of wildlife encounters. These stories are sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny and sometimes purely outrageous.
Peter spins a yarn with his relaxed writing style and genuine love of Africa in a funny, easy read, that will make you want to book your safari the moment you finish the last page!
In 2007, well-known actor Ewan McGregor and his mate Charlie Boorman set off on motorcycles from John O’Groats at the northern tip of Scotland. They traveled overland through 18 countries in just under three months, finally reaching the southernmost tip of Africa – Cape Agulhas.
Their epic journey down the African continent will take you through terrain that is not only grueling but also breathtakingly beautiful.
Along the way, the adventurers met presidents and child soldiers and had close encounters with elephants in Botswana and gorillas in Rwanda. This book takes you along for the ride, and what a ride it is!
This book needs no introduction, and while it may seem to fall into the category of history books, it is an important and enjoyable read.
Each chapter gives you great insight into South Africa and into one of the world’s greatest icons, Nelson Mandela.
From his humble start in life as a goatherd in rural South Africa to his remarkable rise to the first democratically elected President of South Africa, it is a story of hope and inspiration and one of the greatest memoirs of our time.
Mandela was incredibly wise and amazingly forgiving and this, the story of his life, written by him, gives one a glimpse into this great man’s mind and an overview of the dark history of Apartheid.
A Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, Hisham Matar delivers a beautifully written, uplifting memoir of his journey home to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father’s disappearance.
How tightly intertwined are the people we cherish with the places we call home? How do the places we live affect the way we interact, grow and connect? How does living in a strange land impact our view of ourselves? And what sort of perspective does world travel impact on us?
These questions are what this book is all about. Expect to laugh, cry, and find beauty in corners of the world you never even knew existed.
This #1 New York Times bestseller has been lighting up book clubs and reading groups alike. Suspenseful yet humorous, Strayed captures the intricacies of each adventure to bring the reader along on the journey in the best way possible.
Wild recounts the months Strayed spent, during the summer of 1995, hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. While nothing particularly overwhelming happens during the trip, the way Strayed tells her story–how her father left their family when she was six, her cravings for heroin and meaningless sex, her search for radical loneliness–will have you teary-eyed and reflective well before you turn the final page.
You’ll be packing your bags before this one’s even done.
This doesn’t pop up on many lists of travel books, though it probably should. Running provides deeper insights on travel than any other Murakami work to date, and with his prolific career, that’s saying quite something.
Murakami began running seriously when he was 33, in 1982. In recent years he has covered an average of six miles a day, six days a week. He’s competed in more than 20 marathons. In 1996 he completed an ultramarathon of 62 miles. Yet through it all, this book’s focal point is not on the running itself, but Murakami bringing his readers along with him around the world.
From his native Japan to New York to Hawaii to Athens, Greece, Running is written wholly in the name of global, and personal, exploration.
Most times I went on traveling (in my early days as an avid traveler) someone gave me a gift, many times a book to accompany me in my adventures.
This book, by Richard Kapuscinski, is an account of his early days as a young journalist who crosses the iron curtain to report about the world.
Before departing, his boss gives him a gift: a volume of Herodotus, the Greek historiographer who reported from foreign lands in the fifth century BC.
The book is an intertwined journey between both. Since I read the book I couldn’t stop making parallels between people and their stories and pushed me to discover a broader world that I didn’t know it exists. On the lonely road, this book has been my constant companion.
I’ve been traveling for years across different cultures, where alcohol is forbidden, and this book revived amazing memories of my journeys in the Muslim world.
I must admit the title of the book is not that appealing for what it is. In my opinion, it is an amazing trip within cultures that are quite different from the western world and by the “alcohol” optic, the reader is asked to reflect between East and West.
I loved the fact that this book made ask myself essential questions about the world where I live.
This book isn’t your typical travel book, but rather a journalistic reconstruction of the life of Chris McCandless and his nomadic wanderings across the American West.
And while the story ultimately ends tragically, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and influenced by the directions that Chris McCandless took in life and reading the book helped compel me to undertake my own nomadic journey across America and beyond.
It is hard not to feel like you want to break away and explore when following his story, even if it isn’t anything quite so extreme.
Another incredible book is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, one that isn’t so much a step-by-step how-to book about traveling, but more of a eye-opening and insightful read about how long-term travel is truly accessible to most if that is what they want, when so often we are told that travel, vacations, and all of that are something reserved for either the rich or the retired.
I’d consider it a must read book for any future traveler.
Brendan John Lee
The most memorable travel book I’ve read these past few years would be Love, Africa by Jeff Gettleman.
As a young boy he develops a fascination with the continent, and constantly finds ways to return back there, on vacation, for his jobs, until he finally settles and has a family there after many years.
Not only is it filled with romance, kidnapping, corruption, near-death experiences, but he also takes you right into the soul of everyday African life.
If you ever hesitated about visiting Africa, this book will show you it is as beautiful as it is misunderstood.
Alain de Botton’s Art of Travel is a must-read for anyone who loves to travel. Rather than inspiring you to visit a specific place, the Art of Travel examines “how” you should travel.
It raises a number of interesting philosophical questions, including why some trips don’t live up to the anticipation we had before taking the trip, as well as providing guidance on how to get the most out of your next trip.
It’s truly a thought-provoking book that will change how you think about travel.
I was inspired to travel by Rita Golden Gelman’s Tales of a Female Nomad about a 40-something-year-old woman who decided to get rid of all her possessions and travel full-time for the rest of her life.
Rita gives the impression that if she can travel full-time and immerse herself in diverse cultures…anyone can!
So, I did! As a 40-something-year-old myself, I started traveling full-time as a housesitter where I live in others’ homes and care for their pets while they travel.
During the past decade of full-time travel, I’ve housesat in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, throughout Africa, Mexico, Hanoi, Osaka, Singapore — even Ya’an, a Chinese village where I met no other westerner for a week!
This book will change your life, and inspire any traveler to think outside the box.
One of the only two books that author Tim Ferriss took on his 18-month world adventure, and the inspiration for the famous book The 4 Hour Work Week, Vagabonding remains one of my favorite travel books of all time that I re-read at least once a year.
An essential primer for travelers looking to gain insight into Europe usually hidden from tourists.
Rick Steves has spent 3 months a year in Europe since the 1970s. He knows the off-the-beaten-path locations like no other traveler in the industry.
In addition to backdoor locations, he uses his expansive knowledge to teach you how to travel smart, avoid scams, and stay safe on the road.
The quintessential American journey of friendship, travel, and youth. Join Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, and friends in post-war America, as they crisscross the nation (and into Mexico) in pursuit of perfect freedom.
The lovingly described, but flawed characters are ripe with hedonism and full of self-indulgence who gladly give in to the excesses of the counterculture.
Through this story, Kerouac earned the reputation as the voice of the Beat Generation. “On the Road” is similar to a recollection of personal memories that never happened.
Reading it as an adult, it triggers a longing for youth that has somehow escaped.
Journey on the back roads of America with Heat-Moon, a college professor who takes off on the road after being abandoned by his wife.
This work dives into the vast personas of what and who America is. Along the way, Heat-Moon meets individuals from all walks of life and all areas of the country. He travels into the heart of a place; off of the interstate and onto the state routes.
Instead of polished megamalls and glitzy casinos, it is roadside diners and blue-collar workers that are represented in this loving collection, as he searches for the essence of America. Although written in 1982, it is still relevant today.
Round Ireland With A Fridge is an amusing journey that results from of a drunken bet with one of Tony’s friends after a few beers at the pub.
The bet is that Tony can’t hitch-hike around Ireland within a month – but the catch is that he must take a small bar fridge with him at all times, however, or wherever awkward that might be.
Tony turns up to the shores of Ireland to see if the Irish are as hospitable as their reputation. Of course, the Irish public and press latch onto this quirky story and ensure that Tony is able to win his silly bet, but this book shows the hospitality of strangers when you’re in a foreign land.
The central theme of the Naked Man Festival is festivals – a man’s search of the most unusual or weird celebrations around the place.
Definitely a tribute to our weird world, Brian’s adventures for the kooky parties include the Roswell UFO Festival where he meets people who say they’re used by aliens for medical experiments, the Vodou Festival in Haiti where Brian is almost sacrificed by a priest, and of course, The Naked Man Festival in Japan (Hakada Matsuri) where thousands of loincloth-clad men hope to gain luck for an entire year.
If you’re looking for any silly excuse to go traveling, this book is it!
Bryson’s books are always funny and yet informative, but this one is probably his best. His tale of trekking the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States had me laughing out loud, and is one of the only books I’ve literally not been able to put down from cover to cover.
Bryson’s work is usually colored by his unique perspective on the world around him and in particular the silly events that seem to follow him wherever he goes.
In this book, he sets out on an arduous adventure with his incompetent friend. Along the way, he describes the glory of the scenery in rather well-researched passages that reminds us not to take for granted the great outdoors.
I adore Theroux’s books about Asia and Africa, but this one is probably his best work and is rightly considered a classic of the genre.
The plot is simply him attempting to go around the world by train, but the beauty of it (as with his other books) is the conversations he has with people he meets.
It is not about incredible adventures, but humble observations from a man who loves to listen and report. From England to Japan and back via Russia, his journey is remarkable as he meets a wide cast of colorful characters.
He occasionally brings in some dark humor, as with a section in Vietnam where the horrors of war have led to army tanks being used to hang laundry up, and always brings a vivid and human face to the places he visits.
Into the Wild tells the story of a young man who decides to leave all possessions behind and hitch-hike alone into the wilderness of Alaska. The story reveals how travel is one of the greatest adventures this life has to offer.
In his connections with others along the way and most importantly, in his connections to himself, he is able to find the true meaning of happiness.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert tells her own story about how she abandoned the social norm of marriage and a family to travel for nine months.
She first finds herself in Italy to learn a new language and indulge in the passion of pasta. She then meditates her way through three months in an Ashram in India. She wraps up her trip to Bali where she searches for a sense of balance, combining both self-love and discipline in attempts to create the best version of herself.
This story will make you want to fall in love with life, others, and yourself again.
This is the most inspiring travel book I’ve ever read. It’s a biography of a young woman (the author) who treks eleven hundred miles along the West Coast of America, all by herself, to cure her grief over her dead mother.
If this doesn’t make every young woman want to go out and buy hiking gear and a tent, I don’t know what will!
This biography of Rita, a 48-year-old woman, on the edge of divorce who decided to give up her glamorous life and become a Nomad.
Hear, in detail about her travels as she explores different countries and meets some amazing people. It almost feels as though you’re there, traveling with her. Very inspiring indeed.
Bill Bryson’s 1999 Antipodean adventure travelogue, In a Sunburned Country, is my all-time favorite travel book because it inspired my first solo trip to Australia.
Writing with humor, empathy and gentle self-deprecation, Bryson piqued my interest in this unique country but more importantly, he showed that travel is for everyone. All you need is a plane ticket and an open mind.
No doubt there are worthier entrants for best travel book but Bryson captured my imagination and inspired a lifetime love for travel, so it gets my wholehearted endorsement.