Last Updated on March 20, 2021
In many ways, traveling is like reading a book. Both activities transport you to other worlds, they open your mind, and they leave you wanting more. The best writers can bring you to the quaint Place Dauphine, with its charming cafes and little cobblestone streets; to the winding alleyways filled with traditional tea houses of Jiufen.
For those who can’t fulfill their bucket list just yet, reading books is the next big thing. The best part? It’s cheaper.
So pick up any of these books and set yourself up for an adventure today!
1. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
You don’t need to hop on a plane to satiate that wanderlust. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned road trip can do wonders. Follow Kerouac and Neal Cassady as they go hitchhiking and train-hopping across America in the 1940s.
This autobiographical fiction is one of the most iconic literature pieces that resemble the spirit of the Beat Generation: rough, risky, and often lost. With a look at drugs, sex, jazz, and mischief it’s the quintessential book that will make you want to throw your cares into the wind.
2. Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman
A story of the author’s journey to self-discovery by way of her travels around the world, she will take you with her as she encounters new people, samples new tastes, and digs deep into her soul.
After selling her possessions, Gelman takes a giant leap into the unknown. From sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands to watching orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo, this is a must-read for those who need proof that nothing is ever too late.
3. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
More similar to a collection of essays than a novel, it tells of how Gilbert wanted to find herself again after feeling lost in what most people would call ‘a successful life’. She specifically chose the countries Italy, India, and Indonesia because they all began with the letter ‘I’ (as in self-discovery).
You may hate or love this book. But one thing’s for sure: most travelers would attest that read at the right time in your life, this is all you need as motivation to get up and go.
4. The Not-Quite States of America, by Doug Mack
Don’t be surprised, the America really is not just 50 states. In this witty yet highly informative book, author Mack tells about the rich history and facts about the lesser known U.S. territories: American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Rich, detailed, and fascinating, this will take you on a 30,000-mile journey to people whose culture and even governments most folks ignore.
5. No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, by Anthony Bourdain
Ever wondered how some people can travel 5,000 miles for ‘the best steak and sausages’? For foodies, travels are mostly all about the food. And this book wants to take you on a behind-the-scenes on what it’s like to be hungry enough to go halfway across the world for the best eats.
Aside from stunning food pictures, you’ll also read about Bourdain’s thoughts on the places that he went to. It’s definitely a must-have on every food lover’s book shelf.
6. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Whether you’re waiting at a dentist’s appointment or you’re stuck in traffic, this modern classic will teach you the wisdom of following your dreams.
It tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who suddenly wants to travel in search of treasure. Through roadblocks, opportunities, and of course, alchemy, he learns that not all treasures are equal – and that some can only be attained when we listen to our hearts.
7. The Beach, by Alex Garland
The urge to travel is sometimes more than just wanting to try something new. For others, it’s about doing something different than the rest. If you’ve been to several places, it’s not surprising to find yourself rather jaded by the same tastes, textures, or smells. But be careful – what seems like paradise at first can easily turn deadly.
Such is the case for the protagonist Richard, in this spellbinding novel. His seemingly innocent journey begins Khao San Road, Bangkok. That is until he receives a mysterious map to the legendary ‘beach’. If you loved the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, you will be enamored by its book.
8. Love with a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
Ever dreamed of meeting the love of your life and then sailing off into the sunset? Author DeRoche recounts how she met a new love before suddenly deciding to sail off with him in the Pacific. It would be a fantastic idea if she were not terrified of deep water.
This is more of a memoir than a travelogue. So while you may not fully enjoy her descriptions of Tonga and the Cook islands, you might like her wit.
9. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
After losing almost everything, the author suddenly stuffs a backpack with half her weight and decides (with no training) to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State alone.
Of course, while you may not want to take a similar trail – or hike – it does make one wonder about the things we always put off doing. That perhaps a journey doesn’t begin when we book flights or when we get on a boat. That maybe it starts when we decide.
10. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
If you’ve always wanted to be transported to the sights and smells of Italy, then this book is for you.
Filled with vivid descriptions about a little Tuscan village and its recipes, you might find yourself wanting to replicate the dishes written here. Follow the author as she tells how to make great-tasting foods and take pleasure in everyday wonders.
11. Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, by Kate Harris
A bicycle can take you to places cars and planes can’t. Just ask this author as she recalled tales from her journey on the infamous Silk Road with a friend. More than breaking boundaries, discomfort during travel, and lots of self-reflection, it’s a story about how exploration doesn’t always mean discovering new places.
12. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
In an unnamed country, two unlikely individuals fall in love. But as independent Nadia and gentle Saeed’s love affair blossom, their country falls into turmoil. Between checkpoints and bomb blasts, there are whispers of doors that could transport you to other countries. But doors leading to these better lands are harder to come by, and worse, difficult to get through without getting caught.
Want to know if our heroes survived? You better read the book to find out.
13. The Caliph’s House: a Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah
If you think you know Morocco, think again. Shah invites readers to come with him as he takes his family from the foggy streets of London to the colorful and exotic Casablanca. Here, he intends not only to restore a rundown house, but also to give his children a more carefree childhood. However, he soon learns it’s not as easy to belong.
From tricky customs to dealing with corruption, this book – like Morocco – is more than meets the eye.
14. Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux
Part travelogue and perhaps, part opinion about the social and economic issues of the countries in Africa, this book is eye-opening as well as helpful.
If you’ve ever thought that the continent’s only gem is in safaris, then you’re mistaken. Let the author take you into a jarring whirlwind tour of dugout canoes and armed convoys to meet people from Egypt all the way to Mozambique.
15. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier, by Thad Carhart
There’s a saying, ‘good Americans, when they die, go to Paris’. And for every Francophile, what could be more exciting. Of course, you don’t need to be departed to experience first-hand accounts of what it’s like to live in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
All you need to do is to pick up this book to discover a world of music, childhood passions, and beautiful descriptions about everyday Parisian life.