Henry David Thoreau once said, “A written word is… more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art.”
When we read books about traveling the world, we gain insight into cultures, landscapes, natural wonders, ancient relics and traditions different from our own.
We gain valuable understanding of our collective human history just by turning the pages.
These types of books often possess an incredible power to ignite a fire inside of us.
A travel book, whether nonfiction, fiction or a guide that is read by the right set of eyes will spark a wanderlust so strong that whole personal histories are vulnerable to rerouting.
Opening your eyes, mind and heart to the grand wide world through travel is one of the greatest opportunities you can give yourself.
But you don’t have to take my word for it! Let these 15 travel books be the proof of the pudding.
5 Benefits of Reading Travel Books
1. They encourage you to travel
First and foremost, when you read books about exotic destinations and intriguing cultures, it is likely that you will start to develop a bit of a travel bug.
The only known cure to this contagious bug is to travel!
2. They help prepare you for an upcoming adventure
Travel books often provide a wealth of information you can use if you plan on traveling to the place or places described in the book.
Books are a great resource to collect information prior to embarking on your adventure abroad.
3. They broaden your cultural awareness
Among those billions of people are thousands of different cultures, communities, languages, religions, traditions and histories.
Reading about the fascinating diversity that exists in our world is one of the many ways to broaden your cultural awareness.
4. They inspire the growth of your bucket list
Through the stories, guides and compilations of destinations that are found in the many different types of travel books, it is likely that you will continually find new places and landmarks to add to your bucket list.
5. They allow your mind to travel
For many of us, perpetual travel is not our reality.
When you cannot travel, the next best option is to mind travel.
This is one of the greatest parts of delving into a book that is part of the travel genre. From the comfort of your home, you can be transported to the furthest reaches of our world.
Travel Around the World and Back in 15 Travel Books
Filling our libraries with travel books can be almost as expensive as actually booking a ticket!
For this reason, I have provided Amazon links for all 15 books. This way, you can find the best price and get reading!
The Best Travel Books to Trigger Your Next Trip
“Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders” by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
For the curious and off-the-beaten-path-driven traveler, “Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders” is the Holy Grail of travel books.
This is your guide to 700 of the most extraordinary, eccentric and enthralling places on the planet.
This book is filled with photographs, charts, maps and detailed descriptions of bucket-list-worthy points of interest. Find out where to witness the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, have a pint at a pub in South Africa that is inside of a baobab tree or marvel up at glowing worms in a cave in New Zealand.
“Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders” is your guide to the unexpected!
Lonely Planet put together an inspiring compilation of the 500 must-see sites around the globe. The list combines both monumental landmarks like the Taj Mahal in India and lesser-known treasures like Glover’s Reef in Belize.
Each attraction is accompanied by a short but comprehensive write-up and photographs that will surely awaken the travel bug inside of you. This is the ultimate bucket list for lifelong travelers.
“Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places” by National Geographic
Travel, adventure, culture and National Geographic are four peas in a pod.
The National Geographic magazine is highly revered for its inspiring and informative content, as well as its phenomenal photography. This book follows suit!
The pages of this travel book are illustrated with vibrant, vivid images of some of the world’s most sensational sites by some of the world’s most celebrated travel photographers. You will find both natural and man-made wonders, as well as information about where to go, where to stay, what to eat and what to do.
There is no time like the present to start seeing some of the world’s most amazing places!
Have you long dreamed about taking a break from your everyday life and setting off on an extended adventure abroad?
Once you have read the travel book “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Travel,” you will no longer have any excuses to not pursue that dream.
This is the handbook of all handbooks for anyone who wants to learn the art of long-term travel. The pages are filled with invaluable first-hand information about financing your travel time, determining your destinations, adapting to life on the move and working and volunteering while you are abroad.
You will also learn about how to handle travel adversity, followed by how to re-assimilate back into your ordinary life when and if you decide to come back.
“Travel as Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity” by Gregory V. Diehl
“Travel as Transformation: Conquer the Limits of Culture to Discover Your Own Identity” is a travel book that anyone who is considering traveling solo must read!
The author, Gregory V. Diehl, spent 10 years of his young adult life traveling and working in 45 countries around the world. He recounts his experiences and the lessons he learned along the way in his captivating collection.
He believes that by traveling solo and losing your comfortable sense of self you can learn to see the world and yourself in a new way.
Our identity and our perception of the world is often shaped by the culture and lifestyle that we are most accustomed to. By stepping away from our comforts, our perceptions are likely to change, and often for the better.
Pick up this travel book if you are looking for the wisdom, resources and inspiration to grow and learn through traveling solo.
The Best True Tales of Travel
“The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia” by Paul Theroux
“The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia” is one of the world-renowned travel writer Paul Theroux’s most highly acclaimed books.
This hard-to-put-down travel books tells the grand story of Theroux’s looped journey from Victoria Station in London to Tokyo Central in Japan aboard a series of trains.
The pages are filled with keen observations and Theroux’s signature humor.
The pages make up a completely enthralling tale of travel that will keep you hooked from the start to the end. This railroad odyssey is a must read for both the avid world traveler and the armchair adventurer.
“Seven Years in Tibet” by Heinrich Harrer
“Seven Years in Tibet” is a famous memoir of Austrian explorer Heinrich Harrer.
He escaped from an English internment camp in India in 1943 and spent the following seven years in Tibet. Harrer actually became the first Westerner to ever really live and study the Tibetan culture and way of life.
Harrer recounts his seven-year journey in Tibet in beautiful detail. One of the highlights is surely his relationship with the Dalai Lama. This story has captivated the hearts and imaginations of millions. It is such an incredible story that it was made into a movie.
Read the book first, though!
“Worldwalk” by Steven M. Newman
Beneath the title on the cover of this fascinating book reads the inscription, “An incredible tale of adventure and inspiration—one American’s four-year journey alone and on foot.”
That pretty much sums up this epic story!
Steven M. Newman left his family home in Ohio on April 1, 1983, when he was 28 years old on a quest to walk around the world alone. In 1988, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized his record-breaking accomplishment.
This is a story you don’t want to miss out on. It is one that will likely inspire your own personal conquest.
“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
“Into the Wild” is a compelling story of a young man who leaves his family, belongings, money and even his given name behind on a quest that ends with his untimely death.
What happens from the time he disappears from his family’s radar to his last moments of life is a journey that will pull hard at your heart strings.
Author Jon Krakauer writes Chris McCandless’s story in a way that no one else possibly could have. This story takes readers on a hitchhiking trip across the United States and into the heart of the Alaskan wilderness.
The experiences, relationships, internal struggles and unwavering call of the wild will make you question your own stillness.
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” is a story of a young woman’s courageous decision to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail alone.
Driven by the death of her mother, dissipation of her family and end of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed felt hopelessly lost.
She had no prior experience or training with long distance hiking and camping, but she felt that she had no choice but to just do it. She tells her story with a mix of humor, suspense, warmth, terror and utter honesty. It was through this noble feat that she ultimately healed herself.
A national bestseller and winner of NPR’s best book of the year, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” is a must-read and then must-watch movie.
The Best Fiction Travel Books Every Traveler Will Treasure
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
“The Alchemist” is a masterpiece of modern literature!
Paulo Coelho tells the enchanting story of an Andalusian shepherd boy who deeply longs to travel the world in search of treasures. He embarks on a quest that ultimately leads him to many unexpected treasures.
This story will inspire you to listen to your heart and follow your dreams, among so many other wonderful lessons.
“The Alchemist” is a tale of self-discovery that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
“The Beach” by Alex Garland
“The Beach” is a story of travel and adventure that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading.
The main character, Richard, is given a map by a man he meets his first night in Bangkok before the man kills himself. The mysterious hidden beach is something of legends and is rumored to be a modern-day Eden.
Richard and a French couple he meets decide to follow the map and see if this mystical place really exists. Turns out—it does! While the beach is as spectacular as you could possibly imagine it to be, there is more than meets the eye.
This is the ultimate book to read if you are traveling around multiple places, especially if you are traveling in Southeast Asia.
“The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac
Nearly everyone has heard of or read Jack Kerouac’s famous book “On the Road.”
But “The Dharma Bums” is actually his most noteworthy book. I personally think it is his best book! It is a story of two young Americans on a journey for truth.
One is a Zen Buddhist and a poet, and the other is a writer. Their odyssey includes days-on-end parties, poetry jams and climbing the High Sierras.
The narrator, Ray Smith, is said to be modeled after Jack Kerouac himself. Get ready for a hitchhiking, mountain climbing and an uproarious and mind-opening journey when you open the cover of this book.
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne
This is the ultimate classic adventure story. “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” takes readers from the lost city of Atlantis to the South Pole and everywhere in between.
Professor Aronnax, his servant and a Canadian harpooner embark on a dangerous voyage to rid the ocean of a terrifying sea monster.
They soon discover the monster is something far different than what they were expecting. This story will ignite your imagination and fire for adventure!
“The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert
“The Signature of All Things” is an epic story of love, adventure and discovery. As the reader, you will travel from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, among many other places.
This brilliantly written story is set in the 18th and 19th centuries. The cast of characters includes botanists, artists, adventurers, missionaries, astronomers, abolitionists and sea captains.
The main character, Alma Whittaker, becomes an accomplished botanist with a lifelong thirst for knowledge. It is this thirst that takes her on the greatest adventure to one of the most remote places on the planet.
While Elizabeth Gilbert is most well-known for her book “Eat, Pray, Love,” this novel is her true masterpiece.
Now that you have traveled to all corners of the earth on a magic carpet ride of words, it is time to write your own story.
Let the stories, lessons and advice that you have gathered from the pages of these books be your muse.
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She is an avid writer, traveler and nature lover on a mission to surf the earth and share her stories. She writes for multiple publications, including a collaborative blog called Ocean and Oak.
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