20+ Best Books That Inspire Travel

Travel has always been a source of inspiration for me, a theme conveniently and vividly captured in the wonder of books. Beautifully and magically, they’ve transported me time and again to distant lands and exotic cultures. Here are the best books that inspire travel for me, ones I’ll read over and over again as the years go by.

There are travelogues, memoirs, adventure narratives, and even a few fiction works. I hope you enjoy them too!

Books that inspire travel

20+ Best Books That Inspire Travel

Each kind of travel book offers a unique window into vast and varied landscapes, cultures, and experiences.

Travelogues

A travelogue typically concentrates on the destinations visited, including descriptions of the landscapes, cultures, people, and experiences encountered. Exciting travelogues inspire you to make your own journey!

1. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

This book has transformed the way I view life. I’m not alone in this, by far. It’s at the top of my Must Read Books for Travelers list.

Potts’ writing is a manifesto for the nomadic life, offering practical advice for long-term travel in an entertaining way. He provides essential guidance for making such dreams a reality, including tips for navigating life on the move.

2. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

One of the more renowned travelogues, this book offers an engaging and humorous exploration of Australia, its landscapes, culture, and history.

Bryson travels extensively throughout the country, from major cities to remote areas, sharing fascinating stories and observations about the land, its unique wildlife, and its people.

I found his witty narrative the perfect compliment to capture and relay the vastness and diversity of Australia.

3. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin  

This classic travelogue takes you through Patagonia, at the southern tip of South America. Chatwin mixes history, legend, and personal anecdotes to paint a vivid picture of the region and its people.

I read this when I first started planning a trip to Torres Del Paine and thoroughly enjoyed its lyrical prose and the ease with which he blends history with his personal exploration.

Travel Memoirs

Travel memoirs delve deeper, focusing on personal transformation and self-discovery against distant lands and unfamiliar customs. This form of travel literature often resonates deeply with people as it explores the universal themes of growth and change.

4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Seeking healing after a painful divorce, Gilbert charts an adventure across Italy, India, and Indonesia. It’s a deeply personal exploration of her quest for personal growth and happiness.

One of the more uplifting and inspiring travel books, this one was one of the first to spark a serious desire for a life of travel for me.

5. West With the Night by Beryl Markham

Published in 1942, this autobiographical account chronicles an extraordinary life as the first woman to pilot a plane from east to west across the Atlantic. Her writing was one of the first travel memoirs I read, inspiring me to earn my own pilot’s license as a teenager so that I might travel more in the future.

Raised in Kenya, Markham’s early years were marked by adventures with the Murani people and a profound connection to the land. She later forged a path as a pioneering aviator and a successful racehorse trainer. 

6. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

One of my favorite travel memoirs ever, telling the inspiring story of Raynor and her husband Moth, who, after losing their home and receiving a terminal diagnosis for Moth, decide to embark on an extraordinary journey.

With little money and no place to live, they choose to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path, stretching from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall, along the coastline of England. This deeply personal narrative explores themes of homelessness, nature’s healing power, and the human spirit’s resilience.

I loved that through their journey, Raynor and Moth experienced the kindness of strangers, the beauty of the natural world, and a renewed sense of purpose and love for life despite their challenges.

7. Track by Robyn Davidson

A moving travel memoir about an incredible journey of 1,700 miles across the Australian desert with four camels and a dog. It’s a tale of courage and self-discovery, showing how travel can push physical and psychological limits.

Ideal for readers looking for inspiration to undertake their own challenging adventures. This one was motivating, inspiring, and possibly one of the best adventure memoirs I’ve ever read.

8. Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

Weiner takes readers on a fantastic global quest to find what makes people happy in different cultures.

Weiner’s exploration of countries like Iceland, Qatar, and Bhutan offers fascinating insights into how geography, economy, and culture contribute to happiness, urging you to explore these places and reflect on their own definitions of happiness.

His book is infused with humor, echoing the engaging and witty style reminiscent of Bill Bryson. This book is a must-read for those searching for a delightful and amusing travel read!

9. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

A light-hearted and entertaining memoir that captures the author’s first year living in Provence, France, after moving from England. Mayle shares the joys, challenges, and peculiarities of rural French life through a series of monthly chapters.

With wit and affection, Mayle paints a vivid picture of the landscape, the people, and Provence’s slow-paced yet richly satisfying lifestyle. I found this a delightful and immersive read, celebrating the pleasures of Provencal life.

10. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

I simply adored this book. Mayes’s descriptions of the Italian countryside, with its rolling hills, ancient villas, and sumptuous meals, are so rich and inviting that I’ve been motivated to visit Italy to experience its beauty and culinary delights firsthand.

Through her eyes, readers experience the seasonal changes, the process of restoring the villa, the delights of gardening, cooking, and wine-making, as well as the warmth and complexities of the local community.

Under the Tuscan Sun offers a profoundly personal and enchanting look at the transformative power of setting down roots in a beautiful, foreign land.

11. The Earth Beneath My Feet

The Earth Beneath My Feet is an extraordinary true story of a 7,000-mile solo walk undertaken by the author. This memoir recounts the author’s journey across some of Europe’s wildest and most beautiful locations. Many of these areas were untouched by the modern world.

He shares the whole experience of traveling on foot, offering insights into the mental and physical resilience required for such a journey and the process of self-discovery and transformation accompanying it​​.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing this kind of thing. I accidentally came across this book, and I’m hoping you do too.

Adventure Narratives

Adventure narratives are for the thrill-seeker in all of us, chronicling the exploits and exciting exploits of those who venture into the unknown. They’re the best books for people who like adventure.

12. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

A riveting account of the tragic events that unfolded on Mount Everest in 1996. Krakauer’s narrative delivers a harrowing and detailed exploration of the mishaps during the summit attempt and its profound impact on the individuals involved.

This book is a must-read for those fascinated by mountaineering, adventure, and the stark realities faced in extreme conditions, offering one of the most compelling insights into high-altitude climbing.

It will give you, as it did me, a much better appreciation and respect for the mountain and the climbers.

13. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

The narrative begins in 1914 when Ernest Shackleton and his 27-man crew embarked on an ambitious expedition to traverse Antarctica. Their journey took a dramatic turn when their vessel became ensnared in a vast sea of pack ice, halting their progress and ultimately leading to the ship’s destruction.

Stranded on ice floes, the crew endured months of extreme conditions, subsisting on limited provisions along with penguins, seals, and sea leopards while combating severe cold, hunger, and the monotony of their situation.

Lansing’s account is a testament to human resilience, meticulously compiled through interviews with survivors and insights gleaned from their diaries, penned amidst their harrowing experiences.

14. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

A captivating read that will ignite your wanderlust for Machu Picchu. This book is an essential primer for those plotting a journey to this iconic landmark.

Despite his lack of wilderness savvy, Adams embarks on an adventurous quest to retrace Hiram Bingham’s historic trek to Machu Picchu. The result is a narrative filled with humor and laughter.

Yet, amidst the amusement, Adams provides a rich exploration of Machu Picchu’s history, the story of its “discovery” by Bingham, and a vivid account of what trekking through Peru’s remote landscapes truly entails. By far, one of the most delightful books about travel I’ve read.

15. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Telling the true story of Christopher McCandless’s journey into the Alaskan wilderness, Krakauer’s book explores the desire to escape modern life and find meaning in nature.

Despite its tragic end, McCandless’s quest has motivated readers to seek adventure and contemplate their relationship with the natural world. This book was the beginning of my shift towards simplicity and adventure.

16. Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard

A heartwarming true story about an unexpected friendship between Dion Leonard, an ultramarathon runner, and Gobi, a stray dog he encounters during a grueling 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert in China.

Gobi chooses to run alongside Leonard, showing incredible endurance and quickly wins his heart. Finding Gob is more than a story about an athletic challenge; it’s a touching narrative about companionship, resilience, and the lengths one will go to for a friend.

This book is for everyone who loves dogs, adventure, or both!

17. The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds” by Caroline Van Hemert

An inspiring memoir, one of the best travel adventure books I’ve ever read, about a remarkable journey of self-discovery and adventure.

The book details Caroline and her husband Pat’s audacious six-month expedition from the Pacific rainforests of Washington, through the Alaskan Arctic, to the Bering Sea, entirely under their own power—by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe.

Van Hemert, a wildlife biologist, weaves scientific observations with personal insights, making The Sun is a Compass a compelling read that captures the challenges, beauty, and vastness of the wild landscapes they traverse.

18. Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton

This reflective and engaging memoir chronicles a year-long journey visiting every national park in the United States.

A blend of travelogue, personal reflection, and environmental commentary provides insights into the national parks’ beauty and diversity, from the well-known Yellowstone and Grand Canyon vistas to the remote wilderness of Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic.

Knighton’s journey is not just about the physical landscapes but also about finding solace and understanding in nature. It’s one any outdoor lover will relate to.

19. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This wildly popular book recounts the author’s solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a powerful memoir that tells the author’s solo journey of self-discovery and healing.

After the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, Strayed finds herself at a crossroads, leading her to impulsively decide to hike over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, despite having no experience as a long-distance hiker.

I found it to be a brutally honest narrative detailing the physical and emotional challenges she faces on the trail, including extreme weather, wildlife encounters, and the solitude of the wilderness.

Her journey is one of transformation as she confronts her personal demons, reflects on her life, and ultimately finds strength and redemption in the beauty and brutality of nature.

Wild is an inspiring tale of resilience, courage, and the human capacity to endure and evolve. By far, one of the best books for adventurers.

Fiction

Fiction offers a canvas for the imagination, where characters’ journeys across real and imagined landscapes inspire us to dream bigger.

20. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

The novel’s eloquent and richly woven language captivates from the first page to the last of its 900-page journey, offering an immersive and enlightening experience of Mumbai for any visitor.

Shantaram is celebrated for its blend of adventure, philosophical depth, and a richly textured portrayal of life in Bombay. It is marked by Roberts’ ability to weave his personal experiences into a larger narrative that explores universal themes of love, identity, and redemption.

Read it, you won’t regret it.

21. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ narrates the journey of Santiago, a young shepherd on a quest across the globe for a hidden treasure. Crafted in the parable style, it imparts the wisdom of heeding one’s heart and chasing one’s dreams.

While many are drawn to its uplifting message, others criticize it as merely a collection of overused tropes. I read this years and years ago, and several times since, and found stimulating and inspiring each time.

22. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

A gripping and emotional novel set in the wild landscape of Alaska in the 1970s. The story follows the Allbright family as they attempt to start a new life in the remote wilderness after Ernt Allbright, a former POW from the Vietnam War, inherits a piece of land.

Ernt’s struggle with PTSD and the family’s lack of preparedness for the harsh Alaskan environment pushes them to their limits. I loved that Hannah captures the essence of the human spirit’s capacity to endure and thrive despite isolation and adversity.

Turning Your Inspiration into Reality

Here are tips and suggestions for turning books about traveling into your own tangible travel plans.

Reflect on Your Reading

Consider the wanderlust books that have moved you and why. Was it the culture, the landscape, the adventure, or the protagonist’s personal journey that captivated you? Identifying these elements can guide your travel goals.

Create a Theme-Based Bucket List

Compile a list of destinations based on your favorite reads. If a book about the Camino de Santiago inspired you, consider planning a trek along this historic route. Or, if a novel set in Paris stirred your imagination, make the City of Light your next destination. Here’s mine.

Research Your Destination

Once you’ve chosen your destination, research it as if you were preparing to write your best travel book. Look into its history, culture, natural landscapes, and hidden gems that might not be in the typical tourist guides.

Seek Out Books and Resources

Find more fiction and non-fiction books about your destination. Travel guides, historical accounts, and local literature can provide valuable insights and enhance your travel experience.

Plan with Purpose

If your book is about solitude and self-discovery in nature, plan to spend time in the wilderness. If it concerns cultural immersion, plan to participate in local traditions or language classes.

Document Your Journey

Document your experiences, thoughts, and how they relate to the themes or scenes from your favorite books. This can deepen your engagement with both the destination and the literature.

Capture Moments

Take photos or sketches of places directly related to your readings. These visual memories can be a powerful reminder of your journey.

Share Your Story

Share your experiences on social media, travel forums, or book clubs. Your journey could inspire someone else to follow in your footsteps.

While visiting places from your favorite books is inspiring, remember to carve out your own path and experiences. Your journey should be uniquely yours, adding a new chapter to your life inspired by, but not limited to, the books you’ve read.

By integrating the themes or destinations from your readings into your travel plans, you pay homage to the works that inspired you and enrich your travel experience, making it more meaningful and personal. Let literature be the map that guides you to new adventures, understanding, and self-discovery.

FAQs on Top Travel Books

What are the best adventure travel books?

Some of the best adventure travel books include “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. These books inspire with tales of exploration, self-discovery, and the beauty of the natural world.

What are some inspirational travel books?

Inspirational adventure books include ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, exploring self-discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail; ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, a journey of soul-searching across Italy, India, and Indonesia; and ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, a metaphorical tale of chasing dreams from Spain to Egypt.

What are some travel the world books?

Travel the world books include ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ by Jules Verne, a thrilling race against time; ‘In Patagonia’ by Bruce Chatwin, blending history with adventure; and ‘Vagabonding’ by Rolf Potts, offering practical advice for long-term world travel and embracing the nomadic lifestyle.

What are some great novels about travel?

Fiction books about travel include ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac, capturing the spirit of American freedom; ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland, a tale of paradise found and lost in Thailand; and ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts, an epic adventure through the underworld of Bombay and beyond.

Wrapping up Books that Inspire Travel

Travel-inspiring literature is a compass that guides us through the world’s vastness and variety, urging us to explore, reflect, and grow. These books are not just about the destinations they describe but about the journeys of the souls they provoke.

They remind us that travel is not just an escape but a return to ourselves, a way to confront our fears, chase our dreams, and discover the world anew.

For those whose wanderlust has been ignited, this is just the beginning. Subscribe for more travel tips, book recommendations, and inspiration to turn your reading into reality.