Books that inspire you to travel

I have enjoyed reading travel books since I was a kid. Some of these books inspired me to start travelling and visiting different parts of the world.

When I talked to other fellow travel bloggers, I have noticed that books are one of the main sources of travel inspiration for many travellers and adventure lovers.

Here you can find a list of the best travel books that inspired me and other travel bloggers to roam around the world.

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Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found

Recommended by Mansoureh from Travel with Mansoureh

Before reading Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found, I watched the movie. I was so touched by Cheryl Strayed’s story. I really loved the movie, but at the time I didn’t know that I would love the book even more.

Cheryl Strayed shares her experience of hiking 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in the US for three months. This hike is more than an adventure for her, it is about grief and love. She had messed up her life after losing her mum and she destroyed her marriage as a result of her serial infidelities.

She started the hike alone with no experience or training, but she knew the hike was the only way she could find her strength and desire again.

This book inspired me as a woman to go for a hike solo even for a day to reconnect with nature and with myself.

Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer

Recommended by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

As a young crime reporter in Canada, Jeremy Mercer angered the wrong criminal and started receiving death threats. Deciding it was time for him to go on the run, he left for Europe and ended up in Paris, alone and nearly broke.

When he heard about an English-language bookstore where the eccentric owner let writers and other travellers stay for free, it sounded too good to be true, but it wasn't. Jeremy stayed for five months at Shakespeare and Company, where he slept on a narrow bed that doubled as a bench where customers could sit and read books during the day.

He became friends with the owner, George Whitman, and with many other lost souls who passed through the bookstore, some staying longer than others.

I actually lived at Shakespeare and Company myself for a couple of weeks back in 2001 and reading this book filled me with nostalgia and memories of that time. I looked up the bookstore and was amazed to find that, even though George passed away in 2011 at the age of 98, his daughter Sylvia has made sure that the bookstore lives on. While she's modernized it a bit and even added an attached café serving vegan and vegetarian food in the heart of Paris, she continues to offer accommodation to any "tumbleweeds" who pass through.

Walking the Nile

Recommended by Books Like This One

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood is a fantastic option for readers looking to add an inspirational book to their reading list. It’s the true story of how Wood, an ex-British army officer, set out to become the first person in history to walk the length of the Nile river.

He shares in great detail both the physical and mental challenges of taking such a long overland route and the challenges that he must overcome as he travels across a number of different countries. Something that makes this book stand out even further is that Wood writes in great detail about the history of the places he travels through and his interactions with locals that provide an insight into the customs and traditions of the places he visits.

This book has been a great inspiration to spend more time in nature, continue to travel slowly and making sure that we take the time to try and delve deeper into the places we travel to.

Notes from a Small Island

Recommended by Lee and Stacey of One Trip at a Time

Combining some of my favourite things - travelogues and England - the book ‘Notes from a Small Island’ was an easy choice years ago while looking for an audiobook for my commute. Little did I know I’d also end up with a new favourite author after listening to it!

The premise of the book is that Bryson is taking a last tour of England before he and his family move back to his home country (United States). He travels around the country, mostly by public transport and walking, and I felt like I was travelling with him either sitting beside him on the trains and buses or walking along on a dreary British afternoon. He drew me in with the details he wove into his stories about the villages along his route (some of which were quite humorous!) and I wanted to see these places for myself.

Bryson inspired me to see more of England than just the big cities by making smaller towns, like Exeter, sound like a place not to be missed even though I’d never even heard of it before the book. Beyond England, this book was also part of the inspiration behind our travel motto that, “Every place has something special about it, we just need to be open to seeing it”. We are always on the lookout for new places to discover and learn about, even if they are not so big or well-known.

The Dharma Bums

Recommended by Anthony from Green Mochila

If what we read in our youth shapes the person we become, that explains why my interests are so broad nowadays. As a teenager, I devoured every book that fell within my grasp. From French classics to Salman Rushdie to XIXth-century English poetry.

I didn't plan to fall in love with Kerouac when I found 'The Dharma Bums' standing on a public library shelf. I guess a part of me would have liked to discover Kerouac through 'On The Road' – which I read later. But those 'Dharma Bums', with their poetic love for life, captivated me. I finished it in 2 days.

The Dharma Bums is a tale of travels, both physical and mystical. Through his encounters and friendships, Ray Smith leaves the debauchery of the city life for transcendence in nature. He crosses the USA hitchhiking and train-hopping, performs Buddhist rituals and orgies, and works in complete lonesomeness in a national park.

I knew that the story was based on Kerouac's own experiences. It's exhilarating to read about travels and esoteric encounters that actually happened in real life, and aren't the figment of the imagination of someone stuck to their working desk.

A fiction that involves food might make you hungry but a recipe will get you cooking. Similarly, a made-up travel story will make you dream – but a real story of travels will get you on the road.

Dark Star Safari

Recommended by Safaris Africana

Safari means ‘journey’ in Swahili, and this inspirational travel book by Paul Theroux’s is all about his trip overland taking in the length of Africa - from Cairo to Cape Town – mainly on public transport.

The book is a must-read for anyone who’s considering spending any time travelling in Africa, as it combines beautiful writing, lots of practical information and a plethora of insights into all aspects of African life, culture and geography. Theroux’s descriptions of his experiences of countryside, towns and characters he meets across the multiple African countries he travels through are so vivid you often feel you’re there in the moment with him.

A fellow traveller in Europe gave me a second-hand copy of this book many years ago, which inspired my first backpacking trip to Africa, and many subsequent visits. I’ve managed to explore many of the places Theroux wrote about (with a few still on the bucket list!), and it’s no over-exaggeration to say that Dark Star Safari helped establish a deep and lifelong passion for the continent.

Shantaram

Recommended by Lee from The Travel Scribes

India is one of those places that divide you: either you’re fascinated by the flurry of activity, the heat, the noise, the rush of it all. Or you’re not intrigued by India’s charm at all, with it firmly at the bottom of your bucket list. So too is the reception to Shantaram, the global bestseller penned by slightly suspect first-time author, Gregory David Roberts.

This debut novel of over 900 pages chronicles the journey of Lin, an escaped prisoner who makes it out of lockdown in Australia and to bustling Bombay (Mumbai). With his guide, Prabaker, by his side, Lin goes on a journey of discovery which sees him do everything from run a clinic in one of the city’s most notorious slums to meeting the love of his life, Karla.

The novel is a triumph: you can almost smell the spices of the street-side hawkers, hear the incessant honking of car horns and see the decay of this fascinating city. It’s a novel that has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to visit India, and spawned its own tourism industry with people visiting the key spots in the book.

That said, the book has garnered as much criticism as it has acclaim as it was originally pitched as autobiographical where later the author, under pressure, had to admit that it was more a fictional novel than a true tale of his journey in India. Regardless of your view, if you’re ever considering India as a destination, Shantaram is a must-read book that will inspire you to travel there.

Travelling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

Recommended by April from Just Leaving Footprints

This is a modern-day Demeter and Persephone-Esque book chronicling the travels and adventures that Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor went on together between 1998 and 2000. Their journeys took them to both Greece and France during a time when Sue was trying to figure out how to write a book about a swarm of bees that she kept imagining. This would later be one of her best books, The Secret Life of Bees. Sue was struggling to redefine herself and grappling with what it meant to be ageing.

Meanwhile, her daughter, Ann was a budding writer in the making, had just graduated from college and was struggling with identity, depression and finding herself as a new young woman.

This double memoir was so captivating to read and so artistically written that it was impossible to put down. Both women write exceptionally well and the book is filled with parallels between Greek mythology and what it means to be both a young woman and an ageing woman in today's world.

On the trips they took together to Greece and France, both Ann and Sue kept journals which they later shared with each other to create this beautiful double memoir. Once you read this book, you will want to visit every wonderful place they mention in the book. It will definitely inspire you to pack your bags and travel, and maybe even start a journal while you're at it.

Alice in Wonderland

Recommended by Laura from What's Hot

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland tells the story of a young girl who follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole. She tumbles down and down and discovers a whole other world where there are talking creatures, magic potions and evil queens.

It's a book that reminds us to hold onto that deep sense of curiosity that children are born with and to follow the path no one has trodden before as you never know what you may find and the friends you will make on your travels.

Now Alice in Wonderland may have been a fictional character but did you know she was based on a real-life little girl? Alice Liddell was a real girl and Charles Dodgson (pen name: Lewis Carroll) met her whilst teaching at Oxford University.

You can visit the very college where they first met, Christ Church, and trace their footsteps to see lots of spots that inspired them. There's a real-life door leading to a beautiful garden, ornaments with exceedingly long necks, a secret Alice in the stained glass window and more. There's plenty of Alice in Wonderland in Oxford, including a dedicated Alice in Wonderland shop for some Alice souvenirs!

That Wild Country

Recommended by Jordan from The Solo Life

One book that has unexpectedly inspired me to travel is That Wild Country: An Epic Journey Through the Past, Present, and Future of America’s Public Lands by Mark Kenyon.

As a hiker and general nature lover who recently decided to work toward the goal of visiting every U.S. National Park, this book caught my attention for its look at public lands through the lens of a nature writer. From forest reserves to state parks too, of course, national parks, That Wild Country takes its readers on a journey through the beauty of America’s nature. It’s not only about pretty mountains and lakes though, as Kenyon does an outstanding job of weaving the history and divisive politics involved in America’s public lands, which are seemingly never-ending.

Although not a book that would necessarily be categorized as travel at first glance, this book caught my imagination and created an overwhelming compulsion to visit as many of America’s protected lands as possible.

That Wild Country made me feel equal parts energized to get out and explore and frustrated at the threat to these amazing places. If you are a traveller who enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, or anything nature-related, That Wild Country is an inspiring and eye-opening read.

A Time of Gifts

Recommended by Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker

My partner and I were already paddling down the young Danube in our inflatable kayak when research for my own travel writing yielded a book title: Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

I found out that it’s one of three books in a series about a young Brit who walked from Hook of Holland to Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) in 1933 and 1934. The first book in that series is A Time of Gifts, which tells the tale of young Patrick’s wintry start of his long journey on foot.

A Time of Gifts is an immersive read into what Europe was like in those years before the start of World War II. After tracking the Rhine upstream, he follows the course of the Danube through cities forever changed and countries that ceased to exist since. Europe’s second-longest and one of the most international rivers in the world forms the backdrop for much of the pages. The first book ends at the Mária Valéria bridge between Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

While paddling through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, I refrained from finishing the book until we reached that bridge.

The Alchemist

Recommended by Lee-Ann from Be Free With Lee

The Alchemist is a self-discovery and adventure novel written by Paulo Coelho. The story follows Santiago, a young shepherd who embarks on a physical and spiritual journey from his familiar paddocks in Spain to Egypt to find the treasure in his recurring dream.

Paulo Coelho’s books never cease to amaze me in the way they encourage me to question reality and ponder my own spiritual journey and enhance my sense of adventure. The Alchemist is one of his earlier works and a book I go back to time and time again because of its meaningful quotes and passages.

The theme of listening to omens, fulfilling your dream and finding your personal destiny are written in such elegant and meaningful ways that make me double-take and re-read to let the words truly soak in.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”. This book makes you believe anything is possible. And reinforces the idea of mindfulness and that we should pay attention to what is around us but most importantly encourages us to follow our heart.

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

Recommended by Daniel from Layer Culture

I never would have thought that reading one book could inspire a four-year-long backpacking trip. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover is all about rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine.

After two of my best friends passed away, I knew I had to do something courageous with my life. I was young and already a burning desire to travel, but was too scared to go alone.

The book itself is not travel related but by reading this book I was able to transform my view of the world. I started to read up about the Hero’s Journey and soon realised that the way I viewed the adult world needed to be approached in a new way.

From that moment on, I had a template plus something to guide me and was able to confront my fear. This really all started with me booking a solo travel trip to Mexico which later inspired many more trips backpacking in South America and beyond. Through travel, my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours all benefited and I have never looked back since.

A great read for any young adults who want to learn about the subject of male archetypes.

My Journey to Lhasa

Recommended by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

Alexandra David-Néel was a staunchly independent woman who was born in France in 1868 and was way ahead of her time. She became a Buddhist scholar and travelled to many Asian countries to study Buddhist scriptures.

At that time, the Tibetan capital of Lhasa was closed to all foreigners, but that didn't stop Alexandra. Disguised as a Tibetan beggar, she travelled there on foot from China in the company of a young Tibetan lama who she treated as her son. Throughout this arduous journey, she slept on dirty floors and ate a meagre diet of tsampa (barley porridge) and yak butter tea.

When she finally reached Lhasa, becoming the first Western woman to reach the forbidden city, she stayed there for two months undetected. Her memoir, My Journey to Lhasa, was published three years later in 1927 and made her instantly famous.

After reading the book many years ago, I desperately wanted to visit Lhasa myself, but I kept waiting for China's restrictions on independent tourists to be lifted. Eventually, my husband and I accepted that that was not likely to happen anytime soon, and we joined a group tour to Tibet in 2019. While our journey was not nearly as adventurous as Alexandra's, it was quite a moving experience nonetheless.

Tracks

Recommended by Dominika from Sunday in Wonderland

The book that directly inspired me to rearrange my values and implement more travel into my life was "Tracks" by Robyn Davidson. This novel tells an autobiography story of an Australian writer about pursuing the dream of a big adventure.

Robyn Davidson was known for traversing the Australian outback on a solo journey. Her only company was her beloved dog and a small camel herd. The trail led from Alice Springs in central Australia to the coast of the Indian Ocean.

The book then shows the challenge taken by a brave young woman who decided to leave everything behind and follow the path of the solitary journey in looking for herself.

The story is not only filled with great adventures, both touching and scary. But also encourage a reader to think about what's really important in life and why we shouldn't postpone chasing the dreams.

For me, this book was an impulse to start my own travel journey. And I am pretty sure it will inspire you as well.

Doctor Zhivago

Recommended by Julia from That's What She Had

Dr. Zhivago is not a book about travel, although its characters find themselves on the road often in the course of the novel, but it does provide a brilliant description of Russia in the first half of the XX century and takes a deep dive into “enigmatic Russian soul”, leaving the reader longing to see the setting for such incredible story in real life.

The novel tells the story of a young doctor, Yuri Zhivago, set against the background of the most tumultuous years of Russia’s history: starting from the revolution to WWI to the civil war and leading up to WWII. The novel will take you from the streets of Moscow to the villages of the Urals and back.

But what makes Dr. Zhivago a true masterpiece is the way the author opens up a curtain on the Russian mind and soul. Boris Pasternak was awarded a Nobel Prize for this work, but due to political pressure and threats had to refuse it.

While visiting the Ural villages might be a challenge for an outside visitor — simply not everyone makes it this far — strolling through the streets of Moscow where the main events of the novel take place is totally doable. There are even tour companies that offer Dr. Zhivago routes around Moscow. And if you are in search of good Russian food with a modern touch, the restaurant Dr. Zhivago is simply excellent, albeit it has no connection to the novel, but the name.

Around the World in 80 Days

Recommended by Elisa from World in Paris

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne is my favourite travel book, the book that inspired my world tour (but my trip took longer than 80 days). It was first published in French in 1872 and despite its age, this novel book is still a favourite about the younger generations in France, the kind of book that I like to read from time to time.

The book talks about the adventure around the world of Mr. Fogg, a rich and mysterious English gentleman living in the London of the XIX century, and his French valet Passepartout. During the trip, they will visit countries like Egypt, India, Japan or the US travelling by steamboat, train and even on an elephant!

Fogg's adventure starts at the exclusive Reform Club in London, where he bets a very high sum of money that he can travel around the world and be back in London in 80 days. Mr. Fogg has done his calculations and a very precise schedule but his trip around the world turns to be more adventurous than he expected.

Detective Fix from The English police suspects Mr. Fogg is behind an important bank robbery in London and he starts following him Passepartout around the world, trying to get the necessary proofs to arrest him. Will Mr. Fogg make it to London before the deadline?

Into the Wild

Recommended by A Rai of Light

This book revolves around the tragic story of Chris McCandless, a young man disillusioned with conventional life and heads off to discover something better in the Alaskan wilderness.

He quits his job, leaves his family and friends, and abandons most of his material possessions to live at one with nature. Freedom and self-discovery are the focus of this non-fiction biography by Krakauer who paints McCandless as a young man with a wild imagination and a sharp mind, who didn't fit into the modern world's or his family's view of how he was supposed to be.

Even though it may seem that McCandless was reckless and arrogant, I think he was courageous on his search for purpose. The writing is so engaging that although it is clear from the beginning how McCandless' story would end, I was hooked until the last page.

Don't Run, Whatever You Do: My Adventures as a Safari Guide

Recommended by Ginger around the Globe

The first time I heard about the book Don't Run, Whatever You Do by Peter Allison, I just knew it was a fun story to read. What I didn’t know was that, after reading it, I would have felt the need to book a trip to Africa, and just a year later, I went on my first safari adventure.

The book is essentially filled with short stories from a safari guide, which gives you an insight into the life of a safari guide. There are hilarious stories about why people called the guide a horny elephant or how he drove two cars into a river filled with hippos.

Besides that, this book contains all you need to know about African wildlife and safaris, it will make you laugh and inspire you to go to Africa.

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