It probably won’t surprise you to hear that most of my favorite books just so happen to be some of the best travel books in the world.
I was in love with travel before I traveled. I was a nomad in the womb, inspired to roam before I could walk.
In creating this list and thinking of the best travel books I’ve ever read, I found that these stories are less about the destinations visited by the characters and writers, and more about the inner journeys undertaken by those doing the globe trotting.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best travel books to get you inspired, keep you moving (and moved!), and show you how travel really can change your life.
10. THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coehlo
The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a poor shepherd boy on a quest to find his Personal Legend. In the book he journeys throughout Spain, to Morocco, and to Egypt, but it is in reaching his final destination that he finally finds himself (plus there’s a super romantic love story woven into this little parable – I’ve probably read this book a dozen times and never tire of it!)
9. THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert
I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) – to the point where I pre-ordered this novel months before it came out because I was so excited to devour it.
Needless to say, my favorite writer did not disappoint! The novel tells the life story of Alma, a brilliant 19th-century scientist who lives on a Pennsylvania estate and spends her life studying mosses.
Sounds kind of boring, right? That’s where Gilbert’s brilliance comes in – she sends Alma on a round-the-world journey to Tahiti, where she meets a man who may very well be the sexiest person in literature (his name is Tomorrow Morning. And he’s a 6-foot tall Tahitian Adonis. And sometimes I re-read the book just so I can be close to him.)
8. WHAT I WAS DOING WHILE YOU WERE BREEDING by Kristin Newman
I was first drawn to this travel memoir by the hilarious title, but what made me decide to buy it was the fact that Kristin Newman is a TV writer.
Having spent 5+ years working in entertainment in Los Angeles, I’ve seen firsthand how cutthroat and challenging TV writing can be, especially sitcom writing. You have to think on the fly and be brilliant while surrounded by 12+ executives and fellow writers, who are all throwing out ideas a mile a minute.
Given the time and solitude to craft her own travel tales, Newman crushes it. Her own book summary is better than any I could write, so here it is:
“Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into “Kristin-Adjacent” on the road–a slower, softer, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports.”
7. ALEPH by Paulo Coehlo
We’re sticking with the Hollywood theme but heading to Cannes, France, for the annual international film festival.
Coehlo stays in one place in Aleph, but leads you deep into the belly of the beast in Cannes, where murder, greed and deception can’t be escaped, no matter where you turn.
This book is dark, juicy, and disturbing, with Coehlo’s usual spiritual reverence nowhere to be found.
6. THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES by Ernesto Che Guevara
Confession: I definitely watched the movie (starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal….siiiiiigh) before I read the book.
But the film inspired me to go to the source, and I’m so glad I did!
While reading Che’s memoirs of his journeys throughout South America, you can actually see the evolution of spirit on each page. His excitement and youth deepen the more he travels, the more people he meets, the more injustices he sees.
This book is the perfect example of how travel forces you outside yourself, how it strips you of selfishness and helps you see the interconnectivity of all things.
5. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a beatnik classic that’s raw and real, surprisingly funny, and totally freeing. Kerouac’s prose makes me want to be a complete vagrant and train-hop my way around the world.
He had no money, absolutely nothing, and still managed to not only travel all over the U.S., to Denver and California and New York, but managed to write a book while he was doing it.
On the Road shows the creative power of travel to inspire, even when you’re on a budget so low it’s inside out.
4. THE CELESTINE PROPHECY by James Redfield
Reading this book was my very first spiritual awakening (of course it’s about a journey into the rain forests of Peru!)
Traveling to Peru through this book opened my mind to incredible spiritual ideas I had never before considered – ideas about energy, about things unseen, and about my growth as a human being and a spirit on a quest for enlightenment.
This book is pure magic for the soul-seeking traveler.
3. 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY by Rebekah Voss
I’m including my own book here as a gentle reminder to READ it after you download it from this site! (And make sure you’ve opted in to our email list so you can get your free copy!)
It’s packed with ways to see the world for cheap, to make money traveling, and to stay abroad for free.
Here’s what Daisy from Amazon had to say about it (and Daisy should know – she’s one of the Top 10 reviewers on Amazon!):
“This book is the BEST and MOST PLANNED OUT book that I have ever read regarding HOW TO TRAVEL WITH NO EXCUSES!
Rebekah has a passion for traveling and she found ways to make that happen for herself. In this book, she shares with the reader how she did this herself and in laid out list of preparations BEFORE attempting to travel.
Things like: Sell the house, sub leasing the apartment, selling car, selling furniture and SO MUCH MORE! She even explains that you can sell a tablet, phone or a laptop and the money you will receive will pay for food in India for ONE MONTH! Then she even goes on to suggest more tips on how to save money to prepare for this trip.”
Enter your email address below to get your free PDF copy, or go to Amazon if you prefer to read on your Kindle or get a hard copy version.
2. LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE by Laura Esquivel
Travel to 17th century Mexico and bring your appetite – this book is a dramatic, erotic love story told through actual recipes passed down from the author’s great grandmother.
War, love triangles, forbidden sex and familial chaos is set against the backdrop of rural Mexico in the late 1700s. This is another book I’ve read about 20 times because the love triangle between Tita, Rosaura and Pedro is so delicious!!!
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I avoided reading this book for years because the marketing made me think it was super fluffy chick lit.
Imagine my surprise when one of my smartest, sophisticated, well-read friends insisted I pick it up.
I have yet to put it down, and it’s currently serving as a source of inspiration for my forthcoming travel memoir and for my life in general.
After a miserable, soul-crushing divorce, Gilbert plans a year-long RTW journey to Italy, India and Indonesia. Her hilarious writing makes her poignant spiritual realizations all the more profound when they pop up unexpectedly throughout the book.
If you only read one book from this list, make it Eat, Pray, Love.
What are the best travel books on your bookshelf (or in your Kindle?)
What travel book has completely changed your life?
Ye Olde Disclaimer: If you buy one of these books on Amazon after clicking a link from this site, I’ll get a small commission. (Please and thank you, I need to pay for my pho!)
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