The right book can change our life forever. It’s a secret weapon that we carry with us, especially as we travel and discover not only the world we live in, but explore who we are as a human being. I’ve handpicked 25 amazing books on travel you must read before you travel the world or set out on a quest to explore yourself. Use these books as your guide; a handbook you can refer to anytime you feel lost or need inspiration.
1. The Alchemist
This is by far one of the best (and the most translated) books you must read on following your dreams. The Alchemist is a story about following your dreams. The story follows a young shepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart, goes with the flow, learns to love, and learns the meaning of life. Whatever your dream entails, this book will fill up you with inspiration.
“If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”
Vegabonding is a must-read for those new to long-term travel. The author Rolf spent 10 years on the road (he even walked across Israel) and his book contains valuable insights, quotes, and a lot of practical information. From saving to planning to life on the road, this is a must for newbies.
3. The 4-Hour Workweek
Don’t be so quick to judge this book by its title. The 4-Hour Workweek has been a life-changing movement for millions of people around the world, who have gone out to start their own business, live a digital nomadic life, and travel the world. The author, Tim Ferriss, is a self-claimed “Human Guinea Pig,” performing life experiments on himself that will fascinate you like losing 50lbs in record time, running a business while traveling, and creating early mini-retirements for yourself.
4. The Promise of a Pencil
If there’s one takeaway from The Promise of a Pencil, it’s that anyone can create extraordinary change for those who need it most.
Adam Braun traveled the world, and ran into a young boy during his trip. When Adam asked him what he wanted most in the world, the boy responded “a pencil.” This is when Adam started his “for-purpose” organization called Pencils of Promise, where they have now gone out to build hundreds of schools in Nicaragua, Laos, and Thailand, and providing full-time education to tens of thousands of children in need.
5. The Beach
This is a novel following, Alex Garland, a British backpacker, as he searches for paradise on earth. The Beach has helped inspire a generation of gap year students to head to the Far East and is symbolic of the all-consuming escapism that travel can provide.
6. Unlikely Destinations
This book is a unique mix of autobiography, business history, and travel book. Unlikely Destinations traces Tony and Maureen Wheeler’s (the founders of Lonely Planet) personal story as well as the often bumpy evolution of their travel guide business into the world’s largest independent travel publishing company.
7. The Looptail
Looptail is the extraordinary story of Bruce Poon Tip’s personal adventure, starting with his first-person account of how he honed his entrepreneurial instincts to start and develop G Adventures, the world’s most successful adventure travel company, which now operates more than 100 countries, on all seven continents, serving more than 100,000 customers every year.
Along the way, Poon Tip reveals his unusual management secrets that not only keep his employees fully engaged and energized but also keeps his customers extremely happy.
8. On the Road
On The Road features a series of trips made by Kerouac and his Beat Generation friends across America in the years after the Second World War. Through the eyes of narrator Sal Paradise (Kerouac himself) the reader is transported from New York to Denver to San Francisco and LA. Along the way there’s jazz, poetry and drugs. A thrilling story that brings you back to the exciting moments of history.
9. The Turk Who Loved Eating Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World
Matt Gross, who wrote a column for a few years in the New York Times called Frugal Traveler, shares stories, scenarios and “sod off” moments he experienced as a traveler before, during and after working for “All the news that’s fit to print” in The Turk Who Loved Eating Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World.
10. Eat, Pray, Love
This is a story about a woman named Liz, who thought she had everything she wanted in life: a home, a husband and a successful career. Now newly divorced and facing a turning point, she finds that she is confused about what is important to her. Daring to step out of her comfort zone, Liz embarks on a quest of self-discovery that takes her to Italy, India and Bali.
Eat, Pray, Love is highly recommended for someone going through a transition and seeking to get out of one’s comfort zone.
11. In a Sunburned Country
Bill Bryson is a master of the modern travel essay. In a Sunburned Country, perhaps his funniest book, follows his journey through Australia, that hot, dry, strange, kangaroo-filled country, where he explores the cities, deserts, ocean, people, and regions with weird names (Tittybong!). Bryson’s cheery and supremely curious travel ethos will inspire you to adopt a similar attitude on your journey abroad.
12. The Geography of Bliss
In the book The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner travels to spots around the globe—including Iceland, Bhutan, Moldova, and Qatar—to search out how different countries define and pursue happiness.
13. The Places in Between
In 2002, the same time as America’s invasion of the country, Scottish author Rory Stewart traveled across north-central Afghanistan: by foot and completely alone.
Named one of the top 10 books of 2006 by The New York Times, The Places in Between is moving and thoughtful, and, at times, devastating, never more than when he visits the Buddhas of Bamyan, two historical Buddha statues from the 6th century that had just been bombed by the Taliban. The book is a prime example of what it means to truly be present in a place, however uncomfortable or difficult that can be.
14. Into the Wild
Into the Wild addresses the issues of how to be accepted into society, and how finding oneself sometimes conflicts with being an active member in society. If you feel that you don’t fit into the confines of how society defines normal, then this book will show you how to embrace yourself.
15. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain shares what life is like in the Mississippi region, addressing the painful contradictions of racism and segregation. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is without a doubt something that you’ll experience throughout your travels and a powerful narrative to absorb before you departure.
16. In Patagonia
The 1977 classic travel book In Patagonia follows English author Bruce Chatwin’s journey from Lima, Peru to Patagonia, where he spent six months. The book, divided into 97 sections, defies the standard structure of travel narratives by almost entirely rejecting linearity, which makes it the perfect read for all self-identified wanderers who refuse to follow straight paths.
17. The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises can be read as a morality tale about a protagonist who searches for integrity in an immoral world.
As we travel, it’s without a doubt we will face injustice and struggle that is unfair, and this book will help you gain a unique perspective about the world we live in.
18. Inca-Kola: A Traveller’s Tale of Peru
Inca-Kola: A Traveller’s Tale of Peru is a hilarious book for anyone to read before they travel to South America (especially Peru). It follows the author Matthew Parris’s trip around Peru and shares the great adventures he experienced with a side of humor. If you enjoy a giggle and interested in learning more about Peru, this is a must!
19. The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries is about leaving Argentina for a lark on a sputtering motorbike, the young Marxist revolutionary returns as a man with a mission. He becomes, in his daughter’s words: “increasingly sensitive to the complex indigenous world of Latin America”.
20. A Year in the World
A Year in the World is a narrative story of a woman who departs from her home in Tuscany to see Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, Turkey and North Africa. She shares her personal anecdotes, commentary on art, architecture, history, landscape, and social and culinary traditions, making you feel as if you’re there with her.
21. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost
Ever wish you took a year off after college to see the world? The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost can make your wish come true. Backpack vicariously with Friedman’s coming-of-age travel memoir about the year she spent plane- and train-hopping across three continents.
22. Life is a Trip
Life Is a Trip can be summarized by the author herself, “It occurred to me that any traveler can travel like a journalist—looking for cues and clues, diving into new cultures, and coming home with great stories and new ways of responding to life.”
23. How to Travel the World for $50 a Day
Do you want to travel more but think it’s expensive? Would you like to find a way to make travel more affordable?
Matt Kepnes, the founder of NomadicMatt.com, shares his tricks of the trade on how to hack travel and plan the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank in How to Travel the World for $50 a Day.
24. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
“In 1986, my classmate Claire Van Houten and I decided to backpack around the world for a year,” writes Gilman in this page-turning memoir Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven about two young women and the crisis the faced while traveling in China. “We had no idea, of course, of how complicated the world could be, or of our place in it, or of just how much trouble we were in for.”
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
What is the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything? If you find yourself pondering these philosophical questions, then you’ll relate greatly to the protagonist of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Featured photo credit: Kira auf der Heide via unsplash.com