25 Books That Will Inspire You to Travel
Updated: Oct 14, 2018
Call me crazy but books are everything to me. They have impacted my life a tremendous amount causing me to make changes to my life and ending up on insane adventures of my own. It's how I found out about Semester at Sea, which changed my world entirely. It's how I've formed the idea of what I want to do in life, and it's led me to put some crazy things on my bucket list. I owe my life to some of these books, so I figured I might as well share them.
Hopefully they can change some of your lives, or at least help you gain some perspective from what the rest of the world has to offer.
1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This is a book that is pretty close to my heart. I've read it at least five times by now I'm sure.
I'm going to start by saying if you've seen the movie it does not do the book any sort of justice (as most don't, let's be real here). So read it. The story takes place primarily on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT for short) which runs from Canada through Washington, Oregon and California (ending on the border with Mexico). Wild is the tale of a woman on the run from her problems, and toward a better self. Cheryl Strayed tells a tale of lost love, and loss of self in the midst of sex, drugs and alcohol only to realize a change needed to be made with how she was going through life. She decides to hike the entire PCT. Solo. You already know I'm all about the solo travel life.
No regrets. Read it.
2. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A few years ago I was going through a rough patch and decided to read this book, and I had such a profound realization that I wasn't living the way I wanted to in life, I swear it made such a difference and began opening doors in my mind I didn't know I had. To this day, it's still a security blanket of sorts for me (I've since worn out my first copy, so I've had to buy a new one if that at all tells you how much I love this book).
Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer and talks about her failed marriage, and the fact that she was in and out of a relationship since before she can remember. Heartbroken and lovesick, she decides to go away for a year to Italy, India and end the year in Bali, Indonesia. Her stories of the people she meets along the way that aid in her transformation are incredibly beautiful. Plus, I think its a good realization to understand that sometimes, you need to just be. Just you.
Listening to what you truly need in those moments is crucial and in those moments of growth, learning that moving forward from intense heartbreak is never easy but it is absolutely necessary.
3. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun
This is the book that told me about the life changing program called Semester At Sea (SAS). Sidenote, if you don't know about it and want more info message me! I could talk about SAS for days. That is not however, the main topic of this book, it's just one important experience that shapes his life tremendously. Adam Braun went on SAS in college and learned what children in some of these countries really needed most. In his opinion, education is the most important thing we can focus on to help these impoverished areas. As the saying goes, teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime right? Starting out with just $25, he was able to build over 400 schools to this day. What I love most about this book, is that it is a behind the scenes look into what comes from one person who wants to make a difference.
It's not easy to build, and there are some struggles but he never let it stop him from accomplishing all he has thus far. To this day, Pencils of Promise is doing incredible things with 481 schools made, and over 90,000 students attending these schools. It goes to show that the experiences you have and the choices you make end up making a difference.
4. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Half the sky was a tough one to read just because it is completely true of what the world is looking like in regards to how women are treated and the issues we face. Kristof and WuDunn make the argument that the oppression of women is the challenge of this era that needs to be focused on.
The authors discuss some of the major issues such as rape, prostitution, forced labor, etc. and delve into solutions that will expand your way of thinking a bit.
Sometimes opening your mind to what others struggle with can also lead to you wanting to make a difference. After realizing this issue, I did more research and volunteered a bit with womens based organizations and found that I was actually extremely passionate when it comes to women issues. If its not for you, at least you're educating yourself on some of the facts rather than going through life oblivious. Warning to you however, some of the stories of what these women have faced in their lives is pretty graphically described and was not easy to read through at times.
But it's absolutely worth the read, 100%.
5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
Set in the 1950s, this book is definitely in the top 5 range for me. Holden Calfield has had trouble in several schools and receives notice he's getting expelled from another boarding school. He decides to head to Manhattan, New York on a whim and the odd characters he meets on his solo trip make for an interesting read. Holden is not your normal main character, and clearly is being treated for some sort of mental illness but what makes this book truly great is this sort of theme of "loss of innocence."
After re-reading it so many times, I've been able to delve into how deep this book can go and there is always something new I find. I recommend it for those looking for kind of an odd, quirky adventurous read with a little more thinking to it.
6. 100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth's Most Endangered Species by Jeff Corwin
Jeff is one of the best writers in my opinion when we're talking about animal conservation awareness because I've read some others that are with it on the facts but when it comes to visualizing what they're saying, it hasn't always been the best. It's hard to be approachable with your language when it comes to the facts and understanding what's going on in our world.
Jeff however, writes in such a way that takes you with him on his adventures around the world and makes you want to care about the conditions these animals are facing. Truly thought I was going to hop on a plane to South America or Africa after reading about some of the conservation stories in this book.
7. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Frances tells her tale of a cheating husband, a horrible divorce, a solo adventure to Italy and the incredible souls that aid in her road to recovery. I realize a lot of my recommendations have to do with recovery and solo travel, it is true. I'm a sucker for a good overcoming your past story. However, I think it also has to do with the beautiful way these writers talk not just of themselves or what they've gone through but also the culture they find themselves falling in love with. Most of these stories talk about losing your way, and I think its because this so often happens in real life. We lose ourselves in love, or get caught up in the little things in life and forget our way. Life comes in and changes things, as it is meant to do and we struggle with this. We're so used to our routines, our comfort zones. We never expect these life changing moments but they are actually beautiful when you think about it.
8. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz
Not to get all yogi on you, but this is probably the best self help book you could get. It's something I constantly find myself going back to just because it is such a meditative way to look at how you see yourself and the world around you. It's a great reminder to focus on your happiness and transform your life. With just these four things, Ruiz finds you can fall away from the unneccessary suffering we often bring upon ourselves if you actively start to use these concepts in your life.
9. Kisses for Katie by Katie Davis
Katie Davis is someone I aspire to be like, feeling moved with her passion to make a difference she decides to move to Uganda and completely flips her world around.
Her love for the children she worked with along with her faith in God brought her to a completely different life.
This is under the "Christian book" category but in my opinion, can also be read by those who aren't super Christian or even if you don't believe in Christianity at all.
It still is a mind opening read that leads you to think if I were led by my own faith, passion or love for a place or its people, what would happen? What if I actually have a purpose in this life? It's a concept to consider.
10. EAST by Edith Pattou
Similar to the Golden Compass, this book is kind of an oldie but SUCH a goodie, believe me. Rose is a young girl who has always wanted adventure in her life, and one day it's offered to her on a silver platter by a white bear. In order for her family to be safe and healthy, she exchanges herself as a companion for the white bear in a far off land. This fairy tale ends up taking a dark turn, and the adventure truly begins from her mistakes, once again much like how it goes in life.
Ultimately, this is a beautiful tale however, that discusses some deeper aspects of love and loss all while making you think of heading off into an adventure of your own.
11. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Taking place in Egypt, I have to say I felt the need to roam in Africa after reading this one. This is obviously a famous one, but I put it on this list because it's such an interesting read with deep meaning to it. With the overall theme being to follow your dreams and listen to your heart, it truly is a beautiful tale of a shepherd boy's journey toward self discovery, getting back up and learning to embrace the present.
12. The Odyssey by Homer
I mean, how could you not love the adventures of Odysseus? Battling sirens, a cyclops, the wrath of the gods and so much more. The thing I love most about these old stories however, is that they make you think a bit more than the norm. Every feat, every battle has a hidden meaning and a purpose.
Kind of like life, no?
There are important themes throughout the story that become obvious tests of humanity and guidance. Everyone has a sort of fatal flaw, meant to teach the people for generations how to live a life without these common traits that hurt us in life rather than help us.
It also doesn't hurt that these stories take place in Greece. Who wouldn't want to be out in the waters of Greece right about now?
13. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan
Out of Africa is a beautiful memoir that takes place in Kenya, Africa. Isak tells of her time on the coffee plantation, the people she meets along the way and a love story that will leave you in awe.
Isak describes the African lands and its creatures in such an incredible way it will leave you feeling nostalgic whether you've been yourself or not. She makes you feel as if you're standing out there in the hot sun, surrounded by beautiful greenery and luscious fields.
Pure joy from her writing.
14. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
I was in high school when one of my favorite teachers recommended this book to me, and I just remember reading it in a day and wanting to re read it over and over again. It is the story of a humble farmer and his wife that go through some changes as China moves toward a completely new way of life. Taking place in the 1920s, this book gives you perspective on a differing culture that affected even the simplist of lives. It is beautifully told in the simplest of forms but the imagery that comes from the cultural perspective is truly worth the read.
15. Hawaii by James Michener
Have to admit, this book was forced on me during my studies on Semester At Sea. I found it's imagery very beautifully written though and as someone from Hawaii, really loved many of the historical references.
For those interested in Hawaiian culture or even just looking for something to bring you to another place mentally, this is the book for you.
A true classic.
16. A Passage to India by E.M Forster
Two women arrive in India, and quickly feel it isn't the India they want to be a part of, with extreme prejudice and racism apparent in the city. They quickly find a man who is willing to show them the true India which begins to show a more beautiful depiction of the country.
There are various cultural aspects of the book that are written eloquently describing a side of India many don't know of and the story begins to unfold in the political conflicts that were apparent between India and the British at the time. This is a novel that will leave you wanting to go off to Southeast Asia for your own journey of cultural discovery.
17. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Mt. Everest. May 1996. A distaster hits and lives were taken, but Krakaur sheds light on the personal and touching experience he had during this unfortunate event. Giving insight to some of the lost souls and their true personalities both negative and positive, while simultaneously describing that top of the world view you can't beat. This adventure however, leads down a dark path and that it even happened in real life boggles my mind every time I think about it.
Not an easy read, but definitely worth it.
18. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Such an incredible story. If you haven't done it yet, please get this book right now. Taking place in Kyoto, Japan the memoir tells of the harrowing journey a young girl has after her mothers death. She is sold into slavery in a strange household but slowly learns she is stronger than even she knows. Her personal transformation is beautiful to read through as you realize that her bravery and patience gain her respect in time. It was never easy for her, she worked hard to get through all of it but she comes to a point of understanding with her self and the universe around her. One of my favorite books to this day. My description doesn't do it any justice.
19. A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout & Sarah Corbett
One of my favorite memoirs of all time, I read this in literally two days. Would've been one, but I had to leave the house at some point I guess. This story tells of a journalist who gets captured in Somalia and gives details of her journey fighting to stay alive but it makes you feel as if you're right there with her through all of it. It was absolutely terrifying but her grace is in each moment when she describes the personalities, even of those who captured her. She plays the game of befriending some, noting that humanity is still lingering even in acts of torture.
Since this time in her life, she's made it her mission to help women through her Global Enrichment Foundation. And has since been able to move forward in forgiving those who played a role in her capture and torture.
Her strength is baffling.
20. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
The purpose of life according to the Dalai Lama: Happiness. Couldn't agree more. It get's complicated however, when life comes into play and sometimes it becomes hard to find your way back to being happy. The Dalai Lama has suffered the loss of his country, and lives a life most of us wouldn't even be able to imagine, yet he is indescribably happy despite everything he's been through. He discusses with a psychologist, several coping mechanisms to use and concepts to consider to aid in your day to day anxieties, insecurities and suffering.
To understand that at the end of the day, inner peace is everything.
21. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Brene is life. Say it with me. She is truly one of the best writers in my opinion and this book in particular is a beautiful one. This idea of "never being good enough" we all know it well in the age of social media edits and constant comparisons it is prevalent everywhere.
Throughout this book, Brene gives you the courage to fight this idea and move forward through each day being able to consider that you are enough and you are worthy of having love and all good things. What a concept right?
22. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Probably everyone at one point has read this one, but its a classic I had to add on. The hobbit is an adventure that makes you want to get out of the house and head to New Zealand or any far off land for that matter. I specifically like that Bilbo Baggins starts off as someone who quite enjoys his uninteresting, simple lifestyle. His comfort zone was built around him, and suddenly he finds himself realizing that comfort zone can expand, more than you would think.
Makes you realize just what you're capable of if you were to put your mind to it.
23. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
A Chinese family sits down to play mahjong, but what is discussed spans generations. What each has been through is their own journey through love and loss but also hope and self discovery. Amy reflects the bond between a mother and her child. What I love about this book, is after visiting and seeing China for myself, I can see that it is very historically intertwined in their culture and Amy shows that tremendously in her writing.
It's beautiful to feel so connected to your past in that way, and to read about it in a way that relates it to differing views is an eye opening experience.
24. Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall, if you don't know her I'm not sure we can be friends, I'm sorry to break it to you. She's just that incredible.
But I'll give you the details on this amazing soul anyways, Jane is known for her work with chimpanzees, protecting and helping them, studying them in the middle of the rainforests for years and was named the UN Messenger for Peace for her efforts.
She is a definite role model of mine who has made efforts to change the world. This book discusses Jane's overall work, some of the reasons why she does what she does, her passions and what her view of the world is after all she's learned over the years. Her perspective is one to take hold of. She has a way about her that can only be described as encompassing true grace.
25. The Universe Has Your Back
by Gabrielle Bernstein
The idea that we can be guided by one purpose - to be love and spread love. Love is everything and if you don't think that yet, then you're at a different part of your journey I'm sure but according to Gabrielle, it does become apparent in life.
It's an incredible perspective that makes you realize how important your spirituality truly is -- whether or not you believe in a God or several gods or some sort of in between, your connection to the universe and what surrounds you is a spiritual experience.And Gabrielle makes connections that will truly open your mind on some her ideas.
That perhaps your spirituality a connection to focus on and respect.