The Best Travel Books
to Inspire Travel

“That’s the thing about books.  They let you travel without moving your feet.”
– Jhumpa Lahira

When you’re thinking of going on an adventure, the first thing to do is pick up a book.  Not only can you get some important information about your upcoming destination, but a good book will provide you with food for thought, and help you make the most of your journey.

Over the years, I’ve kept a list of the books that truly inspired me to travel or the best travel books so to speak. I’ve also paid attention the best travel blogs, too.

The best travel writing inspires you to travel to new places, and give you the chance to visualize your trip before you ever even buy a plane ticket.  Or, take them with you for the long bus and train rides ahead.  You never know what parallels you’ll draw from the lives of those who have gone before you.

If you’re reading this post, you must be ready to be inspired for your next trip, Below you’ll find my list of the best travel books.

On the Road
by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac is arguably one of the greatest known writers of the 20th century, and his books are chockfull of Americana from the late 1940s so him being on this list of best travel books is no surprise.  His most popular book, and the one that launched Kerouac’s career, is On the Road.

The main character Sal Paradise heads out from New York to see America, inspired by his care-free sometimes traveling partner Dean Moriarty.

The tale encourages the reader to leave their hometowns, and experience adventure through travel.  On the Road is required reading for anyone thinking of taking a road trip through the United States, but it resonates with all would be travelers.

Buy on Amazon

Seven Years in Tibet
by Heinrich Harrer

Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian mountaineer who lived in Tibet between 1944 and 1951.  His autobiographical novel details his experiences through the Second World War, befriending the Dalai Lama, and the beginning of the Communist Chinese invasion.

Harrer not only describes and records Tibetan culture, but presents his writing as an adventure novel. It features mountain climbing, daring escapes, and risky maneuvers.  Reading this book is an excellent way to catch travel fever.

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by Cheryl Strayed

This memoir is a good book to have on hand when you’re feeling a little adrift in life.  It details Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, after experiencing a string of gut-wrenching tragedies.

This book was well built up after its release, making the New York Times Best Seller list and Oprah’s Book Club.  However it’s one of the odd books that lives up to the hype.

Not only did it inspire so many people to hit the Pacific Crest Trail, it can provide a very cathartic read to anyone having a tough time emotionally.

Buy on Amazon

How NOT to Travel the World
by Lauren Juliff

So many travel guides blissfully skim over (or blatantly omit) the potential issues a world traveler may run in to on their journey.  Not this book!  But what Juliff’s novel proves is that if she can do it, anyone can.

Juliff begins her journey as a naïve 20-something, plagued by anxiety, dreaming of a backpacking trip across Europe.  Though she struggles at first, she grows her confidence through a series of misadventures that she learns from.

This is an excellent book for those who want to try new things, but may doubt their abilities.

Buy on Amazon

In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson

Bryson’s novel may actually put you off of visiting Australia.  It’s hot, it’s dry, and almost everything that moves is out to kill you!

But this infectiously funny book also details the wonderful people, the awe-inspiring landscape, and the sheer number of interesting things in the country.

If you’re looking for a personal pocket sized tour guide of Australia, this is the book for you.


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Turn Right at Machu Picchu
by Mark Adams

The greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century was that of Machu Picchu in 1911 by historian Hiram Bingham.  Mark Adams, a travel editor who hadn’t really done much exploring himself, decided to retrace Bingham’s steps nearly a century later.

Adams did not travel like a tourist – he was set on hiking the jungle in an attempt to rediscover the Inca citadel, along with an Australian survivalist.  The result is a fun-filled and funny adventure.  Before you set off on the Gringo Trail, make sure you read Turn Right at Machu Picchu.

Buy on Amazon


A Year of Living Danishly
By Helen Russell

A Year of Living Danishly is an essential read for those thinking of becoming expatriates, particularly if their destination is Denmark.  Helen Russell relocates to Denmark, and seeks to understand whether the Danes are truly happier than the rest of the world.

Russell highlights what she thinks the Danes have right, and wrong, and what lessons we can learn from them.

She also details her own struggles and triumphs as she begins a new life in the rural countryside.  If you are thinking of relocating to another country, A Year of Living Danishly may help you with your decision.

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The Alchemist
By Paulo Coelho

It’s a short read that on the surface, isn’t super philosophical.  The story of a shepherd trying to find treasure will force you to examine what you are searching for and why.

I find the idea of each person having a “Personal Legend” to be so simple, yet inspiring.  The inspiration lies in the belief that even if we can’t know why things happen to us there is a trust that all things are helping us to follow our personal legend if we only keep going forward.

He believes that in our hearts we all know the path we should be following and that if we only try and pursue it the universe will help us to achieve it.  There will be times where we fall on our faces or when we seem to be at a stand still but the things we learn during those times will help us to achieve our very own personal legends.


Buy on Amazon

That concludes our list of the best travel books

One of the best ways to get motivated to travel, and learn a whole lot about a potential journey, is to pick up a novel.  Acquire knowledge from those who have gone before you, or reminisce about your favorite place through an author’s eyes by reading one of the best travel books.

The possibilities are endless.  If you aren’t able to travel right away, any one of these best travel books will give you some inspiration, and maybe even give you a few bucket list destinations.

Stay Gold


About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

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