17 Best Travel Books To Fuel Your Wanderlust

Best Travel Books of All Time
What are the Best Travel Books?
Travel Inspiration

These are some of the best travel books ever (in my opinion). If you’re looking for travel inspiration, you can’t go wrong with this collection of travel stories & guides.

I’ve been traveling the world for 9 years now, and it all started after I was inspired by reading some incredible travel books.

Some of my favorite travel books are based on other people’s travel adventures, while travel how-to guides taught me that international travel is accessible to everyone, not just wealthy & retired people.

So here is my personal list of the best travel books of all time.

I’ve split the list up into two sections. My favorite travel stories/novels, and the most useful books about how to travel the world.

Once I’ve finished reading any of these books, I feel the instant urge to pack my bag and head out to explore the world somewhere new!

Well written travel books like these have helped inspire my own personal travel goals over the years — and will continue to do so.

So if you’re looking for motivation from great travel writers, or experience a travel adventure of your own, make yourself comfortable and grab a couple of my favorites listed here.

They are sure to inspire wanderlust in everyone who reads them…

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ Saint Augustine

My Favorite Travel Books For 2019

Best Travel Stories & Novels


Best Travel Books: Travels With A Donkey

Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes

By Robert Louis Stevenson


Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes is one of the first travel books I ever read. It takes you on a walking journey with Robert and his donkey Mosestine across a mountainous region of France.

You get to feel what traveling through 1870’s Europe was like, including the landscape, religion, and the people. Robert & his donkey don’t get along at first, but through trial and error they learn to become travel companions.

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Best Travel Books: Shantaram

Shantaram

By Gregory David Roberts


Shantaram is set in the underworld of contemporary India, where an escaped convict from Australia named Lin is hiding out. He searches for love while running a clinic in one of the city’s poorest slums and simultaneously working for the Bombay mafia.

It’s one of the best-written novels I’ve read and sucks you right into an amazing story full of love, beauty, betrayal, brutality, and compassion. The book has been criticized for being more fiction than fact, however, I still highly recommend it as a great travel book. It’s incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking either way.

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Best Travel Books: World Walk

World Walk

By Steven Newman


World Walk is the story of newspaper writer Steven Newman who at the age of 28 packed his bag to start a 4 year long journey around the world on foot. He walked his way across 22 countries in 5 continents.

He shares heartfelt stories of the people he meets along the way, as well as wild adventures including arrests, wars, blizzards, wild animal attacks, wildfires, and more. A lesson of hope and love told through the exciting adventures of independent budget backpacking.

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Best Travel Books: On The Road

On The Road

By Jack Kerouac


On The Road is a classic American travel book. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac himself) & Dean Moriarty’s cross-country hitchhiking and train-hopping journey across rural America in the 1940’s.

Written in a rambling diary style, and a bit hard to follow at times, Kerouac takes to the road looking for adventure, sex, drugs, and mischief. A great read for those who would like to escape the real world for a while and just go where the wind blows them.

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Best Travel Books: The Alchemist

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho


The Alchemist is an international best-seller that tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of treasure. However on his adventurous quest, he finds himself instead.

This is a powerful book that inspires courage & chasing your dreams. It teaches important life lessons using entertaining stories. It helped me overcome my own fears about what to do with my life, as well as millions of other readers around the world.

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Best Travel Books: In A Sunburned Country

In A Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson


In A Sunburned Country follows Bill’s hilarious journey through the sunbaked deserts and endless coastlines of Australia, trying not to get killed by the deadly wildlife. It’s full of fun & interesting facts about the country.

It’s not your typical guidebook to Australia, but a must-read if you plan on traveling there. He really gives you a sense of the place, its quirks, and the people using some very entertaining storytelling and history.

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Best Travel Books: Marching Powder

Marching Powder

By Rusty Young


Marching Powder is the true story of a British drug dealer’s five years inside a very strange Bolivian prison, where whole families live with inmates in luxury apartments and cocaine is manufactured.

When you spend time backpacking around the world, you sometimes find yourself in ridiculous situations no one back home would believe. This is one of those crazy stories — and one of my favorite reasons to travel.

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Best Travel Books: The Cat Who Went To Paris

The Cat Who Went To Paris

By Peter Gethers


For the wary soul who needs a bit of extra convincing of the life-changing wonders that await abroad, there’s perhaps no better resource than The Cat Who Went To Paris. Peter Gethers’ global journeys with a cat named Norton puts a dose of adorable humor into many common travel situations.

Norton accompanies Gethers on filmmaking trips and helps convince the love of his life that he is the one. After years of adventuring the three settle in New York, Norton is one of the city’s most well-traveled felines.

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Love With A Chance Of Drowning is the travel memoir of Torre, who reluctantly leaves her corporate lifestyle to live on a sailboat with a man she just met, and their adventure across the South Pacific together.

Along with all the challenges and wonder they experience on the trip, the book takes you on a beautiful, romantic and deeply personal journey of self-discovery. It’s very entertaining and funny, I couldn’t put it down. Chasing dreams is always scary, but usually worth it.

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Best Travel Books: Dark Star Safari

Dark Star Safari

By Paul Theroux


Theroux earned his reputation as one of the all-time great travelogue writers because he lives every word that he writes. Dark Star Safari takes readers through his voyage from the top of Africa to the bottom.

He often finds himself at the bottom of his own barrel and unsure of what will happen next. It’s an honest account by a writer that is as ‘working class’ as travel writers come. Overall, an honest if not always refreshing take on overland travel in Africa.

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Best Travel How-To Guides

Ok now that we’ve got some of my favorite travel novels out of the way, I also wanted to include some more useful travel books in the list too. Books to help you travel cheaper, better, or show you how to travel more!


Best Travel Books: Vagabonding

Vagabonding

By Rolf Potts


Vagabonding is what encouraged me to put my real life on hold to backpack around the world for a bit. This book is essentially about the process behind taking time off from your regular life to discover and experience the world on your own terms.

It won’t tell you exactly how to do it, but gives you ideas and confidence to figure it out for yourself. Many long-term travelers have been inspired by what Rolf talks about, including Tim Ferriss. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to travel more, but thinks they don’t have enough money or time.

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Coming from a fellow travel blogger, I’ve got to give Kepnes (also known as Nomadic Matt) props for his New York Times bestselling book How To Travel The World On $50 A Day. Matt knows what he’s talking about, and it shows as much in this book as it does on his blog.

He goes into detail on how he’s stayed on the move for so long on a shoestring budget, with tips and tricks coming to life through relatable stories. Also seeping through the pages is a heavy dose of modesty, a necessity when venturing off the beaten path abroad.

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Best Travel Books: Travel As Transportation

Travel As Transformation

By Gregory V. Diehl


Travel As Transformation takes you on Diehl’s journey from living in a van in San Diego, growing chocolate with indigenous tribes in Central America, teaching in the Middle East and volunteering in Africa.

Through these stories, it shows you how profoundly travel can influence your perception of yourself. Diehl has spent the best part of 10 years exploring the world in countries many Westerners couldn’t even place on a map. The journey helps him find who he really is and what freedom means.

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Best Travel Books: Microadventures

Microadventures

By Alastair Humphreys


Microadventures is an uplifting and original concept evolved out of the travel blogosphere and into a catchy book. Instead of pushing his readers to drop everything and hit the road full-time, Humphreys champions the weekend warrior and after-work types with this one.

Among other things, Humphrey’s excursions in his native UK are featured prominently along with tricks of the trade for quick adventure travel. After all, some of the best explorations can happen on your own side of the planet. No need to travel far!

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In How NOT To Travel The World Lauren expertly conveys the fears of a first-time solo traveler who, prior to hitting the road, as she lived a rather sheltered life. The overarching theme is conquering fear and living your dream.

She does a solid job of discussing the emotional steps involved in her process too. I don’t know how Lauren gets into so many crazy situations on her travels, but they make for a very entertaining read!

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Best Travel Books: Food Traveler's Handbook

Food Traveler’s Handbook

By Jodi Ettenberg


The Food Traveler’s Handbook is an extension of Jodi Ettenberg’s excellent travel blog Legal Nomads, a go-to for all things street food (and eating while traveling in general). So it’s no wonder she’s got a top book on the subject.

Any who are gluten sensitive or have other dietary restrictions can finally rest easy as she breaks down where to go and what to avoid if you want to eat well while traveling.

Other volumes of The Traveler’s Handbook series are equally as helpful:

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The thought that exotic travel has to break the bank is an assumption as sad as it is untrue, and Leffel proves it in The World’s Cheapest Destinations. Active storytelling and honest facts on not only where to go but how to travel once you get there are the driving factor here.

The key takeaway from this book is that proper research and planning, along with a willingness to see a culture for what it really is, can save you a fortune. Oh, and don’t hesitate to bargain – just be respectful when you do so.

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Free Kindle Giveaway!

If you don’t have an Amazon Kindle yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win a free Kindle to use on your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own Kindle Paperwhite.

I love my Kindle, and travel with it everywhere. My whole reading library fits on something that weighs less than a single book! It’s really pretty amazing technology and an amazing travel gift.

I didn’t think I’d ever get used to reading on a digital device either.

But with incredibly long battery life, ease of use, one-click book buying, and the ability to read in bright sunlight, it’s become one of my favorite pieces of travel gear. Sooo handy on long airplane or bus rides!

UPDATE: We Have A Winner!
Congratulations to Carla Alessandro for winning the free Amazon Kindle!

Well, that’s it. I hope you got some ideas for travel books to read in 2019! ★

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Check out this list of the best travel books to read for inspiration and become a better traveler.
Check out this list of the best travel books to read for inspiration and become a better traveler.

READ MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION & TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best travel books of all time! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

What are some of your favorite travel books? Did I miss any good ones? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving tips.
Matthew Karsten
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212 thoughts on “17 Best Travel Books To Fuel Your Wanderlust”

  1. Hi Matt, very interesting article. I am actually putting together a website with travel books movies and documentaries recommendations. I have recently read Step by step: The life in my journeys by Simon Reeve -A fascinating memoir by British TV presenter and traveller (audiobook narrated by the author himself). The expedition trilogy by Jason Lewis is mind-blowing who circumnavigated the globe using only human power. Tim Butcher’s Blood river is also one of my favourites.

  2. I bought my husband a book called Man Mission by Eytan Uliel. So far he says he really likes it. I think somewhere on the inside cover it’s described as “Eat, Pray Love” for Men. I thought that was a clever way to put it, eytanuliel.com is the author site. That is actually where I decided my husband would really enjoy this book!

  3. All so good!!! I would recommend Two Years of Wonder by Ted Neill. This memoir will change you, and Africa?!!! What a place, with all you can handle in the beauty and devastation.

    • Happy you got some new travel book ideas Alexandra, hopefully you’ll get to read a few of these on your next trip!

  4. Oh wow Matthew you have some great taste! I love reading old travel diaries and guides. Right now I’m reading James Boswell’s 1765 diary about his tour through Europe and Italy. (I’m in Italy right now). Dude was an OG traveller, befriended Rosseau and Voltaire, met the pope and had multiple affairs with the wives of Italian aristocrats. Talk about traveling with style. He’s inspired me to write an article on the history of backpacking!

  5. My small contribution, a longer read but well worth it: the biography of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, by E. Rice.

    His Wikipedia page says: explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat.

    He spoke several European, Asian, and African languages. He wore a mustache. He was also a character in many of Rudyard Kipling’s stories.

    As he departed from Bombay toward Africa, the beginning of his expedition to find the source of the Nile, he wrote:

    “Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks [he had written on sailing], is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, one feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood… A journey, in fact, appeals to Imagination, to Memory, to Hope, -the three sister Graces of our moral being.”

    Peace.

  6. I loved the recommendations but I absolutely love the Alchemist. Coelho is such a good author! Was binge -reading his books last year. They are short,easy and meaningful!

    • It’s hard to find it in all those comments, but it’s there!

      She recommended: “Neither Here Nor There: Travels In Europe” by Bill Bryson

  7. Great list – I should definitely add some of these books to my list (to finally finish my Goodreads Reading Challenge hehe)! However, my absolutely favourite travel book is actually not on your list – Wild by Cheryl Strayed

  8. I havent gotten to travel much which I have always wanted to do. But I can read about traveling I will certainly be checking these out thank you so much !!

  9. Nice list, going to check some of these out.

    Have you read Seven Years In Tibet? I read it after seeing the movie and loved it. The writing is basic but the story itself is incredible. A real inspiring adventure story. While I enjoyed the movie too, it was pretty dramatized compared to the book, however that’s to be expected with Hollywood!

  10. DESTINATIONS OF A LIFETIME by the staff of National Geographic, I have not finished it yet but it makes me want to see all of these amazing places so bad!

  11. Nomadic Matt’s book How To Travel The World On $50 A Day has been my go to… I love the practical information and advice!!

  12. finally found your page AFTER I had to leave a comment on the entry form. So I answered that I did not know the page to comment at. Once I commented it let me see the facebook page and so here I am. I love the Cheap Destinations. I think seeing as much for as little lets you see more.

  13. I don’t have a favorite, I just like to look at different ones for inspiration! Different ones, for different areas of the world!

  14. Definitely the Food Traveler’s Handbook. Food hunting is one of the most important part of my journey, so a handbook is definitely helpful.

  15. “Best travel books ever” – a daring attempt! … and a little bit of promotion campaign too? Better: “Travel books that had a strong impact on me.”
    BTW: How about Jon Krakauer? And there are travel authors and books in other languages too! I personally like W.G. Sebald (German).

  16. Have just cancelled any subscriptions/tv to save for travelling … and now all I want is these books! Such a good & varied selection. X

  17. I love Travels with Charley: in search of America by John Steinbeck ! really takes you to the landscapes and people in yhe deep south of America

  18. Shantaram had to be one of my all time favorite books; it is so very well written. On the Road, I read so many decades ago (no wonder the gypsy blood runs so thick). Many of these I have read and enjoyed. There are a handful I would like to check out in the near future. Great collection.

  19. Love this list – Kerouac´s “On the Road” is a classic and one that definitely inspired me to travel when I read it as a teenager. Kindles are definitely one of the best travel accessories for space and weight saving!

  20. Absolutely loved reading Paule Coehlo, thanks for the additional suggestions! Will love to read them on my travel friendly Kindle *winkwink

  21. Interestingly I get more inspired to travel by reading books set in foreign cities than travel books. I still like reading both of them, but books just set in a foreign culture somehow spark more curiosity in me.

  22. So many great suggestions! I’ve already read some of these but I can’t wait to get my hands on more of them…especially The Alchemist!

  23. I love Matt Kepnes book! Its completely dogeared and full of paperclips marking the best bits. I will definitely be trying a few more of these books!

  24. I read on the road as a high school student, but look forward to giving it another try. My friend also swears by the Alchemist, although I haven’t gotten around to it.

  25. I am an avid reader. However, there is only one book on this list that I read. Thanks for the recommendations. I will gladly read some of them.

  26. Thanks for the list. I look forward to reading may of these.
    My fav travel book is The Zoo Quest Expeditions. It taught me so much about paraguay before my 1st trip there. And the story of mixing up the meaning of the word Tatu just had me in stitches.

  27. I’ve read a few of these, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest. Thanks for putting together this list!

  28. 👌🏾💪🏽 Just bought How Not To Travel the World. Haven’t read it yet, but if it made this list, it must be good. I look forward to reading it.

  29. I haven’t read many book about traveling or vagabonding, but I think this is a great place to start… I think I’ll go with How To Travel The World On $50 A Day for a starter… Anyways… Wish me luck!!

  30. My favorite and first is Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I’m going to buy Matt Kepnes “travel..on 50$ a day” next and one of the “funnier ones” you recommend, probably “How Not to Travel..” and “World’s Cheapest.” I love your blog Matt, the photo of you framed in books is charming – you’re as handsome as ever (and lookin buff) – the wedding ring looks great on you.

  31. I like the Microadventures. Often, I believe almost every place on earth is a travel destination. Which means that most likely our local place of residence is one of those destinations. We just need to learn to see things differently with a brand new set of perspective just like a tourist in a foreign place

  32. This is a great selection of books to choose from! One I would also recommend is the classic, “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon. Although I read this book many, many years ago, I occasionally still remember some of his travel adventures in off beat areas of the USA.

  33. My favorite travel book is Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. I discovered this book while listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast, a beautiful source of inspiration!

  34. Great list! One of my favorite travel books I could not put down is The Geography of Bliss. It involves travel with the search for the world’s happiest places.

  35. Thanks for the great suggestions! I’m currently reading and really enjoying HOLY COW, which was one of your previous recommendations.

  36. Have read several on your list. My all-time favorite is Shantaram. Ordering some more from your list. thank you! I carry hundreds of books in my phone. would be easier to read them on a Kindle!

  37. Great reading list, Matt! My favorite is probably The Alchemist. I re-read it all the time! I also love Ernest Hemingway’s books – they always leave me with a perfect sense of place. Still reading Shantaram, which is also incredible! p.s. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi at TBEXIreland. It’s been way too long since our joint panel in Mexico! Cheers, and congrats to whomever wins the Kindle! ~ Kristen