There’s one thing that can transport you to the other side of the world even quicker than a plane.
You open it, you read a few lines and the magic happens.
The world around you dissolves and just like Dumbledore himself would have taught you how to Apparate, you find yourself far, far away.
But not only travel books take us on the journey – they can transform us like the journey itself.
That’s double magic right there!
I asked fellow wanderlusters about their favorite books about travel and self-discovery and we’ve come up with a pretty cool list.
Are you ready to walk alongside the shepherd on a long journey through the desert and to discover foreign planets? *rubbing hands enthusiastically* To silently observe the changing landscape while riding the train on the Trans-Siberian Railway and to peek around the corners of an Indian slum? *starts jumping with excitement* To run along with zebras in Africa and hike the stunning mountains? *packing shoes* That is, after you eat all spaghetti in Italy and fall deeply in love on a tropical island. *nods her head so much it looks like she has a tic*
And, are you ready to fuel your wanderlust, change your perspective and get motivated? And now I sound like I’m trying to sell you a Topshop item, great. No really, I’m just so excited.
So, without further ado, here are 21 books about travel and self-discovery you should read already this year.
Oh, and since I can’t resist commenting – those short remarks in italics now and then – you guessed, it’s me.
BLOGGERS’ FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT TRAVEL AND SELF DISCOVERY
Table of Contents
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
By Michael from Books Like This One
One of my favorite travel and self-discovery books to read is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. A popular book, particularly among travelers in India, it tells the story of Lin, a convicted criminal from Australia who escapes prison and starts a new life in India. His story of self discovery introduces him to several different aspects of Indian culture and society and it paints an incredible picture of what life is like for a foreigner in the country.
Shantaram is a personal favorite of mine due to Roberts’ unique writing style and how the story is intertwined with long philosophical interludes. If you’re looking to read more books like Shantaram, make sure to check out the sequel: The Mountain Shadow.
Well, Michael convinced me! I’m already reading The Mountain Shadow (er – kinda stayed in bed with a coffee and the book this morning instead of working😁)
Get Shantaram here
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
By Bea from BEA Wander
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is actually a children’s book for adults. The story begins with a pilot who crash-lands in a desert and meets this boy from another planet.
It’s one of my favorite books because it’s a classic that reminds me of timeless life lessons. To me, the top 3 takeaways are:
1) Friends are important – learn to make them and to keep them
2) Value the truth – don’t lie and don’t be lied to
3) Hold onto things that you care about – stay innocent and creative, don’t let life steal that spark from you, and live your best life
Whenever I feel like I need a new perspective on a situation, I pick up this book and reread it.
It reminds me of my love to explore and travel. It makes me feel grateful for the friendships I have around the world. It helps me appreciate the hardships in life because they often result in self-discovery and growth.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
When I read The Little Prince for the first time I was in primary school and didn’t understand it at all – actually, I found it quite boring. Reading it for the second time a few years later, it all made sense! Now I reread it often and it has a special place on my bookshelf. Btw, did you know that Lake Atitlan is supposed to be an inspiration to a certain picture in the book? 🙂
Get The Little Prince here
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
By Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels
I know it might be very cliché, but I really enjoyed the Eat Pray Love book by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a book in which Elizabeth writes the story of how at age 34, she travels the world after her divorce and describes her amazing experiences along the way. Elizabeth spends most of a yearlong trip in Italy, India and then finally Bali where she eventually falls in love.
I personally related to the book, as after my own divorce at age 26, I embarked on a 3 month trip around the world. I certainly didn’t have the same experiences as Elizabeth did, but I could relate to the journey of finding your place in life after being in a long term relationship. I also of course just love any story where travel is heavily featured.
I think Eat Pray Love is a must-read for anyone who loves a great feel-good story and also has a passion for travel.
Huh, guilty as charged! Eat, pray, love is a reason why I fell in love with Bali – er, along with tens of thousands of other people 😂
Get Eat, Pray, Love here
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah McDonald
By Megan from Red About The World
Sarah McDonald visited India in her twenties and left with memories of heat, pollution, and poverty; so when an airport beggar read her palm and said she would return to India someday – and for love, of all things – she gave him, and the country, the finger.
Well, eleven years later she finds herself and her husband being relocated to the most polluted city on Earth, New Dehli. For her, it seems like the ultimate sacrifice for love and almost kills her, literally, with a double case of pneumonia soon after their arrival. After that harrowing experience, she begins her journey of discovery through India in search of the meaning of life and death.
This is a great book if you’re interested in expat life or what it’s like living in other countries. It is one of my favorite books because I love reading about India in all forms and this is a generally more lighthearted view of life in the country. It’s perfect for anyone looking for someone sharing a new perspective on a place they initially hated.
Well, despite the fact that I love traveling – um, #travelislife and all that – I wasn’t so much into India. Or at least it wasn’t extremely high on my bucket list. That is until I read Shantaram. Now I’m afraid if I read Holy Cow as well, the first plane ticket I’m gonna buy will be for India!
Get Holy Cow here
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
By Daisy from Oman Travel Guides
Into the Wild is a biografy book based on the real-life of Chris McCandless, a man who spent two years hitchhiking across North America into Alaska. McCandless’s vagabond journey became a classic tale of preference for the wilderness, whether it is due to his free-spirited nature or a simple desire to disappear (as noted in his sister’s memoir), it is still heavily debated. Whichever the case, the book does a great job of analyzing the intricacies of self-exploration.
It’s one of my favorite books by writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, as it dives deep into a man’s psyche and his desire to plunge into a world unknown. For those that have some desire to wander the world and interact with the wild, this book will resonate with you.
Get Into The Wild here
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
By Alex from Swedish Nomad
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a memoir by Cheryl Strayed that follows her 1,100-mile hike that she completed in 1995 on the Pacific Crest Trail. As a reader, you’ll be able to follow this journey of self-discovery and get inspired yourself to overcome obstacles and get motivated to go on a longer hike yourself. The book was a number one New York Times bestseller and in 2014, they even made a film about Cheryl’s adventure, with Reese Witherspoon starring.
In the book, Cheryl struggles as her mother dies from lung cancer and she sees her own marriage fail. With nothing else to lose, she takes on the challenge of walking from the Mojave Desert to Washington State, all alone. It’s a favorite book of mine because rarely you’ll see such a powerful woman take lead as the main character. And even though she struggles, she always continues and it’s such a great source of inspiration that you can do anything, only if you submerge yourself to the task.
Get Wild here
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
By Camilla from Tigers in the Wild
This book is a compelling recount of the personal quest of a woman in the evocative harshness of the Indian Sunderbans, the world’s biggest mangrove in the Bay of Bengal.
Piya Roy, an American marine biologist of Bengali descent, travels to this remote part of India to study the rare Orcaella dolphin. Together with a translator and a local fisherman, she explores the Tide Country, as the author calls the intricate labyrinth of islands, backwaters, and channels.
Fierce and dangerous storms and tides, elusive man-eating tigers, local religious traditions and tribal conflict are the backdrops of this fascinating tale.
In this ever-changing landscape, Piya finds herself discovering her own sense of attachment and identity.
Having visited the Sunderbans last May, this novel resonates in my memories, evoking my most incredible tiger sighting. Besides, I find it hard not to identify myself with the protagonist, a woman with mixed cultural heritage that breaks all the conventions about the meaning of belonging, proving that “home” is what’s deep in someone’s heart.
“You know, for me, home is where the Orcaella are, so there is no reason why this (the Sunderbans) couldn’t be it”.
Get The Hungry Tide here
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
By Stuart from Just Traveling Through
The Alchemist tells the story of a young shepherd traveling across Andalusia in southern Spain with his flock. He has a recurring dream that leaves him feeling curious and he visits a local fortune-teller who tells him the dream is about a distant treasure. The shepherd is left with a decision to make; continue with his normal life and stay with the village girl he loves or risk everything in search of great fortune. It wouldn’t be much of a story if he decided to stay where he was and the young shepherd sets off to Africa on a journey of self-discovery, giving up everything he knows to follow his dream. Along the way, he faces many setbacks as well as personal self-doubt that he must overcome if he truly wants to succeed in reaching the treasure.
The Alchemist is a book that I can read again and again (it was also the first book I ever read in Spanish!). It’s so easy to read and the story is incredibly powerful. There are many messages within The Alchemist, but it’s essentially about choosing to follow your dreams and not give up despite the many problems you come across.
The Alchemist is my favorite book as it combines many of the things I enjoy. Reading the book gives me that same feeling of going on an unknown adventure, unsure what you’re going to find and wondering who you’ll meet on the way.
I couldn’t agree more! The Alchemist is my favorite book of all time and I stopped counting how many times I’ve already read it (well, the same goes for Harry Potter books, but let’s not dive into this now😁). It is a real classic and often regarded as one of the top books about travel and self discovery.
Get The Alchemist here
Rebirth by Kamal Ravikant
Hannah from Hannah Elizabeth
One of my ABSOLUTE favorite books about travel and learning about oneself is Rebirth by Kamal Ravikant. Similar to The Alchemist, Rebirth is a story of the man on a journey of both physical difficulty and spiritual enlightenment. Struggling with deep issues and emotions around his father’s death, Amit embarks on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage through Northern Spain famous for its healing powers. On the journey, he learns to heal and discovers what is best for his future.
The story is beautifully written and a nice, easy read. Rebirth is my favorite not only because I dream of hiking the El Camino, but because it shows how getting out of the world we know (aka traveling) can teach us so much about ourselves. It motivates me to want to see and do more. This book is great for anyone who might be at a crossroads in life or just loves a good story of healing and growth. I highly recommend it!
Get Rebirth here
Destination Earth by Nicos Hadjicostis
By Ryan from The Nutty Trekkers
Destination Earth is more than a travel guide, it transforms how you view travel and its relation to life. The author takes you along his own personal journey of self-discovery, traveling the world for over 6 years starting in his mid-30’s. Using his own visceral experiences of his time on the road, Nicos presents a philosophical framework for how to embark on more meaningful and purposeful travels.
‘Travel need not be the domain of only the young. Neither must a journey last only a few weeks.” Nicos presents long-term travel as accessible to all and shares how transformative it is when we realize we have been living on an unknown planet all along. The key takeaway I have from the book, and why it resonated with me so much, is his view of himself as a Global citizen. A citizen of Earth, not just of our nationalities, with a responsibility to treat everyone and things with respect and pure compassion.
I highly recommend this book to anybody who is looking to travel, has traveled, or is currently traveling long-term (>3 months). Nicos just gets it and is masterful at putting words to his powerful ideas.
Get Destination Earth here
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
By Camille & Robin from Everything Yoga Retreat
Life of Pi is a beautiful and inspiring book. It tells the adventure of Pi, the son of a zookeeper. When he turns sixteen, Pi and his family decide to set sails with their animals to start a new life in Canada. During the journey, the ship sinks and Pi ends up alone in a boat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
Life of Pi is my favorite book because the story carries the message of the value of life and it’s very well written. Also, there is a surprising amount of action and suspense in this book, making it a true page-turner.
If you read this book, you will be taken away by Pi’s adventure. In fact, this beautiful story will take you to a whole new world and on a spiritual journey. It’s a very inspiring book to read while traveling or on a yoga retreat, for example.
Get The Life of Pi here
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
By Jacquie from Flashpacking Family
As a long time traveler, my all-time favorite travel book has to be Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.
Safari is the Swahili word for ‘journey’, and Dark Star Safari documents Theroux’s ultimate safari – an epic journey from Cairo to Cape Town by train, bus and car. The book is a must-read for anyone who’s considering traveling in Africa as it combines beautiful, page-turning writing with fun insights into African geography and culture. His descriptions of the country, villages, and cities in each of the countries he travels through are so vivid you almost feel you’re there with him.
It was this book that inspired my first backpacking trip to Africa to explore many of the places Theroux wrote about and I established a life-long passion for the continent.
Get Dark Star Safari here
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
By Katja from Places and Notes
The art of travel by Alain de Botton is one of a kind philosophical book about the “how” and “why” rather than the “where” we should all be traveling. With the help of well-known deceased poets, novelists, painters, and other great thinkers de Botton shares his personal thoughts and points out interesting paradoxes. Through his more or less passionless attitude to travel, he implies we are not doing it well at all and are ignorant of the art of travel.
It is one of my favorite books because it makes me see things differently, challenges me to remain curious and leads me to enjoy the simple things in life more.
Get The Art of Travel here
Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Jeremy Mercer, a young, Canadian crime reporter, left for Europe on the run when he started receiving death threats from a disgruntled criminal. Arriving in Paris almost broke and with nowhere to go, he found himself on the doorstep of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore across from Notre Dame. Run by George Whitman, an elderly American expat who had once traveled the world as a vagabond himself, George allowed anyone who needed a roof over their head to sleep in the bookstore. His only requirement was that they write a one-page autobiography, help out in the store, and read a book a day.
Over the next five months, Jeremy became a part of the bohemian life at Shakespeare and Company and met other lost souls from around the world. Together, they even came up with a plan to save the bookstore from almost certain demise.
This book is very special to me because I actually stayed at Shakespeare and Company myself, just a few months after Jeremy was there. When I read the book, I even recognized a few of the people he described. It brought back a flood of memories and nostalgia and helped me realize what a magical thing I had been a part of.
Ok, I think I’ve just got goosebumps reading this, what about you?!
Get The Time Was Soft There here
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
By Laura from What’s Hot?
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is one of the best Japanese books out there and one of my all-time favorite reads. It follows the story of Satoru and his cat, Nana, as they travel around Japan in a van. At every stop they make, Satoru’s friends seem especially interesting in Nana. Nana has no idea why they have embarked on this road trip but he’s happy to be spending time with his master. It’s not until the very end that you realize what the meaning of this journey was and, trust me, it will break your heart!
The reason I love this book so much is that it’s partially told from the perspective of Nana, the cat. How unique is that? He’s a snarky, witty and sarcastic cat and you can’t help but love him. His observations of human behavior around cats are hilarious and insightful. I’d love to think that this is what cats are truly like!
Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s the next book on my list! 😀
Get The Travelling Cat Chronicles here
The Long Ride Home by Nathan Millward
By Pauline from BeeLoved City
If you are looking for a truly adventurous book, the Long Ride Home by Nathan Millward is a perfect read!
In this book, Nathan tells us his own story of how he rode a little postie bike from Sydney, Australia, to London, UK! Even though he wasn’t much of an adventurer when he decided to go on this journey, visa issues in Australia pushed him to leave the country rather quickly and unprepared. That’s how the story starts!
He and his little postie bike, Dorothy, end up going on an adventure of a lifetime. Something that we all dream of being able to do in the end, but never quite find the courage to.
The Long Ride Home is an amazing travel book as you truly get to join him on this epic journey through dozens of countries! Nathan grows along the way and becomes a better person through his travels and you, as the reader, do the same thing!
The long ride home is one of my all-time favorites for many reasons.
Firstly, I loved the story. It’s absolutely amazing to follow Nathan and Dorothy on this incredible journey.
Secondly, I guess it’s also because of the way I discovered this book. I found it at a campsite when I was backpacking in Australia. A kind soul had left it there for someone else to enjoy it. At this time, I was traveling full time and I kind of pictured myself in this book. I will always remember this book because it’s an incredible story that was brought to me during my own once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
If there is one book that will trigger your wanderlust, it’s this one!
Get The Long Ride Home here
Aleph by Paulo Coelho
By Simona from Slovenians travel
I think that everyone who has ever read a book by Paulo Coelho will be hooked. His style and the topics he writes about are so addictive, that you’ll want to read more of his work.
Aleph is a special book, as the author often mentioned in interviews. It was also his first book I read and absolutely loved (which resulted in buying 6 more books written by Coelho).
The main topic of the book is self-discovery through the past. The main figure, a 59-year-old very successful writer is deeply dissatisfied – he feels like “life without a cause is life without effect”. His mentor “J” sends him traveling, on a self-discovering trip, which was triggered by a bamboo story (read the book and you’ll understand). So, he fulfills his long dream and embarks on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok with stops to meet his readers on the way. Before he departs from Moscow he meets Hilal, a Turkish violinist, who wants to come with him as they know each other from past lives. As she insists, they go on the journey together, which becomes also a journey to their past life – when 500 years ago he betrayed her. He noticed that Hilal can unlock a parallel spiritual universe, where he could find his answers. In the end, we see how people are interconnected through time. And some of the final thoughts are just wonderful: “… sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near … The magical and the extraordinary are with me and with everyone in the Universe all the time, but sometimes we forget and need to be reminded, even if we have to cross the largest continent in the world from one side to the other.”
Not only that I enjoyed the spiritual journey in the book, but it also lightened a spark in me for the Trans-Siberian railway. As I’m writing this, the plan was to sit on that train, but that is now obviously postponed. But the time will come and until then I’ll have Coelho’s beautiful books.
Totally agree with Simona here! This is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read which not only inspired me to add the Trans-Siberian railway to my bucket list but changed my perspective on the world as well. Would recommend it to anybody!
Get Aleph here
Congo Solo: Misadventures Two Degrees North by Emily Hahn
By Daniela from No Hurry To Get Home
Congo Solo is a travel memoir of Emily Hahn. In her novel, she recounts her experiences living and exploring Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) on her own. Aside from her many exciting (and sometimes disturbing) stories, this book recounts her first-hand experiences with the racism, exploitation, and extreme sexism that took place in Colonial Africa. Emily Hahn was a prolific writer and an incredibly brave woman, but her work never really became as famous as it should have. I think every woman should know her story.
Congo Solo is my favorite travel book because it was written by a woman who lived life on her own terms back in the day when the thought of a woman doing anything but marry and have children was unthinkable. It was also the book that initially inspired me to ignore everyone’s advice and travel East and Central Africa on my own when I was just twenty-two years old.
Get Congo Solo here
The 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
By Corritta from It’s a Family Thing
4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris is my favorite book because it inspired me to finally live my dream.
The book is about a man that discovered himself and created a new life that allowed him to jump out of a plane, bullfight, salsa-dance, and fight around the world. This may seem extreme, but it is only an example of what you can do when you change your focus. Life does not have to be what others believe it should be. You can pursue an “unconventional lifestyle” that others do not understand. Unconventional being leaving a life you hate to pursue your passions. This may seem like an impossible concept, but Tim puts it in a way that you understand.
Do you want to spend your life doing something you hate? Or would you like to join the “new rich”? If so, this book will set you on a path to discover what you truly want out of life.
While the title perhaps doesn’t indicate that it would be a book about travel and self discovery, Corritta proved otherwise! 🙂 It’s actually the book that has been on my “to-read list” for so long! I dunno why I keep postponing it – I mean, who on Earth wouldn’t want a 4-hour workweek? 😀 It’s time for me to dig in finally!
Get The 4-Hour Workweek here
Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
I traveled to lots of countries, but somehow I developed a special interest in Russia and the post-Soviet countries. Although I am not sure why I keep wanting to go back there. Is it the friendly people, the beautiful landscapes, the turbulent history?
I was therefore positively surprised by Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray. This book inspired me because the author too had the same fascination with Russia and the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. At a time that society was pushing her to settle down, get married and have children she decided to go on a trip to Central Asia and Russia instead.
It is a well-written book and her travel stories are hilarious. If you have been to the region you will recognize a lot of it in her stories and if you haven’t, this book will surely inspire you to add this off the beaten path region to your bucket list.
Her travel stories combine neatly with her personal exploration of what it is that made her do this journey. It is about love, friendships, and relationships just as much as it is about travel.
Get Open Mic Night in Moscow here
The Aran Islands by JM Synge
By Emer and Nils from Let’s Go Ireland
John Milton Synge’s book “The Aran Islands” is more than 100 years old. Yet, it is one of the best books about Ireland and a fascinating study into the discovery of the Irish soul. The playwright Synge traveled to the remote Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland where Irish culture was relatively untouched. His book illuminates many aspects of Irish rural life in harsh conditions and sheds light on many intriguing facets, such as folklore, history, and tradition. If you want to get to know more about a version of Ireland that has largely vanished these days, yet want to discover cultural insights into Ireland’s past that is still connected to the present, then you should definitely read this book.
Synge’s book is one of my favorite books because it allows such a deep introspection into European culture. It triggers thoughts on what it means to have origins, and how to appreciate a unique and authentic culture.
Get The Aran Island here
I don’t know about you, but I think I’m just gonna grab my Kindle, wrap myself in a blanket, get an enormous cup of coffee and… you know, see you next year or something. I’m off!
Wondering what to do when you can’t travel? Er, I mean – besides reading? Check out 27 ways to fuel your wanderlust without leaving home!
Have you read any of these books already or do you have any suggestions for other books about travel and self discovery? Let us know in the comments!
Also… No better time than now to Pin it!