13 Books That Will Make You Want To Wander The World

On the road, long journeys require good books. Off the road, there’s nothing like a good book to inspire you to set off to some unknown land. Books inspire, transform, and educate us. Travel books especially teach us about the world around us as we get ready to travel the world and explore lands. Here is a list of some of the funniest, craziest, and most inspiring travel books for you to read on and off the road.

DoTravelWritersGoToHellThe Beach

In Alex Garland’s tale about backpackers and their search for paradise, we follows Richard and his quest to “do something different” in Thailand. The book is part adventure and part exploration of why we always search for these utopias and the consequences of that quest.

The Alchemist

This story, one of the most-read books in recent history, follows a young DoTravelWritersGoToHellshepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart, goes with the flow, learns to love, and discovers the meaning of life. I find this to be the classic travel story about going off in search of adventure and learning about yourself and how to live a more meaningful life. If I could give just one book to someone looking to be inspired, this would be it.

Cruising Altitude

CruisingAltitudeHeather Poole’s a flight attendant and her quick, light and funny read explores what it’s like to work at 35,000 feet. Heather details how flight attendants are picked, their training, what their day-to-day life is like, and how they deal with unruly passengers. The most valuable parts? Tips on how to get on a flight attendant’s good side (and potential upgrades and freebies).

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?DoTravelWritersGoToHell

Thomas Kohnstamm caused a lot of controversy when his book exposed the underbelly of travel writing in 2008. He writes about freebies, plagiarism, and Internet research that writers engage in. As a travel writer, I can tell you while some of what he says happens, he exaggerated a little bit. However, the book itself is smart, witty, and seriously funny.

EatPrayLoveEat, Pray, Love

The staple of all female travel books, I think this book about a privileged white girl on the road makes a wonderful example of how not to travel. This self-indulgent book is wonderfully written but celebrates vapid travel (notice how all the countries she visits being with the letter “I”?). However, if you want a light beach read, this book is for you.

InASunburnedCountryIn A Sunburned Country

Follow Bill Bryson’s journey through Australia visiting tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path destination inspired me to go to Australia. I think this is one the most well written travel books ever. In typical style, Bryson also includes lots of trivia information as he travels around in awe – and sometimes in fear – of this enormous country.

On the RoadOnTheRoad

Written in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic is a timeless travel novel. The story follows his character, Sal, and desire to see the world. He leaves New York City and heads west riding the rails, making friends, and partying. Along the way, he learns about life, himself, and what it means to be truly happy. It’s an inspiring tale about leaving convention behind.

OracleBonesOracle Bones

Written by Peter Hessler, this novel about China provides a fascinating look at many aspects of the country in the late 1990s and early 2000s – from its culture to its politics to its food. It’s a great look into life in a very changing time in China from the perspective of its minorities.

ParisWasOursParis Was Ours

This book features thirty-two writers from around the world who share personal stories of how they learned to cook, study, love, and integrate into Parisian life. It demonstrates just how much of a lasting effect Paris can have on people for as Hemmingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

SmileWhenYoureLyingSmile When You’re Lying

Written by the slightly jaded Chuck Thompson, this book is a humorous criticism of the travel writing industry as it rails against the gloss of travel magazines, overused euphemisms, and the Lonely Planetization of the world. It gives you a lot of insight into the world of travel writing and magazines.

LoveWithAChanceOfDrowningLove With a Chance of Drowning

I couldn’t put this down this book by travel blogger Torre DeRoche. It beautifully captures her attempt to overcome her fear of the ocean as she sails across the Pacific with her boyfriend (it was either that or watch him sail away). The way she vividly describes the scenery, the people, and her experience makes me want to follow in her footsteps. It’s the best and most inspiring travel book I’ve read all year.

MarchingPowderMarching Powder

This book is an amazing look into one of the most corrupt prisons in the country and examines how people learn to survive within the system. It’s all about drugs, friendship, corruption, and adventure. All you need in an interesting travel read imagining you’re some swashbuckling adventure down south.

SevenYearsInTibetSeven Years in Tibet

This classic tells the tale of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer’s 1943 escape from British India, his trek across the Himalayas, and his stay in Tibet as the tutor to the young Dalai Lama. It’s fascinating story of culture, friendship, innocence, and history during one of the biggest changes in Tibetan history. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Budget travel expert, author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” at Nomadic Matt.

Keep up with Matthew on Twitter and nomadicmatt.com

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