13 Books That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust

A man walking in a library full of books
Last Updated: 5/16/22 | May 16th, 2022

The end of the year is just that time for favorites lists – and I’ve written about the best travel books many times over! I love talking about travel books. Why? Because part of the tool belt of any traveler is a good book. Long bus, train, or plane rides can get pretty boring and can give you a lot of “dead” time if you haven’t mastered the art of the 10-hour blank stare. Additionally, reading travel books helps you learn about the destinations you are visiting. The more you know about a place, the more you can understand a place.

I am a voracious reader and have even started a book club on this website to share all the books I read. Today is another one of those days where I share some of the books I’ve read recently! If you’re looking for some great reads, here are my current list of the best travel books to inspire you to travel to far-off lands:

1. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistA books about following your dreams, this is one of the most-read books in recent history. The story follows a young shepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his heart, goes with the flow, and learns love and the meaning of life. The book is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes. My favorite: “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man… Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.” I can’t recommend this book enough.

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2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche

Love with a chance of drowningThis book is written by travel blogger Torre DeRoche. While I’m normally not a huge fan of “travel love stories” I actually couldn’t put this book down. It’s a beautifully written book about overcoming her fear of the ocean to sail across the Pacific with her boyfriend. The way she describes the scenery, the people, and her experience makes me want to follow in her footsteps. It’s powerful, vivid, and moving. It’s also the best travel book I’ve read all year.

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3. The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah

The Caliph's House: A Year in CasablancaInspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah decides to buy a house in Casablanca. He moves his family from England in hopes of breaking out from the monotony of life in London as well as exposing his children to a more carefree childhood. While dealing with corruption, the local bureaucracy, thieves, gangsters, jinns causing havoc, and the hassle that seems to come with even the most simple interactions, Shah weaves a story that is simply one of the best I’ve read all year. It’s endlessly enthralling.

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4. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

on the roadWritten in 1957, Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic is a timeless travel novel. The story follows his character, Sal, as he leaves New York City and heads west, riding the rails, making friends, and partying the night away. The main character’s frustration and desire to see the world are themes that can resonate with many of us. What I especially love about On the Road is that through all his travel adventures, he becomes a better, stronger, and more confident person — something I can personally resonate with.

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5. Unlikely Destinations: The LP Story, by Tony & Maureen Wheeler

unlikely destinations: the lonely planet storyThis tome chronicles the start and rise of the company whose guidebook is probably in your backpack or on your bookshelf right now: Lonely Planet. Started by Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the story follows them from England in the 1970s to the beginning of the 21st century. In between, you’ll hear many amazing travel tales and learn about their early business struggles trying to get Lonely Planet off the ground. While the book drags in some parts, it’ a fascinating read about the company that launched the guidebook industry.

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6. The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

The Lost City of Z book coverThis book seeks to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett, an adventurer and explorer who trekked through the Amazon jungle in search of the fabled lost city of Z. Blending history, biography, and travelogue, Grann intermingles information about Percy’s life and expeditions with the science behind the myth of Z and the possibility that there could have been vast advanced civilizations in the Amazon that we have yet to discover. I learned a lot about the region and history of the cultures that inhabited the land long before Westerners arrived.

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7. The Beach, by Alex Garland

the beach book coverBesides The Alchemist, this is probably my favorite travel book. (I like the movie too, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, but the book is way better.) Focused on a group of backpackers, what I love about Garland’s tale and their search for the ultimate backpacker paradise is that many of us can identify with Richard and his quest to “do something different and get off the beaten path.” Yet in the end we often realize that very quest is an illusion. It’s a fun, page-turning tale about how backpackers’ search for the “ideal destination” can end up ruining that ideal. I love this book a lot!!

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8. Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts

vagabonding coverWritten by the godfather of vagabonding, Rolf Potts, this book is a must-read for those new to long-term travel. Rolf spent 10 years on the road (he even walked across Israel), and his book contains valuable insights, interesting quotes, and a lot of practical information. From saving to planning to life on the road, this is a must for newbies. It’s an inspirational book and one that really affected me when I was planning my trip. It delves into the why and philosophy of long-term travel that no other book has come close to doing.

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9. In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country coverIt’s hard to pick just one book by Bill Bryson because they’re all great. He’s one of the most prolific and recognized names in travel writing. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.

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10. The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner

The Geography of Bliss book coverWriter and NPR correspondent Eric Weiner set out on a yearlong journey to find the world’s happiest places. He heads to places like Iceland, Qatar, Denmark, India, and Moldova (the world’s most unhappy place) on his quest to learn what makes us happy (or unhappy). While he never finds a single secret to happiness, his journey makes for an amazing and lighthearted read. In trying to answer the question “what makes a society happy?,” Weiner has some memorable interactions with locals that make this a fun travel read.

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11. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu Picchu book coverThis book recounts Adams’s tale of roughing it through Peru in search of Inca ruins and ancient cities while following archaeologist Hiram Bingham’s original route to the famed Machu Picchu. The book taught me a lot about Peru, and I am inspired to visit a lot of the sites Adams explored on my trip there next year. Like him, I fully plan to turn right. It was the best travelogue I’ve read in the past year and has inspired me to visit a lot of the places he did in the book whenever I finally make it down to Peru!

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12. Cruising Altitude, by Heather Poole

Cruising Altitude coverThis book by Heather Poole is about life as a flight attendant. Of course, I picked it up at an airport and read it on a plane. It’s a quick, light read about what it’s like to work at 35,000 feet. You learn crew terms, how flight attendants are trained, how they interact with pilots, and what a regular day is like. It’s an eye-opening behind-the-scenes read. It had some funny stories and gave me a new appreciation for just how hard those flight attendants work and how much crap they have to put up with!

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13. A Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell

A Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell This was probably my favorite book of the year. When her husband gets a job at the Lego offices in Jutland, Helen Russell decides to head to Denmark with him, freelance write, and try to figure out why the Danes are so happy. From childcare, education, food, and interior design to taxes, sexism, and everything in between (turns out the Danes love to burn witches), Helen’s funny, poignant story kept me enthralled from start to finish. It’s informative, hilarious, self-deprecating, and tells a great story of someone trying to fit in.

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BONUS: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, by me!

how to travel the world on $50 a day book coverOk I know I include this like in every list but my book is awesome so you should read it. Thos New York Times best-selling book was called “The bible for budget travelers” by the BBC and will teach how to master the art of travel so you save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experience no matter your destination. Meant for anyone who wants to save money and travel the world, the book contains everything I know about travel!

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Books about travel inspire us to go visit far-off lands and imagine us doing incredible things. Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country inspired me to visit Australia! I hope these travel books inspire you to travel the world and feed your wanderlust. If you have any suggestions that I can add to this best travel books list, leave them in the comments.

If you’d like to see some of the other books I’ve recommended (or are currently reading), check out this page I created on Amazon that lists them all!

You can also find them listed in our Bookshop store, which helps support locally-owned bookstores. If you’re in the US, click here to check out my Bookshop store!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

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