“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel somewhere without moving your feet.” -Jhumpa Lahiri.
Most of my travel journey has been shaped by books. I bought Eat, Pray, Love in an airport before I flew to Hawaii; that book inspired me to travel to solo. I was gifted “The Art of Asking” by an Airbnb host in Dallas; that book gave me the courage to start house sitting in Mexico. I’m currently reading “Wild” and am I’m planning a trip totally unplugged & off the grid.
Books are magic. The best books inspire you to travel solo – still with fear and anxiety – but a good fear and anxiety. The kind of feeling you get before a first date.
Find your inspiration, your courage, your next wild idea…between the pages of your next travel book.
Whether you’re leaving for a single girls trip to Thailand next month or you’re on the hunt for the best solo destinations – here are 13 travel books to steer you in the right direction.
Ps. Most of these books are available as Audiobooks.
How do you do it? How do you leave everything behind and jump into the world unknown?
Being away from your friends and family for an indefinite period of time, leaving your job, and there’s also that itsy-bitsy problem with the money.
The “father of vagabonding” will teach you how to maneuver around these and many other on-road obstacles, how to financially support yourself, and shape yourself into the “long-term” traveler living life to the fullest.
Best for: Making the big moves needed to change your life
#4 – The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Where is happiness? Is it a place? A condition of the spirit? Or a meaningful relationship? Weiner travels the globe searching for what defines the elusive enigma of happiness. Follow him through Qatar, Bhutan, England, Switzerland, Iceland, or Morocco to discover the secrets to happiness around the world.
Best For: Understanding your unbalanced emotions…and how to balance them NOW
#6 –Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Easier said than done; tracing the steps of an Indiana Jones’ prototype as he winds and climbs to the top of Machu Pichu. Luckily, Mark Adams has brilliantly recreated the famous tales of renowned explorer, Hiram Bingham, through his (before Google maps and guided tours) search for Inca ruins!
“Turn right at Machu Picchu” is a brilliantly amusing mash-up of unfortunate setbacks, whimsical archeological finds, and some of the world’s most entrancing landscapes in incredible written detail.
#7 – Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos
Now, doesn’t that sound delicious? While traveling through Southeast Asia, you will be exposed to ways of eating that have never crossed your mind before. Starting here – in Laos, just north of Thailand.
The art of eating has always been a five-sense experience – starting with your imagination. Natacha will make you salivate (and cringe) while exploring the exotic foreign foods in Southeast Asia.
#8 – Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
A woman born more than 150 years ago, Gertrude Bell was one of the first fierce female travelers in history.
She was many things in one: a scholar, a Renaissance woman, a feminist, and through her travels…a justice fighter. Voyaging through the harsh conditions of the Arabian Desert, Bell’s love for the people she met turned her into a champion of the people’s independence.
A tale so moving, Queen of the Dessert was made into a (terrible) movie staring Nicole Kidman…which reviews so terrible that I urge you…just stick to the book.
#9 – Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
Just like the bellicose goddess, Freyja in Norse mythology, Freya Stark caught wanderlust when she was a little girl. By the time she grew up, she was beyond all recovery from this life-long addiction to the open road.
Her insatiable thirst for adventure took her to lands where stories waiting to be told. Traveling across the Middle East in the 1930’s – in countries like Syria, Kuwait, Iran, and Yemen – she documented what she saw and the stories local people shared, one of the first to shed light on this then-unknown part of the world.
#10 – Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
As cliche as it sounds, this is the book that changed my life. Eat, Pray, Love opens with Elizabeth Gilbert sobbing on a bathroom floor in utter despair at the lowest point of her life. In a time of rock-bottom hopelessness, all she has left to do is just say ‘fuck it’ and travel the world in hopes of finding…something. What she found was gourmet food in Italy, her soul in India, and a spiritual for herself and the universe in Bali.
This book is equal parts travel inspiration and how-to.
Best for: Painting a picture of what your life could be, truly, if you just say ‘fuck it’ and go.
#11 – Bali: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide by Alexa West
You didn’t think I was going to leave this one out, did you!?
“Eat, Pray, Love” meets “Lonely Planet”, The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide series act as your guidebook, your inspiration, and your entertainment all in one go. Find the best street food, book your boats with ease, and figure out what to order at an Indonesian restaurant that won’t be filled with mystery meat. From the best hotels for your budget to the best place to find Nasi Goreng in Bali, The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide is the #1 travel guide series for women today.
Best for: Planning the safest, most exciting, and least scary solo trip ever
#12 – The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
The BEST audible travel book that is 100% guaranteed to awaken your travel soul!
De Botton is famous for his introspective essays that have the miraculous ability to ignite a fire in previously still, bored, and uninspired brains – particularly when it comes to the art of traveling.
When you need a shake up. When you feel hopelessly lost. When you are looking for purpose, “The Art of Travel” will tell you where to go, why and how.
Best for: Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone
#13 – Breaking Trail: A Climbing Lifeby Arlene Blum
The first American woman to attempt Everest, Blum has many other firsts establishing a firmer ground for women’s place in society. She also managed to challenge the conservative scientific circles and shaking bad legislation. Blum relates her way up (literally and figuratively) with a generous sprinkle of candor and wit.
#14 – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
This one doesn’t sport a woman protagonist but stay with me. Harold is an elderly and shy gentleman and he’s on a mission. And that’s a must if you want to keep going. What Joyce’s novel is most remarkable for are the people Harold encounters. They are strangers, but they’re always kind to him.
Sometimes fears are just in your head and the world is often a far friendlier place than we imagine it to be.
#15 – A Dip in the Ocean: Rowing Solo Across the Indian Ocean by Sarah Outen
“Wisdom comes through suffering,” Aeschylus famously said. Bereaved by her father’s death, Sarah embarked on a perilous journey. Many chocolate bars and salty waves later she became the first woman and the youngest person to cross the Indian Ocean rowing solo, setting three world records in the process.
Patagonia is almost synonymous with “in the middle of nowhere.” It’s also a renowned sportswear brand which sort of dusts off its geographic oblivion. Nonetheless, Patagonia has this whiff of farawayness about it that gives it a mysterious halo. With an indisputable knack for adventure, Chatwin is a hearty storyteller that pulls out from the limbo this slightly neglected “uttermost part of the earth.”
#17 – Wild Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Live Her Best Life, Escape Traditional Parenthood, and Travel the World by Carrie Visintainer
Something for you, traveling mamas! I see you.
How do parenthood, postpartum depression, diapers, and traveling get along? Carrie is here to teach you exactly that. The mind-boggling questions in her head are on many adventurous young parents’ list, so descend into the rabbit hole with her and she’ll show you that you don’t need to give anything up.
Best for: Dispelling the myth that you can’t travel with kids
#18 – The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asiaby Paul Theroux
Saving the best for last; a travel adventure story that every wanderlust woman must read. Traveling by train has a quaint romantic undertone about it. And crossing enigmatic Asia by its mythical trains is surely a dainty to be savored by any self-respecting traveler. Theroux is a dexterous narrator who will generously accompany you along the “hippie trail” to India, en route passing through Thailand, Japan, and Siberia.
#19 – Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile by Sara Wheeler
Sara Wheeler’s compelling account of her journey through the rough but mesmerizing terrain of the Chilean desert – the driest in the world – to the southernmost unhospitable wastes near the Antarctic. Wheeler’s book is an amalgam of political feuds, history, and fascinating landscapes unfolding through her witty narrative.
Conclusion to the Best Travel Books to Inspire you to Travel Solo
Your book will be your best travel friend. It will give you courage to go. It will keep you entertained as you fly. It will keep you company at a quiet cafe. And (for me) it will help you ease yourself into new situations, letting you hide behind the cover until you’re ready to come out and play.
No. I’m dead serious. WRITE ME AND TELL ME WHAT YOU’RE READING, DAMNIT.
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