The right book can change our lives forever. It’s a secret weapon that we carry with us, especially as we travel and discover not only the world we live in but explore who we are as human beings.
The sheer distances they take our imaginations, and the miles they inspire us to hike, drive, and fly — those are the things that matter when it comes to these books.
And sometimes, reading a travel book can be as transformative as the journey itself.
Ready for a reading list that will change the way you travel? Here are the 15 must-read travel books, according to experienced globetrotters.
'The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World' by Shivya Nath
It’s a riveting travelogue of a famous Indian Blogger, Shivya Nath which became #1 Best Seller in Travel Writing who left her corporate career and home to explore the nomadic life.
If I have to take one thing from the book it’s "Una Vida” – One life.
With its vivid descriptions, cinematic landscapes, moving encounters, and uplifting adventures, it is a memoir of immersive and sustainable travel journeys she has taken in offbeat places like Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iran, Uzbekistan, and unsoiled native India.
Her writing is far beyond the travel writing norm because it is informed both by compassion for the people she meets and passion for actualizing her dreams and her potential.
The Shooting Star is extremely relatable especially to any person from a middle-class family background with unusual dreams and passion.
'ZEN and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig
This book is a must-read for travel bikers or if you are on a solo trip and when you find yourself at a crossroads in life.
It is the self-told story of a middle-aged man and his son, Chris, who goes on a motorcycling trip accompanied by an adult couple.
The journey from Minnesota to California, taking the back roads and sleeping overnight in motels or camping.
The man describes what it is like to hear the wind moving across the plains, to see birds rise up from marshes next to the road, to ride through a ferocious storm, and to breathe the fresh air of a mountain above the tree line.
He is so much attached to the maintenance of his motorbike that it intriguingly expresses his understanding of how to approach life.
'The ALCHEMIST' by Paulo Coelho
This is by far one of the best (and the most translated) books you must read on following your dreams. The Alchemist tells the enthralling story of an Andalusian shepherd who wants to travel in search of treasure.
But during his adventures, he finds himself, instead. It shows us the journey that matters — a journey of lessons and charming stories of snakes, love, dunes, and alchemy.
“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.”
While you’re busy seeking something external, who knows you might end up discovering a piece of yourself you never knew was there.
“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
A “New York Best Seller”, also turned into a major motion picture, Wild is an honest memoir about how travel can spark change, closure, and a new beginning.
After hitting rock bottom, the author takes on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon and all the way to Washington State, on a quest to find herself.
If you have travelled solo or aspire to be and always dream of hiking and trekking, this story would quench your thirst for wanderlust.
It’s intriguing when the woman does an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that brokes her down reeling from catastrophe – and built her back up again.
“Travel the World on $50 a Day” by Matt Kepnes
This book, a New York Best Seller, is called The bible for budget travellers by the BBC. The author is the founder of Nomadic.com, amongst the top 10 travel blogs of the world.
It teaches you 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 what is your destination.
It features detailed pricing and destination information so you can travel better and know what to expect when you visit places around the world.
Meant for anyone who wants to save money, the book contains everything I know about travel.
“How to Not to Travel The World” by Lauren Juliff
Travel is not always a bed of roses, and Lauren’s book shares the ups and downs of the travel life.
Told with humour and honesty, this is a courageous tale of a woman facing her fears head-on — and living to tell about this!
Lauren’s misadventures will make you laugh and cry, and they’re totally relatable for anyone who’s ever been on an extended trip or backpacking.
If you’re in need of some inspiration and motivation to step out of your comfort zone and see all that the world has to offer, this is the travel book for you!
“Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” by Rolf Potts
If the thought of packing up and leaving to travel for an extended period of time has ever crossed your mind, this is the book for you!
Rolf details the joys of slow and long-term travel, shares his reflections on what he’s learned along the way. This book is a must-read for those new to long-term travel.
The author Rolf spent 10 years on the road (he even walked across Israel) and his book contains valuable insights, quotes, and a lot of practical information.
From saving to planning to live on the road, this is a must for newbies too. It delves deeply into the why and philosophy of long-term travel that no other book has come close to doing.
“A Moveable Feast (Life-Changing Food Adventures Around The World)” by Don George
Some of us live to travel and travel to eat. And when you need a book to fuel a gourmand journey, A Moveable Feast has got you covered with this celebration of 38 foodie tales from around the world, said Debbie Arcangeles, host of the podcast The Offbeat Life, which highlights the lives of location-independent professionals.
“A Movable Feast is a compilation of short stories from famous chefs, writers, and foodies around the world,” she said.
“They all share a love of food and the power it has to bring people together. Reading the short stories will give you a glimpse of the culture and induce a serious case of food lust.”
“The King’s Harvest” by Chetan Raj Sreshtha
I pondered upon this book During my visit to Sikkim. Of the two novellas, the book is split into, the first, An Open and Shut Case is the story of a woman who kills her husband and turns herself in.
It weaves through a layered world of love, music, and shared taxis – to reveal that a case like this isn’t exactly open and shut.
But it’s the second of the two novellas, The King’s Harvest, that lives within me even after all these years.
The story takes you to a remote land in Sikkim where one man lives in solitude, toils on the land, and joyfully gives a share of his harvest to his beloved king every year.
When the harvest collector stops showing up, the man decides, after 32 long years of isolation, to personally visit the king, oblivious to how the kingdom has changed.
Sprinkled with magical realism, I found this book just as enchanting as my first glimpse of Gurudongmar Lake(North Sikkim)!
“Tibet with My Eyes Closed” by Madhu Gurung
Tibet With My Eyes Closed is a fresh look at the experience of the Tibetan refugees in India and the pain of separation of families and being uprooted from their homeland.
It is also of a story of how the community as a whole faced and still faces the challenges of adaption and survival.
It’ a collection of extraordinary stories, told so movingly, some had me in tears, others filled me with an insatiable longing.
In her exploration and discovery of the Tibetan refugee community in India, Madhu Gurung quotes an old Tibetan proverb.
“If I tell you my dream, you might forget it. If I act on my dream, perhaps you will remember it, but if I involve you — it becomes your dream too.” Madhu Gurung’s dream of the Tibetan community in exile is a gentle paring of the community’s many layers of strength, weakness, human quirks, and the need to survive as an individual and community.
This article was first published in Wego.