8 Books to Scratch Your Travel Itch
I have always been a pretty big bookworm. When I’m not traveling, I’ve been jumping nose first into books centered on travel! This is great for a few reasons. One: I can feel like I’m somewhere else without leaving my couch. Two: buying a few books is a heck of a lot cheaper than a plane ticket these days. Finally, three: I get to learn more about destinations I’m interested in! I’ve compiled a list of 8 of my favorite travel-oriented books that have continuously inspired my wandering feet.
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What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Author: Kristin Newman
Synopsis: Kristin Newman writes about her time traveling for the several weeks she has off each year as a sitcom writer (she wrote for shows like How I Met Your Mother). Kristin calls the travel version of herself “Kristin-adjacent”, meaning she takes risks and does things she wouldn’t do in her “normal” life while traveling. One of these things is having flings that she refers to as “vacationships” (a truly genius and relatable concept). Throughout the book, Kristin introduces readers to Russian men with broken English, Finnish poker players, Israeli bartenders, and friends from back home. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding reminds me SO much of Sex and the City, with Kristin Newman in the role of Carrie Bradshaw. It is laugh-out-loud funny, entertaining, and one heck of an adventure.
Notable Quote: “I love that I am but one of millions of single girls hitting the road by themselves these days. A hateful little ex-boyfriend once said that a houseful of cats used to be the sign of a terminally single woman, but not it’s a house full of souvenirs acquired on foreign adventures. He said it derogatorily: Look at all of this tragic overcompensating in the form of tribal masks and rain sticks. But I say that plane tickets replacing cats might be the best evidence of women’s progress as a gender. I’m damn proud of us. Also, since I have both a cat and a lot of foreign souvenirs, I broke up with that dude and went on a really great trip.”
Two Steps Forward
Authors: Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
Synopsis: I was first introduced to Two Steps Forward in a book club, Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (which is amazing! You should join if you’re a girl who loves travel!). Two Steps Forward is a fictional tale told from the perspective of two people traveling the Camino de Santiago (sometimes separately, sometimes together). Zoe, a newly widowed mother, becomes a pilgrim, or hiker, of the Camino to try to find a sense of direction after her husband’s death. Martin, a single father, is doing the Camino to test out a cart-type invention he hopes to sell to hikers. Along the way, they find wisdom, test their strength, interact with a variety of other pilgrims, and experience a bit of romance.
Notable Quote: “The path is not a straight line but every step takes you closer.”
Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Synopsis: I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talks, so it is no surprise that I also love her breakout memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Eat, Pray, Love is all about Elizabeth Gilbert’s year seeking pleasure, spiritual devotion, and balance in Italy, India, and Indonesia after a pretty terrible divorce. During her year traveling, Elizabeth learned so much about herself, particularly what makes her happy. While reading Eat, Pray, Love, you’ll experience just about every emotion possible. There’s also a film adaptation of this memoir starring the beyond amazing Julia Roberts as Liz if movies are more your thing!
Notable Quote: “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi
Synopsis: I first read The Historian as part of a summer reading assignment in high school, and I am so so thankful for my teacher for making us read it! The Historian follows a girl who is searching for her father, Paul, who has left a cryptic note suggesting that he was kidnapped by Vlad the Impaler, who is also known as Dracula. While looking for her father, the narrator details the libraries of Istanbul, streets of Budapest, and forests of Eastern Europe. Each location reveals more about the mystery of Dracula and hints of her father’s fate. It is hard to believe a fictional book about Dracula can be so riveting, but believe me, it is!
Notable Quote: “It was strange, I reflected, as we went out into the golden evening of the Byzantine streets, that even in the weirdest circumstances, the most troubling episodes of one’s life, the greatest divides from home and familiarity, there were these moments of undeniable joy.”
All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft
Author: Geraldine DeRuiter
Synopsis: Geraldine DeRuiter basically considers herself someone who is not meant to travel, but does it anyways. Her story chronicles the years that she spent traveling the world after being laid off from a job she enjoyed. Gerladine’s stories about her travels to places including New York, Ireland, Paris, and Italy – SO much Italy! In All Over the Place, Geraldine expertly mingles tragic tales of brain cancer with stories of hilarious mistakes she has made. I especially love how she breaks each chapter up with fun, bullet-point lists! All Over the Place is just over 250 pages, but I feel it’s a quick read because I wasn’t able to put the book down!
Notable Quote: “The truth is, roads move only in one direction, no matter how hard you try to scream at traffic. You take a deep breath, and you accept that you are going somewhere new. You will get used to this new place, to your new reflection, to the dent in your head. If you are very, very lucky, you will find a familiar face when you get there. He will smile at you as he always has and ask if you want to get steak frites. You realize that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It just looks a little different than you’d imagined.”
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Synopsis: Wild is Cheryl Strayed’s account of her 1,100 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. It interweaves Cheryl’s time on the trail with the years leading up to her trip, which amplifies her spiritual and personal journey on the PCT. At 22, Cheryl lost her 45-year-old mother to breast cancer. Shortly after, Cheryl divorces her husband and begins seeing a guy who turns her on to heroin. In order to rediscover herself, Cheryl decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail at the age of 26. One thing that I really thinks sets Wild apart from other books about hiking is that Cheryl Strayed gets real about the physical challenges of the task (with a particularly humorous passage about losing a hiking boot!). If books aren’t your thing, there’s a pretty great film adaptation starring the lovable Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl!
Notable Quote: “It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
Author: Paulo Coelho
Synopsis: Like many adventurous books, The Alchemist is centered on treasure. The story follows Santiago, a shepherd boy who has recurring dreams where a boy tells him he will find treasure if he goes to Egypt. After several people tell him it is prophesied to go or that there are omens suggesting he should, Santiago buys a ticket to Tangier. Santigao is robbed as soon as he gets to Tangier, so he begins working in a crystal shop. Here, Santiago first hears of alchemy, the process of turning any metal to gold, and begins a quest to find a famous alchemist. The book is full of so much wisdom, adventure, and love. Plus, the book is only about 180 pages (with some illustrations thrown in!), making the book a pretty quick read.
Notable Quote: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Synopsis: The Histories is composed of 9 books and basically invented the travel book genre! In The Histories, Herodotus outlines records a number of ancient traditions, events, culture, and geography in a way that earned him the title of “Father of History”. Written in 440 BC, The Histories takes readers through much of Greece, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. The 9 books of The Histories are named after the 9 muses in Greek mythology. Herodotus weaves history, mythology, wisdom, and so much scenic description to create a work that has stood the test of time.
Notable Quote: “Of all men’s miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing.”
You can find The Histories on Amazon for $9.93.
Now that you have 8 new book recommendations, I’m sure you’re ready to get reading! What’s your favorite book about travel? Let me know in the comments below!