Books that inspire travel

Travel Bloggers recommend their FAVORITE TRAVEL BOOKS

They say books can take you anywhere. That reading is a great way to visit far away places, without having to move an inch. I agree. Words combined with an open mind, can really take you away.

But what if you want to take that literature induced wanderlust to the next level? Then you allow books to feed your day-dreaming, add new places to your wish list and, eventually, go to the destinations that you have once read about.

We have invited a group of talented bloggers to share with us those special books that have inspired them to travel. They are not necessarily books about travel, but stories that have made them dream about a specific destination or, in general, about traveling around the world.

Books that inspire travel:


The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

 The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

The last few years have been jam packed with adventures all around the globe. A quest of sorts to learn about the world through my own senses, and challenge myself in new ways. However, after awhile, it can all get a little mundane, and that’s just what I was feeling in the past few weeks. Fortunately, “The Happiness of Pursuit” was in my bag.

Chris’s book is like a guide to living a more fulfilling life through quests which often, but certainly not always involve travel. He uses his own quest to visit all 192 countries in the world as a companion to the dozens of other quests he describes that others have pursued, to help understand what makes a quest, why you should do it, and what to do when it doesn’t go according to plan.

So as I arrive on my 10th trip to Myanmar to finish a project that I’ve been working three years on already, I’m glad that “The Happiness of Pursuit” is in my bag to remind me that I’m traveling and doing this all for a reason.

By Dustain Main of A Skinny Escape


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Tim Blight of Urban Dunya

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Tim Blight of Urban Duniya

At first, Khaled Hosseini’s tragic tale of a childhood lost in Afghanistan might seem like an odd choice as a favourite travel book. The Kite Runner was given to me as a gift after my first trip to Pakistan. I liked Pakistan, I knew that needed to return after Hosseini’s nostalgic descriptions of kite flying in the crisp spring air, schoolboys stumbling along dusty laneways on their way home, and cricket in the streets.

Between Pakistan and Afghanistan the lines are often blurred; I stand on my rooftop, sipping milky chai, and watching kites flutter in the afternoon haze. The road from Pakistan to Afghanistan is not a safe one, and the furthest I’ve been along it is at Hasan Abdal, near Islamabad. There, as we wound our way through the streets, I spotted some young boys walking down a side lane, their kite catching the sunlight.

By Tim Bligh of Urban Duniya


Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer

Video Night in Kathmandu + Barbara Weibel, against a backdrop of the Annapurna Himalayas in Nepal

Video Night in Kathmandu + Barbara Weibel, against a backdrop of the Annapurna Himalayas in Nepal

As a lifelong avid reader, many books have fired my travel imagination, but perhaps none more so than Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer. I grew up listening to Katmandu, the incorrectly spelled hit song by Bob Seger, and had always dreamed of visiting the capital of Nepal. After reading Iyer’s novel I knew I had to make it a reality.

From the moment I set foot in the land of the Himalayas, Nepal became my absolute favorite destination. I visit as often as I can, staying with a local Nepali family that adopted me during my initial visit in 2010. Though Iyer’s novel was set in the 1980’s, during a time when Kathmandu was the de facto escape for burned-out hippies, I was worried that my latter day experience might be disappointing, but aside from the disappearance of the video night tradition, much of what he described hasn’t changed one iota.

By Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel


Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

Cez reading “Across Many Mountains” on the way to Hong Kong

Cez reading “Across Many Mountains” on the way to Hong Kong

One of the most inspiring travel books I have ever read on the road is Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen. It’s a very emotional and powerful read, that tells a story of Tibetan women whose lives are forever changed when Mao’s Red Army crushes Tibetan independence. Brauen’s mother and grandmother are therefore forced to flee from their Tibetan homeland, traveling across the frozen and breath-taking Himalayas to freedom. Their journey is extremely challenging and troublesome, but also inspiring. In this powerful, poetic, global memoir Brauen tells how the lives of three generations of Tibetan women were forever changed so that you can get familiar with Tibetan history, culture and traditions.

I definitely recommend this book to everyone who wants to travel to Tibet or China and experience ever-lasting journey across the stunning Himalayas. I loved the fact this book was so touching and I’m a very emotional person.

By Agness of eTramping


Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham

Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham inspired Contented Traveler to visit Samoa

Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham inspired Contented Traveller to visit Samoa

Samoa was “the” place that I wanted to visit. I was inspired to visit here and many other places in Polynesia, by reading the Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham. He was as controversial in his writing as was in his private life, which probably made visiting more appealing.

Because I had read about the Aggie Greys Hotel in the capital city of Apia, that is where we headed. We visited both islands that make up Samoa – Upolu and Savai’i. I remember getting on the boat going between the islands and having some chooks put on my lap and then a large Samoan lady lay on my shoulder and went to sleep. We found the Samoans to be easy going, pleasant and happy.

My favourite memories are of the flowers and the people going to church all in white and singing so beautifully. The other is waking up to smoke gently covering the island as they prepared the umus – their ground ovens, and the wonderful smells from them.

By Paula of Contented Traveller


An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof

An Embarrassment of Mangos by Ann Vanderhoof + Lauren in Grenada

An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof + Lauren in Grenada

The book that has inspired me is called “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” by Ann Vanderhoof. The book is about the author and her husband who leave their crazy lives in Canada behind, board their own boat, and sail to the Caribbean documenting their adventures along the way. They describe living in Grenada and daily life visiting the markets, cooking with the spices that are grown there, and interacting with the friendly locals.

This book is also a sequel to her first book, “The Spice Necklace” and some of the same people are mentioned, which made it feel as though I was also visiting old friends. I thoroughly enjoyed both books and thought fondly of them when I traveled to Grenada myself. I found the locals on the island to be incredibly friendly and welcoming. Be sure to buy some spices while you are there as well!

By Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Maybe this is a bit cliché but ‘The Alchemist’ is one of my favorite books which inspire travel. I’ve always wanted to see the Egyptian pyramids and the desert and this book just made that desire stronger.

Another reason I love this book is because it’s all about the self-discovery and how we should follow our hearts and dreams and also free ourselves from fear. Fear is something that we travelers often experiences and this book is all about debunking that myth.

By Zorica of EuroTribe


Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts + Manouk of BoB in India

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts + Manouk of BoB in India

The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane by the airport”. This is a passage of the second page of Shantaram, and also describes how I felt upon arrival in India.

The story of Shantaram describes the life of Roberts, who escaped from an Australian prison and then fled to Bombay. In Bombay he joined the mafia, landed in the notorious Arthur Road Prison, went to the Afghan war, played in Bollywood movies, lived in the slums, started a free health clinic and fell in love.

Shantaram holds a special place in my heart and I think it’s must read for everyone who travels to India. Roberts manages to take you to the soul of India and describes both her beauty and her dark side. It’s is an extremely powerful, vivid and most importantly honest book. I read Shantaram during my solo-trip to India and and it gave me a better understanding of Indian life around me. I also visited some places mentioned in the book, such as the famous Leopold Café in Bombay. Shantaram is beautifully written and one the most epic adventure novels you will ever read.

By Manouk of Bunch of Backpackers


Operating Instructions for London by Ronald Reng

Operating Instructions for London by Ronald Reng and Julia Haase of The Redhead Story

Operating Instructions for London by Ronald Reng and Julia Haase of The Redhead Story

Back in 2011, I visited an American friend of mine who studied abroad in London, UK. When I came back, I had about a year left of my undergrad studies. Towards the end of my bachelor’s the desire to study somewhere abroad was quite strong. I accidentally came across this book called “Operating Instructions for London“, which I loved reading.

It is written by a German journalist called Ronald Reng who has lived in this vibrant metropolis for five years and is telling funny, interesting stories about England’s capital. All the little details he mentions, the anecdotes he tells, the loving way he describes the city and its people – it just made me want to go. I also remembered all the great impressions I got when I visited my friend. My “English” wanderlust was spurred and it was bound to happen: I moved to London for a year.

By Julia Haase of The Redhead Story


Floreana by Margret Wittmer

In Floreana: the kitchen of the Wittmer family and a statue made by the son of the Wittmer's

In Floreana: the kitchen of the Wittmer family and a statue made by the son of the Wittmer's

I came to the Galapagos Islands to work as a volunteer for a tour operator. I happened to be living with the ancestors of one of the first settlers of Floreana Island. Those settlers just came after the First World War to the Galapagos and wanted to start a quiet life far away from civilization in Germany. They set up everything themselves, built their house and had been completely self-sufficient. I am the opinion that people nowadays could learn a lot from them and their perspectives.

Margret Wittmer wrote the book “Floreana” about her life on the island and some mysteries which happened there. People who visit the Galapagos Islands (and maybe even Floreana) should definitely read the book.

The day after I finished the book I went to Floreana. It was great to finally compare the image I had in my head of the place with the real one. We visited places they used as their kitchen, saw where they built their house, how they got their drinking water. They are people who left their conventional lives when it was impossible to stay connected with family and friends at home and created a life on their terms. A very inspirational story!

By Stef of Food and Photos Around the World


Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah + Charlie of Charlie On Travel in China

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah + Charlie of Charlie On Travel in China

When I read Falling Leaves, the autobiography of Adeline Yen Mah, an unwanted Chinese daughter, I was 14 years old. I read about suffering in a way that was much more vivid than anything I had read before. I realized that I knew very little of the Chinese traditions and the cultural differences. I wanted to understand, to make sense of what I had read. I wanted to travel to China.

In my first year of university, I gained a place on a government funded program which sent a handful of UK students to China. The program promoted cultural connections between the UK and China. In China, I spoke my first Mandarin words, ate my first hot pot, and visited my first Chinese temple. Though I will never really be able to fully understand what Adeline Yen Mah suffered, her story combined my own memories of China will always stay with me.

By Charlie of Charlie on Travel


Burma, Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid

Alison of Green With Renvy in Burma

Alison of Green With Renvy in Burma

I write about food and travel; beautifully photographed cookbooks of exotic locations are especially inspiring to me. I have been a fan of food writer Naomi Duguid for years, and I anticipated the release of Burma, Rivers of Flavor. Little did I know I would be so inspired by the stories and images of the Burmese people, that I would find myself traveling there less than a year after purchasing it.

The recipes are delicious and each chapter combines a bit of historical perspective, culture and intimate stories of her travels in the country. I couldn’t wait to challenge myself to eat mohinga, the national breakfast of choice, in the morning and visit a primitive tofu factory built on the stilt houses of Inle Lake. I still am trying to process all that I discovered on my adventure to Myanmar.

By Alison of Green With Renvy


The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling + scenery in Scotland by Mapping Megan

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling + scenery in Scotland by Mapping Megan

Don’t be fooled – fiction can provide amazing travel inspiration, and I’m going to come clean and admit that the Harry Potter series was the main motivation which took me to Scotland, UK! With much of each movie set taking place amongst the beautiful highlands, dramatic moors, rolling hills, rugged coasts, dazzling lochs, and medieval castles, traveling here and discovering magical locations as described in my favorite book series was as if I had stepped into the pages of the storybook myself.

For mad Harry Potter fans like myself, be sure to take in both Glencoe and Glenfinnan Viaduct when traveling throughout Scotland.

By Megan Claire of Mapping Megan


Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India by Rory MacLean

Magic Bus book cover + Zara in Incredible India

Magic Bus book cover + Zara in Incredible India

In their search for answers, the original Intrepids took the time to plunge off the beaten track. […] Then, guidebooks began to spoon-feed itineraries to time-poor travelers who could afford neither doubt or a year away. More and more, travel became entertainment not travail, change of scene not a life change.

The way travelers (and more specifically budget travelers) go around these days, is completely different than during our parents’ generation. Before, the so-called intrepids adventured themselves in areas of the world very less explored. Now, not only we can physically get mostly anywhere, we can also find out how to get there or what to see and do once we’re there.

This is a travel story from the road, while MacLean retraces the route once traveled by large groups of hippies back the 60s. We depart from Turkey, on an overland trip that finally takes us to India. It focuses on the details of the past and present of these places, the people who inhabit them, their cultures and traditions. Ultimately, this travel story shows us how travel has changed and how the world has become smaller ever since. Also, how travelers have helped shaping the places they have been to, bridging cultures and blending ways of thinking. East meets West.

After reading “Magic Bus”, I sure feel like taking my sweet time on the road. Also, it serves as a reminder of my impact as a traveler – whenever I go somewhere, not only I absorb something from the new place I am at. I will always end up leaving something behind too. So that little something better be something good!

By Zara of Backpack ME

What books inspire you to travel?


Subscribe to the Backpack ME Newsletter

Tips, fun stuff, and TONS of inspiration! Straight to your inbox!


  • Zorica Says

    Very glad I got a chance to be part of this post. Many interesting books were mentioned here, some that I will definitely have to check out. Chris Guillebeau is a great author and from Khaled Hosseini I also recommend ‘A thousand splendid suns’.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for participating, Zorica!
      The Alchemist is one of those books that all travelers seem to love… I should read it soon too!

  • Anita Catita Says

    What a great post! I’ll definitely read some of these… The Kite Runner is one I particularly would love to read.

  • Great list – thanks for our inclusion! Goign to have to run to the bookstore this morning and stock up!

  • What a wonderful roundup of travel literature! I appreciate being included in your article, but even more, I found quite a few books that sound intriguing that I haven’t yet read.

  • What a great list! The book that inspired my trip to Bali was Eat, Pray, Love. Also, I loved the Harry Potter series and enjoyed my trip to Edinburgh knowing that it inspired so much of the books. :)

  • Emiko Says

    This is pretty much the best post ever. I think my love of traveling and my love of reading are so linked, and so I’m happy to see others inspired by books. My favorite books for travel inspiration and usually books heavily rooted in a place, making me want to seek out a new city or country. I was just in Morocco for five weeks and my constant companions were the works of Tahir Shah and Laila Lalami. But others that come to mind would be Joyce for Dublin, or Kafka for Prague or Pamuk for Istanbul!

  • Sachi Says

    This is a great list. I haven’t read couple of these, so I know what I am ordering :)

  • Hudairi Says

    Great page nice subjects , great job

  • Thanks for including me guys! I read a lot (A LOT!) while traveling and I’m happy with the other recommendations. Some of them I didn’t know, but sound worth reading :)! Cheers!

  • Pingback: UrbanDuniya – With Backpack Me: Travel bloggers' favourite travel books!

  • These books are all going to my books list =) I suggest Holy Cow! And portuguese Estou nua, e agora?

    • Zara Says

      “Estou Nua, e Agora?” esta na minha lista!
      Nao conhecia mas vi o livro nos CTT em Lisboa ha pouco tempo e chamou-me a atencao. Entao parece que vale a pena, nao?! :)

  • Julia Says

    Lovely piece! It’s amazing how books can inspire us not only to travel but really give us itchy feet and make us want to go to this one particular place. Loving these kinds of posts. Looking forward to more. Thanks for letting me be part of this.

  • Franca Says

    This is such a great and inspiring list. I’m always looking for new books to read and I love recommendations ;)
    I’ve already read some of the above books, but there are still plenty I didn’t know about and that sound quite interesting, I’ll keep an eye for them. Thanks guys, I truly appreciate it! :)

  • Pingback: 7 Ways to Travel Without Going Anywhere

  • Agness Says

    Thanks guys for having us here! Wow, it’s a great list of such inspiring books!!!! Wish I could read them all :).

  • Ooh a delectable list! Pico Iyer is one of my favourite travel writers, so happy to see him featured. :) Please also read Bruce Chatwin and Vikram Seth, fellow travellers!

  • Thanks so much for having me, Zara :) I’ve read a couple of these books, but hadn’t heard of Across Many Mountains or Operating Instructions for London – definitely tacking those onto my reading list!

  • Lauren Says

    This is such a wonderful list and I can’t wait to add them all to my reading list! :) At least the ones I haven’t read already ;)

  • Jenna Says

    I love this! There are many books I haven’t read on here, but I also like the stories behind each person’s choice. There have been many books that have inspired travel for me, and one of them is The Lost City of Z. Amazing story about the Amazon.

  • Pingback: #NGTRadar: Travel Lately – Intelligent Travel

  • yes Shantaram! great book to read whilst travelling :)

  • What a great list of books! Going to have to check a few of these out and add them to my Christmas wishlist!

  • Such a great post – and reading books that transport you to locale is such a great and unique way to discover a place. We have just read US by David Nicholls which is a modern day Grand Tour of Europe (a funny, sad and poignant story) and a particular favourite this year has been The Miniaturist set in Amsterdam – the inspiration for the novel came from Petronella Oortman’s Cabinet House in the Rijksmuseum. Seeing the Cabinet House fires the imagination… Happy reading everyone.

  • What a wonderful list! Several suggestions here I have not yet read, but I’ll order them now. I am also going to look for The Miniaturist since I adore Amsterdam and go back as often as possible. A couple I would add: Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Zafran, just about my favorite book of the last five years, made me long to return to Barcelona. And On Mexican Time, by Tony Cohan will make you want to pack up and move to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (where I am lucky enough to live).

  • Loved being included in this round up-thanks. But better yet was to discover a few new inspiring reads for 2015. So interesting to see how other travelers begin their journeys.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for your contribution, Alison!
      It’s always great to share travel inspiration and day-dreaming material with one another!

  • Mine was “The Black Prince” by Iris Murdoch. This book has little to do with traveling – in fact, the main character cancelled his trip to Italy because he fell in love. I’m wondering, if he did go, he wouldn’t get into so much trouble.

  • Tautik Says

    Inspiring list indeed! Che’s travelogue ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ remains my all time favorite travel book (& movie). 23 year old Che and his friend Alberto taking off from Buenos Aires in a 500 cc Norton motorcycle. The journey across South America transforms Che from a fun seeking youth to a thinking man. The social injustice of mine workers, persecuted communists, ostracized lepers and the tattered Incan civilization turns Che into a rebel. Second in my list is ‘Vagabonding: An uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel by Rolf Potts – take your own sweet time to travel, much like you two A&Z do. The list also includes ‘Walden’, ‘The road within’, ‘Kim’ and oh yes ‘Alice in wonderland’.

  • Audrey Says

    Some great inspiration – not that I need any extra, but I’m always looking for books for the road, and I will definitely be reading some of these shortly. I just discovered this beautiful essay by Pico Iyer ( which has sent me hunting for Video Nights in Nepal. It doesn’t hurt that Nepal is also my favourite country, although I’ve only been twice.

  • Great list. I love reading to get to know a place, especially when I am traveling. As a travel writer and reader of travel writing, I love getting a sense of a place from a book–and maybe learning something new!

  • Pingback: Published Works - Contented Traveller | Contented Traveller

Comments are closed for this post.

Subscribe to Backpack ME