These 9 books gave me serious wanderlust

Looking for trip inspiration? These top 9 travel books made me want to explore the world. Read on to find which books will help you choose your next adventure, and how Insight Guides can help you get to each and every one of them
Pooram temple festival in Kerala, India. Photo: Shutterstock
Pooram temple festival in Kerala, India. Photo: Shutterstock

If you're anything like me, you feel most at home when alone with a good book. The ones on this list deserve a special shout-out. Why? They've inspired me to travel the world.

Here are nine of the best travel books to inspire and stoke your wanderlust.

9 of the best travel books

1. Eat, Pray, Love

There's a reason Eat, Pray, Love is such a beloved piece of travel writing: it remains one of the most honest and soul-feeding memoirs I've ever read. Liz Gilbert became a household name after she took off to Italy, India and Indonesia on a quest for divinity. Or, more accurately, to better understand her own relationship with the divine. It is a story of continual growth and renewal; personal evolution giving way to wholeness. In other words, what it means to be human. Gilbert is a master storyteller who spins gorgeous descriptions of wherever she is. Reading Eat, Pray, Love nudged me to ask myself whether or not I was living the most authentic version of my life (it also inspired an epic trip to Italy shortly after).

Travel Italy, India and Indonesia with the help of Insight Guide: submit a trip request and talk to a local expert today.

2. Wild

I dare you to read Wild and not feel empowered (spoiler alert: you'll fail). I'm anything but an outdoorsy hiker-type, but this beautiful story touched me in a way I didn't see coming. In 1995, following the death of her mother, writer Cheryl Strayed trekked over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail... alone. It is her solitude in the rawness of the PCT that allows her to revisit old wounds, to make sense of the grief. Self-forgiveness, resilience, and acceptance of what is; these are the driving themes in Wild, each one begging readers to look inward themselves. I did, and I came across the last page different from when I started.

"It was my life—like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me," she writes. "How wild it was, to let it be.”

3. On The Road

I first read this American classic when I was a 20-something waitress in New York City, full of grand dreams of seeing the world. This much-loved story certainly fueled those desires, igniting a reverie for what Kerouac affectingly called "life on the road." As the name implies, the story is a love letter of sorts to the great American road trip, documenting a young wanderer's quest for self-understanding. Love, lust, jazz, and poetic asides are thrown in for good measure, creating a backdrop that immediately ropes you into 1950s American beat culture. On the Road is one of those coming-of-age tales that paints the road itself, and all that it holds, as a character all its own.

A motorcyclist with his dog cruising on the Interstate Highway in South Dakota. Photo: ShutterstockA motorcyclist with his dog cruising on the Interstate Highway in South Dakota. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer's Search for Wonder in the Natural World

Oh, how I loved this book. (It may, in fact, be my favourite travel memoir of all time.) Here, writer Leigh Ann Henion ventures off into the wide world in search of, well, wonder. The new mother comes to find that the very act of discovery and enquiry are what feeds her soul and, ultimately, makes her a truer version of herself. Her travels take her everywhere from Mexico's monarch butterfly migration to the Northern Lights; from an awe-inspiring eclipse in Australia to wild African terrain. 

Henion tracks down some of the most astounding natural phenomena the world has to offer, inviting the reader to tag along. I saw myself in her words, and I appreciate the natural wonder of planet Earth more for having read them.

Want to visit the world's most inspiring places for yourself? Insight Guides can take there: submit a trip request and start planning your adventure.

5. Life of Pi

Life of Pi is an altogether dazzling novel that blurs the line between reality and fiction; what's real and what's imagined. Through brilliant storytelling and colourful prose, Martel follows young Piscine ("Pi") Molitor Patel as he navigates a profound spiritual journey that begins in majestic India. But the bulk of the book takes place on the untamed waters of the Pacific, where Pi appears helplessly shipwrecked with an unlikely castaway: a Bengal tiger by the name of Richard Parker. What enfolds is a deeply human story of self-discovery that has stayed with me for years. I credit this book for igniting within me a quiet desire for solo travel.

Experience the majesty, vibrancy and cultural richness of India on Insight Guides' India's Monuments and Tigers tour

6. State of Wonder

Ann Patchett is an author whose name proceeds her. Fans won't be disappointed by State of Wonder, which whisks readers away from icy Minnesota to the steamy Amazon rainforest. Pharmaceutical worker Marina Singh is tasked with investigating the whereabouts of a missing coworker, with her company's mysterious drug research propelling the story forward. Deep in the jungle, researchers have discovered something of a miracle drug that could revolutionize medicine on a global scale. But things aren't always what they seem in the raw wildness of the rainforest   , and Patchett does an extraordinary job of making you feel like you're right there in it.

Travel to the world's lushest jungles on Insight Guides' holidays to Costa Rica: review suggested trip itineraries online now.

7. The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary delivers all the erratic madness you might expect from Hunter S. Thompson, the eccentric and beloved author who also brought us Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This fictional tale takes the reader on a wild ride through 1950s San Juan, as an American journalist attempts to make a name for himself at a prominent local newspaper. But in classic Thompson style, what ensues is a raucous whirlwind in a tropical paradise. The story, which was written in the early '60s, wasn't published until 1998. Not surprisingly, it has since won over a cult following. Thrill-seeking travellers with a soft spot for the Caribbean will mesh well with this iconic classic.

Panorama of Paris and the buildings of Montmartre, Paris. Photo: ShutterstockPanorama of Paris and the buildings of Montmartre, Paris. Photo: Shutterstock

8. Me Talk Pretty One Day 

Dry, smart, and wonderfully witty, David Sedaris is the king of awkward encounters. Me Talk Pretty One Day follows the celebrated American humorist as he attempts to adapt to life in France. It is painfully (and hilariously) clear that he is anything but a local. This collection of endearing essays tells of language blunders and social mishaps of all stripes, including Sedaris's shortcomings in French class. Like many of his books, this one is also peppered with fantastic stories of his youth. If you're looking to explore France from an outsider's perspective, this laugh-out-loud collection is a wise choice.

Travel like a local with Insight Guides' range of holidays to France: from Paris to Mont-St-Michel, explore suggested itineraries.

9. Oh, the Places You'll Go

This Dr. Seuss gem was given to me by a family friend as a high school graduation gift. Fifteen years later, as I read it to my two young children, I finally appreciate the offering. In quirky Seussical fashion, this quick read urges readers to trust their inner voices and explore the world at large.

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

Indeed, you can, and should. The story warns of the dangers of complacency, and (on the flip side) what's possible when you dare to lean into the unknown. If you're looking to foster a love of travel in your little ones, Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a fine place to start.

Ready to take a holiday with Insight Guides? 

Explore suggested trip itineraries online now or submit a trip request today

Looking for more destination inspiration?

60 travel experiences to have before you're 60

20 best places to visit in 2016

Where to go in September, October, November