15 Books that Make Me Want to Travel NOW

Since I was small, I’ve been a reader.  And when I find a book that I love…I’ll read it again and again.  Yearly, if not more.  As a kid, those books were the Little House on the Prarie series, Heidi (I read it every single time I was sick)…and later books like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.

My idea of THE ULTIMATE is laying in a hammock on a breezy balcony reading a great book.  Or travelling to experience some place new.

hammock

Love of travel or wanderlust or itchy feet or vagabondage (that’s a real word!) is tough to shake.  So…if you can’t get out there and travel at this very moment, here are some books that make you feel like you’ve visited a new place.

You can plan the actual trip later.

Here are some of my favorite books that really make me want to travel.

Great Railroad Bazaar, Paul Theroux:  Paul Theroux is an amazing writer, my travel hero.  In this book, published in 1975, he takes a 4 month train journey from London to Asia (India, Japan and more) and back.  He recounts his travels through the characters he meets and his dry dry humor.

theroux

It makes you want to take an epic train journey.  The Old Patagonian Express (his train journey from Boston to Argentina is also a great read.)

PLUS, his nephew is married to Jennifer Aniston.  OMG.

An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Anne Vanderhoof

mangoesThe story of a couple in their 40s who rent out their home, buy a sail boat and head down from the Great Lakes to Grenada and back for two years.  Island hopping.  The description of the other boaters and the people they meet in the Caribbean is SO vivid.  It’s made even more so through the constant talk of fruit and food and all of the recipes she scatters throughout the book.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (my adult “sick book”) is an over-the-top generational romance set in the bleak nowhere-land of the Australian outback.  Epic droughts, plagues of locusts, unrequited love…this book is GOOD and makes me want to travel.

the-thorn-birds

Bill Bryson does it to me every time.  A good natured American travelling solo, making incredibly astute observations and always finding something funny.  I’ve read a bunch but these are my favorites.

Down Under:  Travels From A Sunburned Country:  I’ve always been a history buff and the idea of Australia didn’t do much for me.  But this book tells of Bill’s travels from one side of the giant country to the other and it’s hilarious.  As he says, there are more things that can kill you in a horrible way in Australia than anywhere else.

bryson

A Walk in the Woods: Discovering America on the Appalachian Trail.  Middle aged Bryson hikes this trail, trudging, huffing and puffing and makes it super funny and informative.  If anyone is up for the 2000 mile hike through 14 states, I’m totally game.

I might last about 15 miles but we could give it a go.

Eat Pray Love  Oh good grief I love this book.  Gilbert finds herself after a tough divorce by eating her way through Italy (sigh), going to an ashram in India (made me TOTALLY want to do that – one day) and finding love in Bali (double sigh).  If you’ve seen the movie and are thinking you don’t need to read the book?  You are wrong.

eat-pray-love

Into Thin Air, A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster, John Krakauer:  After months of preparation and climbing, a deadly storm kills 8 climbers as they near the top of Everest.  You in?  No.  Me neither.  But you can’t put this book down and it makes me want to do something physical that I didn’t think I could do.  Maybe Kilimanjaro?  Or Victoria Peak?  One day.  The 2nd is on my Belize Bucket List.

krakauer

Papillon by Henri  A crazy jail break from an isolated impenetrable island prison off the coast of French Guiana in the 1930s.  The main character, called Papillon for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, is on the run across the southern Caribbean for years before he finally lands in Venezuala.  It’s hard to put down…and strangely makes me want to visit the North Coast of South America.

papillion

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts:  Another prison break!  This time a convicted armed robber escapes from a prison in Australia to India on his way to Europe.  But he finds that Mumbai is the perfect place to disappear.

India!

shantaram

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marteen Troost, The American author and his wife move to the tiny island of Kiribati in the South Pacific expecting paradise and find that they are completely out of their element.  Power shortages, trash and a government that is completely inept.  He calls it “coconut Stalinism” – but as he says at least Stalin got some things done.  Super funny book.

j-maarten-trost

American Terroir, Savoring the Flavor of Our Woods, Waters and Field by Rowan Jacobsen – This is a book about food.  It explains why the best American maple syrup is made in the craggy hills of New England, the smoothest avocados are from Mexico and why location matters.  It makes you want to visit each and every spot.

Maybe go fishing in the Yukon River.

terroir

River Town:  Two Years on the Yangtze,   The memoir of a man who joins the Peace Corp when China first opens up to foreigners and his experience in a city in China as one of the first visitors.  A great read and it really makes me want to go to China.

yangtze

The Poisonwood Bible  Missionaries pack up their young family and move from Georgia to Belgian Congo, Africa (now the democratic Republic of the Congo).   They are ill prepared…to say the least.  EXTREME culture shock and a great book.

poisonwood

Travels, Michael Crichton  I loved many of Michael Crichton’s fiction bestsellers…and there were LOTS.  His books, from Jurassic Park to the Andromeda Strain, sold over 200 million worldwide.  You can tell he’s well researched from his book but he was actually a Harvard trained doctor and had a column in the NY Times at age 14.

This book of short stories on travel account both trips around the world…and his journey into things like astral project and ESP.

Super interesting.

crichton

If you want to stick a PIN in it, please do.

15 books that make me want to travel NOW

PLEASE…let me know if you have any suggestions!





Be the first to get the Scoop AND receive my weekly newsletter...

  • jack

    some great choices will have to check it out. one of my favorites is, Don’t Stop The Carnival, by Herman Wouk (sp), great travel read!!

    • It is a great book…hilarious to compare to life in Belize.

  • I fully support the Theroux love. My favorite has always been The Happy Isles of Oceania.

    • OH YES! I reallly want to read that one. Great reminder. I love his writing – he can really paint a character.

  • Mary S

    Great blog post! I am always looking for new travel books/memoirs.

  • Mike Whitten

    Hey – great post, thank you! So where are your Amazon affiliate links? If I’m gonna buy one or more of these I’d like to see you get a little love from that.

    • I…that’s a good idea 🙂 and one that I didn’t even think of. Man…I stink at the money part of the business :p

      • Mike Whitten

        Well it’s not too late – I for one am in no hurry. I know one or two purchases will not amount to a bean, much less a hill of them but hey – it might add up to a latte over time. Or maybe even a new book. 😉

  • Billizer

    My list begins with Caribbean, A Novel, by James Michener…Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon…and Travels with Charlie, Steinbeck and of course, San Pedro Scoop.

    • Travels with Charlie…I MUST read that. Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ll get on it!

      • Billizer

        Steinbeck’s publisher paid a great deal of money for another masterpiece. He did not find it in him. Instead, Steinbeck RV’ed around the US with his dog, Charlie. While not a “masterpiece”, it is a joy to read. Steinbeck got his “bonus”.

    • lifeagain

      Wow, i can”t believe you/ someone mentioned Blue Hghways….the book was given to me by a friend when i was starting 12th grade and it made me in to being a national and world traveler. I would have mentioned it and thank you for letting me know that there is someone else out there that enjoyed this book.

  • Linda Young

    Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, and anything by Maeve Binchy. Thanx for the reviews!

  • I’ve read six of your wonderful recommendations and need to read more of them. But it was your first paragraph that left me nodding my head, because these were my very, very favorites when I was a girl. I was just thinking about “Heidi” the other day as we have been traveling in such gorgeous mountainous areas in Wyoming and Utah, and I realized I should probably re-read it as an adult. Will it seem silly, ridiculous now? I don’t know, but I sure loved it back then. Nice to know someone else loved the same books as me!

  • lifeagain

    Papillon
    I went to a college in the South of France to satisfy 25 credits of a foreign language at the University of Utah. I found this book at the train station in Cannes wedged between a seat and garbage can….started reading it and could not put it down. I reread this book 5 times throughout my travels in 7 countries……..uep…whenever i got board….i started from the beginning…
    Thanks for this reading and travelling post…..two books that shaped my life have been mentioned….