One of the best ways to find travel inspiration is by reading a great travel book. Whether you’re planning to study, intern, or volunteer abroad, or simply looking to be mentally transported from your comfortable reading chair, travel novels and memoirs fill us with a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of wanderlust. The World Endeavors Team took an office poll and came up with a list of some of our favorite travel and destination books.

1. Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is one of the most prolific travel authors with more than twenty travel memoirs. Notes from a Small Island is a fond (and humorous) farewell to Great Britain, where Bryson had lived for twenty years before returning to his homeland, the United States.

Many of Bryson’s other books are also favorites, including In a Sunburned Country, a travelogue about Australia and a recent selection in World Endeavors’ Book Club (Check us out on Twitter! #WEBookClub).

2. Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes

Now a movie, this memoir tells the tale of a woman who unexpectedly buys an abandoned villa in Italy and takes on the monumental task of fixing it up. Her depiction of the simplicity and beauty of the Tuscan countryside, along with her descriptions of the food, make readers feel like they’re with her.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

If you haven’t yet heard about this blockbuster book (which was also adapted to film), it’s a memoir about a woman who faces her divorce by exploring different countries based on themes –  Italy for food, India for spirituality, and Indonesia for balance. It’s a great book for those seeking inspiration to set out on a journey of self-discovery.

4. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table – Molly Wizenberg

After traveling to France to conduct research for her dissertation, Wizenberg gets (understandably) distracted by the amazing food Paris has to offer. This experience develops into a love affair with food, resulting in a famous “foodie” blog. It’s best not to read this book on an empty stomach.


5. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

The first selection for our #WEBookClub, this is a novel about a young Spanish shepherd who travels to Egypt after having recurring dreams. Originally published in 1988, The Alchemist continues to be on the New York Times’ Bestsellers List and is frequently celebrated as one of the best books of all time.

6. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie

Semi-autobiographical and set during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution, this is the story of two young boys sent out to a remote village for “re-education” and the friendship they form with a young girl who supplies them with banned books from foreign lands.

7. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost – Rachel Friedman

A memoir of friendship and adventure, Friedman tells her story of moving to Ireland, making friends with a wild carefree Australian, moving to Australia with her, and finally backpacking through South America together. A self-proclaimed “good girl,” Friedman stepped off her rigid career path to take a chance at living and traveling overseas. It paid off – she ended up with an engaging travel memoir!


8. Lost on Planet China – J. Maarten Troost

Famous for his memoirs about living in the South Pacific, Troost decides to go on one last solo adventure before the birth of his second child. Armed with possibly the most detailed China itinerary in existence, he sets out on his (often humorous) journey.

9. Wild – Cheryl Strayed

It’s hard to read Wild without wanting to plan your own hiking adventure. Strayed’s was not happy with the turns her life had taken, and she turned to the Pacific Crest Trail to figure herself out. This book highlights that even when you travel solo, you’re never completely alone.

10. Best American Travel Writing Anthology – various authors

The guest editors of Anthology, a collection of travel essays put out each year since 2000, are often stars in the travel writing world – Bill Bryson, Frances Mayes, Elizabeth Gilbert (sound familiar?). Twenty-five essays are featured each year from every corner of the globe. This is a great source of inspiration for both travel lovers and travel writers (and for World Endeavors Travel Correspondents!).

11. The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner

Once a foreign correspondent responsible for covering true tragedies of the world, Weiner thought it was time to seek out the world’s happiness instead. He used “the science of happiness” to set out for countries known for their happiness – Iceland, Bhutan, and Moldova, to name a few.

The Geography of Bliss is (coincidentally!) our October World Endeavors’ Book Club selection! Join us on Twitter on Thursday, October 8th to talk about Weiner’s adventures and your own pursuits of happiness in travel.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have a favorite travel or destination book? Let us know in the comments – we’re always looking for great travel reads!


Posted by World Endeavors on    October 7, 2015

Put yourself out there! TM

World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.