7 Best Travel Books: Not All Who Read Are Lost. Let’s face it. Staying sane in the age of remote work, social distancing, and makeshift homeschooling can feel like a challenge. Surfing the internet has gone from a fun pastime to a daily reminder of an invisible enemy we didn’t even know existed six months ago. Life has changed drastically, and there’s plenty of uncertainty at the moment. That’s why it’s more important than ever for parents to find ways to unplug and indulge in a little escapism.
What better way to do this than by devouring the best travel books? We’ve compiled a list of stunning travelogues, memoirs, and novels that share the same essential ingredients—well-crafted prose, an eye for detail, and a hefty dose of adventure.
From the Andalusian region of Spain to the world’s most inaccessible islands, embark on these armchair travel expeditions through the eyes of gifted novelists, memoirists, and veteran travel journalists.
1. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (1988)
Paulo Coelho’s enthralling tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago has inspired readers for decades. Santiago’s quest begins as an external one. After leaving his homeland in Spain for the deserts of Egypt, he determines to find a treasure buried near the Pyramids. As his journey progresses, he meets memorable characters. They include a gypsy woman, a man who calls himself “king,” and an alchemist.
None of the characters he meets knows what the treasure is or whether Santiago is capable of finding it. Yet, what starts as an external journey turns into an internal one. Santiago learns about the transformative nature of listening to his heart and the power of following his dreams. Through his lush prose, Coelho ultimately points readers towards the journey that matters most.
2. Kate Harris’s Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road (2018)
Some people travel to explore the iconic monuments of the world. Others long to tread in the footsteps of history’s greatest heroes and heroines. Still others travel to seek out the unknown. If you fall into the third category, where do you go? Especially when it feels like millions of people have already traversed every inch of the globe? That’s the premise of Kate Harris’s book, which contemplates her experiences for a year cycling the Silk Road.
On the one hand, it’s a travelogue, and on the other, a meditation about remote places. Harris explores borders and histories very rarely treated in literature. Instead of providing Instagram-worthy snapshots of travel, her memoir encapsulates the exhilaration and challenges of exploring isolated landscapes. The result? A glimpse into the glories and discomforts of life in the wilderness.
3. Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (2004)
An African safari ranks at the top of many people’s bucket lists and with good reason. In his book, Theroux combines the excitement of safari with a vibrant, in-depth literary depiction of a vast and fascinating continent. He does so through an improbable journey from Cairo to Cape Town.
In the process, he travels by rattletrap bus, cattle truck, dugout canoe, armed convoy, train, and ferry. He endures dismaying circumstances, danger, and delay. Nonetheless, he crafts an insightful meditation on the hidden vitality and sweetness just beneath the surface of Africa. Theroux includes many eye-opening conversations with missionaries, tourists, aid workers, and locals along the way.
4. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia (2007)
Gilbert’s travelogue of self-discovery and soul-searching has enjoyed wild success over the past decade. Whether you’ve read it before or are more familiar with the movie, you’ll be well-rewarded for revisiting this invigorating tale of travel, healing, and love. Gilbert’s writing style is profound yet effervescent. She excels at crafting an emotional tapestry filled with bittersweet insights.
Based on the author’s attempt to piece her life back together after divorce, she spends a year seeking communion in diverse places and pursuits. Through food, meditation, and ultimately love, she explores anguish, ecstasy, and repose with touching sincerity. Her charming, vivacious, and ultimately practical perspective will restore your faith in life.
5. Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (2002)
Have you ever fantasized about vagabonding? That is, taking time off from your regularly-scheduled life to explore the planet on your own terms? If so, then you’ll appreciate veteran travel journalist Rolf Potts’s guide to extended overseas travel. In his work, Potts explains how, armed with a sense of adventure, you can wander the globe for months or even years at a time.
While travel might be out of the question for the moment, Rolf’s guide will help you plan for the long-term. In the guide, he explores how to finance your travel time, finding the right destinations, adjusting to life on the road, and more. He even tackles the challenges associated with re-assembling your ordinary life once you head home. This fascinating meditation on hitting the road is a primer for those with a case of pent-up wanderlust. And who doesn’t have that right now?
6. W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (2016)
In many ways, Sebald’s novel rejects categorization. On one level, it’s an account of a walking tour in the English countryside. But as the author meanders a few miles down the Suffolk coast, we depart on an internal journey of far greater scope and reach. Filled with captivating descriptions, this kaleidoscopic work explores wide-ranging themes from herring fishing to colonialism in the Congo.
At its core, though, the book develops a travel philosophy. One that delves beneath the surface of a destination. A treatise on slow travel, Sebald’s work is also equal parts travelogue, memoir, and novel. It will cultivate your sense of curiosity and help you see the world with fresh eyes.
7. Judith Schalansky’s Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will (2014)
Schalanksy’s Pocket Atlas is the ultimate resource for travelers stuck at home. The atlas’s stunning maps inspire a sense of wonder. Coupled with Schalansky’s beautiful prose, the book does a superb job of reminding us just how big the world is and how much remains unseen. For travelers interested in finding off-the-beaten-path destinations, this book will both humble and excite.
What’s more, its detailed descriptions and stark images entice and dissuade travelers simultaneously. Heightened by the careful assembly of vital statistics and tales of rare wildlife and accidental discoveries, this literary push and pull is exquisite. It will inspire global travel fantasies to destinations that, like the author, you’ll likely never see. And there’s something poignant and beautiful about this level of pure, unrequited wanderlust.
The Best Travel Books for Social Distancing
Technology has made accessing the best travel books easier than ever, despite the limitations of social distancing. Libraries across the nation are permitting cardholders to borrow e-books and audiobooks without visiting a branch. As a result, you can stick to the guidelines of social distancing while still enjoying the thrill of some of the most inspiring travel books out there. Where will your literary journey begin?
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While traveling has come to a halt for the moment, the world will be back on track before we know it. Until then, let Global Community feed your family’s wanderlust through useful and inspiring stories. And when you’re ready to start planning, explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries to open the door to a compelling world of luxury family travel possibilities.