Let’s admit it: when we’re at home, in our comfort zone, with guaranteed WiFi access, we’re often more likely to scroll the night away on our phones than to reach for a book.
That said, if there’s any time to opt for this analog form of entertainment, it’s when we’re traveling. When you pick the right read to take with you on your journey, any new location can hold the potential to be fresh and exhilarating.
Whether you’re taking a well-deserved vacation, schlepping out of town for a work trip, or are learning how to become a digital nomad for the long-term, here are our top wanderlust-inspiring reads so you can simply grab your travel fanny pack and a book and be comfortable for hours on end while traveling.
1. Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Blue Highways is a travel memoir written by American author William Least Heat-Moon. The book chronicles the author's journey across America, traveling only on U.S. Highway 2 and US Highway 50 from Key West, Florida to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (and back again) in an attempt to rediscover some of his country's best remaining small towns and communities.
The book is part autobiography, part travel writing and was published in 1982 when people were just beginning to recognize that there was more than one way of seeing things.
2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods is a book by Bill Bryson, who is a very well-known travel writer. The book follows his account of hiking the Appalachian Trail with his friend Katz. It's funny, it's interesting, and it has been made into a movie. If you're thinking about taking on your own long walk (or if you just want to read about someone else's adventures), this would be a good choice for you.
Bryson has written several other books that are worthwhile reads as well: In A Sunburned Country is about Australia, Neither Here Nor There is about Europe and Down Under describes his travels in New Zealand and Australia.
3. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
This book is about a road trip. The main character is Jack Kerouac, and he wrote this book in 1957 when he was 33 years old. On the Road is about his early years traveling across the US, meeting people and experiencing life as he goes along.
It was also made into a movie in 2012 starring Sam Riley as Kerouac and Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (Kerouac's friend).
4. Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Robyn Davidson is a British-born Australian travel writer and photographer. Her 1977 solo journey through the Western Australian desert with four camels and her dog became the subject of Tracks, a best-selling book that has since been adapted into a movie. The book follows Robyn as she traverses 1,700 miles across Australia's Great Sandy Desert, meeting locals along the way and learning about life in remote areas of Australia.
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
If you're looking for a good travel read, you can't go wrong with One Hundred Years of Solitude. This classic novel, by Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel García Márquez, tells the story of generations of the Buendía family as they live and love in the fictional town of Macondo.
The book has been translated into more than 30 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. It was made into a film in Mexico in 2007—and it's also been adapted into an opera!
6. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love is a 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. It tells the story of her journey around the world to find herself after a divorce.
The book became a bestseller and was made into a movie in 2010.
The book was named the #1 bestselling book of the 2000s by Amazon.
7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is a novel about an Andalusian shepherd boy who goes in search of a hidden treasure with the help of a wise old man. The story is inspired by the works of fable writers such as Aesop and La Fontaine. The boy learns to read and write, and he decides to go on a journey of discovery in order to pursue his dream: finding the treasure that will fulfill his personal legend.
8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
This novel is a classic, and while it's definitely not your usual beach read (or even your average book club selection), it's worth taking a trip to the bookstore to pick up. The Sun Also Rises is about an American writer named Jake Barnes who travels to Spain with his friends to watch bullfights — those are the famous corridas you've heard so much about. There's more going on in this book than just cultural exploration; it also explores themes like love and loss, war, friendship and death.
The Sun Also Rises was written by Ernest Hemingway — yes, that same guy who wrote A Farewell To Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls. He was also friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald (who appears in this story as Robert Cohn) during what would come to be known as "The Lost Generation": young people who lived through World War I but were too young for battle; they were disillusioned by their experiences abroad and struggled financially after returning home from Europe after WWI ended.
9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is about a young man who tried to live in the wilderness and died.
This book was written by Jon Krakauer, a journalist who went on to write many other books. The main character of this book is Christopher McCandless, who died in 1992 when he was only 24 years old. He spent his last few months traveling across North America before disappearing into the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but some rice and beans packed away in his backpack—not even any water!
10. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Notes from a Small Island is written by Bill Bryson, who is a British-American author and travel writer. He has written about the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy.
Bill Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island documents his trip around Britain after spending twenty years in the United States. The book documents his travels on foot and by train through England, Scotland and Wales during which he shares his thoughts on what makes each county unique.
The book begins with an introduction to England that sets up the rest of his trip. It ends with an epilogue discussing some of his favorite places in England including Stratford Upon Avon (where William Shakespeare grew up), Canterbury Cathedral (where Thomas Becket was murdered) and Avebury Stone Circle (which contains some of Europe's largest stones).
11. Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
Travel as a Political Act is Rick Steves’ first book, published in 1992. It's a guide to traveling throughout Europe by using public transportation and staying in small hotels—a way to travel that's more environmentally friendly and economically friendly than staying at larger hotels. The book has been translated into more than 20 languages since its publication, so if you're looking for information on how to get around Europe without relying too heavily on your wallet or car rental agency (or even your feet), this is the book for you!
The television host and travel writer also wrote another book titled Travel as a Political Act: Local Adventures Abroad.
12. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
If you're planning to visit Australia, or even just thinking about it, this is a great book to read. It's light-hearted and fun, but also gives some insight into the country's history and culture that even a non-traveler can enjoy.
It's also a good companion for anyone who does plan to move there—the author lived in Australia for several years after writing this book so he really knows what he's talking about!
13. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Peter Mayle was a British journalist who moved to Provence, France in 1972. He wrote a book about his experiences that became an international bestseller: A Year in Provence.
The book describes the trials and tribulations of living in rural France with a French wife and their two young daughters. The book was followed by several others detailing the couple's adventures in French culture and cuisine, including Toujours Provence (1989), The Purple Land (1992), Chasing Cezanne (1994), Looking for Love (1995) and Encore Provence (2000). In all these books he combines anecdote with foodie travel tips—a winning combination!
Mayle has lived in France since 1972, when he moved there with his wife and two daughters after writing articles on the history of architecture while living nearby during summers from 1969-71
14. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (Frances and Ed Mayes)
Why should you read it?
If you're a fan of travel memoirs and would like to live vicariously through the experiences of other travelers, then this book is for you. It's also a great read if you're interested in renovating a house, as Frances Mayes and her husband Ed renovate their villa in Tuscany.
Keep Reading and Carry-On with BÉIS
We hope you can find a book that inspires you to go on an adventure, whether it's through these pages or somewhere else. We know how hard it is to choose which one to start with, so we've made recommendations based on what type of adventure you're looking for and why.
Whichever title you opt for at the bookshop, a gentle reminder to stash your chosen bookish companion in your carry-on—not your checked suitcase—before a long flight!
For fashion-forward, impeccably crafted, and affordable travel accessories, check out BÉIS Carry-On and Rolling Travel Luggage line to prep you for your next journey. Our functional (and gorgeous) pieces like the travel black fanny pack and backpacks are perfect for storing books and other necessities with you while you’re exploring, keeping you prepared and polished no matter the destination.
- Book Riot. How to Pick the Best Travel Guidebooks. https://bookriot.com/best-travel-guide-books/
- CNN. This country has just been named the happiest in the world. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-happiest-countries-2021/index.html