33+ Best Travel Memoirs (Selected by Traveler Writers)

Explore the world via the pages of a good book about travel! Memoirs about real-life journeys transport readers to another place and maybe even another time. To compile this reading list of the best travel memoirs, I asked other travel experts to write up their recommendations. Of course, I’m sharing my favorite travel memoirs, too. Set off on a worldwide adventure without even leaving home with these 33+ incredible books about travel and self-discovery!

Best Travel Memoirs and Travel Books of Self Discovery
Best Travel Memoirs and Travel Books of Self Discovery (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Table of Contents

1. Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck

Location: USA

In 1960, John Steinbeck left Long Island and hit the open road in a pickup truck with a camper and a French poodle named Charley, embarking upon a road trip across the United States and back. Steinbeck visits National Parks, eats at roadside diners, and makes random acquaintances. All this spurs conversations with Charley about the state of the country and its people.

Travels with Charley in Search of America

Steinbeck documented his epic journey in Travels with Charley in Search of America. This insightful book transformed how I look at my country and my role in society. It evoked a strong need to see the U.S. but also compelled me to explore the bigger world.

The great American road trip appeals to us on many levels: our yearning for freedom and expansion, a need for companionship, and our drive for individuality while also seeking the protection of a common identity. This book reminds us that while change is constant, progress is slow.

– Roxanna Keyes, Gypsy with a Day Job

Eat Pray Love, the famous travel memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert

2. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Location: Italy, India, and Indonesia

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love chronicles the author’s travels after her divorce. In this international bestseller, she spends four months searching for herself in three different countries. First, she indulges in good food and friends in Italy. Next, she meditates in an Ashram in India. Lastly, she falls in love with a man on the island of Bali in Indonesia.

The book remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks and has since been made into a film starring Julia Roberts. Gilbert’s memoir was divisive, with some critics complaining the book was narcissistic while others praised her storytelling.

I think we all question at times if there can be something more to our lives. Gilbert’s personal journey connects with many people who want to read a candid account of someone taking a chance and seeking out a new life.

– Sonja Thompson, Migrating Miss

To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins
(Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret

By Jedidiah Jenkins

Location: Oregon to Patagonia

“When you don’t know what to do, you travel. You go out and see. You have to rattle the bed, shake yourself out.”


This bed-rattling book tells the story of Jedidiah Jenkins’s travels via bicycle from Oregon to the southernmost tip of South America in Patagonia. Along the way, he reflects and rethinks his ideas of spirituality, sexuality, and his place in the world. To Shake the Sleeping Self is a saga that encourages deep thinking while maintaining a lighthearted outlook on life.

Wild, a travel memoir by Cheryl Strayed

4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed

Location: Pacific Crest Trail, USA

Chery Strayed was 26 years old when her mother passed away, her marriage crumbled, and she overdosed on drugs. One could argue that is the lowest point of anyone’s life. But instead of going into rehab or getting counseling, she got out of her comfort zone.

I read Wild while I was backpacking aimlessly through South America, also at age 26. Alone in a foreign land at a low point in my life, it was no wonder I related instantly to the author. My plight and journey weren’t as arduous as hers, but I had my fair share of challenges along the way. I came home after one year of searching, emotionally and spiritually, and I daresay I’ve found a purpose in life.

She hiked 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. She trekked through knee-deep snow and ran out of water in the sweltering deserts, faced grizzly bears and unwanted advances, broke down, got lost and despaired. But among it all, she found herself.

– Owen Ter, My Turn to Travel

Four Season in Rome, a travel memoir by Anthony Doerr

5. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

by Anthony Doerr

Location: Rome, Italy

On the same day that his wife returned home from the hospital with their newborn twins, Author Anthony Doerr discovered he had won the Rome Prize. This prestigious fellowship supports innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities. The prize gave Doerr the opportunity to spend a year living in Rome – an opportunity to which he quickly agreed.

Italy has been examined in countless travel memoirs, but Four Seasons in Rome rarely feels like it’s treading familiar ground. This is partly due to Doerr’s often poetic writing style, which transports the reader through the streets of Rome and into entertaining situations.

Four Seasons in Rome isn’t just a travel memoir but a parenting memoir as well. Doerr not only faces the challenge of integrating into a foreign country but also of trying to raise two children in the process. The combination of both travel and parenting creates a book that’s continually entertaining and provides unique insights into life in Italy.

– James, Portugalist.com

A Moveable Feast, one of the best travel memoirs of all-time

6. A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway

Location: Paris, France

Many lovers of 20th-century American fiction don’t want to visit Paris so much as we want to visit Paris in the 1920s. We want to walk the city streets and sit in the cafés and bars to catch a glimpse of the literati that famously once made the city their home. Alas, we can’t time travel, but reading A Moveable Feast comes as close as you’ll get.

Hemingway’s memoir takes place in his 20s before he’d won a Pulitzer Prize, back when he used journalism to pay the bills (just about) while he worked on his fiction. As a young man, he spends his days writing in cold garrets and warm cafés. Hemingway wanders Paris neighborhoods. He argues and gossips with Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford, and Ezra Pound, among others. He drinks quite a bit. And he writes about writing and being a writer.

His explanation of his process of refining and paring his words down to their most essential helps us better appreciate his sometimes terse novels. Read this book while sitting in a classic coffee house with a café au lait or a glass of cheap white wine. Who knows, you might just see Hemingway’s specter hanging about.

– Eileen Gunn, FamiliesGo!

The Longest Way Home, a travel memoir by Andrew McCarthy

7. The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down

By Andrew McCarthy

Location: World Travel

As teenage crushes go, my Andrew McCarthy infatuation was epic. The ’80’s Brat Packer starred in iconic, coming-of-age films such as St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink and Class. So, I was more than curious when I stumbled across McCarthy some 30 years later, now reborn as an award-winning travel writer. 

His memoir, The Longest Way Home, demonstrates the transformational power of travel. Anxious about fully committing to his fiancé of four years, McCarthy turns to travel as a way to let down his guard and overcome his fears.

In the months leading up to his wedding, he signs up for a series of writing assignments that take him on physically demanding and soul-searching adventures to remote places like Patagonia, the Peruvian Amazon, Costa Rica, Vienna, Baltimore, Kilimanjaro, and Dublin. During this solo trip, he learns that the more uprooted he is, the more at home he feels in the world, and with himself. 

Like many of his movies, this true story climaxes in a series of highly comical and romantic moments. I got lost in the book. And I found McCarthy an ideal companion for travel — just as I had dreamed he might be all those years ago.

– Victoria Westmacott, Far-Flung Lands

We Came, We Saw, We Left by Charles Wheelen
(Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. We Came, We Saw, We Left: A Family Gap Year

By Charles L. Wheelen

Location: World Travel

Author Charles L. Wheelen shares the ups, downs, and upside downs of long-term family travel with humor and insight in We Came, We Saw, We Left. If you’ve ever dreamed of putting your life on hold to travel the world for months with your family, then read this book first.

“One thing will never change: fortune favors those who get their passports and go.”

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

By Rachel Friedman

Locations: Ireland, Australia, and South American

For all of the good girls (and boys) who live life by the rules but wonder what it’d be like to chuck the 10-year plan in favor of a more daring path, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost is an absolute must. Travel with 20-something Rachel Friedman from the U.S. to Ireland on whim, where she meets a young free-spirited Australian woman who encourages our heroine to take chances and explore the world. Next up is Australia and then on to South America, learning to embrace life’s unpredictabilities and challenges during her journeys.

“Maybe this is what travel gives you — or gives you back, in most cases — that childlike sense of wonder, and with it a kid-style openness to where you want to finger-paint with anyone and everyone who shows up.”

Autumn Light by Pico Iyer

10. Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells

By Pico Iyer

Location: Japan

In Autumn Light, celebrated Travel Writer and Indo-British Expat Pico Iyer returns to his long-time home, Japan, following the sudden death of his beloved father-in-law. This is a book of love: of his adopted country, of his Japanese wife and their family, and of his Japanese neighbors and friends. It is also a book of loss: of aging parents, of youthfulness and vitality, and of years past.

Wheelen shares the wonders and challenges of navigating the globe with his wife and three teenage kids. This realistic and amusing report will help you decide if your family’s got what it takes to navigate the world together…and still speak to one another when your journey concludes!

Love with a Chance of Drowning, a travel memoir by Torre de Roche

11. Love with a Chance of Drowning

By Torre DeRoche

Location: Pacific Ocean Voyage

In Love with a Chance of Drowning, Author Torre DeRoche overcomes her fear of water and sets sail on a remarkable journey with her lover. DeRoche had traveled to the U.S. for work and planned to return to Australia after a year. But then she met Ivan, a dreamer who wished to explore the world on his sailboat.

Suddenly she had to make a decision between giving up this man or accompanying him on an uncertain and crazy-sounding adventure. She chooses love, gives up her sophisticated life, and sails off on a year-long voyage across the Pacific.

“If something happens on the ocean, we’ll die as two people in love who are living a remarkable adventure. That’s a good way to die.”


DeRoche cleverly narrates the whole story with a touch of humor. I could relate to both her and Ivan in different senses. I love travel and adventure, and I believe that true love can help you overcome anything.

– Pujarini Mitra, MySoulTravels

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Greenlights

By Matthew McConaughey

Location: The World

Famous actor, current college professor, and all-around cool guy Matthew McConaughey shares stories of his wild childhood in Texas, a fraught year abroad in Australia as a foreign exchange student, and humorous happenings on Hollywood sets in his travel memoir, Green Lights.

McConaughey also grapples with demons while floating naked on the Amazon River in South America and races camels in Africa’s Mali. Along the way, he encounters setbacks (red lights) and learns helpful life lessons (green lights), which he imparts to his readers via poems, photos of notes jotted on scraps of paper, and clever turns of phrases.

“Just because the seats are empty
doesn’t mean they’re not taken.
Sometimes the guest list needs to be for one.


I read all my picks on this list of the best travel memoirs via the written word in books on paper, but with McConaughey’s signature southern drawl, this one might be even better to experience via audiobook!

Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother-Daughter Travel Memoir

13. Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other and the World

By Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine

Location: World Travel

In this touching travel memoir, a mother-daughter team takes turns telling her side of the story in juxtaposed chapters. This book is a funny and cathartic 5-month journey around the world and into the unique, loving, and often trying bond that only mothers and daughters share.

If you are a mother or a daughter, then I recommend buying two copies of Have Mother, Will Travel for a two-person book club. Then give one to your mom or daughter and keep one for yourself. You just might learn to see the world from her perspective.

The Worrier's Guide to the End of the World, a travel book by Torre DeRoche

14. The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World

By Torre DeRoche

Location: Italy and India

Torre DeRoche’s second memoir, The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World, comes as a sequel to Love With a Chance of Drowning. In her first book, the author overcame a fear of deep water (among other things) by sailing around the world in an old boat with a new boyfriend. Fast forward a couple of years and the anxiety is back with a vengeance — accompanied by its new friend, grief.

Her romantic relationship over and her beloved father gone, DeRoche meets Masha, a woman on a mission to walk around the world. Together, they drink their way through the Tuscan countryside on the ancient road of Via Francigena. Then they travel to India to face their fears head-on as they attempt to replicate Gandhi’s Salt March.

As travelers, the urge to go somewhere new is never far away and following that desire can be the first step in moving forward through grief. When my marriage broke down, I traveled solo for a year, so I’m a big fan of it. The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World is not just the story of an incredible travel experience, it’s also a beautifully written tonic for the fears and pain that can affect us all.

– Jo Cahill, Beyond the Lamp Post

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes

By Elizabeth Bard

Location: Paris, France

In Lunch in Paris, American Elizabeth Bard meets her future husband in the City of Lights. What could be more romantic? This is an alluring story about falling in love not only with another person but also with a country, its culture, and its cuisine.

Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard

16. Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes

By Elizabeth Bard

Location: Provence, France

Picnic in Provence follows American expat, Elizabeth Bard, plus her French husband and their young child to bucolic Southern France. The family leaves behind their hectic Parisian lives to embrace a slower pace, making artisanal ice cream in Provence. This is the sequel to the equally delicious memoir, Lunch in Paris by the same author.

It can often feel like our life’s adventures are left behind the moment we have children. This book shows us that parenting doesn’t have to mean succumbing to a boring life.

Travel memoirs by Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence
(Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

17. A Year in Provence

By Peter Mayle

Location: Provence, France

A Year in Provence has inspired thousands to travel to the picturesque, delicious, and welcoming region of Provence in France. In this charming book, Englishman Peter Mayle describes the laid-back Provençal lifestyle and scrumptious meals he enjoys while renovating a 200-year-old farmhouse.

This is the first memoir in a series of many. Once you read A Year in Provence, you’ll want another serving of what’s on Mayle’s menu. Get another tasty helping with Toujours Provence.

Comfort Me with Apples, a book by Ruth Reichl

18. Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table

By Ruth Reichl

Location: World Travel

After reading New York Times Food Critic Ruth Reichl’s childhood memoir, Tender at the Bone, I couldn’t wait to get a taste of her second book. Both make delicious reads and are sprinkled with tempting recipes.

Her second memoir, Comfort Me with Apples, takes us on a fascinating journey around the world via the international dishes she reviews and the stories she lives. Expect stops in New York, China, France, California, Tunisia, and beyond.

In a Sunburned Country, a book by Bill Bryson

19. In a Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson

Location: Australia

Bill Bryson’s sense of humor mixes with genuinely useful information In a Sunburned Country. You’ll follow the author’s travels through all of Australia’s states and major cities, explore miles of the Australian Outback, and discover lesser-known gems in the Land Down Under. Bryson mingles with locals, comments on the quirks of Australian culture, and occasionally gets lost. 

I’ve read several of Bill Bryson’s books about travel and other topics and enjoyed them all. But I found In a Sunburned Country to be an especially engaging read.

– Allison Laypath, Tips for Family Trips

Graduates in Wonderland

20. Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults

By Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Location: Paris, New York City, Beijing, Melbourne, and London

Graduates in Wonderland is a wonderful book about maintaining connection through changing lives and enormous amounts of distance. The book is composed of emails between two friends located in different spots around the world. Their correspondence chronicles their adventures in finding love and new jobs in strange lands.

This unique memoir shows the search for meaning, purpose, and connection through the acts of growing up, learning a city, and learning about oneself. It transcends the personal and tells all of our journeys in finding a place in the world and finding ourselves, wherever we are.

– Dr. Jessica Voigts, Wandering Educators

My Life in France, a memoir by Julia Child

21. My Life in France

By Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme

Location: France

This travel tale shows the importance of tenacity. My Life in France recounts Cookbook Author and TV Star Julia Child’s experience over the course of nine years of researching, writing, and hustling before her famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was finally published. Anyone who has struggled to achieve success will relate to her trials and appreciate her determination. Plus, it’s hard to resist Child’s undeniable charm and effusive love of all things France.

Those who have seen the movie, Julie & Julia, or read the enjoyable book with the same title by blogger Julie Powell, will be somewhat familiar with the plot of Child’s memoir. Reading the story from Child’s perspective, however, is particularly pleasing.

Around the World in 50 Year, a travel memoir

22. Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth

By Albert Podell

Location: Every Country on Earth

In Around the World in 50 Years, not only does Author Albert Podell share his story of visiting literally every country in the world, but also, he does it in an incredibly humorous way. As I read about Podell’s world trip, my wife kept looking over at me and wondering why I was laughing. In fact, it was this book that inspired me to write my own list of top books about travel.

– Dan Miller, Points with a Crew

Sihpromatum, a travel memoir about living as an expat in China and Mongolia

23. Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China

By Savannah Grace

Location: China and Mongolia

Sihpromatum, pronounced Sip-row-may-tum, means, “a blessing that initially appears to be a curse.” The first book in a series of three, Sihpromatum follows a young girl as she explores China and Mongolia with her mother and two of her siblings. 

Author Savannah Grace initially hopes the trip will be canceled because it pains her to leave all the comforts behind to live the life of a nomad. Slowly, however, she realizes the benefits of travel in spite of all the discomforts. She demonstrates how important it is to be grateful for what we have instead of complaining about what we lack.

I loved Grace’s effortlessly elegant and insightful way of narrating this story. The book is a beautiful reminder that people are essentially the same despite cultural and geographical variances. Grace also reminds us that we can learn so much if we embrace our differences.

– Anjali Chowla, Travel Melodies

The Sweet Life in Paris, a memoir about expat life in France

24. The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious — and Perplexing — City

By David Lebovitz

Location: Paris, France

With wit and flair, American Pastry Chef David Lebovitz shares his often-bumbling expat experiences in The Sweet Life in Paris. He mixes in delectable dessert recipes and tips for navigating life in Paris to create a sweet literary treat.

Kitchen Confidential, a memoir by Anthony Bourdain

25. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

By Anthony Bourdain

Location: Primarily New York City and France

This gritty tell-all memoir launched Anthony Bourdain’s career, eventually making him into a TV show host and one of the world’s most well-known modern-day travelers. Back then, he was merely a chef at Les Halles, a French brasserie-style restaurant in a 4-star hotel in New York City.

The story begins with a childhood trip to France, where Bourdain falls in love with stinky cheese, oysters, and other dangerous foods. From there, we follow him into his career as a newbie cook in New England, and on to frying bigger fish in New York City. Get a peek behind the polished veneer of sleek restaurants with Bourdain’s always witty prose in his debut book.

I’ve read a few of Bourdain’s books and although Kitchen Confidential focuses more on his love-hate relationship with the restaurant industry than on travel per se, it is the most compelling of his memoirs. It was travel, too, that ultimately inspired his culinary career.

The Year of Living Danishly travel book

26. The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

By Helen Russell

Location: Denmark

Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world according to the World Population Review. In The Year of Living Danishly, English Journalist Helen Russell uncovers the secrets of Danish contentment.

When her husband lands a job at the most Danish of companies, LEGO, the couple and their young son move to rural Jutland in Denmark. Based on her thorough secondary research and personal experiences in Denmark, Russell explains why Danes tend to be happier than other countrymen.

For example, she shares the Danish tradition of hygge, which she defines as, “togetherness, gratitude, indulging and not denying yourself anything, as well as making your environment as beautiful as you can – all things proven to make us happier.”

Russell’s first year in Denmark isn’t perfect, of course. But you will likely learn some lessons from this book for making your life happier, no matter where you reside.

A Gelato A Day, a collection of short stories about family travel

27. A Gelato A Day: True Stories of Family Travel

By Various Authors, Edited by Claudia Laroye

Location: World Travel

Enjoy a sampler of short stories that explore different cultures around the globe with this inspiring collection of family travel tales. The travel writing in A Gelato A Day brings to light the meaningful and bittersweet parts of travel with kids.

The authors experience the world anew through the eyes of their children and they relive the misty memories of their own childhood travels. In doing so, they learn and teach important life lessons.

One contributor, Heather Greenwood Davis, writes about the Civil Rights lessons her children learned during a visit to Alabama, “This history isn’t age-old. It’s alive and breathing and waiting for us to meet it.”

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

28. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places on Earth

By Eric Weiner

Location: World Travel

“I’ve always believed that happiness is just around the corner. The trick is finding the right corner.”


The book’s author, Eric Weiner, takes off on a journey to find what makes others happy, and in turn, where he will be happiest. Is happiness due to the luck of extreme wealth of Qatar? Or is happiness the result of a government policy of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan?

Travel around the world with Weiner and The Geography of Bliss, learning about various cultures and methods for contentedness in the process. Turns out, maybe we’re not so grumpy after all!

Under the Tuscan Sun, a memoir

29. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy

By Frances Mayes

Location: Tuscany, Italy

American Novelist Frances Mayes shares her love of Italy, Italian food, and her 200-year-old Italian villa named Bramasole. The book, Under the Tuscan Sun, chronicles the benefits and challenges of the laidback way of life in the Tuscan countryside.

The movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, stars Diane Lane and tells a fictionalized account of a divorcée who finds fulfillment, friends, and a new definition of family in Italy. Meanwhile, the memoir focuses on the nuts and bolts of renovating a home in another country. Although the movie is more emotionally moving, Mayes’s descriptions are captivating and the book is a great read for those considering expat life.

Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
(Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

30. The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings

By Amy Tan

Location: China, California, and Switzerland

Fans of Novelist Amy Tan’s fiction and writers, in particular, will enjoy her unusual memoir, The Opposite of Fate. Travel with Tan through her childhood in California and her adolescence in Montreux, Switzerland. Readers also experience China through Tan’s own travels as well as stories about her mother’s past.

This collection of personal narratives, articles, and speeches provides insight into Tan’s creative writing process, the tragedies and triumphs of her personal life, and the author’s complicated relationship with her mother.

Only in Spain, a travel memoir

31. Only in Spain: A Foot-Stomping, Firecracker of a Memoir about Food, Flamenco, and Falling in Love

By Nellie Bennett

Location: Spain

This book was written by Nellie Bennett, an Australian who moved to Spain to practice the art of dancing flamenco. Only in Spain gives insight into Spanish culture and the country’s love of flamenco in particular. 

Follow the author’s journey from her bland shopgirl existence and her first dance lesson in Sydney, to a life of pursuing her passion for flamenco in the sultry cities of Seville and Madrid. This book will make you want to book a plane ticket to Spain, where you can stomp your feet along to the flamenco beat, clap your hands, and shout “Ole!”

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence, one of many travel memoirs by Peter Mayle
My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

32. My Twenty-Five Years in Provence

By Peter Mayle

Location: Provence, France

True fans of France and Peter Mayle’s work (like me!) will want to get his latest book, My Twenty-Five Years in Provence, published in 2019. Mayle has a deep understanding of the place he has lived for over 25 years but a reverence for it that only an outsider could achieve. He loves Provence all the more because it is his chosen home.

The sun shines for ten months a year, pausing for the occassional torrent. But when it stops, there is the return of the dense blue sky and diamond-clear light that makes all artists worth their brushs want to get to work.

A River Runs Through It memoir

33. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

By Norman Maclean

Location: Montana, USA

Travel back in time to 1920s Montana with Norman Maclean, a professor and outdoorsman. The primary story in A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, details his childhood growing up along the Blackfoot River, the rough and tumble way of Montana life in the early 1900s, his beloved brother’s self-destructive compulsions, and a poetic passion for fly fishing. It was made into a beautifully shot movie starring Brad Pitt and directed by Robert Redford.

The “Other Stories” portion of the book describes Maclean’s travels in Montana as a young man pursuing dangerous careers in logging (in Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal, Jim”) and fighting forest fires (in USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cooke, and a Hole in the Sky).

Although this incredibly masculine book occasionally glorifies violence and I found the descriptions of fly fishing at times to run long, it contains some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read, as evidenced by the quote below.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”

Best Travel Memoirs to Inspire Wanderlust
Best Travel Memoirs to Inspire Wanderlust

Learn More

Discover the best travel books for kids.

Enjoy your next road trip more with this list of audiobooks for families.

Explore the world from home with these family-friendly travel movies.

Make travel more fun with the best travel games.

Best Travel Memoirs, Recommended by Travel Experts

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How many of these travel books have you read? Do you have any favorite travel memoirs we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I recommend all travel memoirs in this list unless otherwise noted. I received a complimentary copy of A Gelato A Day, but I paid for all other travel books myself. All opinions are mine, as always.


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  1. I’d also love to recommend my friend Bianca Caruana’s book – Soul Truth – A story about the journeys we take across borders and within. It’s set in Southeast Asia and talks about one woman’s journey from corporate to backpacker, while embarking on a spiritual journey through Nepal. I loved how relatable this book was for people of any age who are going through a transition in life.

  2. Thank you for the list. I started to think about Travel Books I have read over the years while beginning American Ramble for my August book club. This lead me to research other travel memoirs. One of my favorites is Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

  3. Two suggestions rather gritty travel writers that really are Real
    Paul Theroux is always a good go too- ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES
    Bill Bryson, likewise- IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY
    Vintage reads are especially enchanting (memoir of place and time)
    PERFUME FROM PROVENCE by Lady Winifred Fortescue
    A TUSCAN CHILDHOOD by Kinta Beeevor
    classic WEST WITH THE NIGHT by Beryl Markham
    THE FLAME TREES OF THIKA by Elspeth Huxley
    MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS by Geraldo Durrell
    A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute

    and , I think, these are all true accounts…

  4. Thank you for the list. I started to think about Travel Books I have read over the years while beginning American Ramble for my August book club. This lead me to research other travel memoirs. One of my favorites is Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

  5. Thank you for providing this comprehensive list of travel memoirs. There are so many titles here on my “to-read” list and now that I have retired after 26+ years of teaching, I need to acquire and savor these, one by one. Another I may suggest for this list is “Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Travelling Alone” by Mary Morris. It’s at turns thrilling, immersive and also harrowing, as she travels alone and at times with friends or lovers. If you like, I will write a short review for you, since I am trying to build up a writing portfolio. My ultimate goal is to write my own memoir based upon my years of teaching overseas.