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Best Travel Memoirs to Inspire Wanderlust

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Want to get away without leaving home? Read a travel memoir! Travel memoirs are the next best thing to actually traveling, if you ask me. Stories about real-life journeys transport readers to another place, and maybe even another time. To compile this list of the best travel memoirs, I asked other travel writers to share their recommendations. Of course, I couldn't resist including some of my favorite globe-trotting reads as well. In no particular order, here are 18 incredible travel memoirs that will inspire wanderlust.

18 Best Travel Memoirs that Inspire Wanderlust ~ Recommended by Travel Bloggers

1. Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck

Location: USA

In 1960, John Steinbeck left Long Island in a pickup truck with a camper and a French poodle named Charley, embarking upon a journey across the United States and back. Steinbeck visits National Parks, eats at roadside diners, and makes random acquaintances, which spur conversations with Charley about the state of the country and its people. Steinbeck documented his journey in Travels with Charley in Search of America.

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. Travels with Charley 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.

– Roxanna Keyes, Gypsy with a Day Job

2. Picnic in Provence

By Elizabeth Bard

Location: Provence, France

The sequel to the equally delicious memoir, Lunch in Paris by the same author, I fell particularly hard for Picnic in Provence. Perhaps this is because while the first book centers on youthful romance, Bard's second book focuses on building a life in a new place as a mom. In Lunch in Paris, Bard meets and falls in love with her future husband in, you guessed it, Paris. Picnic in Provence follows the family to bucolic Southern France, where they leave behind their hectic city lives and embrace a slower pace, making artisanal ice cream. How dreamy is that? It can often feel like our life's adventures were left behind the moment we became parents. This book shows us that parenting doesn't have to mean succumbing to a boring life.

– Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

3. Four Seasons in Rome

By Anthony Doerr

Location: Rome, Italy

On the same day that his wife returned home from hospital with their newborn twins, author Anthony Doerr found out that he had won the Rome Prize, a fellowship to support innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities. As well as the prestige of the title itself, the prize also gave Doerr the opportunity to spend a year living in Rome – an opportunity to which he quickly agreed.
Italy is a country that has been written about in countless travel memoirs, but Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World 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. The other reason for the book’s freshness is that 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 new country, but also 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

4. Love with a Chance of Drowning

By Torre DeRoche

Location: Pacific Ocean Voyage

In Love with a Chance of Drowning, the author overcomes her fear of water and sets sail on a remarkable journey with her love. Torre 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.

DeRoche cleverly narrates the whole story with a touch of humor. I could relate to both her and Ivan in some sense. I love travel and adventure and also believe that love can make you overcome anything. A favorite quote from the book is, “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.”

– Pujarini Mitra, MySoulTravels

5. 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 which 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 relationship over and her beloved father gone, Torre 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, and then 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

6. Have Mother, Will Travel

By Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine

Location: World Travel

If you are a mother or a daughter, I recommend buying two copies of Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the WorldFor a two-person book club, give one to your mom (or daughter) and keep one for yourself. In this travel memoir, a mother-daughter team takes turns telling her side of the story in juxtaposed chapters. This book is a funny and cathartic five-month journey around the world and into the unique, loving and often trying bond that only mothers and daughters share.

– Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

7. The Longest Way Home

By Andrew McCarthy

Location: World Travel

As teenage crushes go, my Andrew McCarthy one was epic. The ’80’s Brat Packer starred in iconic, coming-of-age films such as St Elmos 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 author. 

His memoir, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, is about 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 Patagonia, the Peruvian Amazon, Costa Rica, Vienna, Baltimore, Kilimanjaro and Dublin. What he discovers along the way, somewhat paradoxically, is that the more uprooted he is, the more at home he feels in the world, and with himself. Like many of his movies, his journey 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

8. A Year in Provence

By Peter Mayle

Location: Provence, France

I'm sure A Year in Provence has inspired thousands to travel to the bucolic, delicious and welcoming Provence region of France. This first memoir in a series of many, Englishman and Author Peter Mayle describes the laid-back Provencal lifestyle and scrumptious meals he enjoys while renovating a 200-year-old farm house. Once you read this book, you'll want another course of what's on Mayle's menu.

Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas


9. A Moveable Feast

By Ernest Hemingway

Location: Paris, France

Most people I know who are writers, journalists or just lovers of 20th century American fiction don’t want to visit Paris so much as they want to visit Paris in the 1920s. We want to walk the city streets and sit in the cafes and bars to catch a glimpse of the literati that famously made the city their home back then. 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, when he used journalism to pay the bills (just about) while he worked at his fiction. In the book he spends his days writing in cold garrets and warm cafes. He wanders Paris neighborhoods. He drinks and argues with and gossips about Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford and Ezra Pound, among others. He drinks quite a bit. And he writes about writing and about 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 an classic cafe with a cafe au lait or glass of cheap white wine and, who knows, you might just see Hemingway's specter hanging about.
– Eileen Gunn, FamiliesGo!

10. Comfort Me with Apples

By Ruth Reichl

Location: World Travel

After reading New York Times Food Critic Ruth Reichl's childhood memoir, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, I couldn't wait to dive into her second memoir, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the TableBoth make delicious reads and are sprinkled with tempting recipes. Her second memoir, though, takes us on a 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.

– Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

11. Wild

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 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.

I read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail while I was backpacking aimlessly through South America at age 26. Alone in a foreign land at a low point in life, it was no wonder I related instantly to the author. My plight and journey wasn’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.

– Owen Ter, My Turn to Travel

(Strayed's memoir was turned into a hit motion picture. Read more about Wild, the movie now.)

12. In a Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson

Location: Australia

Bill Bryson's sense of humor mixed with genuinely useful information make In a Sunburned Country an engaging read. You'll follow the author's travels through all of Australia's states and major cities, explore the legendary Outback, and discover lesser-known Australian gems. 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.

– Allison Laypath, Tips for Family Trips


13. Eat, Pray, Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Location: Italy, India and Indonesia

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia chronicles of the author's travels after her divorce. She spends four months in each country, first indulging in Italy, secondly meditating in an Ashram in India, and thirdly falling in love 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. The book was divisive, with some critics complaining the book was narcissistic while others praised Gilbert’s storytelling. Personally, I think we all question at times if there can be something more to our lives, and the book connects with many people who want to read a candid account of someone actually taking a chance and seeking out a different life.

– Sonja Thompson, Migrating Miss

I will say unashamedly that I am a fan of Eat, Pray, Love. I had the good fortune to interview Gilbert for a magazine piece. We discovered that not only are she and I basically the same age, but also we were in Rome at the exact same time. There was one major difference, though. I was traveling the world for a year with my husband and 1-year-old in tow. Despite these differences, I feel like she and I came to some of the same revelations in that time period. I had been sleepwalking through my own life to some extent. Traveling with my child opened me up to the possibility that what I should be working for was not stuff or status but experiences with the people I love.

– Mara Gorman, Mother of All Trips

14. Graduates in Wonderland

By Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

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

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults is a wonderful book about maintaining connection through changing lives…and enormous amounts of distance. The book is composed of emails — about finding love and adventure and new jobs in strange lands — between two friends located in different spots around the world. Graduates in Wonderland tells the search for meaning, purpose, and connection through the acts of growing up, learning a city, and learning oneself. It somehow 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

15. My Life in France

By Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

Location: France

For those of you who have seen the movie, Julie & Julia, or read the enjoyable book with the same title by Blogger Julie Powell, you will be somewhat familiar with the plot of Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France. This tasty tale shows the importance of tenacity, with Child spending nine years researching writing, and hustling before her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was finally published. As someone who has spent nine years building my blog before beginning to earn a decent income, I can relate. Plus, it's hard to resist Child's undeniable charm and effusive love of all things France.

Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

16. Around the World in 50 Years

By Albert Podell

Location: Every Country on Earth

In Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth 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 this book, 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 travel books.

– Dan Miller, Points with a Crew

17. Sihpromatum

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 – I Grew My Boobs in China narrates how Savannah explores China and Mongolia with her mother and two of her three siblings. The author initially hopes the trip will be canceled because it pains her to leave all the comforts behind to live a life of a nomad. Slowly, however, she realizes the benefits of travel in spite of all the discomforts.

I loved Savannah’s effortlessly elegant and insightful way of narrating this story. It made me change the way I see the world. The book is a beautiful reminder that people are essentially the same despite cultural and geographical variances and there’s so much to learn if we embrace the differences. Also, it shows how important it is to be grateful for what we have and complain less about the things we don’t have.

~ Anjali Chowla, Travel Melodies

18. The Sweet Life in Paris

By David Lebovitz

Location: Paris, France

I admit it. I've got a thing for France. And I've got a thing for eating, too. That must be why so many of my favorite travel memoirs deal with France and/or delicious food. For this reason, I almost didn't include The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City in this list of the best travel memoirs. That would be a shame, though, because this book really is a treat. With wit and flair, American Author/Pastry Chef David Lebovitz shares his often bumbling expat experiences along with tips for navigating life in Paris. He also mixes in delectable dessert recipes to tempt readers.

– Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

I don't know about you, but after learning about all these travel memoirs, my must-read list just got a whole lot longer and more alluring!

If you're a parent who loves to travel, I bet you'll also enjoy this list of the best travel books for children. For tips on traveling with kids…and staying sane, take a look at my book, The Travel Mamas' Guide.

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

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Good list–I will have to look at some of those I have not read! Can I recommend another one? I picked this up last year & it’s quite wonderful. Global Mom by Melissa Dalton-Bradford. https://www.amazon.com/Global-Mom-Countries-Addresses-Languages/dp/193830134X

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you for the suggestion, Michelle! “Global Mom” looks like a great read for parents who love to travel…like me! Totally adding it to my Amazon cart right now!

  2. Izzy Grey says:

    I am so behind on my reading, but I see a few titles here I need to add to my reading list!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Me too! I’ve read some of the suggestions of the other travel writers, but there are others that I am so excited to read!

  3. Marcie W. says:

    Thank you! I have been looking for books to read poolside. Since I love to travel, these titles would be especially perfect.

  4. Kelly Reci says:

    Eat Pray Love is and always will be one of my favorite memoirs. I also think Julia Roberts did a spectacular job in the movie.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I loved “Eat, Pray, Love” too. I thought that Julia Roberts was an odd choice to play the author in the movie, but then she nailed it!

  5. Melissa Chapman says:

    Those seem like great places but better writers among them Hemmingway. I have not thought reading about a place was as good but it is a nice way to experience a new place.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I love to read travel memoirs that take place in a particular place before or after I travel there to make the journey even better!

  6. Veronica Solomon says:

    I would love to travel more and would love to write about my experiences like this. I bet these memoirs are very inspiring

  7. Toni | Boulder Locavore says:

    These are really great read! Sounds really inspiring! I would love to add these to my list!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Add ’em to your Amazon shopping cart so you’re ready to go next time you’re wondering, “What should I read next?!” That’s what I did!

  8. Carol Cassara says:

    It would be so nice to read these and just enjoy their travel stories. I love to travel and it’s definitely something that’s part of my life!

  9. This is such a great roundup! Eat Pray Love was definitely my favorite!

  10. Harmony, Momma To Go says:

    I loved FourSeason in Rome! I;ve read a few other of these. You should check out Marteen Troost. he writes about living in Kiribasi, I love his books!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you for the suggestion, Harmony! Will definitely check out Marteen Troost.

  11. Giovanni Esposito says:

    Great list, Colleen! Loved A Year in Provence and its one of my favorite places on Earth 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thanks, Giovanni! I bet you’d love “Picnic in Provence” then, too!

  12. Akeem Akinwande says:

    I ve only read one out of this list. I hope to get more and also travel. Then one day hope that my own travel experience would also be shared through book.

  13. Anirudh Gala says:

    Thanks for this list! I’ll be checking out several of these titles. The interesting part about this blog post is the highlights about each book and how each book may be relevant. Great post.

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