10 Travel Memoirs That Will Activate Your Wanderlust
10 inspiring, sexy, humorous, and adventure-filled travel journeys you won’t want to miss.
When I was a kid, travel memoirs were my favorite kind of books to read. I yearned to explore, and lived vicariously through the author’s words, picturing myself in far away lands that I planned to visit when I was older. My fellow book lovers will understand the feeling; nothing is closer to a real life experience than discovering it through a book. To me, the long written texts became a spell that opened the portal to a world I may never have an opportunity to visit. Later, these travel stories become the first steps towards a life filled with exploration.
One of my first long trips alone was to Tokyo, when I was a teenager. I remember that my suitcase was so heavy that I had a hard time carrying it because I’d stuffed it half full of books. For the past few years, instead of lugging a stack of books with me wherever I go, I’ve instead listened to audiobooks via the app on my phone. It’s such an improvement. Now, instead of having my head down, I can listen while watching the sights go by on the train, or while people-watching at a cafe.
Although I am compelled by habit to pour into any travel story with good reviews, when it comes to determining the ones I liked the most, I’ve become very picky. Here are ten travel stories I love, that will bring out your wanderer and make you feel like no place on earth is too far…
Given that I just wrote about why I don’t want to have kids, it seemed fitting to start with this audiobook. Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s dealing with the stresses of her high-pressure job as a television comedy writer, and the anxieties of watching most of her friends get married and start families while she wrestled with her own fear of both. Not ready to settle down and yet loathe to become a sad-sack single girl, Kristin instead started traveling the world, often alone, for a few months each year, falling madly in love with attractive locals who provided moments of the love she wanted without the cost of the freedom she needed (“vacationships”, as she calls them). She introduces listeners to the Israeli bartenders, Argentinian priests, Finnish poker players, and sexy Bedouins who helped her transform into “Kristin-Adjacent” on the road – a quieter, less judgmental, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Ultimately, Kristin’s adventures led her to a better understanding of what she was actually running away from at home and why every life hurdle seemed to put her on a transatlantic flight to the unknown. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling; thoughtful, candid reflection; and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, it’ll leave you scrambling to renew your passport.
I have always felt that traveling alone as a woman falls in one of those categories of activities for which women have been discriminated and judged. In this inspiring memoir, Whitely, who braved all odds, even her 300 pounds and food addiction, takes us with her on her journey to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Her difficult but inspiring trek speaks to every woman who has struggled with her self-image or felt that food was controlling her life. Honest and unforgettable, Kara’s journey is one of intense passion, endurance, and self-acceptance. It is a must read for every woman who thinks that traveling is not their cup of tea.
If you’re interested in France, fashion, or simply the experience of being a young American abroad, or if you’ve have ever wanted to live in Paris, or meet Yves St. Laurent, then this is the audiobook for you. Authored by Kate Betts, the successful former editor of Vogue and then Harper’s Bazaar, this book gives listeners a unique insider view into the glitzy world of high fashion. In this wonderful memoir, she slides down the memory lane to give her readers an entertaining account of her struggles to fit in and get ahead in the most glamorous scene in Paris. Her descriptions of the French, their mores, their habits, their music, their food, their way of life, all ring true and take us right into the heart of the French world and society. But in my view the author is at her best in her introspective reflections on her coming of age. While there is romance in the book, the real focus is a young American woman finding herself in a foreign working world and coming to terms with her ambitions and her doubts.
You may already know the plot of this audiobook because it’s been made into a Hollywood film starring Reese Witherspoon. In case you don’t, I’ll recap. With her marriage falling apart, and with no experience or training, driven only by blind will, Cheryl hiked more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. It’s a great read for my fellow nature lovers, or anyone struggling with personal transformation.
…and if you like Wild, you’ll love Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback, an extraordinary tale of a woman’s journey through the difficult and dangerous Australian desert, while defending herself against deadly snakes and hostile men.
Here is another inspiring book for my fellow independent ladies who love to travel. This audiobook managed to strike a chord with adventure-loving readers despite its murky storyline. A House in the Sky is about a backpacker, Amanda Lindhout, who started working as a television journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan following her travels to countries like India, Pakistan, and Syria. But her life took a sudden turn when she was kidnapped in Somalia on her fourth day in the country and kept in captivity for 460 days. She passed her days in confinement remembering the happy times when she traveled from one place to another.
She sheds light on a growing culture of young women who have the freedom and inclination to define their own, increasingly global, lifestyles, unfettered by traditional roles and conventions of past generations of women.
Spanning 15 years of travel, beginning when she is a sophomore in college, Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures. Young and independent, she crisscrosses five continents and chases the exotic, both in culture and in romance. In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, she loses herself—literally—to an Australian tour guide; in Cairo, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart… Wanderlust, however, is more than a chronological conquest of men and countries: at its core, it’s a journey of self-discovery. In the course of her travels, Eaves finds herself and the sense of home she’s been lacking since childhood—and she sheds light on a growing culture of young women who have the freedom and inclination to define their own, increasingly global, lifestyles, unfettered by traditional roles and conventions of past generations of women.
Opposites attract and then what do you do? Sail across the Pacific Ocean in a dilapidated 32-foot boat dubbed the Amazing Grace, of course. Naturally, you are terrified, but love for an adventurer pulls you forward and you risk life and limb for what? For him. Now, don’t get me wrong — this is a true love story and I enjoyed the vicarious thrills of being onboard during the good and bad times with Torre and Ivan. But what I loved about this audiobook is that this sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, this audiobook is not just a fodder for the wanderlust but also a source of inspiration for readers who are unable to overcome the deep-rooted phobias inside them.
I fell in love with this best-selling travel memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert long before Julia Roberts portrayed her on the silver screen. Elizabeth is a typical American woman who has everything she could have asked for, but something is still missing. At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Her quest for the answers takes her to three wonderful places, Italy, India and Bali, where she comes face to face with three aspects of herself.
Rita Golden Gelman shows the world that age is just a number through her memoir Tales of a Female Nomad, in which she gives a clear account of her travels to different parts of the world, from Borneo to Nicaragua. Living in LA and on the verge of divorce, she left an elegant life to embark on this long and enlightening journey. She lived in a Zapotec village in Mexico, slept with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and resided everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. She realized that one must always have the courage to chase their dreams no matter the situation or the age. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.
This is a classic that set the standard for many travel stories that came along later on. The uncomplicated and gentle lifestyle portrayed in the book is quite tempting and made me wonder if I’ll end up in their shoes later in life. The plot follows a couple in their 50s who moves to Provence with their two large dogs and experience unlikely encounters as they refurbish an old and dilapidated farmhouse. Throwing themselves into the life of this rural region, they master the local customs, gain partial understanding of their neighbors’ patois, overcome the frustrations of French bureaucracy, and learn to deal with workmen who operate on the idiosyncratic Provencal sense of time. In nimble prose, Mayle, a columnist for GQ, captures the humorous aspects of visits to vineyards, markets and goat races, and hunting for mushrooms.
It’s easy to get complacent in our lives and rationalize all the reasons why we’d rather stay near home than embark on an exotic journey. We often need to make deliberate efforts to allow the adventurer in us to surface. Some watch travel shows on television, some force themselves to go on weekend trips, while some listen to travel stories. Whichever your preference, traveling is one of life’s most enriching experiences. So lean back and enjoy these audiobooks. Then, go book a flight already!