21 Inspiring Travel Memoirs
I LOVE travel, hiking, and “let’s sell everything and move” memoirs and have read many over the years. Inspiring travel memoirs will take you around the world from the comfort of your bed or reading chair!
Some of them, I’ve read a few times and some more recently. A couple are on my next up list.
Why Read Travel Memoirs?
Travel memoirs take you on a journey. They are more than a memoir and way more than a travel guide.
You get to go into the mind of the person experiencing the travel and experience the good, bad, and even ugly about a trip.
Travel memoirs expand your mind about what is even possible for a person to do. They open your mind up to possibilities of things YOU might be able to do.
Travel memoirs are also extremely entertaining. Often, the writers have a sense of humor and that lightens up the entire book.
Not always though. Sometimes they are serious and at times difficult to read.
Almost always though, you learn about places you most likely will never see or experience yourself. Sometimes these books will ignite a passion to visit a place. Sometimes, it will be the opposite.
But if you crave adventure and you aren’t quite ready to do it yourself, travel memoirs are so much fun to read!
My Experience with Travel
I grew up in a family that did not travel. We went to the “beach” a few times or to the “lake.” Not different beaches or lakes but one beach, Myrtle in North Carolina and one lake, Indian Lake in Ohio.
As the mom of my own family, we continued the tradition of only having a couple of places we went to as a family. We went to the “beach” again Myrtle, and we went to Rhode Island to stay with my sister.
Yet, there was a traveler in me somewhere because I was attracted to books where people actually went places. Faraway places that were challenging, inspiring, and like nothing I could imagine doing myself.
Types of Travel Memoirs
As I said, many travel memoirs are funny. An example would be Bill Bryson. His books are funny. Yet, he always weaves in a lot of history and information that keep his books elevated from being silly.
Some of these are inspiring travel memoirs. The human spirit in action can inspire us not only to travel but to push ourselves further in our own pursuits.
Many of the following books will take you to faraway places that you can’t even imagine visiting yet. Life in so many parts of the world is completely different than anything you can envision.
Finally, I’ve included a few best-selling travel memoirs.
So, round up a book or two and get yourself started on an adventure! Here are some ideas to get you started.
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Funny Travel Memoirs
Torn Trousers – Andrew St. Pierre White
The authors are a husband and wife, who take on the challenge of running a safari retreat for a year in Africa.
They are living a normal life in Africa but have a dream of running a safari and set about finding a job where they can do that.
Eventually are hired to do so but it is much more challenging than they could ever have imagined.
While running the hotel, they have to deal with the employees, the owners, and the wild animals such as orangutans and juvenile elephants who often wreak havoc on the place.
In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson
This covers a trip that Bill Bryson made through Australia. It captures the huge size of this country that is also a continent, some of the history, and its unique culture.
This is a cool travel memoir because it takes you places that you probably are not going to have the time to get to on your own. Australia is HUGE and the points of interest can sometimes be thousands of miles apart.
Sure, I might make it to Sydney or Melbourne but I sure as heck probably am not going to drive across the country to see some of the further out spots. Yet, you get to experience some of them through this book.
That Bear Ate my Pants – Tony James Slater
The author takes you to Ecuador, where he volunteered in an animal refuge. It turned out to be a crazy and incredible adventure.
While this book is funny and laugh-out-loud at times, it deals with a serious topic, illegal animal possession and abuse and the efforts to rehabilitate those animals to go back into the wild.
Along the way, Tony deals with cultural differences, miscommunications, and deadly animals.
Travel Memoirs to Inspire Your Spirit
Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother – Cameron Powell
This book is two journeys in one. The first is the El Camino walk, a famous pilgrimage in Spain. The second journey is one the author takes with his mother through her cancer experience.
This mother and son were always close and loving but it was through his mom’s illness that they truly discovered unconditional love. Amazing.
Along the way, there are other people in the book, that play supporting roles but who’s love and commitment to Cameron and his mom are unbelievable and inspiring.
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail – David Miller
This was one of my favorite AT books and I highlighted so many quotes.
AWOL (his trail name) is a normal guy who decides to hike the trail and take 4 or 5 months off from work to do this. His wife stays behind with his children.
David takes you into his mind as he walks, and his is probably the most descriptive book of the actual experience of the trail.
He takes you to shelters, introduces you to the other hikers throughout, talks about getting water, going to the bathroom, and the constant pain.
You really get a feel for the experience of hiking the AT. While I have no plans to do so, especially after reading this, I still LOVE going along with other hikers who write about it.
Here are a few of the quotes from the book:
“When I look back on all the worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.” (Winston Churchill)
Still it is important for parents to continue to live their own lives. We can’t sit by and say we’ve already made our decisions, done our striving, and dish out opinions on the doings of our children.
Words alone lack authority, and we risk making them surrogates for the life we’d like to lead. We can relate to the budding aspirations of our children if we follow dreams of our own. (POWERFUL ADVICE)
“A wealth of memories could have been lost before they had even occurred if I had dismissed, as a whim, my inkling to hike. It is disturbing how tenuous our potential is due to fervent defense of the comfortable norm.”
I’m not a runner and I had never heard of long-distance or endurance running until I read this. Scott set a record for completing the entire Appalachian Trail in the shortest amount of time.
The human body can do way more than we can imagine! While most of us are never going to walk the trail, much less run it, this is still a good read.
Beyond his personal effort, he had a team including his wife and many friends that came and ran parts of the trail with him. His wife drove the van and kept him fed and such. While his name is on the record, it’s also a story of an incredible team effort.
Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway – Heidi Eliason
This is next on my reading list.
From the Amazon description: For fans of Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, an entertaining story of a five-year, motorhome road trip taken by a woman and her dog.
Have you ever felt suffocated by your routine and responsibilities, or just longed for some adventure? Heidi Eliason did, so at the age of 45 she quit her job, sold her house, bought a motorhome, and embarked on a five-year road trip with her dog, Rylie.
It was a journey that transformed her life.
Through the challenges of managing the Green Monster—her motorhome—traveling in Mexico, and getting derailed by Mr. Wrong, she learned—sometimes the hard way—that chasing the corporate ladder and storybook romance was not always a sure route to happiness.
Best Selling Travel Memoirs
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
This is a very popular hiking memoir about a young woman who was grieving after the death of her mother.
It’s unimaginable for me to relate to the pain, loneliness, and constant worry about money that Cheryl went through. However, I still love this book and again, I read it every couple of years.
“Each day on the trail was the only preparation for the one that followed.”
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overcome me, my journey was doomed.”
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
This is probably the best-selling travel memoir of all time and for a good reason.
Isn’t the idea of taking a year out of our real lives for an entire year amazing?
This memoir is about the year that Elizabeth Gilbert took to spend time in three different countries exploring different aspects of her life while going through a divorce.
Elizabeth spent time in Italy, India, and Bali and each section is captivating and unique. Plus, there is a love story that is woven in as well.
Confessions of a Paris Party Girl – Vicki Lasage
From Amazon: A sassy American embarks on a new life in France in this #1 Amazon Best Seller
When newly-single party girl Vicki moves to Paris, she hopes to indulge in wine, stuff her face with croissants, and fall in love.
It proves to be much more difficile than she imagined. In this laugh-out-loud memoir, this cheeky storyteller recounts the highs and lows of her life in the City of Light.
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
This best-selling travel memoir was made into a movie. Don’t watch the movie! Read the book instead. The book is way better.
Bill Bryson mixes in history and research with his actual trip on the Appalachian Trail. You learn about the AT and you have fun doing it.
Bill wasn’t your typical hiker, he was an overweight writer who decided to do a thru hike. He also takes a partner along with him who is even more out-of-shape than he was.
Travel Memoirs about Far Away Places
High Road to Tibet – John Dwyer
From China to Tibet, this fascinating travel memoir kept me turning pages until the end, when I immediately looked for another book from him. You don’t get into his head at all. He moves through China, India, and Tibet as an objective observer.
It’s still very interesting because he travels to places most people are not going to. For example, he visits a town where they burn bodies ceremonially for a living. That is not something on your typical tourist trip!
Finding Compassion in China: A Bicycle Journey – Cindie Cohagen
When I read this book the first time around, I hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years.
Now I have more appreciation of the fact that this couple toured China via their bicycles.
Cindie captures details about the trip such as finding lodging and food daily. The also get arrested for taking pictures of what they thought was a farm.
It’s amazing to me, that two people could get on bikes and travel [ blank } miles through the country of China. In all this couple biked 70,000 miles over 9 year’s-time!
I own this book on my Kindle, yet currently it is only available in print.
Alaska Bound – Tammy Jones
This is less a travel memoir and more of a “hey, let’s pack up our things and start a brand-new life in the wilderness” book.
From the Amazon description: Author Tammy Jones has gone from bank teller to builder with a few career changes in between.
Her honest and direct revelations will transport you to another world where she courageously takes on challenges that will both surprise and delight you. Her story about real-life experiences is a “must-have” for the adventurous soul.
The Wander Year – Mike McIntyre
Amazon description: Bestselling author Mike McIntyre (The Kindness of Strangers) and his longtime girlfriend, Andrea, are itching for a break from their routines.
So they rent out their California home–dog and cat included–and embark on a yearlong trip around the world.
The couple is swept up in the adventure of a lifetime: traversing the Sahara on camels, trekking in the Himalayas, scrambling over Cambodian temples, crossing the Andes, scaling a New Zealand glacier
Dispatches from the Edge – Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper is one of the biggest names in the news industry. Part of his career was traveling the world as a journalist.
This travel memoir takes you around the globe during world news-making events such as the tsunami in South Asia, Bosnia, and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
His first-person narrative is fascinating and compassionate. Along the way he struggles with his own early tragedies and weaves these into the stories.
Anderson Cooper’s mother is Gloria Vanderbilt and he suffered the death of his father and the suicide of his brother.
Trailing: A Memoir – Kristin Louise Duncombe
Amazon description: Trailing: A Memoir was VOTED ONE OF THE BEST INDIE BOOKS OF 2013! Something unexpected occurs when Kristin Louise Duncombe moves to New Orleans to begin her adult life as a psychotherapist:
She falls madly in love with a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, abandons all of her plans, and follows him on a medical mission to East Africa.
Faced with the dual culture shock of Kenya and life with the MSF team, Kristin struggles to craft a new existence in a context of mishap, witchcraft, and the life or death stakes of the MSF world.
Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent – Gabrielle Walker
This is such a great read. When I think of Antarctica, I think of a frozen place with little life and not much going on. Turns out that there is a thriving scientific community that populates parts of the continent.
In addition, people, not many, go there as tourists during the “summer.”
Did you know that the south pole only one really long day? It is light for half the year and dark for the other half.
This book is absolutely fascinating. It mixes history, science and exploration, and the stories of real people living on the continent.
Escape from the Ordinary – Julie Bradley
Don’t we all have a dream of sailing around the world. This author and her husband did just that!
This four-year odyssey takes readers around the world to places like: New Zealand, Fiji, Peru, Columbia, Galapagos Islands, and many more.
Inspiring Travel Memoirs
Can you tell I love travel memoirs! Long before I began to travel anywhere, these kinds of books help keep my adventuresome spirit alive.
It’s fun to just lose yourself in other people’s adventures and experience things right from the comfort of your own home.
Next time you get an itch to “travel” but can’t quite manage it, pick up a book or two and set sail!
I just love books in general. Here is my list of Relaxing Books to Read Before Bed.
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Hi, I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having.