When you can’t travel because you’re stuck at home self-isolating and practicing social distancing, pick up a travel book. Reading about travel may not be as satisfying an experience as the actual travel, but when you can’t travel, this is your next best option. Read about the places that move you. Allow yourself to be virtually transported to the villages of Southern Italy, the streets of New York City with its eclectic neighborhoods or Australia’s dynamic cities. A travel book can take you anywhere you want to go.
If you’re looking for the best books to read when you can’t travel, you came to the right place. We asked frequent travelers which books inspired wanderlust. Their answers are interesting and intriguing.
I love travel books. If you do too, you’ll appreciate these literary travel companions. Some are fiction books about travel, some are travel guides offering valuable travel tips and advice, but all are good books to read when you can’t travel. There’s something here for everyone.
Listening vs. Reading
There are times when you can’t pick up a book and read because it is inconvenient like driving (obviously), exercising, cleaning the house or falling asleep in the dark. Enter audible.com to the rescue! I banish boredom and restlessness by listening to a good travel book, or any kind of book.
I used to think that I wouldn’t appreciate listening to a book as much as actually reading. That I would miss the feel of a book in my hands. That I would somehow be betraying a precious, lifelong friend…a book. Actually the opposite happened. I started listening to books on audible.com and never looked back. I also saved a ton of money because audio books don’t cost as much as the real thing.
I recommend audible.com and for a limited time – actually until December 31, 2020- Audible.com is offering a free membership AND 2 free audio books of your choice. They know if you try them you will be hooked as I am. Use this link to get the promotion and tell me if I’m not right.
Eight of the Best Travel Books to Read When you Can’t Travel
Ali and Nino
One of my picks for this list of the best books to read when you can’t travel is Ali and Nino. When I was a teenager in high school, I used to stop at a candy store that also sold paperbacks on my way to and from school. One day I found a book called Ali and Nino by Kurban Said. It was a Romeo and Juliet themed love story about a Muslim boy and a Christian girl. The story took place in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. What impressed me the most about the book were the descriptions of Baku. I felt I was inhaling the aromas of the roasting meats I was reading about and feeling the sun on my face in the plazas the author described. I fell in love with the place and determined to see it someday.
Years later I became a fan of Paul Theroux’s travel writing. His books on train travel fascinated me; The Great Railway Bazaar, Riding The Iron Rooster, The Old Patagonian Express and his most recent, Dark Star Safari.
Reading a small bio on Theroux I learned about one of his favorite books, Ali and Nino. He said this book made him fall in love with Baku, Azerbaijan and influenced his life-long passion for travel. I was amazed, delighted and intrigued that someone like Paul Theroux had the identical reaction to the same book as I did!…and around the same time too! It’s worth a read. Maybe you too will develop a passion for travel and fall in love with Baku.
The Art of Travel
Popular sociologist, Alain de Botton tells us how and why to travel. With intelligence and wit, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in exotic settings as well as takeoffs at Heathrow.
Even as de Botton takes the reader along on his own peregrinations, he also cites such distinguished fellow-travelers as Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh, the biologist Alexander von Humboldt, and the 18th-century eccentric Xavier de Maistre, who catalogued the wonders of his bedroom. The Art of Travel is a wise and utterly original book.
A History of the World in 500 Walks
“I enjoyed reading it because it gives the reader so many great ideas of places to visit! My family and I enjoy hiking and this book has inspired me to learn about the history and culture of a destination by walking and hiking! Also includes great maps and important information to consider on each hike.”
Credit: Jacki Dyrholm
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
This is the diary of the author, Dervla Muphey’s bicycle trek from France, across Europe, through the countries of Iran and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and finally terminating in India. She ventures alone accompanied only by her bicycle, which she names Roz.
Murphy not only survives daunting physical rigors but truly gets to know the people. She carried a pistol, suffered the usual stomach disorders and endured bad accommodations but reaped much local hospitality, too. This is a journey you won’t soon forget and the ideal book to read when you can’t travel.
The Worst Journey in the World
This is the story of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. The author – who survived the notorious Winter Journey—draws on his firsthand experiences to create a stirring account of Scott’s legendary expedition. He himself would be among the search party that discovered the corpses of Scott and his men, who had long since perished from starvation and brutal cold. It is through the author’s insightful narrative and keen descriptions that Scott and the other members of the expedition are memorialized.
West with the Night
Beryl Markham was one of the first bush pilots. A British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and author, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. West with the Night is her memoir, a unique adventure of a remarkable woman.
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
I love traveling by trains; as the author quotes “…I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I were on it”. His odd experiences and acquaintances reminded me of some of my own that I will never forget. This travel book really made me want to travel.
Gina Theodoropoulou’s blog is Traveling Soul.
Ten Years a Nomad
Written by Matt Kepnes, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day who also runs the award-winning travel site, Nomadic Matt.
This book isn’t just for frequent travelers, it’s for everyone who wants pro tips on how to explore the world. The author explains just why he’s been exploring the world for 10 years.
The book helps you realize how important travel is and how getting out there can make the world a better place.
If you liked this post, you may also like my interview with travel expert, Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt. You should also check out Best travel apps for worldwide travel.
BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:
- Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
- For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
- Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
- If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
- Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
- Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
- For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
- Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.
I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.