Author George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” Gender discrepancies aside, you might want to travel to a thousand places before you die with the help of books.
So, whether you’re reading this article from a plane, you want to become a digital nomad, or you’re an armchair traveler, these books for wanderlust will educate, inspire, and motivate you.
Books for Wanderlust by Category
Related Reading: 10 Must-Read Books About the Peace Corps
The best travel books vary according to your interests and goals. Therefore, if there’s a specific style of travel book you’re seeking, click on the links below to jump to the category that interests you.
- Financial planning books for travel
- How-to travel books
- Books on how to make money while traveling
- Travel novels
- Travel memoirs
- Motivational books for travel
Financial Planning Books for Travel
Are you trying to figure out how to prepare financially for living abroad? Or perhaps you’re planning for retirement with the hopes of traveling in your golden years?
Doug Amis is a Certified Financial Planner and the CEO and president of Cardinal Retirement Planning, Inc. He shares his advice on how aspiring travelers can prepare for long-term travel abroad.
“One piece of advice I have for clients traveling abroad is to understand their notification settings for their financial mail as well as the rules for their particular financial institution regarding foreign banking services & transaction fees.
“For example, if you are abroad long enough and mail is being returned to your broker or financial institution your account could be marked as abandoned. This can lead to your account being frozen and fixing this while abroad can be extremely complicated.”
Amis also cautions, “Some banking institutions and brokerages offer ATM rebates, even while abroad, as well as no international service fees. It’s important to understand that these same financial companies are extending a feature to their customers and they are not guaranteed. Having at least two banks to lean on while abroad is recommended.”
Regardless of your current financial situation, the books below can help get you in good financial shape for traveling.
1. Financial Freedom by Grant Sabatier
Financial Freedom has one goal: To help you gain financial independence earlier in life by showing you how to make more money than you thought possible—and to do it in less time than you could ever fathom.
So, you can replace thoughts of putting in full-time work from your laptop while looking longingly at the beach from your balcony with more time to enjoy more travel experiences with your partner, reading a novel on this list, or finally getting that PADI scuba diving course you’ve been wanting to take.
Although Sabatier’s selling point is to help you make money, he emphasizes the free time that financial independence offers, improving your quality of life.
2. U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans by Olivier Wagner
Did you know that the United States is one of just two countries where citizens must pay taxes on the income they make abroad, regardless of where they live? So, if you plan on being a digital nomad, reading U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans is a must.
Wagner is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has first-hand experience in filing taxes while living abroad. But as he’ll show you in his book, you might qualify to pay $0 in taxes.
Best of all, you don’t have to jump through complicated tax havens to pay $0 in tax while living abroad. All of the strategies that Wagner shares were legal at the time he published his book. However, you should consult with your own CPA before filing taxes while living abroad to ensure you’re meeting the most up-to-date laws.
3. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Let’s face it—wanting to travel is one thing, but the ability to travel for leisure is (or should be) out of the question if you’re struggling with debt.
So, if you’re looking for an easy-to-digest guide on helping you get back into good financial standing and build healthy finance habits, Your Money or Your Life is an excellent option.
Following the nine-step process outlined in this book offers actionable tips for getting out of debt, how to budget, save money for a rainy day (or that one-way flight), and invest your money so it grows while you sleep.
4. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
Whether you think you have a healthy relationship with money or struggle to make ends meet, Housel challenges his readers to see the psychology behind greed, happiness, and wealth.
Through the use of 19 short stories, Housel offers real-world examples of money situations you’ll encounter during your travels and life as a whole.
The Psychology of Money inspires readers to approach money situations with more awareness. From booking a last-minute trip to Paris to choosing between a local or upscale restaurant in Thailand, you’ll never look at marketing, ego, and pride the same way again.
How-to Travel Books
Whether you’re a first-timer to travel or you’re interested in learning tricks of the trade when traveling to a specific destination, these books for wanderlust have you covered.
1. Take More Vacations: How to Search Better, Book Cheaper, and Travel the World by Scott Keyes
Scott Keyes is the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a program promising to help you book insanely cheap flights for a monthly fee. But by reading his USA Today bestselling book, you’ll learn how to land killer travel deals on your own.
The premise of Take More Vacations is that you’ll learn skills to save so much money on flights that you might be able to turn your annual vacation into three vacations per year.
Even better, Keyes states that you don’t have to resort to long layovers and red-eyes for cheaper flights. Furthermore, he claims that contrary to popular belief, you can land cheaper deals at smaller airports than at large ones.
2. Lonely Planet by many authors
Lonely Planet is a household name, but Tony and Maureen Wheeler likely didn’t fathom it would be that way when they published their first Lonely Planet book in 1973. Across Asia on the Cheap was a 94-page resource after a trip the couple took from London to Australia.
While most of us reach for our smartphones when we need fast information about a destination, there’s something special about using a traditional destination guidebook like Lonely Planet.
From the well-trodden to off the beaten path, Lonely Planet’s collection of more than 825 books means that you’ll likely be able to find information on the destinations you want to visit.
3. How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes
Matt Kepnes is the founder of Nomadic Matt, one of the first travel blogs. He gained fame with his readers for his budget-savvy travel tips, turning his experiences into the book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.
With inflation on the rise, this book is as timely as it was when he first published it. Furthermore, Kepnes released a third edition, helping his advice to remain current.
By purchasing the third edition of his book, you’ll get to read interviews with dozens of travelers, hearing how they manage to travel on $50 or less per day.
4. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Calling all long-term traveler wannabes! The international bestselling Vagabonding is a must-have guide for anyone wanting to travel for months or years.
Potts is an engaging writer, which is no doubt the reason he’s landed gigs with National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, the Travel Channel, and more.
You’ll learn how to choose destinations for long-term travel, strategies for adjusting to a nomadic life, international volunteer opportunities, and readjusting to life once (or if) you return home, among many other things.
5. It Depends by Kelly Branyik
If you’re interested in joining the Peace Corps, It Depends is a must-read. Admittedly, some of the information is outdated due to the ever-changing nature of this U.S.-led international volunteer organization. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best Peace Corps books on the market to give you an idea of what to expect as a volunteer.
Branyik’s book points out the importance of expecting the unexpected; no two Peace Corps services are alike.
Using humor and personal details about her own Peace Corps experience, Branyik showcases the importance of flexibility and adaptability when serving. She’ll walk you through everything from the application process to opportunities you may have after your service.
Bonus: If the Peace Corps is on your radar, be sure to check out my guide on Peace Corps blogs, which I categorize according to the region. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, given that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama.
6. The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small by Kath Stathers
If you’re looking for inspiration for where to travel, Stathers’ book is a one-stop resource. Organization enthusiasts will appreciate that The Bucket List offers activities from all seven continents categorized by longitude and latitude.
Therefore, you’ll have the chance to maximize the sites you see during your vacation in a way that makes for easier planning than turning to the Internet.
From the best monuments, restaurants, beaches, and hotels, The Bucket List provides activity recommendations for nearly every interest. Plus, it has 300+ photos that’ll give you the travel inspiration to book your flight ASAP.
Books on How to Make Money While Traveling
Money doesn’t grow on trees, although it could come pretty close if you read the financial planning books listed earlier in this article. But for most long-term travelers, the time will come when they need to buckle down and make some cash.
Becky Neubauer is a millennial money expert and founder of the website TwentyFree. She comments, “Traveling abroad is a great opportunity to take on freelance work or remote jobs. Many travelers can find success by simply working from their laptops between adventures.”
Neubauer shares the following fields where she’s seen people have success when working while traveling:
- “Freelance Writing: Many travelers have found success writing for online magazines, blogs, websites, and other publications.
- Virtual Assistant: A virtual assistant is a great way to make money while traveling. This can range from helping with social media management to responding to emails or customer service requests.
- Travel Blogger: With the right platform, you can make money writing about your travels. Many travel bloggers offer readers a unique perspective and insights into different cultures from around the world.
- Photography: Selling stock photos to websites or taking photos for clients can be a great way to make money while traveling.
- Tutoring: Tutoring English language students is one of the most popular ways to make money online. You don’t need specific qualifications, just good fluency in your target language.”
Even if you’ve budgeted enough money for your trip, you could be in for a rude awakening as your travel funds dwindle. Regions like the European Union require travelers to have as much as 120 Euros per day to sustain themselves.
Such “means of subsistence” policies can throw a trip off track fast, especially if you arrive in a country requiring proof of spending money towards the end of your travels. So, read the books below for ideas on how to make money on the road before you get into a bind.
1. How to Make Money While Traveling by Cyrus Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick’s aptly named book helps people turn travel into a lifestyle. He offers practical advice about making money abroad based on his personal experience.
How to Make Money While Traveling offers insight into earning money through passive and active income methods. You’ll learn the ins and outs of finding work as an independent contractor and landing a lucrative job as an English teacher.
Kirkpatrick also hones in on finding profitable niches, particularly with online businesses. As a full-time travel blogger, I can attest to his claim of making money from blogging.
2. Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Fried and Heinemeier’s timely non-fiction book highlights the benefits of remote work and how to be successful at it, whether you’re at home with your dog or on a boat in the Caribbean.
They use humor while honing in on why commuting should be a thing of the past for many professions. Although Remote: Office Not Required speaks to managers with much of its narrative, most employees wanting to travel while working remotely will be able to appreciate the authors’ points.
Remote work takes discipline, and Fried and Heinemeier use their book to teach you how to be successful.
3. Travel Writing 2.0: Earning Money from your Travels in the New Media Landscape by Tim Leffel
If you’ve been itching to share your travel stories with the world, Travel Writing 2.0 is for you. Leffel is an editor, blogger, and author, making him an expert in the field of writing.
Travel blogging is a popular way for wanderlusters to try to make money (raising my hand here). It’s a long journey but often a rewarding one if you stick with it.
Blogging aside, Leffel explains how you can make money as a travel writer for both online and print media outlets.
4. The Power of Passive Income: Make Your Money Work for You by Nightingale-Conant
Nothing screams getting out of the 9-to-5 rat race like passive income. Personal development guru Nightingale-Conant uses his years of experience to show you how you can create a passive income stream.
He encourages his readers to redefine what wealth means to them. And given that you arrived at this article, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a life of travel is among them.
Nightingale-Conant offers concrete strategies for developing passive income steps and goals. With any luck, you’ll earn a passive six-figure income.
The best books for wanderlust when you can’t travel are often novels. They’re also great when you’re already on vacation and are seeking a fictional story as you relax on the beach.
Regardless of where you are in the world, the novels below range from romantic comedies to drama and novels based on true stories.
1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I first read The Poisonwood Bible as part of a high school assignment. Over a decade later, it continues to be one of my all-time favorite novels.
The story takes place in the Belgian Congo in 1959. It follows a family of six who moved there so that the father could spread evangelical Baptism to the locals. Kingsolver weaves the story flawlessly using each family’s viewpoints, even that of five-year-old Ruth May.
The Poisonwood Bible is eye-opening and engaging. It’s an excellent reminder that we shouldn’t carry preconceived notions with us when traveling and to not push our beliefs on the locals we meet.
2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Brazilian best-selling author Paulo Coelho tells the story of a young Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago, who goes on a journey to look for treasures.
During Santiago’s travels, he encounters treasures along the way. But the meaning behind the treasures he finds teaches life lessons that we can all relate to.
The Alchemist will inspire you to follow your dreams, whether they be to follow a similar travel journey as Santiago or continue traveling the world by reading books on the comfort of your living room sofa.
3. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Park’s New York Times bestselling novel is based on the real-life story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese woman who founded the organization Water for South Sudan after Park published her book.
A Long Walk to Water follows the lives of 11-year-old Naya in 2008 and 11-year-old Salva in 1985. Naya must walk to a pond twice per day that’s two hours from her home. Meanwhile, Salva is a refugee walking through Africa in search of his family and safe shelter.
The story eventually transitions to the present day, where Naya and Salva’s paths cross in an unimaginable way.
4. That Month in Tuscany by Inglath Cooper
If you’re looking for a light chick flick read that will take you away to Italy, That Month in Tuscany could be just the right fit.
Cooper crafts a romantic comedy in the most stunning of settings—Florence and Tuscany. The protagonists of the story make an unlikely pair. The man is a rock star with a secret and the woman has a husband who stood her up for their anniversary trip.
You’ll need to read That Month in Tuscany to find out what happens between them. And don’t be surprised if you start researching a trip to Italy after imagining all of the scenery this novel describes.
5. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigerian author Adichi was a National Book Critics Circle award finalist for her historical fiction novel on the 1960s Nigeria-Biafra War.
Adichi introduces her readers to several characters in her moving piece, ranging from a houseboy to a professor to a mistress and Englishman. The story will tug at your emotions, showing the dark and hopeful sides of war and love.
If you plan on traveling to Africa or have an interest in African history, Half of a Yellow Sun is a must-read for gaining an understanding of postcolonial Nigeria.
6. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is another novel written by a #1 New York Times bestselling author. The book follows the story of a Chinese mother who has a baby out of wedlock and that of her daughter, who an American couple adopted.
The daughter leads a privileged California lifestyle. But despite being happy with her life overall, she wonders about her birth mom.
Meanwhile, the birth mother, Li-yan, wants to get back in touch with her daughter but has no idea how. In an unsuspecting twist, tea helps them find answers.
Some of the best books for wanderlust are those from people who’ve lived out their travel dreams. The memoirs below showcase the highs and lows of travel in engaging and often comical ways.
1. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is a world-renowned travel writer, so you’ll find trip inspiration in all of his books. But his memoir In a Sunburned Country is a particularly engaging read because it takes place in Australia, a country and continent riddled with lethal creatures and a range of climatic conditions.
Despite Australia being a country with high numbers of potentially deadly reptiles and animals, Bryson tells the tale of going off the beaten path, showing his readers a side of Australia that many everyday tourists never see.
He also tells the story of the many friendly Australians he meets along the way and the beautiful modern cities that call Aussie home.
2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love likely needs no introduction, thanks to the 2010 Julia Roberts film. But as in so many cases, the book is better than the movie.
Gilbert opens her heart in this memoir, sharing a story that so many Americans can relate to: She had a successful career, was a homeowner, and had a husband, yet felt that her life was unfulfilled.
So, she embarked on a trip to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find herself. Gilbert found even more than she could have possibly bargained for. To this day, travelers flock to places like Padang Padang Beach in Indonesia with the hope of having their own spiritual awakenings.
3. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Most of us wanderlusts choose to travel or armchair travel because we believe (or know) it will bring happiness. In his memoir, which doubles as a self-help book with a comic twist, Weiner visits places that claim to have the happiest people in the world.
The Geography of Bliss will take you to Switzerland, Qatar, Bhutan, and more, all in the quest to discover the factors that influence happiness and how to measure a population’s bliss.
You’ll be laughing through most of Weiner’s memoir. But that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of substance; he references science and psychology to explain the happiness phenomena he experiences as he travels the globe.
4. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, but its fame is relatively recent. Up until 1911, when explorer Hiram Bingham arrived at the Andes Mountains straddling the Amazon rainforest in Peru, Machu Picchu was a long-abandoned pile of ruins.
Adams embarked on a trip to retrace Bingham’s path alongside an Australian with survivor skills in an attempt to uncover secrets of the lost city of Machu Picchu.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu takes its readers on a comical and enchanting journey through remote Peruvian landscapes. All the while, it attempts to address the mystery of Machu Picchu—what was Machu Picchu, and how did people build the seemingly impossible structure in South America?
5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Can you imagine hiking 1,100 miles by yourself? That’s exactly what Cheryl Strayed did after she spiraled downwards following the death of her mother and a marriage gone wrong.
Without any training or previous experience, Strayed set out to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The trail took her through the Mojave Desert, California, Oregon, and Washington State. Her memoir is an account of her experiences, from humorous to terrifying to empowering.
6. Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche
After DeRoche meets a charming Argentinian man at a bar in San Francisco, she refuses to let love pass her by. So, when she learns that he’s about to embark on a voyage around the world on a sailboat, she agrees to go with him despite being petrified of deep water.
As you can imagine, the sailboat isn’t the only thing that gets rocky as the journey continues. DeRoche recounts the good times and bad in her humorous memoir.
Love With a Chance of Drowning will take you to faraway destinations, feeding the wanderlust within you. Do DeRoche and her lover walk away hand-in-hand after the journey is over? You’ll just have to read the memoir to find out.
7. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Theroux is a respected author, with some of his fiction books being adapted into movies. So, anyone seeking books for wanderlust will surely be satisfied when reading his memoir about a 4-month-long train journey.
Theroux started his travels at Victoria Station in London. From there, he journeyed through Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia before circling back on the Trans-Siberian train.
The Great Railway Bazaar will sweep you off your feet as it takes you from destination to destination. With such detailed writing, you’ll feel as if you’re on the train beside Theroux.
8. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air is a #1 National Bestseller. It’s both a hard and fascinating read, as Krakauer takes readers through a storm that he experienced on Mt. Everest, which ended up killing five people.
Krakauer’s memoir has a raw feel to it, as he blames himself for the loss of one of his fellow climbers. He also explores other ways that the trek had gone wrong that day.
Since the first release of Into Thin Air, Krakauer has published an updated edition that includes an additional postscript and more unfiltered debate between Krakauer and Boukreev, who later lost his life during an avalanche on a different Himalayan mountain.
Motivational Books for Travel
The following books are ideal for helping you prepare for life on the road. Uncertainty and situations that thwart your original plans are a given in travel.
So, whether you’re already on your trip or preparing to feed your wanderlust soul, the following books are must-reads.
1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is my favorite non-fiction book. It’s helped me immensely as a long-term traveler, as establishing good habits can be challenging for nomadic folks.
Clear teaches his readers how to break bad habits and replace them with good ones. No matter if you have a habit that’s minor or massive, he encourages implementing 1% improvements. Before long, those 1% positive changes will add up to impressive results.
What makes habit-building favorable for travelers is that Clear encourages a change of environment for getting rid of old habits. He was referring to smaller changes within a home and work environment. But every time you visit a new destination, you have a massive opportunity to kickstart new, healthier habits.
2. Leap Year: How small steps can make a giant difference by Helen Russell
British journalist Helen Russell lives in Denmark and has written the international bestseller The Year of Living Danishly. Leap Year didn’t get as much fame, but it holds valuable advice for travelers.
Russell teaches her readers how to become more confident decision-makers and embrace change. That speaks to many people with wanderlust; they want to travel, but fear of the unknown and a lack of confidence can get in the way.
Leap Year is a self-development book packed with expert-backed advice. Neuroscientists, business leaders, nutritionists, and psychologists all contribute to the information that Russell shares.
3. Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
Traveling can throw you into some seemingly solutionless situations. But as Marie Forleo’s book title aptly states, you have the ability to figure everything out.
Forleo details strategies for helping you retrain your brain to find creative solutions when you’re faced with tough problems. She also applies this method for people reaching their dreams, so this is a good book to purchase if you’re trying to carve out a travel lifestyle.
Everything is Figureoutable dives deep into how you can get around having a lack of time or money. Forleo shares a single habit that can speed up the time it’ll take to reach your goals and how to manage criticism and imposter syndrome once you’re doing well enough to get on naysayers’ radars.
4. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
Working only four hours a week may sound too good to be true. But Ferriss shows his readers how it’s possible, including living in less expensive countries. But you won’t have to live in budget countries forever if you follow Ferriss’ principles; he shows you how you can achieve high-end travel.
The 4-Hour Workweek is based on Ferriss’ personal experience of going from making $40,000 per year and working 80 hours per week to making millions and working little. He’ll teach you the secrets of how he became successful, including how to reduce 50% of your work in a mere 48 hours.
Ferris is an advocate of mini-retirements between short work bursts. If that sounds like something that would jibe well with your travel style, The 4-Hour Workweek is for you.
I hope these books for wanderlust have added new reads to your list.
The options I shared are a small sample of the many wonderful travel-related books on the market.
So, if you have a favorite book you’d like to share, please leave a comment. I look forward to growing my travel reading list with you!