Travel books to inspire wanderlust – whether slow journeys on foot, bike or van or soul-searching escapes to sun-kissed islands or wild mountain forests – are just what we all need this Christmas after the tumultuous year that 2017 has been.
Travel books to inspire wanderlust are just what the doctor has ordered for everyone this Christmas so get your fill right here. We reckon we all need an escape from the craziness that is planet earth right now and a strong dose of travel inspiration to set the tone for 2018.
I’ve carefully chosen these books with that in mind: light yet engaging reads with alluring images that take you on journeys and immerse you in places. I’m prescribing everything from an illustrated history of travel and movement and a quirky guide to offbeat and off the beaten track destinations to visual how-to guides on legendary hikes, road trips by campervan, and food-fuelled surfing odysseys.
NOTE: a click on the images of the books below will take you to Amazon, and depending upon your location will automatically direct you to the relevant store. If you purchase something we earn a small commission.
This is the fifth instalment of our Christmas gift series. Click through for Classic Cookbooks for Serious Cooks for Christmas, Christmas Gifts for Asian Home Cooks, a Guide to Asian Kitchen Essentials, Christmas Gifts for Travel Photographers and Travellers Who Love Photography, Christmas Gifts for Picnic Lovers, and Cookbooks for Culinary Travellers.
Travel Books To Inspire Wanderlust – From Slow Journeys to Soul Searching Escapes
Journey, An Illustrated History of Travel
If this isn’t one of the best travel books to inspire wanderlust, I don’t know what is. Journey, An Illustrated History of Travel charts the epic story of movement, travel, exploration, and migration, from the ancient world’s Minoan seafarers and Polynesian canoeists, from Odysseus to Ptolemy, to adventures rooted in conquest and trade to the golden age of travel. A whopping 400 pages long, it’s packed with timelines, outlines of journeys, biographies of legendary travellers, illustrations, historic maps, works of art, and archival images of everything from journal pages to nostalgic posters and postcards. Some of the most compelling sections (for me) are on the Silk Road, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and flying the Concorde.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders is essentially the printed form of the finest content of the weird and wonderful website Atlas Obscura, which started out as a quirky travel blog some years ago. And you know, I’d much rather read it in this format. The book takes readers off the beaten path as it celebrates some 700 of “the strangest and most curious places in the world”– from a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so big it has a pub within where fifteen happy punters can down beers very comfortably apparently to a graveyard for decommissioned ships on Bangladesh’s coast to architectural marvels such as M.C. Escher-like step-wells in India. And this is another book crammed with intriguing charts, maps, and photographs to fuel your wanderlust.
One Year on a Bike, From Amsterdam to Singapore
Martijn Doolaard self-financed his epic One Year on a Bike, From Amsterdam to Singapore then crowd-funded the creation and production of this inspiring book only to see it snapped up by a publishing house. I don’t know which is more inspiring. With the aim of replacing repetitive routines with ever-changing scenery and “the distractions of daily life for a cross-continental cycling journey”, Doolaard rides through “Eastern European fields of yellow rapeseed to the intimate hosting culture and community in Iran”, chronicling his slow travel adventure on social media on the way (I’m so disappointed we missed this one). The result is a visual travelogue for the Instagram generation as much as for old-school explorers.
Wanderlust, a Hikers Companion
I celebrated my thirtieth birthday on the third night of a four-day Macchu Picchu hike. While I’ve never been as fit as I was then – I’d spent five months as a post-graduate student in South America, walking the streets of its metropolises all day every day (I couldn’t afford transport!) – in the years since I’ve often dreamt of embarking on epic walks. At the top of my list is the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs, Australia, and next is El Caminito del Rey in Spain, which features in this inspiring travel book, Wanderlust, a Hiker’s Companion. As does Japan’s Kumano Kodo pilgrimage and hiking paths in Norway’s mythical land of the giants. The book is filled with illustrated treks over diverse terrains, from desert sands to coastal tracks, forest paths to thin ice – most of which I’m not about to traverse! I’m definitely not that adventurous, but it’s exciting to be taken upon such exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat (armchair) journeys.
Wildside, The Enchanted Life of Hunters and Gatherers
I was in two minds about whether to include Wildside: The Enchanted Life of Hunters and Gatherers here or in a culinary travel post I have coming up. I chose to share it here because despite the food focused content – the book introduces us to everyone from mushroom pickers to fishermen, foragers to wild beekeepers – what I felt it does best is to inspire readers to venture into forests and up mountains, to explore remote trails and retreat to isolated cabins, to hunt, gather, collect, and make things. I’ve always felt the pull of the sea and coast more than the ‘woods’ (or ‘bush’ as we call it in Australia), but this inspiring travel book has got me excited about hiking mountains and foraging and woodcrafts and that’s something.
Van Life, Your Home on the Road
After travelling around Australia for five years in a caravan with my parents as a kid, as much as I appreciated that epic journey we did, I wanted nothing more than to be a normal teenager and live in a proper house. Having now lived abroad for almost 20 years, I occasionally find myself imagining a life of retirement on the road in Australia. Then I discovered Van Life, Your Home on the Road. Terence is wishing I hadn’t. This inspiring travel book is sold as the new American dream – one being adopted by everyone from baby boomers taking a break from conventional life to millennials experimenting with minimalist living. Europeans and Australians, who have long embarked on slow journeys in their camper vans and caravans will also relate (in Australia, there’s been a resurgence in caravanning and campervanning across all ages in recent years) and millennials across the world will find inspiration in a style of travelling familiar to their parents and grandparents but new to them. I have to say: caravans and campervans are a whole lot more stylish than they were in the Seventies and Eighties.
Salt & Silver: Travel, Surf, Cook
Even if I hadn’t have married a man who loves to surf, cook and travel, I would have been drawn to this tantalising book for its focus on the brilliant food, beach culture and everyday life of some of my favourite Central and South American countries, including Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Chile. Salt & Silver: Travel, Surf, Cook chronicles the culinary travels and epic surfing adventures of Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski as they travel, surf, cook, and eat their way through Latin America, sharing as much about their top waves and favourite surfing destinations as their discoveries of local markets and restaurants, their encounters with street vendors and cooks, and their delicious recipes for everything from tostadas to tacos. I’ve since re-drafted the early retirement plan, and it not only involves a van, but it involves mucho cooking and eating down Mexico Way.
Ibiza Bohemia might seem like the odd one out on this list of inspiring travel books as its focus is Spain’s most hedonistic of the Balearic Islands. Ibiza has built a roaring reputation in the last few decades as a sizzling summer hot spot for debauched beach parties and drug-fuelled clubbing until dawn. But the island has also been a magnet for those seeking a more laid-back escape from the rat race to a more rustic rural existence rooted in nature. You’ll find as many reclusive artists roaming the island setting up their easels on cliff-tops to paint craggy coastal scenes as you will boho hippies shifting to isolated bungalows to host yoga retreats. Few islands offer the ideal of bliss as Ibiza does. Don’t be surprised if you’re selling all your worldly possessions, packing your rucksacks and making a beeline for the Balearics after closing this beautiful book.
Pssst… if you’re considering an escape that takes you out of your comfort zone and immerses you in the culture of a place in 2018, we take participants on creative and culinary journeys in Cambodia and beyond that our participants have told us are transformational. In conjunction with our Cambodian guides and local travel partners, we host scheduled small group trips in the low season and private trips on request throughout the year. We’re offering 10% off all remaining spots until the end of 2017 to fill our 2018 trips. Click through to the link above for details.