Our favourite books which inspire travel

World book day

As expected, we’re an office of itchy-footed travellers who are constantly thinking about the next place on our travel list – and reading is one of the biggest sources of inspiration. Those inevitable 16 hour bus journeys to god-knows-where in the heart of Asia, provide the perfect excuse to bury our noses in travel books! And if travelling isn’t quite on the cards right now, you can be easily transported worlds away through the use of a few pages, a bit of text and a colourful imagination. Here’s a collection from our office of inspirational travel books. Enjoy!

Shantaram book cover based in India
Photo credit: Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts Mumbai – India

Shantaram is an epic story! Based on truth, the book begins with Gregory escaping a high-security prison in Australia and fleeing to India using a fake passport. The book follows him getting robbed of everything, finding love, suffering heartbreak and submitting to desperation. He drags himself in and out of the depths of heroin, finds inner peace opening a free clinic in a Bombay slum where he lives, stars in Bollywood movies and finds himself working for the mafia. The entire book portrays this battle between what he feels is right and what he feels he deserves.

Numerous people in our office have read it, all singing its praises. As soon as I got a little way into the book, I just had to go to India! And everywhere I went, I saw other backpackers reading it too! This book gives you an proper insight into the raw, underbelly of Mumbai. The drug dens, the slums, the whore houses, but still manages to make you fall in love with India. The smiling faces of friends, the people who risk their lives to save yours. It is a brilliant representation of two sides of the same coin that will make you want to book a one way ticket to experience the beauty and chaos of India for yourself.

 

Eat, Pray, Love book cover - Woman sat on a bench in Italy eating Gelato
Image credit: Penguin Random House

Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert – Italy, India, Bali

Literally the definition of a feelgood story! This memoir strikes a chord on many of our heartstrings as we sympathise, relate and appreciate the road Elizabeth’s life takes. The story begins with a woman living the life that many people long for – a high-earning job, a gorgeous husband, surrounded by lots of friends in an incredibly enviable apartment in New York. Elizabeth has an overwhelming feeling of being trapped, so she quits everything and spends a year travelling, learning how to be free. In Italy she eats. Indulging in everything, discovering the true meaning in ‘dolce far niente’. In India, she prays. She meets a Guru, practices yoga and searches for god. In Bali she looks for balance, makes lifelong friends and finally discovers true love.

Many of us have seen the famous movie adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love, which does stay fairly true to the novel, but books always give an added depth of detail that you just can’t get from a movie. The book transports you to each country making you long to travel there yourself. You can lose yourself in this book. You will laugh, cry, feel hurt, feel sad and feel truly, truly happy by the end.

 

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, Books to inspire travel, travel books
Image credit: Courtesy of HarperCollins UK

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – Egypt, Africa

We loved The Alchemist! An inspiring and powerful magical realism story about following your dreams to travel to foreign lands – which many of us travellers really relate to! Santiago is a humble shepherd living in Spain. He wants for very little in life: a flock of sheep, a little wine in his belly and a book in his bag. That is until he has a recurring dream of finding treasure at the base of a pyramid. He sells his flock and begins a quest to find the treasure, meeting various figures along the way who guide him and point him in the right direction. It’s a story bound deep in philosophical musings with almost every line being a quote you want to save for later use.

This isn’t so much one of our travel books to inspire you to go to any particular place, but a book to inspire you to follow your dreams, get up and just go to that place you’ve been dreaming of. It also shows the importance of it not being the destination which is important but the journey, treading the magical line between reality and spirituality. In the end, you’re left unsure whether what actually happened, happened. But, I think that’s the point – why does that really matter? A bit more philosophical than the previous reads but again, another common sight when on the road.

 

The fault in our stars book cover
Image credit: Courtesy of Penguin Books

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – Amsterdam, Netherlands

An incredibly moving novel turned movie. It’s despair, heartbreak, sadness at the same time as incredible iron hope, pure joy, true love and uplifting inspiration. It really is a roller coaster of emotions, but so inspiring! Hazel is a 17 year old girl who’s witty, funny, and smart but has to live with the fact that she has terminal cancer. She falls in love with Augustus who is in remission himself, and shares her favourite book with him, which is based in Amsterdam.

Augustus uses his wish from the ‘Make A Wish Foundation’, to take them both to Amsterdam. The book recounts their trip of finding the author, learning why he wrote it and exploring Amsterdam together before their time is up. I am not going to spoil the ending, but this one of the best inspirational travel books. If a couple who both have terminal cancer can still have the hope to follow their dreams, then so can anyone! So, who’s up for exploring ‘The Dam?!’

 

Long Way Round book cover with two men riding motorbikes
Image credit: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Long Way Round, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor – World Travel

This is the best book for anyone who has taken or has thought about taking a trip somewhere by motorbike. Ewan McGregor realised whilst perusing a world map, that it was possible to travel the world on a motorbike with only one short hop on a ferry. Him and his friend (also and actor – Charley Boorman) and a fellow motorbike enthusiast, rode 20,000 miles in 4 months, and this book is a recount of their adventure.

It’s built by combining diary entries written campside, with thoughts along the way and a true telling of the events that unfolded on their epic journey. You’re privy to how their thoughts, wants, desires and their entire lives changed forever from the simple act of travel. They recount stories of problems they faced along the way, such as the funny tale of being served bulls testicles in Mongolia. What’s special about this book is the level of raw and unpolished writing. It’s simply a recount of 2 guys travelling the world, just because they can.

 

Front cover image of the book Vagabonding. One man walking in a desert over sand dunes with a backpack
Image credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Vagabonding, Rolf Potts – World Travel

Vagabonding is a bit different to the other books featured in this list. It’s a guide to travelling for a prolonged period of time. But it’s definitely not just that! As well as providing key advice on how to finance your trip, how to adjust to life on the road, and ways to find work whilst your travelling, it’s also a guide on adding adventure into your life. A bible on how to inject curiosity and adventure into everyday, both on the road and when back to normality.

This book is perfect for those who have a seed of a dream to travel but just doesn’t know where to begin. It answers the big questions of what you would need to do, how you go about doing it, or if it is even possible. It shows us how you can be free, completely free. And it shows that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your life is like, it all comes down to priorities. A great source of inspiration to show that your travelling dreams are not as untouchable as you think!

 

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning - Laurie Lee - Books which inspire travel
Image credit: Penguin Classics

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee – Spain

An oldie but a goody! This unfaltering real memoir of a man who decides that small-town Cotswold life isn’t enough. One day he walks out on his home town and heads for London. He spends a year building a life in London only to realise that his heart craves further travel. So he sets out for Spain, with only his trusty violin, a blanket and a sense of overwhelming freedom. Walking from coast to coast, he plays for his dinner and sleeps wherever he can find a place to rest his head.

This book offers true insight into how a life of simplicity is freedom. It’s a raw but poetic account of a humble Spanish life, content in having no things or money. The eloquent language used describes the invigorating feeling of true freedom, zero ties and solo travel at your own pace. Definitely a must read, especially if you want eyes into Spanish culture and the stark beauty of the country before the civil war.

 

Book cover for The Silk Roads, A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan
 Image credit: Courtesy of Macmillan         Publishers

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan –  All over from East to West

This fascinating book explores the sacred place where East meets West, the birthplace of civilisation, the central point where the two sides met – the Silk Roads. This network of roads is where trade between the two sides began, where cultures, religions and ideologies surfaced, exchanged and were fed into each other’s worlds.  The silk roads were a grid of organisation between the two sides of Europe which connected continents and oceans together. The tales told along this path span over centuries and whilst the book is full of academic facts and recognised history, it is peppered throughout with anecdotes stories and titbits and the authors own drawn insights.

Passed around the Tucan office, our team love the idea of following the route of the eagles! Using trained eagles to hunt for and feed the convoy along the silk roads has been a Kyrgyz tradition for centuries and still remains to this day. What an incredible idea to ride along possibly the most important route known to civilisation.

 

Front cover of the book 'A day in the life of ancient Rome'
   Image credit: Courtesy of Europa Editions

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome, Alberto Angela – Rome, Italy

If you are planning a journey into the past, to one of the most historically and architecturally significant capitals of the world, Rome, then you must read this book! The book guides you through 24 hours in the romantic city of Rome in the year 115 CE – when imperial Rome was at the height of its power. The main character steers you through the iconic landmarks that we all know such as the Forum and the Colosseum, but as they stood back then. The level of detail of the surroundings, the ambience, the commotion is so comprehensive and elaborate that you really do feel like you’ve gone back in time.

Tanya from Tucan recommended ‘A day in the life of Ancient Rome’ as one of her favourite books to inspire travel.  “I bought my copy in a small bookstore close to the Museum and Crypt of Capuchins (where else would you?). I already felt that I knew ancient Rome through my love of the Lyndsey Davies’ Falco series  (Marcus Didius Falco – a fictional character and narrator in a series of historical mystery crime novels 1989 – 2010) an ex Roman Legionnaire and now private investigator for Rome’s Emperor Vespasian. His musings as he walks the Aventine, his descriptions of the Aqueducts and baths makes you feel you could stroll the streets of the 1st Century Rome and know exactly where you were!”

 

Front cover of the book 'The Island of Lost Maps: A true story of cartographic crime' by Miles Harvey
Image credit: Penguin Random House

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, Miles Harvey

An usual alluring story in what amounts to an historical adventure! This book tells the story of Gilbert Bland – a bland man by all accounts – but one who made cartographic history by being one of the most prolific (and successful) map thieves of the 20th Century – the Al Capone of Cartography if you will. He travelled the world pinching over $500,000 antique maps from rare libraries and universities until he was finally apprehended at Baltimore’s Peabody Library in 1995.  The book tells the story of his unravelling trail, through the beautiful stories of the maps he came into contact with.

Harvey documents Bland’s cartographic crimes whilst also embarking on his own discovery for his passion of historic maps. He takes readers through map-dealers offices, auction houses, rare-library rooms and cartographic studios all over the world to ‘map out’ the lost maps of the cartographic criminal.

Roxy is part of the marketing team for Tucan Travel. She has been travelling solo for years, predominantly around Asia, Indonesia and Europe. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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