Whether you aspire to see as much of the world as possible, or are in desperate need of a change of scene, travel provides a new perspective on life. Arriving in distant places, experiencing other cultures and meeting new people can make the world feel larger and yet more connected—something that gets lost in the hamster wheel of our daily lives. Get inspired to reinvent your routine and radically change your surroundings when you read these 10 rousing tales of danger, romance, courage and discovery—of both faraway lands, and the heart’s true desires.
1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
After experiencing the loss of her mother, a crumbling marriage and a heroin habit, Cheryl Strayed sets out on a quest to find herself by hiking thousands of miles alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. With zero experience and no training, she faces several nail-biting close calls with danger, both natural and man-made. Along the way, she makes friends, finds romance and gains insight that will help heal the pain of her past.
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” —Cheryl Strayed
As Chris Guillebeau traveled he became fascinated with people who were in pursuit of their dreams, such as a young widower who completes the tasks his wife would never get to accomplish, and a teenager who crosses an ocean alone. As he finds and writes about these “questers,” Chris realizes that pursuing our extraordinary goals makes us happier than perhaps anything else. Ignite your sense of adventure, he says, by knowing your purpose.
“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” —Chris Guillebeau
From outward appearances, Elizabeth Gilbert had it all—a successful career, a beautiful home, a loving husband. But her life wasn’t making her happy. The memoir/travelogue Eat, Pray, Love details her transformational journey to three different countries—Italy, India and Indonesia where she learns who she really is from a sensual, spiritual and romantic perspective—and what she really wants out of life.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” —Elizabeth Gilbert
4. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
by Bill Bryson
Iowan Bill Bryson backpacked through Europe back in the 1970s when he was a young man. As a London-based journalist, he set out to retrace his steps 20 years later in Neither Here Nor There. With his acerbic tone, he recalls old travel memories and explores new ones. “Rome was as wonderful as I had hoped it would be, certainly a step up from Peoria,” he writes. Get ready to laugh out loud as you feel the urge to plan your own adventure.
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” —Bill Bryson
“Change your location and you just may change yourself,” Eric Weiner writes. As he explores countries and towns known to be the “happiest places,” such as Bhutan and Switzerland, he recognizes a fundamental truth: “By relocating ourselves, reorienting ourselves, we shake loose the shackles of expectation.” With humor and insight, Eric offers helpful advice and philosophical musings on where to go and how to be happier once you’re there.
“Travel, at its best, transforms us in ways that aren’t always apparent until we’re back home.” —Eric Weiner
6. Breaking Borders: Travels in Pursuit of an Impossible Record
by James Asquith
James Asquith is recognized by the Guinness World Records as the youngest person to have traveled to all 196 countries in the world, at age 24. In this travel memoir, he shares his adventures over the five years of working his way around the world doing odd jobs in hostels and restaurants. Let his global wanderlust spark yours. If you need more travel momentum, check out his Instagram account, where he has more than 200,000 followers.
“Let locals lead you.” —James Asquith
7. No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach
by Anthony Bourdain
Indulge in food and travel with chef, author and CNN personality Anthony Bourdain. He takes you with him on a gustatory journey around the world, complete with photos and his signature caustic commentary. Experience what it feels like to travel with Anthony, and you will know the best place to get good fatty crab anywhere.
“Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.” —Anthony Bourdain
Imagine you quit your job, grab your backpack and embark on a journey across Europe with no plan. That’s what Hannah Papp did when she grew tired of trying to live by other people’s expectations, and it drives the narrative of this book. Part memoir, part guidebook, The Mystical Backpacker offers tips for your backpacking trip abroad, as well as your inner journey to discover your authentic self.
“The truth is, we don’t need to look to adventurers and heroes as people separate from or better than us. We can choose to make our lives an adventure and to be the heroes of our own stories.”
9. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
by Frances Mayes
In 1996, writer and poet Frances Mayes published a memoir about restoring a villa in the Tuscan countryside that was so vivid it inspired thousands of people to embark on their own Italian adventures. There are no romantic entanglements in the book version, but the author writes beautifully about the sights, tastes and sensations of living where the pace is slower, the tomatoes sweeter and the rooftops are lit by a golden sun.
“I had the urge to examine my life in another culture and move beyond what I knew.” —Frances Mayes
10. On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
This classic road novel follows Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty (thinly disguised Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassaday) as they interact with strange characters and try to avoid trouble while driving aimlessly across North America in the 1950s. Fueled by youthful intensity and Benzedrine, Jack's writing is so exhilarating, it spurred a generation of writers and poets in search of freedom—both literary and existential.
“Sure baby, mañana. It was always mañana. For the next few weeks that was all I heard––mañana a lovely word and one that probably means heaven.” —Jack Kerouac
Read more: 10 Best Books to Help Achieve Your Goals
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor to Live Happy, and Founder and CEO of themediaconcierge.net.