5 Books that Capture the Spirit of Travel
April 2, 2020
By Danielle Owen

Books are the perfect way to get away without actually going anywhere. If you’re looking for an adventure without leaving your couch, here are five books you need to check out.

1. The Beach by Alex Garland

A backpackers classic, The Beach encompasses the spirit of Thailand and, through it, illustrates the soul-searching and human connection that are fundamental to a world explorer. Garland paints the picture of a dirty hostel on Ko Sanh Road as well as captures the paradisiacal landscapes of the Thai islands.

The Beach emphasizes the difference between “tourist” and “traveler” through the deeper meaning of the traveler experience. It’s through love, loss, and intercultural connections that Garland writes a travel tale relatable to anyone who has ever spent time on the road.

“If I’d learnt one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”

Alex Garland, The Beach

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The beauty of The Alchemist is in its relatability. Over 210 million copies sold in more than 170 countries makes The Alchemist one of the bestselling books of all time. It’s not hard to understand why.

It’s the tale of Santiago, a shepherd boy, who sets off on a wild adventure from Spain to the Pyramids in search of his dreams. Never has an author done such a great job of communicating our world’s universal truths in such a digestible way. Touching on fear, love, embracing change, fate, the secret of happiness, and much more, Coelho has written a roadmap for everyone on Earth to follow regardless of whatever personal journey they are on.

“…there was a language in the world that everyone understood…It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.”

—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

3. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

Vagabonding is the book to read to get your travel spirits up when they’re feeling low. Potts does a fantastic job of making Vagabonding equally enjoyable for a wanderlust sitting on their couch or a traveler in the midst of their journey. The book is branded as “an uncommon guide to the art of long-term world travel,” and the book functions as both a budgeting guide and a manual of inspiration.

Through vivid storytelling, Potts talks to the reader like he’s having a conversation with a friend, providing helpful advice and realistic encouragement. If nothing else, travel-lovers will feel heard knowing that they’re not alone in placing an intrinsically high value on the importance of travel.

“Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility.”

Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

4. Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places to See… Ranked

This book is the result of a collaborative effort by Lonely Planet’s global group of travel experts in pinpointing the most awe-inspiring things to see across the globe. Yes, it’s a coffee table book in theory, but you’ll find yourself glued to the couch for hours by the breathtaking images.

The big names are there, like the Taj Mahal and The Great Wall, but so are smaller gems like California’s Big Sur and Chile’s Valle de La Luna. Bonus? The book includes a world map with the top 100 places marked.

5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Accompanying Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp) on his journey of non-conformity and self-reliance has been pulling at travelers’ (and would-be travelers’) heartstrings since 1992. Adventure travelers, in particular, are captured by the vivid stories of McCandless canoeing down the Colorado River into Mexico and venturing into the Alaskan wilderness on his own.

But it’s the ideas of rejecting materialism, taking the lesser-traveled life path, and trusting your intuition that are perhaps even more poignant in the souls of travelers today than they were nearly 30 years ago.

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild

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About the Author

Danielle Owen
Danie is a full-time traveler and freelance travel writer. She’s been on-the-move since 2015 from Albania to Zambia (and 70+ others in between). She’s developed a very sophisticated algorithm that evaluates countries based on a thorough analysis of their wine, hot sauce, local friendliness, and how hard she happy-cries at their nature. You can find her portfolio at owentheglobe.com or her photos on Instagram @danieelizabeth