5 Books That Capture the Spirit of Travel – Part II
May 8, 2020
By Danielle Owen

Sometimes a book’s travel spirit lives not only in voyages to faraway places through the pages, but also in travels through time or journeys of self-discovery. Last month, we shared some of our favorite books about traveling

Here are five more of our favorite travel books, perfect for days stuck at home, daydreaming about worldly adventures.

1. Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin captures one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations in its best light. With a novel as multilayered as New York City itself, McCann perfectly describes this city that feels immediately like home to everyone who first steps foot in one of its boroughs.

Through the eyes of a 38-year-old prostitute grandmother, an Irish monk, a young artist, and more, we see New York City for the beautiful melting pot that it is. For travelers who love the discovery of different ways of life, this book highlights a place where you can discover unlimited cultures, blended together amidst the skyscrapers and hot dog carts.

“There’s a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we’ve left it.” 

Colum McCann


2. To Shake the Sleeping Self, Jedidiah Jenkins

Quitting his dream job to cycle from Oregon to the tip of South America, Jedidiah Jenkins set out on a very intentional journey of self-reflection and discovery. With very clear questions surrounding his life’s purpose, he cycles through long stretches of desert and spends time resting in different cities.

Whether you cycle, sail or fly around the world, this book, from beginning to end, will feel like a familiar tale. All travelers can relate to the outside-your-comfort-zone learning and the questioning that comes from time alone with your thoughts.

This book is particularly poignant for anyone grappling with questions surrounding their sexuality and/or their religious upbringing and their personal discovery of faith as adults.

“if discontent is your disease, travel is medicine. It resensitizes. It opens you up to see outside the patterns you follow. Because new places require new learning.” 

Jedidiah Jenkins,


3. Shantaram: A Novel, Gregory David Roberts

A look into the human experience and a vivid, word-driven voyage to India are both celebrated in all their complexities in Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram: A Novel. The book follows the journeys of Lin, an escaped convict from Australia looking to get lost amidst the bustle of Bombay. From there, his journey gets both beautiful and complicated, full of vibrant characters and soul-racking situations.

Shantaram will resonate with travelers in different ways. First, Roberts is able to eloquently convey the essence of India, physically and emotionally, through well-written prose. Beyond India, Roberts also manages to cover nearly every aspect of the human experience: love, loss, redemption, freedom, fate, and beyond.

Bottom line? Exotic places, fascinating characters, a deeper understanding of self, and a novel that very much transports you from wherever you’re reading the pages to a different world entirely. 

“But the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no colour or accent or way of life. The soul is forever. The soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled.” 

Gregory David Roberts


4. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

If you’re the type of traveler that doesn’t simply enjoy the idea of visiting new places but dreams of what their favorite destinations were like in different time periods, Beautiful Ruins is for you.

The pages of Beautiful Ruins traverse from quaint Italian seaside towns in the early 1960s to present-day Hollywood and beyond.

A young man running a small hotel on a cliff above a tiny dock meets a worn-down American actress who has come to rest. A journey across lifetimes and continents ensues, all tied together by seemingly insignificant moments.

The contrast will take hold of a wanderlust reader’s mind, engulfing them in the beauty of such starkly different places and time periods.

“There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant– sail for Asia and stumble on America– and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.” 

Jess Walter


5. The Odyssey, Homer

The Odyssey has earned its place among books that capture the spirit of travel by managing to do so on every level: an epic journey set in the 12th century B.C. Greece, a pilgrimage of self-discovery, and mythical creatures galore. 

The Odyssey follows Greek hero Odysseus on the twists and turns he encounters while trying to return home to his wife and son after the end of the Trojan war

Reading the Odyssey feels like gathering around a campfire and listening to someone tell wild tales by firelight (albeit through translated Greek poetry) but it’s worth it to camp out until the end.

“And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering, and in what countries have you traveled? Tell us of the peoples themselves, and of their cities—who were hostile, savage and uncivilized, and who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane.” 


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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