12 Non-Fiction Books About Traveling

June 4, 2015

The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page” –Augustine of Hippo once said. It is true that the vastness of the world can be compared to a book. In order to learn and discover more about it, you have to flip its numerous pages. But some of the greatest and most life-changing travels and explorations in one’s life can also be best read in books, allowing readers to experience the writers’ journeys in their vivid imaginations.

Looking for the perfect book to inspire your wanderlust? We stacked 12 nonfiction books about traveling, which you can pull out from your libraries or bookstores to read.

1 Tracks by Robyn Davidson

With four camels and a dog as companions, Davidson chronicles in this book her nine-month journey of crossing the deserts of West Australia. She warded off poisonous snakes and chased her unpredictable camels under the scorching heat of the sun—all for the love of Australia’s landscape. Most importantly, her encounter with Australia’s indigenous people made her involved in Aboriginal Land Rights movement. Through this odyssey, Davidson was inspired to travel and study nomadic people.


2Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson

Neither Here nor There is a travelogue by Bill Bryson about his European tour in the 90s with flashbacks from his summer visits in the 70s. It is a humorous narrative on the different aspects of Europe, which he compares from his previous visits. He started in Norway and ended in Turkey with a side note on how the latter country is a gateway to Asia.


3Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Journalist Mark Adams drew an image of Machu Picchu based on the stories he was editing, as he was a travel and adventure magazine editor. But in order to investigate the smuggling allegations on the “hero explorer” Hiram Bingham III (who was one of the first people who encountered the famous citadel), Adams retraced Bingham’s exploration to bring answers to the questions.


4An Unexpected Light by Jason Elliott

A travelogue, a historical account, and a personal quest—Jason Elliott sheds “An Unexpected Light” to the beautiful yet seemingly dangerous country of Afghanistan. Elliott revisits the country ten years after he witnessed its resistance against Soviet invasion. Leaving the security of Kabul, he travelled by foot, by hitch-riding, and on a horseback to explore more about the less traveled country.


5Moron to Moron by Tom Doig

To give you a breather from all the profound books listed, here is a fresh and very humorous take on traveling.  This non-fiction book about traveling tells the real-life story of two men with a couple of bikes who traveled across northern Mongolia from a small town named Moron to another small town named Moron. If that doesn’t intrigue you, then I don’t know what is. Tom Doig, the author of the book, together with his best friend Tama Pugsley–dressed in spandex unitards—cycled 920 miles and chronicled their outrageous encounters.


6Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild tells the story of a young man named Christopher McCandless who dropped all of his material possessions after college to travel and live simply. Written by mountaineer and journalist Jon Krakauer, the author retraced McCandless’ journey and, at the same time, recounted his younger self’s attempt to climb the Devils Thumb of Alaska. Although McCandless’ story ended with his own demise at an abandoned bus in Alaska, his view on adventure, traveling and conformity has enlightened and inspired countless of backpackers and travelers from all corners of the world.


7Wild by Cheryl Strayed

A story of fighting one’s demons, rebirth, of knowing oneself again through traveling, Wild is a memoire of American author Cheryl Strayed who hiked the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Despite being inexperienced, Strayed ( who was devastated by her mother’s death, her own divorce, and drug addiction) set out alone as she describes each physical challenge with self-realization.


8Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

After the success of Into the Wild, Krakauer brought to print yet another gripping story of his own survival during the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster which, to date, records the third most deaths. In the time when he almost gave up climbing, Krakauer decided to join the Everest expedition in May 1996. As his group pushes to the summit, an unforeseen tragedy unfolded.


9Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert, at 32, almost had everything a woman could ask for. She had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer. But nothing is perfect, and so was her marriage. After her divorce, she spent the next year traveling the world, in search for everything. For four months, she found the delightfulness of eating in Italy, and in the next three months, she discovered the value of spirituality in India. She, then, spent the remaining three months traveling in Indonesia where she found love.


10Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

This classic travel book by Thesiger narrates his experience in traveling the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula from 1945-1950. It is focused on the thousand-year-old Arab ethno cultural group, the Bedouins, and the changes and developments in their culture and environment after the Second World War. In one of the chapters, Thesiger expressed his concern on how his visit, which would put them on the world map, could corrupt their existence from the outsiders.


11A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Another cult favorite by Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods is Bryson’s life-changing experience out of his curiosity of the Appalachian Trail near his house. Hiking with his old friend with whom he had hard time traveling with, Bryson takes you to the several hardships and skips of the trail. Delivered humorously, he matched his chronicle with the trail’s history, sociology, and ecology.


12Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham

Catfish in Mandala is a year-long bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to his forsaken fatherland, Vietnam, by a Vietnamese-born American Andrew Pham. In five months, Pham has cycled a total of 2,375 miles to reach Vietnam where he could no longer see in “the bombed-out darkness.”


By the way, did you know that some of these books have been and will still be adapted to films?

The world is, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest volume book in history, and is still waiting to be discovered by other people. So don’t stop reading, and by reading, I mean traveling!

Alternative Text
Ashley Thompson
A fun size lass born in rock and roll who dreams to become a rock star, or a world traveler, or both.
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