Our 10 Favorite Travel Books to Feed Your Wanderlust

10 books, 4 movies and a soundtrack

Our blog title was inspired by a comment my sister made about the irony that two pilots had taken up long-distance cycling, then sailing (RVing wouldn’t appear until 2 years later). It’s a throwback to the comedy movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with John Candy and Steve Martin. Clearly we like to be in motion. Some friends have referrred to us as adventurers. We prefer to refer to ourselves as homebodies with a house that’s mobile!

Therefore we lean towards travel books with some adventure and preferably a sense of humor. No Eat Pray Love over here!

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

This is my earliest memory of a book that made me think, “I want to go THERE!” As an avid reader, there is seldom time to reread books with such a deep “To Be Read” pile, but I’ve read this multiple times (followed by 20,000 Leagues under the Sea).

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

(then watch the movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte). A humorous and educational narrative about the rigors of through-hiking the 2100 mile trail from Georgia to Maine. I remember The Captain and I fighting over this one. We couldn’t read it fast enough. (The Captain has hiked part of the Appalachia Trail with his family). I can’t even begin to guess how many people we’ve recommended this book to and how many copies we’ve purchased as gifts. It still remains on the travel bestseller list 20 years later. It introduced me to the “travel writing” section of the book store. This is another book I’ve taken the time to reread. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Bill Bryson. I recall sitting in a pilot lounge in some little airport somewhere, laughing out loud until my eyes watered to “I’m A Stranger Here Myself”.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

What does it take to climb the 28,000 ft Mount Everest, without oxygen? You’re about to find out. Yep, we’re fans of this Outside Magazine journalist. This is his account of his own ascent during one of the deadliest seasons on Mount Everest. You’ll be left breathless. (See Honorable Mentions below for two related rock climbing books).

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

Another required read by Krakauer. After graduating from high college, Christopher McCandless began a two year trek cross country from Virginia to Alaska. Krakauer retraced his steps and references Christopher’s journal is this journey of enlightenment. Warning: The ending will leave you hanging and is not without controversy. This is a great book club read because you’ll want someone to discuss this with when you’re done! Don’t miss the film adaptation by Sean Penn, that includes additional information and a slightly different perspective. The soundtrack includes a Golden Globe Winner by Eddie Vedder.

Riding Outside the Lines by Joe Kurmaskie

The Metal Cowboy has written several humorous travel-related, long-distance cycling books. For international adventure, we love “Riding Outside the Lies”. For a 4000 mile bike escapade across the United States, with one kid on a tagalong and the other in a bike trailer (whose is silently gathering a rock collection), try “Momentum is your Friend”. We laughed out loud & wrestled over each book as they arrived (“Are you done yet? You aren’t even trying. MY TURN!” Another reason we love our Kindles—we can read the same book at the same time!)

The Sex Lives of the Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

Dig out your flip flops & pour a fruity rum drink before settling in for an adventure on the remote South Pacific Island of Kiribati. This a laugh-out loud story is about how living on an island isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s been 10 years since I walked into work carrying this paperback. It’s a conversation starter for sure. This was a peek into our future lives of living on a sailboat in the Caribbean, which wasn’t even known to me yet. Looking back, it’s all true!

Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

We are HUGE fans of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s Agent Pendergast mystery series. However, Douglas Preston is also a journalist that started his career at New York’s American Museum of Natural History and has written several non-fiction books (including The Monster of Florence—another highly recommend). You’ll be packing your bags for the Honduran rain forest after reading this account of the 2012 expedition to find the fabled lost city using cutting-edge airborne, laser mapping. (Or maybe not. Douglas Preston still suffers from an illness contracted in Honduras.)

The Geography of Bliss, One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

This one is from The First Mate. I was prepared to not like this book since I dislike people who compare everything to the US, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

The Long Walk The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz

This recommendation is from The Captain. Like many non-fiction books, this one has it’s controversy but it an enthralling story nonetheless. During World War II, seven prisoners escape from the Russian Gulag and make their way 4000 miles on foot through the Himalayas, the Siberian tundra, and the Gobi Desert to British India. We have Peter Weir’s film adaption, “The Way Back” with Ed Harris and Colin Farrell in our queue.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Another from The Captain–during the Civil War a wounded and disillusioned Confederate soldier walks away from the fighting and decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains. Follow up with the movie starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.

Honorable Mentions
  • Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life & Annapurna by Arlene Blume
  • Climbing Free by Lynn Hill
  • We haven’t read the book, but we’ve watched the motorcycle documentary, Long Way Around by Ewan McGregor (DVD)
  • How to Retire Overseas

Oh, but there is more! Standby for the list of our favorite sailing books!

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