Eat Pray Love and 5 More of the Best Travel Memoirs to Put on Your Reading List

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Best Travel Memoirs

Traveling is my favorite escape, but when I am not traveling, my next favorite escape is travel memoirs, so I’ve compiled my list of the best travel memoirs for your reading enjoyment. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of the first travel memoirs I ever read, and I’ve picked it up many times in the years since to read a few paragraphs or a few pages and immediately get pulled back into her journey.

Below is a list of my favorite travel memoirs. I love these books because they let me explore new places, meet new people, and discover new cultures from the comfort of my home. They feed my need to explore the world even when I’m not globetrotting. If you are craving a travel adventure, pick up any of the books below to satisfy your wanderlust.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – by Elizabeth Gilbert

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With over 12 million copies of Eat Pray Love sold, odds are good that you’ve already read this memoir, or at least watched the movie with Julie Roberts portraying Elizabeth Gilbert. But if you are one of the few left who have yet to read it, I highly recommend it. The book and the movie have received a lot of hype, and the mainstream popularity of the book may turn some people off, but there’s a reason it is so loved and widely read.

Gilbert is a wonderful writer unafraid of showing her vulnerabilities. She brings you along on her soul-searching quest to find herself after divorce as she journeys to Italy, India and Bali. The people she meets and the places she sees are brought to life with such amazing vitality that you will want to follow in her footsteps even if you are not in need of soul-searching. I want to sit in the cafes in Italy and be part of the smart conversations about things that matter, I want to absorb the quiet and calm of an ashram in India, and I want to become part of the landscape and pulse of Bali.

Read Eat Pray Love and you will discover that this book is about so much more than Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to find herself. Eat Pray Love satisfies the need for adventure and to discover rich cultures of the world even when I am stuck at home.

The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down – by Andrew McCarthy

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I love the way Andrew McCarthy spins a tale. He travels the world and brings you with, but his pieces are infused with emotion and self-examination while still sharing the wonders of the region. You get a wonderful sense of the setting and the people of the places he visits, despite McCarthy being a loner by nature – a trait I identify with. What I love most about The Longest Way Home is the way McCarthy glides silently through the places he visits, often with minimal contact, and still come out with such a rich sense of the culture, people and place.  

All Over the Map – by Laura Fraser

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Laura Frasers’s writing flows easily and gets straight to the point. She doesn’t dance around any topics but hits them straight on, whether about her romantic encounters, her failed relationships, her scary encounters as a woman traveling alone, or her journey to find herself. I found myself rooting for her, wanting to be her friend, and by the end of the book, I wasn’t ready for our friendship to end.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed

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Some parts of Wild by Cheryl Strayed were difficult to read, like her drug use and other self-sabotaging activities, but I was continually drawn back to her story. I think it was because of her lack of judgement of others, her willingness to be brave and put herself out there physically and emotionally, and the fact that despite some of her destructive behaviors, she always shows the kindness of her heart. Wild will give you a new appreciation for the Pacific Crest Trail and those who endeavor to trek the scenic, magnificent, and at times harrowing passage from southern California to the norther border of Washington state.

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World – by Rita Golden Gelman

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Rita Golden Gelman takes her life in her own hands, sells her belongings, and takes off to travel the world in her late forties. Though recently divorced, this isn’t another book about a woman finding herself after a traumatic life change; Tales of a Female Nomad is a telling of the exuberant discoveries of a woman finally fulfilling her passion to explore the world with no looking back.

A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream – by Ferenc Máté

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A Vineyard in Tuscany may not technically be a travel memoir, but it is a memoir about a couple who uproots their lives in North America to move to Italy, buy a 13th century friary, and start a winery. Máté is a fabulous writer who finds humor and insight in every stop forward, and every step backward, as they build their dream and imbed themselves into the culture and landscape of Tuscany. Pour yourself a glass of fantastic red wine, pick up this book, and lose yourself in a the wonder that is the Italian countryside – you will be planning your next trip before you finish the final chapter.

Notable Mentions: Travel Anthologies

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Every year, I pick up the latest copy of The Best American Travel Writing. Each issue is guest edited by a well-known travel writer and includes a huge variety of tales from writers all around the world. It truly is the best of travel writing and always worth the read.

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I also recommend The Best Women’s Travel Writing anthology. Another great collection of travel essays by fantastic women writers traveling the world and documenting their experiences.

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