For me, travel is less about taking selfies in front of landmarks and more about being immersed in a new experience. It's about the little things — signs in different languages, water that tastes just a little off, the way cosmetics aisles vary throughout the world. It's about the small talk you make with locals and the exhilarating challenge of finding your way down unfamiliar streets.
This past summer, I somewhat spontaneously dropped my busy NYC life and flew across the country to San Juan Island, Washington. I was standing outside of the Seattle airport, (waiting for the bus that would then take me to a ferry), and I had a strange moment of epiphany, realizing how wonderfully different it felt to breathe there.
There's a point in every journey when you break through that invisible barrier of what you know and the new place. When your heart and your brain catch up to each other and realize the fresh reality of the moment. It's this feeling that especially fuels my thirst for travel.
Alas, travel isn't always possible. There are sometimes in life when you're tied down at home, stuck working, or overloaded with capital-R Responsibilities. And let's face it, travel can be expensive. But no matter the circumstance, there's nothing stopping you from sending your imagination on all the trips on which you're dying to go. These books are better than a passport, taking you right along with them as their characters embark on incredible journeys throughout the world.
1. Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
In this classic travel memoir, pulitzer-winning author Alice Steinbach recounts her decision to rediscover herself through travel. Setting off on a journey that takes her through Europe, including longer stays in Oxford and Milan, Steinbach explores herself and redefines how she fits into the world. Each chapter begins with a postcard from Alice to Alice, lending the book a confidant quality that is sure to warm you.
2. Mountain to Mountain by Shannon Galpin
In 2009, Shannon Galpin became first woman to bike through Afghanistan. In this memoir, Galpin recounts leaving her life in the United States, her journeys through Afghanistan and her efforts to empower women and girls throughout the country, using bikes as a vehicle for social change.
3. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is a travel memoir deity. With a vibrant personality and charming humor, Bryson treats you like a well-trusted travel companion. Notes from a Small Island depicts his romp through the United Kingdom, from historical landmarks to unplanned adventures. Other Bryson reads that will pull at your wanderlust are A Walk in the Woods and Neither Here Nor There.
4. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
This is your YA antidote for a backpacking trip through Europe. When Ginny's "Ruanaway Aunt" passes away, she leaves Ginny with $1,000 and 13 blue envelopes that promise to guide her to foreign lands. Only able to open the next envelope once she has reached the destination and completed the task of the previous, Ginny finds herself in a whirlwind of new adventure and romance.
5. Railonama by Anupama Sharma
This is a collection of short stories and poems inspired by the Indian Railways, the most commonly used form of transportation in India. Featuring dozens of writers from around the world, this book will tickle your nostalgia if you've travelled on Indian Railways and, if you haven't, it will open your eyes to a rich world.
6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
If you're like me, you like a little fantasy in your travels. American Gods is the perfect cocktail, combining Norse mythology and modern-day fantasy with an adventure journey spanning the United States. Roadside attractions, small-town America, and local mythology of all kinds all have their role play in this must-read epic.
7. The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara
"Let the world change you, and you can change the world." Che Guevara would eventually become one of the world's most iconic revolutionaries and a leader in the Cuban Revolution, but long before that he embarked on a motorcycle journey throughout Latin America. This book is his travel diary throughout the trip, cataloging his adventures and his musings as he explores the diverse places and peoples of his continent while making life-changing discoveries about humanity itself.
Images: Steven Lewis/Unsplash