17 Travel Books for Explorers, Drifters, and People Who Don't Mind Getting Lost

You don't need me to tell you that a library card is cheaper than an airplane ticket. You don't need me to wax poetic about the power of the imagination — the way that reading a book can be almost as transformative as experiencing a place in real life, if you just let it take you there, man. You might, however, be interested in my prescription for cabin fever, the insidious no-summer-vacation adulthood blues, and the lingering resentment you get while scrolling through your couch-surfing friends' Instagram feeds. Take one of the following 17 titles every week for a couple of months, and by the time you've skated through Antarctica and wandered the streets of Mexico City with these authors, you'll feel like every one of these chatty, dreamy, overly bold, wildly adventurous ladies is someone you met on a trip of your own.

'My Venice and Other Essays' by Donna Leon

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In more than 50 essays, Leon draws you through the watery magic of the Floating City, where you’ll encounter canals, masks, garbage, and the many charms of Italian men.

'The Minaret of Djam' by Freya Stark

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The legendary (and often forgotten) travel writer Freya Stark was one of the bravest explorers of the 20th century. In this book, she recounts her trip to one of the most remote sites in the world, the Minaret of Djam, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

'Destinations: Essays from Rolling Stone' by Jan Morris

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A cool writer writes travel essays for a cool magazine and this is the result. Morris’ travels, from Istanbul to Los Angeles, took place in the late ’70s and early ’80s, so don’t expect to find hostel recommendations, but there’s nothing like that easy ’70s wandering charm.

'Pleasures and Landscapes: A Traveller's Tales From Europe' by Sybille Bedford

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Reading about a skillful writer’s travels through Europe is as indulgent and transportive as eating really great Swiss chocolates, and Bedford’s writing is chatty enough to make you feel like she’s your traveling companion. Bonus: There’s plenty of emphasis on the food and wine.

'Where the Peacocks Sing' by Alison Singh Gee

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This memoir reads more like a modern fairy tale: a high-powered magazine writer falls in love with a lower-profile Indian journalist, moves to the Indian countryside with him, and discovers that he owns — wait for it — a castle. A castle desperately in need of repair. Sparks fly, plumbing leaks.

'Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria' by Noo Saro-Wiwa

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Noo Saro-Wiwa’s father was a famous Nigerian activist who was executed by the Nigerian military regime in 1995. Saro-Wiwa was raised in England and had always resented the obligatory summer trips to Nigeria, but after her father’s death, she decided to give his beloved homeland a chance.

'Los Angeles' by A.M. Homes

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Of all the cities in the United States, Los Angeles is where the dreamers go to flare up and burn out and sometimes die of it all. Homes explores the bizarre, starry nature of this city where so many legends have made a permanent or temporary home.

'Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey' by Barbara Rowell

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Rowell’s husband was a famous wilderness photographer, and she dedicated her life to his career, until one day she decided that she wanted something of her own to energize her — so she learned to fly. This is the story of her adventurous 25,000-mile flight. Sadly, Rowell would die shortly after writing the book — in a plane flown by her husband.

'Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country' by Louise Erdrich

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Erdrich is a masterful writer of novels and poetry, but this nonfiction account is just as compelling as her imagined work. Here, she travels to southern Ontario, the land of her Native American ancestors, with her baby daughter and the daughter’s father, an Ojibwe spiritual leader. They visit the sacred rock paintings of their people, and Erdrich makes the mystical elements of the journey come alive in her poetic prose.

'Assassination Vacation' by Sarah Vowell

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A morbidly curious writer sets off across America to explore all the sites of the first three presidential assassinations. There are bits of skull involved.

'I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson' by Osa Johnson

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This tale of an adventurous documentary filmmaker couple traveling through Africa to film wildlife was a best-selling book in 1940, and it’s still wild and loving enough to captivate readers today.

'Sidewalks' by Valeria Luiselli

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In these essays, Luiselli wanders the streets of Mexico City, New York, and Venice with language that’s been compared to a prose poem, illuminating the dreamlike qualities of these disparate cities.

'America Day by Day' by Simone de Beauvoir

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American citizens are accustomed to reading memoirs of fabulous American expats gallivanting through Europe and beyond (see: many of the titles on this list). Turn the tables on the ex-pat narrative and read a famous Frenchwoman’s account of traveling through the United States, from tequila shots to Niagara Falls to Beauvoir’s first joint.

'Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands' by Barbara Kingsolver

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Barbara Kingsolver and respected photographer Annie Griffiths teamed up for this fascinating National Geographic book that explores the areas of the United States that are still, somehow, untouched.

'A Field Guide to Getting Lost' by Rebecca Solnit

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Being lost and alone in a strange land doesn’t have to be terrifying, as Solnit illuminates in this collection of meditiative essays.

'Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven' by Susan Jane Gilman

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Sometimes you just want to read about crazy kids road-tripping around the world post-college. If that is your desire, this is your book.

'Skating to Antarctica' by Jenny Diski

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If you’ve been everywhere, where’s the one place left to go? Chances are it’s the icy wilds of Antarctica, where Diski reveals the awful details of her childhood as she slumps through the snow and lets Antarctica enter her soul. Read this book with a blanket nearby.