When I can’t travel, I like finding a good book that transports me. That’s not usually a travel guide though. My taste runs from fiction based in interesting locales to travel nonfiction. Here are a few of my favorite books that inspire wanderlust.
1. Villa America – Liza Klaussmann
Villa America is actually a historical fiction book, but it made me yearn for the south of France. The main characters are fictionalized, but they become friends with the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso. I didn’t realize how much was based on actual history until I read more about the real players in the book. Set on the sparkling coast of Antibes, the book will make you yearn to lounge by a pool in a 1920s-era costume.
2. A Year in the World – Frances Mayes
I’ve long been a fan of the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, and thoroughly enjoyed A Year in the World. Mayes applies her keen observation skills to places she spends weeks or months in, including Portugal, Greece, Morocco, and of course, Italy. Each section delves into what she and her husband see, the books she reads that reflect the local history and culture, and the foods she enjoys. It makes you feel like you’re there. But when you’re done reading about one country, you thirst to go there and experience it yourself. That’s the perfect travel nonfiction book to me!
3. The Caliph’s House – Tahir Shah
There’s nothing new about an author packing up and moving to another country…except when it’s Morocco. Tahir Shah and his family discover the typical frustrations of renovating a crumbling manor, meet the very opinionated characters they’ve hired to help with the house, and even encounter a djinn or two said to haunt the place. The Caliph’s House makes me want to travel to Casablanca and throughout Morocco…minus the evil spirits.
4. Amsterdam Exposed – David Wienir
Part memoir, part gritty exposé, Wienir started research on his book about Amsterdam’s Red Light District — and the very real women who work there — in 1999, the same time I visited for the first time. While he might have intended on the book being more research-based, it ends up being a very touching story that humanizes the prostitution profession…with a dash of a love story thrown in. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, and Wienir brings it to life in Amsterdam Exposed.*
5. Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone – Mary Morris
Way before I was a woman traveling alone, I discovered Nothing to Declare. Her language — and how she saw her experiences — blew me away, and I’ve often quoted her. As I’m thinking about this seminal book that explores who she is as a human in reflection of the world around her, I realize it’s time to pick it back up.
6. Cuba Then Revised and Expanded – Ramiro Fernández
Now that getting to Cuba is a little easier, I’m beginning to thirst for a trip there. This book, Cuba Then, will have to slake my thirst for now. It’s a collection of gorgeous photos of everything from the dirt and grime of the campesinos to the glitter of high society in Cuba, from the 19th and 20th centuries. Reading it makes me nostalgic for an era I never even lived through.”
7. Tales of a Female Nomad – Rita Golden Gelman
Yes, another book about a woman traveling alone. There’s definitely a theme to my reading! But we like to see a bit of ourselves in what we read, no? Tales of a Female Nomad is inspiring because it wasn’t until she was 48 that Gelman packed it all up and began traveling the world. She met trance healers, slept with sea lions, and realized the dreams that she’d long had. My kind of lady.
This is just a drop in the bucket of all the amazing books that inspire wanderlust out there! What are your favorites?
*I was provided with copies of both Amsterdam Exposed and Cuba Then in exchange for a review.