When I was an office worker, I was an Audible.com power user. I had a 60-90 minute commute in each direction (depending on traffic and whether I took the train or drove). I could usually power through a couple of audio books per week.
Now that I commuting less and travel more, I’ve rediscovered my love for physical books. I usually like to bring at least one around in my backpack with me for quiet moments on the beach, on a train, or during an occasional lazy afternoon in a hostel.
Due to some mix of being lackadaisical and easily interested, I’ve experimented with the whole range of books on trips. I’ve tried reading classics, self-help, poetry, novels, memoirs, non-fiction business books, and even an occasional textbook. And, I can tell you–some books just feel like they were made to be read while traveling.
So, I’ve put together a little list with a few of my favorite picks to read for traveling. I hope you enjoy some of them too:
The book bills itself as sort of a “how-to” guide for longterm travel. It talks about everything from financing your travels to handling unexpected difficulties while on the road.
The reason that I love to read Vagabonding while traveling, though, is because it talks a lot about the philosophy of traveling and the positive, permanent changes that a long trip can make in a person’s life.
This book views long term travel not as an escape, but as an adventure and a passion, a way of overcoming your fears and living life to the fullest.
Vagabonding is an attitude—a friendly interest in people, places, and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word. Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life—a value adjustment from which action naturally follows. And, as much as anything, vagabonding is about time—our only real commodity—and how we choose to use it.
Caveat: this is the ideal book to read while traveling through Iceland.
Out of Thin Air: The True Story of an Impossible Murder in Iceland takes a deep look at a fascinating (even mind-blowing) series of events related to two ‘murders’ that happened in Iceland in the 1970s.
The reason it’s so much fun to learn about while in Iceland, though, is because even though the crimes (“crimes?”) happened in the 1970s, everybody knows all the details about them. It seemed sort of equivalent to the OJ case in the U.S.
And, since everybody in Iceland has an opinion on the controversial events that happened around the cases, it makes it fun to bring up in conversation. Locals will be impressed you know the details about it, and they won’t be afraid to spill the tea on what they think actually happened.
As a preface, I have a soft spot for David Sedaris. He’s hilarious, observant, and a great storyteller, and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read that he’s written.
Calypso is his most recent book, and it covers topics from his sister’s suicide to having his benign tumor removed and trying to feed it to a snapping turtle. It’s full of clever, insightful observations that reflects an observant, open, easily-amused attitude that I find both refreshing and useful to adopt as a traveler.
He also has some great ideas (that I may have stolen) for skipping small talk with strangers and jumping straight to the good stuff.
“I felt betrayed, the way you do when you discover that your cat has a secret secondary life and is being fed by neighbors who call him something stupid like Calypso. Worse is that he loves them as much as he loves you, which is to say not at all, really. The entire relationship has been your own invention.”
I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s entire Mindfulness Essentials Series. They’re slim and easy to read, and they are perfect for carrying around and reading snippets when you have a free moment. They all take slightly different angles on inspiring thoughtfulness and mindfulness. And, they’re all modular, so you can pick them up and read a page here and there without even keeping track of your spot.
If I had to pick just one of the series, though, it would be How to Love. On top of inspiring mindfulness, it inspires a feeling of “I Love the Universe” for yourself and your fellow humans, 🤗 It’s a beautiful mindset, especially while traveling.
Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.
If you walk with true awareness of every step, without having a goal to get anywhere, happiness will arise naturally. You don’t need to look for happiness.
Every person is a world to explore.
I hope you enjoy some of these! I’m also constantly looking for recommendations, so I would love to hear any of your favorite books to read while traveling.
And if you’re looking for more inspiration, here is my list of my honorable mentions, sorted by genre…