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travel memoirs


Pack one of these great travel memoirs for some destination inspiration, or just to make a long flight go by faster. These adventure books will take you from Julia Child’s culinary calling in France to the baboon-filled jungles of Kenya and beyond. Looking for a great beach for these great reads? We can help with that, too. Check out our “shore thing” vacation deals.

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

If your copy of Eat, Pray, Love has fallen apart from repeated readings, Strayed’s memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after the death of her mother and a divorce might be right up your alley. The journey in Wild is more emotional than physical, although the book is filled with suspense as Strayed navigates the wilderness as an inexperienced hiker.


2. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson

Bryson has a talent for teasing out the idiosyncrasies of a place and lovingly pointing out how absurd we all are, no matter where we’re from or where we’re visiting. In this book, he turns his humor on his home country.


3. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Of Bill Bryson’s many travel memoirs, his book detailing his trip through Australia stands out as exceptionally funny and warm-hearted.


4. My Life in France by Julia Child

Like many of Bryson’s books, Julia Child’s memoir is partly a fish-out-of-water story. But it’s also the tale of a how middle-aged woman with no cooking skills fell in love with France, found her vocation, and became The French Chef.


5. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

Two girlfriends graduate from college and head into the heart of communist China looking for adventure. As their surroundings become increasingly unsettling, Gilman realizes that her friend may be losing touch with reality, and soon they’re running for their lives.


6. A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by David Sapolsky

As a primatologist, traveling through the jungles of Kenya is just another day at the office for Sapolsky. For those of us with more mundane jobs, however, his book is a fascinating and funny look at the people, places, and primates of Africa.


7. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

You might not think that a travelogue about the visiting the sites of the first three presidential assassinations would be much of a hoot, but it totally is. Vowell loves history and does a fantastic job connecting the events of the past with the present.


8. The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Before he was a symbol of Communist revolution and the face on those ubiquitous t-shirts, Che Guevara was a 22-year old medical student traveling through South America with his friendAlberto. It’s a coming-of-age story with special significance, knowing the impact that Che would go on to have on the world.


9. Around the Bloc: My life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo Griest

As an aspiring foreign correspondent, Griest set off for Russia at 21 to learn the language and explore after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This trip led to a four-year, 12 country tour of the world’s Communist countries. This memoir is both a journalistic look at Communism in the 90s and a memoir of Griest’s coming of age far from home.


10. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

Not unlike Griest, Eric Weiner spent lots of time in war-torn countries as a foreign correspondent for NPR. Curious about the other side of the story, he decided to visit the happiest countries on earth to see how they got that way. Weiner visits Switzerland, Qatar, Thailand, and several more countries to explore how a place can make you happy.

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Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is a writer, traveler and lover of cities currently living in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @shameonseamus.
Jamie Smith

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