I somehow never read when I’m at home, but I always read a lot when I travel. A book is perfect to entertain yourself when you’re waiting (which is often during travel), there’s no wifi or you’re eating alone. I always have a ton of books with me when I travel, both on an e-reader and paper ones that I trade in hostels. There are few things as relaxing to me as lying on a beach or in a park, in the sun, reading a good travel book.
And books are not just great during travel, they’re also good to inspire you to travel. My favorite genre at the moment are travel books by women. Badass solo female travelers who explore the world and have epic adventures. The travel narrative is often dominated by men and most of the famous travel writers are straight white men. And while some of them are great writers with compelling stories, those stories are markedly different from the female travel experience. Moving around the world as a woman simply comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Reading stories like these by women like us is empowering and never fails to kick my wanderlust into overdrive.
Anyone can travel and anyone can travel solo. These ladies prove that being women should not be a limitation to a life of adventure. These books massively inspired me and stuck with me because of their great writing and unique stories. So even if you’re stuck at home, they offer a nice bit of escapism. Here are a few great reads that will make you want to pack your bags and explore the world of solo female travel:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
No list of the best travel books is complete without Wild, which became a culture fenomenon. I usually prefer books over films and in this case again, the book is much better than the movie. Cheryl Strayed writes an honest memoir of running away from her troubles and confronting herself on the PCT. Extremely under prepared and with more emotional baggage than the enormous backpack she carries, this is a more cautionary tale than anything else. Teaching us that not you can’t always just wing it, and a little preparation goes a long way. But it is also a testament to the incredible strenght and resilience of women and that we are perfectly capable of requeing ourselves.
I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.Cheryl Strayed – Wild
The details can be quite gruesome, but in the end, Wild is a lovely tale of facing your demons and growing through tragedy. It’s a compelling book from beginning to end. Whether you have your own issues to work through or not, this wanderlust book will make you want to strap on a pair of hiking boots and hit the trails.
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle – Dervla Murphy
When it comes to crazy travel adventures, this is the wildest one I’ve ever read. In 1963 Dervla Murphy was 21 years old when she decided to cycle from her home in Ireland to India. Yes, you read that right: cycle! As in, on a bicycle. She started her journey in the coldest winter ever recorded in Europe and things didn’t get easier from there. Crazy adventures, breathtaking scenery and incredible human kindness and hospitality characterize her journey. It’s especially interesting to read her observations on the development of the Middle East during the 60s, considering the current state of affairs.
The more I see of life in these ‘undeveloped countries’ and of the methods adopted to ‘improve’ them, the more depressed I become. It seems criminal that the backwardness of a country like Afghanistan should be used as an excuse for America and Russia to have a tug-of-war for possession.Dervla Murphy – Full Tilt
Full Tilt is composed of the letters Dervla wrote home to her friends and family (one letter for them to pass around), so it reads like a travel log. This book is as heartwarming as it is insane and will compeltely restore your faith in humanity. It will also make you feel like you can do anything. I would say it is one of the most inspiring books about traveling alone. Because if Dervla can cycle from Ireland to India, then no mountain is too high for any of us.
My Life on the road – Gloria Steinem
My Life on the Road is not like most travel books, although it is definitely a book about travel. It is more a memoir that just happens to be about a woman who traveled a lot. More than just a travel book, My Life on the Road is a book about feminism, growing up and the communal strength of women. It made me both happy and sad not to have been alive to see women rise up against oppression and gender discrimination in the 60s. But reading Gloria’s accounts of the events is as close as you can get without actually being there to witness it. Gloria Steinem is one of the most influential feminists of all time and although this book is absolutely a testament to that, it also normalizes her and relieves her of some of her idol status. After all, she first and foremost has always been a girl who loves to travel, like all of us.
I can go on the road – because I can come home. I come home – because I’m free to leave. Each way of being is more valued in the presence of the other.Gloria Steinem – My Life On The Road
Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods – Christine Byl
Speaking of badass women, Christine Byl has to be one of the toughest out there. Dirt Work is all about how she worked as a “trail dog” in US National Parks. A young, inexperienced girl in a rough and tumble lumberjack world. The set up of the book is quite original, as Christine describes her experiences by the tools she uses. Each chapter is a collection of stories of cutting trees and digging trails alternated with funny anecdotes, heartwarming tales and fascinating pieces of technical information. She manages to make Dirt Work simultaneously a memoir, a travel novel, a feminist manifesto and a trailwork manual.
Wild is head back hollering at the sky, a moment that contains the full world. Wild is not tame, not bound, not constrained, constricted, condensed. Wildness is big or it is small, but it is open—open mouth, season, door, heart.Christine Byl – Dirt Work
To me, this book is evidence not only to her merit as a hardcore trail worker, but also an extremely gifted writer. Her writing is vivid and poetic, full of inspiring travel quotes. Byl is not just one my favorite female travel authors, but also just female authors period. Because of her honest descriptions, this book probably won’t make you want to work on the trails yourself. But it will definitely make you want to hike them and thank the people that do.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding – Kristin Newman
If there was ever a travel book that I feels like it was written for me, it’s this one. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is the hilarious travel biography of comedy writer Kristin Newman. When she found herself unexpectedly single at 26? she started traveling the world. Her goal: doing the things you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to it. Which basically means doing all those iconic things certain places are know for. And more often than not it meant a passionate fling with a local.
Second, that you can have both love and freedom when you fall in love with an exotic local in an exotic locale, since there is a return ticket next to the bed that you by law will eventually have to use.Kristin Newman – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
This book is not only hilarious and well writtern, it is also very recognizable. Kristin and I have a very similar approach to travel: meet with locals, don’t complain, say yes to everything. Travel to us is about adventure, making memories and connections. As a twentysomething solo female traveler, this book reads like it could have been my own memoir. Poignant, uncencored and so, so funny. A must-read for any woman who feels like there must be more to life than settling down. Because there is.
Because no trip and no woman is the same, each of these books tells a completely different tale. They showcase the enormous variety of stories that women have to tell and the incredible adventures we have when we step out of our comfort zones and into the world. Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveler looking for stories you can identify with or a hesitant newbie traveler in need of a little push, these books will give you everything you need.
What is your favorite travel book by a female author? Any gems to add to my list? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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