Our Favorite Travel Adventure Books
Stuck at home? Ugh! What’s a Chick to do? Read some great travel adventure books that inspire dreaming and scheming for future trips, of course! Rounding up suggestions from both the Explorer Chick Tribe Facebook page and our Dream Team, we’ve compiled some of our favorite non-fiction, wanderlust-whetting, travel adventure stories. (We also turned the suggestions into a Goodreads Listopia! You’re welcome.)
Just like our eclectic group of bold and fearless women, these tales (and the people who wrote or inspired them) stem from many different experience levels, backgrounds, and worldviews. What they have in common, however, is the ability awaken the inspiration and motivation to explore the world at large. (Hey! Kinda like Explorer Chicks do!) So where do you want to “travel” to next?
Author Tommy Caldwell recounts his 2015 free climb to the summit Yosemite’s nearly vertical 3,000-foot Dawn Wall. He also shares his experience as a hostage in Kyrgyzstan, losing his left index finger in an accident, and other personal and professional challenges.
Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “among the great travel adventure books of all time,” Into Thin Air is journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer’s account of the May 1996 disaster at Mount Everest’s summit. An epic storm sprang up, claiming five lives and leaving the survivors to deal with the aftermath and guilt of still being alive.
In the 1980s, author Edward Abbey lived alone for three seasons in the desert in Moab, Utah. In this personal account, Abbey shares his experiences and thoughts on living in its raw and extraordinary beauty.
Rita Golden Gelman
Refusing to abandon her sense of adventure and play, 48-year-old Rita Golden Gelman sold all her possessions and left behind her life in L.A. to travel the world. Gelman recounts her time living in a Mexican village, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, visiting trance healers, and other extraordinary encounters.
Was Hiram Bingham III, the Yale professor and explorer who discovered Machu Picchu, a hero or artifact-smuggling villain? Seeking to answer that question, travel books and magazine editor Mark Adams retraces Bingham’s perilous path to find the truth. He encounters plenty of mystery, history, and colorful characters along the way.
To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret
Before turning forty, Jedidiah Jenkins decides to spend eighteen months bicycling from Oregon to Patagonia. While on his journey he encounters setbacks and difficult choices, but continues to attempt to understand just what makes a life worth living.
Bill Bryson weaves the history and ecology of the Appalachian Trail into his (mis)adventures hiking sections of the AT with a childhood friend. They meet an interesting cast of characters along the way, all while attempting to enjoy the majestic scenery and avoid bears.
In May 1986, Sharon Wood became the first North American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest—via the difficult West Ridge and without Sherpa assistance. Here, she shares the physical and mental challenges she endured during the climb, and what she learned about facing difficulty in the process.
Another Everest-focused tale, Ascent into Hell goes deep into the inner workings of an Everest expedition team, and follows both the hardships and highlights that are endured to reach the summit. From plunging temperatures to thinning air, Fergus White’s day-by-day chronicle is a harrowing account of the sacrifices necessary to reach the top.
In The Happy Isles of Oceania, traveler Paul Theroux explores fifty-one islands by collapsible kayak solo. His journey begins in New Zealand and concludes in Hawaii, spanning thousands of miles of shark-infested waters and stunning, tropical landscapes.
Fire can destroy, but can it also be an opportunity to start again? Writer Karen Auvinen lives alone in a primitive cabin in the Rockies when a fire takes almost everything she owns. Left with only her dog, truck, and a few possessions, Auvinen struggles to find balance between her desire to return to solitude with her need to connect with others.
In 1955, 67-year-old Emma “Grandma” Gatewood told her grown children (and abusive then-husband) she was going for a walk alone—and ended up hiking the Appalachian Trail. Later, she became the first person, man or woman, to hike the entire trail multiple times. Author Ben Montgomery shares family interviews, articles, and diary entires in this tale of strength and determination.
Sharing sometimes hilariously intimate details of her globetrotting travel adventures, Ayun Halliday takes readers along on her wonderfully bizarre encounters. From guerrilla theater in Romania to a collagen-implant demonstration at a Paris fashion show with Lauren Bacall, Halliday is the perfect, witty narrator to share these surreal experiences.
Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her 1,700-mile trek across the Australian desert is astounding. With only four camels and a dog for company, Davidson find herself on a journey filled with snakes and insufferable heat in the midst of a sweeping and desolate landscape. Through it all, she finds both the end of her goal and a sense of discovery and transformation.
Heather “Anish” Anderson
Author and adventurer Heather “Anish” Anderson completed the Triple Crown of backpacking before the age of 25: the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. In this memoir, she shares her thoughts on seeking out what is most fulfilling—whether it takes the shape of a more traditional life, or one with less predictability.
Using Tuscany as a home base, author of Under the Tuscan Sun Frances Mayes sets out to explore the rest of the world. Traveling to Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, Turkey, Greece, the South of Italy, and North Africa, Mayes includes commentary on everything from art to culinary traditions at each destination.
Don George is a professional travel writer and editor who has traveled the world for the past forty years. In this collection of his works, George shares his adventures of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, visiting the Japanese island of Shikoku, and ascending Yosemite’s Half Dome with his wife and children.
Opting for a trip to the Greek island of Hydra instead of paying for dental implants, Daniel Klein embarks on a quest to find the secret of aging happily. Using Greek friends and philosophers as his inspiration, Klein discovers both simple and refined pleasures that come solely with age.
Edited each year by some of the best travel writers in the country, these compiled collections of short stories and articles never disappoint. They take readers to popular and obscure locales all over the world. Each story is a glimpse into a different place, culture, and experience told through the eyes of the author.
Another Paul Theroux selection, this book recounts the author’s time traveling through Xinjiang, Manchuria, Shanghai, Beijing, Canton, and Tibet. Throughout the journey, Theroux shares detailed descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and people he encounters.
Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, explorer Levison Wood begins his journey. He sets out to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Nile River. Enduring a nine-month, 4,000 mile journey through six nations, Wood experiences it all. He escapes a charging hippopotamus, gets caught in a civil war, experiences the sudden death of his traveling companion, journalist Matthew Power, and much more.
Do you have favorite travel adventure books that didn’t make the list? Please let us know on the Explorer Chick Tribe Facebook page, and we’ll add it!