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17 Books that Inspired Us to Travel

A good read draws you into a world of its own, but it can also move you to explore the wider world around you. Here are 17 titles that stirred our wanderlust and propelled us into the great beyond.

1. Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me with Apples has plenty of travel scenes that would make food lovers swoon—like a bumpy-yet-delicious trip to China—but the description of her torrid love affair, which whisks her to Paris and Los Angeles for lavish meals, made me want to book tickets to both glamorous cities.—Danielle Walsh, associate editor

2. The Beachby Alex Garland, was unfortunately made into a terrible movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but the actual novel was my introduction to the concept of backpacking and made me want to drop everything and wander around Southeast Asia as cheaply as possible.—Jen Murphy, hotels editor

3. Whether it be Japan, California, Spain, or the former Soviet Union, photographer Rick Smolan’s A Day in the Life of series captured my childhood imagination and transported me into the homes and lives of everyday citizens doing everyday things in a genuine and honest way. His work is the essence of seeing the world as it really is, in all of its beautiful colors. A Day in the Life is like a book version of AFAR, so I guess we need to buy the rights.—Joe Diaz, VP, chief product officer

4. Growing up in the Midwest, every other place seemed exotic. In high school, we read Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, and the mental images it evoked of far-off lands with wandering monks made me want to experience India’s holy land. As an adult, I made that journey—and reread the book along the way as a means of revisiting the visions from my youth.—Lou LaGrange, director, AFAR Custom

5. When I was living in Nepal, I read Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer. The parts about the culture and country and people gave me a deeper understanding and made me even more excited to be there.—Kevin Favro, software engineer

6. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, is a book I still love and probably appreciate even more now than I did when I was little—for the idea of a fierce bull who would rather smell flowers than fight other bulls. It was the first book that made me wonder about far-off lands: Spain! I believed even stronger in the moral of that story years later after going to a traditional bullfight in Madrid. Intense. I’d rather sit under a cork tree in the country smelling flowers with Ferdinand any old day.—Mary Garvin, sales director, AFAR Collection

7. Like many of my generation, I read James Clavell’s Shogun in the late ’70s, and that ignited a desire to go to Japan. I don’t think I fancied myself a Blackthorne, but it certainly kindled my imagination about a world very different than what I knew. I didn’t make it to Japan until the early ’90s, and while I can’t say I saw a lot of the Shogun Japan—400 years can do that—I certainly loved it, and it remains one of my favorites. I look forward to spending more time in rural Japan.—Greg Sullivan, founder/CEO

8. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast was the first book that inspired me to travel, specifically with writing in mind. It wasn’t Paris per se that I wanted to see, but any city (all cities!) where I could stay and live like a local. I wanted to sink in and see the whole, real world through clean prose. I was fascinated by the idea that traveling could not only open my eyes to the ways that other people live, but also make me see my own hometown differently. Basically, this book got me out the door and on a plane, pen and notebook in hand. I still sometimes pack my dog-eared copy when I want a little literary zip.—Aislyn Greene, associate editor

9. I read Henry James’s A Portrait of a Lady in college, and like A Moveable Feast, it drew me in and gave me a sense of what an American in Europe could experience. These stories inspired me to travel and to experience the beautiful and very romantic world of “abroad,” and no question, I was going to have a lot of fun in the process. I was not disappointed.—Onnalee MacDonald, West Coast sales director

10. The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, is an epic survey of happiness around the world. Weiner changed my perspective on certain countries as he met and introduced me to their leaders and ordinary citizens. He lets you go on a trip without ever jumping on a plane, and he might convince you that if you change your place, you may change your life. The book inspired me to put Myanmar on my go-to-next list.—Rachel Novick, sales coordinator

12. The sense of place (Switzerland) in Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is astounding, and the dramatic landscape perfectly feeds all the twists and turns (or, should I say, peaks and crags?) of the plot. Shelley reportedly conceived of the story while trapped inside during rainstorms on Lake Geneva. All that reinforced for me how travel inspires you and invites the most charged stories into your life.—Juliette San Fillipo, associate marketing manager

13. In addition to LIFE magazine, my parents subscribed to the LIFE World Library, a rather conventional series of nearly three dozen titles, launched in 1961, that focused on individual countries and such regions as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, the Andean Republics, the Arab World. The books likely have not aged well in terms of their historical, sociological, and literary content (although I’d like to go back and read the Brazil volume, written by Elizabeth Bishop), but their photographs and stories powerfully fueled the imagination and future wanderlust of a then-non-traveling pre-teen in suburban California.—Derk Richardson, senior editor.

14. I can’t credit Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul with making me want to visit the city for the first time, since I’d already been there once before reading it, but it did make me want to go back. Every Bosphorus view takes on layers of meaning and melancholy once you’ve read Pamuk’s book. He also reminded me that, as travelers, we sometimes look at sites with an ahistorical eye, but after reading Istanbul, it’s easier to see all those mosques and palaces as the backdrops for and embodiments of a long struggle between tradition and modernity, Islam and Europe.—John Newton, senior editor, branded content

15. I read Brian Kevin’s The Footloose American because I’m obsessed with all things South America. Kevin retraced Hunter S. Thompson’s early ’60s journey through South America, when Thompson was reporting for the National Observer and before he became famous as a “gonzo journalist.” I found it fascinating to explore all of the countries through Kevin’s and Thompson’s journeys, and it brought up some of my favorite memories of my travels to my favorite part of the world!—Michaela Trimble, sales manager

16. I traveled with Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn’s Peace is Every Step through South America. Although it wasn’t tied to any destination, it kept me present and grateful through the trials and tribulations of backpacking!—Alex Palomino, photo assistant

17. No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon, was my favorite book in high school, and it sparked my desire to explore the world. It covered everything that I then thought constituted an adventurous and exciting travel journey—the search for a mythical prehistoric creature, scientific research, shamans, machetes, dugout canoes, malaria, hallucinogenic drugs, and a bumbling Brit. I no longer think of travel in these terms, but this book still remains a favorite.—Erika Stallworth, accounting clerk

Want more?
Check out the 16 films that inspired us to travel.

Photo by Liz Carlson