Top 10 best backpacking books for travellers

In a year when the pandemic has largely curbed travel, many people are diving into books to get back that familiar feeling of wanderlust.

Best backpacking books

Not only do books offer up magical words and descriptions of other lands, cultures and people, they can also provide a jumping-off point in regards to planning future travel. 

This list of the 10 Best Backpacking Books offers up a few of our favourites, including both informational and fictional options.

1. Travel the World on 50$ a Day, by Matt Kepnes

Better known as Nomadic Matt in backpacking circles, Matt Kepnes has been travelling the world for years on a budget.

Travel the world on $50 a day

Matt created this book to help fellow travellers and backpackers learn how to utilise different tools and strategies to keep your backpacking budget to a minimum!

Great for travellers who are just starting out and may need a bit of a helpful guide to go off of as they plan their first big trip.

2. Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, By Kate Harris

Kate Harris had dreamed about going to space as a child, but growing up she realised there was plenty of ground to cover here on earth. 

Lands of lost borders - A journey on the silk road

This is the story of her and a friend undertaking a bicycle journey over the Silk Road, and how their views on science, exploration, and adventure evolve along the way. A must-read for bicycle and travel enthusiasts everywhere!

3. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho 

The Alchemist is a classic novel, written by Paulo Coelho. It is almost like a rite-of-passage when it comes to backpackers, and you will often see it being passed around in hostels and coffee shops.

The Alchemist

The alchemist follows an Andalusian shepherd, who leaves his native country of Spain in search of buried treasure. As the story unfolds and the shepherd meets different people along the way, it becomes less of a quest for treasure and more of a journey to finding one’s true self. 

4. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts

Vagabonding can be described as taking time off of one’s normal life (work, routine, etc.) to travel and discover the world around you.

Vagabonding An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

This book serves as a sensible and practical guide to budget travellers, as well as those trapped in the rat-race of life and who might be considering making a break for it.

The pages cover a combination of Potts’ personal philosophies regarding travel, alongside a handful of useful resources and great advice to help you get started!

5. Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Another classic backpacker tale, Shantaram is a must-read for anyone planning to journey to India.

Shantaram

Roberts makes the streets and culture come alive as he details the journey of the book’s protagonist, Lin, who escaped prison in Australia to start a new life in India. Throughout his journeys, Lin is forced to question the meaning behind life, love, and morality, while meeting numerous people who affect his life in different ways.

The book is loosely based on Robert’s own life, though there was some controversy over how much of it is fiction versus fact. 

6. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air is a true story, based on the author’s own journey to Mt. Everest as part of a 1996 expedition.

It details certain factors and occurrences that led to the tragedy that ensued, leading to the deaths of over a dozen climbers. Despite the ill-fated ending, the book has inspired many readers to take up hiking, and eventually tackle the peak themselves.

7. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, and Dylan Thuras 

A travel guide of a different kind, Atlas Obscura contains photographs, maps, charts and city guides to all sorts of obscure destinations.

Atlas Obscura An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders

Instead of covering the usual tourist traps, this book delves into the more bizarre and curious things to see while travelling the world, like strange and unique festivals and other hidden wonders. A great pick for those looking to step off the old beaten track!

8. Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World, by Anu Taranath

Beyond Guilt Trips take a look at modern Western travellers who visit lower-income countries in search of finding knowledge, adventure, and culture.

Beyond Guilt Trips

Anu Taranath addresses these desires, as well as the fact that well-meaning travellers can also find themselves feeling unsure of how to act or conduct themselves in certain cultural situations. This also includes the feeling of being overwhelmed by the same cultural differences these travellers went to find in the first place. 

The book helps backpackers take a look at who they really are, using travel stories and direct questioning to create a travel mindset centring on accountability, as well as being present.

9. How to Travel Without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America, by Andrés Neuman

After winning an award, Neuman embarked on a massive journey across Latin America, spanning 19 different countries.

How to travel without seeing

Initially, he found himself frustrated at the lack of time he would get to spend at each destination. Then, Neuman realized that this tour was offering him the opportunity to compare varying countries in Latin America to one another. 

While not your standard travel book, Neuman manages to create an atmosphere of culture even when discussing the more mundane parts of travel such as taxis and airports. Excellent for both readers at home and those who are planning to travel to Latin America!

10. Behind The Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo

Be forewarned: this isn’t a typical glass-half-full book. Instead, it’s a raw, gritty look at the slums in Mumbai.

Behind the beautiful forevers

The author goes into great detail to portray what it is actually like to live a life of poverty in India. While some travellers may prefer to gloss over this sort of thing in favour of the food, temples, and other draws of India, it is still a huge part of the country’s culture.

If you are planning on travelling to Mumbai and wish to get to know the darker side of the city, then this is an eye-opening way to accomplish that.

10 of the best travel books available today 

Reading books about travel can offer us a variety of benefits. We can envision and experience another culture without leaving the comfort of home. We can educate ourselves on other countries and people, and we can learn to travel safer, cheaper, more effectively, and even more mindfully. 

No matter which book you choose to read, chances are you are going to discover something new about the world around you. Our list of the top 10 best backpacking books is aimed to give you a starting point, no matter what your reading goals might be!

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