My Top 10 Travel Stories and Books for the Armchair Traveller

Written by: Brandon Sousa

If I could, I’d always been travelling and never stop. But since I have yet to win that coveted lottery jackpot, I like to get my taste through the stories of others. Sometimes it’s fiction, other times it’s a travel memoir, or even a collection of short-stories; here’s a few of my favourite pages that took me on a journey without leaving the comfort of my own home.

10. Eating Korea – Graham Holiday (2017)

With the Winter Olympics just wrapping up in South Korea, there’s no better time to dive into Korean cuisine in Korea is led by former expat Graham Holliday. The book looks at the history and parts of the evolution of Korean food, travelling to each staple dish’s hometown. What comes out in the story is a true picture of old Korea and the connection of people and their history to their food.

9. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts (2003)

A true story? Based-on-a-true-story? Work of fiction? It’s really hard to say. But regardless of its validity in history, the story will capture your attention making it impossible to put down. Shantaram is a story of a convicted Australian bank robber and drug addict who escapes from prison and flees to India. Living in Mumbai, this story of survival amidst the underworld of the city.

8. Nowhere to Goa – Doug E. Jones (2014)

This work of fiction is an elaborate, easy read that follows the story of two twin brothers getting lost through India, Nepal and Thailand. As one brother tries to chase after another, the story takes you through a journey of hilarity, adventure and a very real look at backpacking South Asia. This may not be the book you want your parents to read, nor your kids, but definitely something you’ll want to read again and again.

Better Than Fiction could not be more appropriately titled. Between the covers is a collection of original travel stories by some of the world’s most entertaining novelists from varies locations and experiences. What’s rare about this book is how raw the emotions are that the writers share about their experiences, allowing every reader to find more than a few stories they can truly connect with.

6. Vagabond Dreams – Ryan Murdock (2012)

Ryan Murdock, travel editor and explorer, takes us on his life-changing journey of Central America. Be careful; after I read this memoir, I booked a month-long trip to the region just to see it all for myself. It has adventure, it has love, it as a real look into how solo travel truly impacts your sanity. It’s also packed with a few zany experiences where stretching the truth can take you a long way.

5. Tales from Nowhere, 3rd edition (2016)

Tales From Nowhere is a collection of unexpected stories from unexpected places from some of the best travel writers around the globe. Life, especially on the road, has a way of throwing you into some pretty memorable surprises when you least expect it. The authors of these 30-real-life tales find passion, surprise and illumination in the middle of Borneo or Beijing, in a Mayan mountain village, along a timeworn trail in Tuscany, on an isolated South Pacific island, or under a desert moon in Mali. The stories in this book will take you on a truly memorable adventure and maybe even inspire you to embark on one yourself!

4. My Holiday in North Korea – Wendy E. Simmons (2015)

I’ve always been curious about North Korea, but I think the chances of me ever venturing within its borders are pretty slim. That’s why this travel memoir by Wendy Simmonds is so unique, written mostly from memory with very few notes and complemented by 92 photographs. Her journey is coloured with humour, anxiety, utter confusion and complete bewilderment, making you feel like you’re walking beside her every step of the way.

3. No Reservations – Anthony Bourdain (2007)

Some might recognize this title from the Travel Channel show, No Reservations, but this book is more than just a companion of that. Filled with Anthony Bourdain’s signature brash comedy and commentary, the book covers the outrageous, the exclusive and the iconic food from New Zealand to New Jersey. From cover to cover, you feel like you’re on this adventure with Bourdain as a silent sidekick experiencing the tastes, customs and lifestyles he encounters.

2. It’s Only the Himalayas – S. Bedford (2016)

Sue Bedford’s travel memoir reveals backpacking’s awkward side with a hilarity of misadventures and real-life experience. A well-travelled writer, this book showcases that the risk is always worth taking. The story itself is relatable and puts the reader right into her shoes and into the moment. It also highlights some of the misadventures of backpacking that usually don’t come up during dinner table conversation. Sue responded on Twitter about the book joking “The original title was Mom, You Can’t Read This.”

To say this is an easy read would be an understatement, but not necessarily an easy find. This childhood classic was the book that first inspired me to travel; looking for Waldo, the red-and-white-striped shirt, toque and glasses wearing adventurer, amongst very exotic and unique locales. It was a visual cartoon tour featuring places and people I’ve always wanted to see, and creating a bit of jealousy for this wanderlust-loving, backpacking character with what I can only gather had an unlimited budget.