I’ve been solo traveling for the better part of 15 months now. From the start, some of the best books for solo travelers have been a part of my journey.
Before I started solo traveling, these books taught me how. They showed me that solo travel isn’t just for the brave and bold – it’s for the people that go even if, maybe especially if, they’re a little bit afraid. These books taught me how to cope when the solo road got tough.
When I was traveling solo, I turned to books to fill a lot of different roles for me. These books were my dinner dates when I was dining solo and felt a little awkward about it. These books were my mentors when I wanted to learn something new or grow in a new way. These travel books, and the characters in them, were my friends when it was the middle of the night back home and I hadn’t made a friend in my time zone yet. And yes, these books certainly were my saviors on long bus rides through the Balkans or plane rides over the Pacific. In short, they’re the perfect companions for any solo traveler.
I know I’m not alone in turning to the best books for solo travelers in times of need on the road. Whether you are a first time solo traveler or a long term adventurer just searching for your next great read, these best books for solo travelers will inspire you to set out on your own path as a solo traveler.
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Best Solo Travel Memoirs
Particularly for solo travel books, I’m partial to the travel memoir. There is a beautiful sense of camaraderie that comes from reading about someone else’s solo travel experience while experiencing one of your own.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
Really wish your confident, laugh-out-loud funny friend was traveling with you? Just pick up this book instead. Newman works as a tv writer, so she has three months off to travel the world each year. In this memoir, she shares her embarrassing, empowering tales of solo traveling and falling into “vacationships” or vacation-relationships.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book was such a popular travel memoir that it often elicits some eye-rolls from seasoned solo travelers. I’d be that it’s created more solo female travelers than any other travel memoir. Don’t let it’s notoriety fool you. Eat Pray Love is a bestselling travel memoir for a reason. In it, Gilbert travels to Italy to eat, India to pray, and Bali to love. She’s a beautiful storyteller and it shows. I can personally vouch for this book’s persuasive power, as I put Bali on my bucket list because of it.
A Woman Alone by Faith Conlon
This is a bold collection of short stories by bold women around the world. This book goes far beyond typical solo female travel, beyond Bali, and brings us stories of strong women in far-flung destinations.
Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
This is a great solo travel book for those who are happily married or happily parenting, but want to travel solo anyway. Steinbach travels to Paris, Oxford, and Milan while contemplating who she is as an independent woman without the other people in her life. I’m also a sucker for postcards, and this book is dotted with illustrated postcards that Steinbach wrote to herself on her trip. They’re filled with the kind of minute observations only solo travel brings to light.
The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman
Friedman has always done the right thing, so she surprises herself when she buys a ticket to Ireland, befriends a free-spirited Aussie, and takes a yearlong journey through three continents. This book is perfect for the solo traveler who dreams of meeting those perfect travel buddies along the way.
Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom
This book is sort of a study in the benefits of solo travel. Rosenbloom shares her own solo travels in Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York while recounting other artists’ and writers’ transformational solo travel experiences. It’s the book you read when you need a reminder of the good work solo travel can do in you.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
If you’re hoping to think deeply during your solo trip, might I recommend this part-memoir, part-cultural criticism? This work on the subject of loneliness is told through the lives of iconic artists. It’s also a tribute to New York City.
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin
There is a beautiful term for a man of privilege and leisure, flâneur, but it’s the feminine term that Elkin crafts that’s the subject of this beautiful book. It isn’t exactly a memoir. It’s the story of the liberating possibilities of a good walk through Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice or London. It’s the story of the many women who have taken them.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This book changed my life, plain and simple. It’s the story of Cheryl Strayed as she hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. It’s an against-all-odds tale filled with suspense, warmth, and healing.
Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis
Not to one up Wild or anything, but this book follows Sarah Marquis as she walks from Siberia to Australia. That’s 10,000 miles of epic solo travel. It’s a story of resilience, freedom, and the power of putting one foot in front of the other.
Return to Glow by Chandi Wyant
I promise this will be my last woman-walking-across-a-country recommendation, but I just can’t help myself. In this memoir, Wyant sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, after a divorce and traumatic illness. It’s forty days of walking towards Rome and forty days of thoughtful reflection.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Mayes opens the door to her experience buying, restoring, and building a life inside an abandoned villa in Tuscany. I’ll admit that there are parts of this book that drag a bit. There isn’t much of a plot and not a whole lot actually happens. But if a slow, sleepy, beautifully written love letter to Italy is what you need, this is it.
Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney
Women don’t row on the Nile and tourists aren’t allowed, but Mahoney was determined to take a solo trip down the Egyptian Nile anyway. This memoir is the story of how Mahoney confronts civil unrest, confusing traditions, difficult physical conditions, and even crocodiles.
Bleaker House by Nell Stevens
Nell Stevens won an all-expenses-paid fellowship to go anywhere in the world to write the novel she’s always dreamed of. With a romantic notion of isolation equaling productivity, she chose a remote island in the Falklands and wrote this funny, poignant memoir instead.
The Thing About Prague by Rachael Weiss
Weiss gave up her life in Australia to move to Prague, her ancestral home, intending to live there for the rest of her life. She lasted three whirlwind years. This is the smart, funny memoir that results in her exasperation with Europe’s quirkiest city.
A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson
Williamson avoids the usual cliches of Japan’s polite society an unusual fashion trends to focus on other aspects of the Japanese culture. It’s a beautiful tribute to a year of living thoughtfully in the country.
Wish You Were Here by Sheridan Jobbins
Post-divorce and post-smashing-things, Jobbins buys a little red car and takes a joyride across America. It’s an ode to the road trip, filled with twists, turns, and new love.
Best Solo Travel Guidebooks
I don’t typically recommend guidebooks, but solo travel comes with its own set of challenges. These guidebooks specifically written for solo travelers have been personally helpful for me to be able to navigate those unique challenges.
The Solo Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet makes a great guidebook about just about anything and anywhere. They’ve tackled some of the biggest concerns for solo travelers here. While it will feel too elementary for experienced solo travelers, this handbook is a good “intro to solo travel" guide. Bonus, the illustrations are very cute.
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
This is the definitive guide to unconventional travel. If you’re hoping to go beyond hostel hopping and dive into long-term travel, Vagabonding is the book to read to dip your toe in the water.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes
I personally used this guidebook and the travel philosophy it shares to make more than a year of travel a reality for me. It was written by travel blogger and former full-time traveler Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com. While this book isn’t a guidebook exclusively aimed at solo travel, Kepnes includes a solo perspective throughout the book.
She Explores by Gale Straub
She Explores is part coffee table book, part travel short story collection, and part guidebook. The book shares the stories of 40 diverse women, each on their own path through the world. It also weaves tips and practical advice into the narrative.