This week on the Girls Go Abroad podcast I’m sharing 17 great solo female travel books to read when you’re stuck at home.
The world is a really crazy place at this moment in time, but for me I think one of the best ways to cope with that is to get inspiration for future trips. And one of my favorite ways to do that is to read really good travel writing.
So with that in mind, I’m planning on doing quite a bit of that over the next few weeks–and I want to invite you on the journey.
So today I want to share 17 inspirational books about solo female travel that you can read while you’re stuck at home. Some of them I’ve read, some of them are on my list–a list which I’m sure I’ll be working my way through soon.
So without further ado, let’s get started with the first book.
Classic Solo Female Travel Books
1: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you’ve only heard of one solo female travel memoir, it’s Eat, Pray, Love.
Now, do you want to know a secret?
I’ve never actually read Eat, Pray, Love.
So that’s definitely the first one on the list for me to read during lockdown.
Now for those of you who don’t know quite what Eat, Pray, Love is about, here’s a quick synopsis:
At 34 years old, Elizabet Gilbert had everything you’re supposed to want–a husband, a nice house, and a successful career. But she wasn’t feeling happy, so she got a divorce and spent the next year traveling the world, discovering herself through eating in Italy (Eat), finding spirituality in India (Pray), and discovering a balance between the two and falling in love in Bali (Love).
Eat, Pray, Love remained on the New York Times bestseller’s list for 187 weeks after it was released and was also made into a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts. It’s an absolutely classic travel memoir.
2: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
I picked up my copy of Wild from a hostel bookshelf in Mexico while I was traveling solo around the Yucatan Peninsula, and it couldn’t have come to me at a better time.
This story of ultimate perseverance is so freaking inspiring, and it’s definitely a book that every solo female traveler needs to read.
Wild describes the life-changing journey of finding herself on her 1,100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother’s death and her own divorce.
This book captures the fear and exhilaration of traveling alone perfectly and tells the stories of all of the crazy and amazing people she meets along the way as well.
It truly is a must-read.
Funny Solo Female Travel Books
Alright, so now that we’ve covered the two heavy-hitters, let’s try a few travel memoirs that are a bit more funny–while also still being pretty freaking inspiring.
3: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kirstin Newman
If you’re looking for a more light-hearted approach to the solo female travel memoir, which still has a bit of self-reflection, then you can’t really go wrong with this What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding.
While Kristin Newman’s friends were spending their twenties and thirties settling down, falling in love, and having babies, she would travel the world during series breaks from her job as a sitcom writer.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding tells the story of how Kristin fell in love with the world–and some pretty attractive men she met along the way.
Meet the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped Kristin transform into “Kristin-Adjacent” on the road–that person we all wish we could be in real life.
I just finished up this book a few days ago and I honestly almost cried at the end.
4: How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker by Lauren Juliff
If you’re looking for a relatable narrator for your next travel memoir read (because let’s be real, not all of us have fun jobs like being a sitcom writer), then you’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy of How Not to Travel the World.
Unlike some of our other intrepid narrators, Lauren suffered from debilitating anxiety, was battling an eating disorder, and had never eaten rice or been on a bus when she decided to quit her job, sell everything she owned, and travel the world alone. Like all of our other intrepid narrators, she had just had her heart broken.
Also unlike our other intrepid narrators, Lauren’s travels were full of bad luck and near-death experiences: being scammed and assaulted, losing teeth, swallowing a cockroach, having the breaks of her motorbike fail… you name it. But thankfully, like our other intrepid narrators, she also gets a happy ending.
5: Strangers Have the Best Candy: How talking to strangers leads to a life of crazy adventure and lasting friendship by Margaret Meps Schulte
If you’re afraid of talking to strangers when you travel alone, then you might need to take a page out of Margaret Meps Schulte’s book: Strangers Have the Best Candy.
Why? Well, research proves that talking to strangers is good for you, and Margaret’s travel philosophy really takes that to heart.
For stories of conversations and adventures with strangers around the world that will leave you laughing, crying, and ready to strike up a conversation with a stranger the second you can, you need to read this book.
Meet people like:
- Carrie, the topless runner who popped out of the woods at Crater Lake with a bag of flour
- Tim, the globe-trotting pig farmer with the fake nose in his duffel bag
- Harley and Annabelle, the not-so-mediocre music makers and stars of Route 66
- Captain Craig, the Scourge of Lake Union and Environs and Whatever Else Needs Scourging
- Chicken Pox Man (but you’ll wish you hadn’t)
So yeah, definitely a must-read.
6: Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men by Audrey Murray
If you’re the type of solo traveler who likes to get off-the-beaten-track, or if you’ve ever experienced an almost unexplainable obsession, then you’re going to love Open Mic Night in Moscow.
This book is the story of young, Russia-obsessed Audrey Murray, who sets off on a solo tour of the former Soviet Republics.
A blend of memoir and offbeat travel guide, this thoughtful, hilarious catalog of a young comedian’s adventures is also a diary of her emotional discoveries about home, love, patriotism, loneliness, and independence.
Be transported to Kazakstan, where all strangers want to do is help you, and visit Chernobyl by way of an insane-asylum-themed bar in Kiev.
I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of Open Mic Night in Moscow and it is so fun and inspiring at the same time. I’m loving falling asleep to it every night!
Ok, next up on the list? Solo female travel books that cover some pretty amazing feats. If you’re a fan of Wild, then you’re probably going to love all of these books.
7: Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson
When Robyn Davidson was 26 years old, she decided to walk 1,700 miles across the hostile Australian desert to the sea. She only had four camels and a dog for company, and throughout her journey she endures sweltering heat and fends off both poisonous snakes and lecherous men.
Tracks is a story of an extraordinarily courageous woman who is absolutely in love with Australia and its people, and how her journey transformed her life.
8: Four Corners: A Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak
I started reading Four Corners a few days ago and let me tell you this: it honestly might be my new favorite book of all time.
At the age of twenty four, Kira Salak decided that she was going to take a solo trip across the entirety of Papua New Guinea. And it turned out, she was the first woman to have traversed the whole country.
In a country known for how dangerous it is, she sees breathtaking wildlife and landscapes, meets a tribe who still practices cannibalism behind missionaries’ backs, and traverses the country by dugout canoe.
The Amazon synopsis of the book says it reads more like a thriller than a travel memoir, which is absolutely true. But I would also argue that it is an incredibly well-written travel memoir. Seriously, the way that Kira writes is so beautiful.
The other thing I’m really loving about this book so far is that it really just isn’t your typical travel memoir. The narrator talks less about her personal journey and more about the destinations themselves and paints really detailed pictures that transport you right into the heart of the–sometimes frightening–actions.
9: Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran by Lois Price
If you’ve ever been fed up with media treatment of the Middle East, then Revolutionary Ride is definitely the book for you.
When travel writer Lois Pryce finds a note left on her motorcycle outside the Iranian Embassy in London saying that they wished she could see for herself the real Iran and it’s people, she decided to ignore the official warnings about travel and sets off on a 3,000 mile solo journey across the country.
Along the way, she meets a host of normal people living normal lives, and she tells their stories in this book.
Old-Timey Solo Female Travel Books
Alright, is anyone else a fan of badass women from the olden times? ‘Cause I sure am. And while I was doing the research for this episode I stumbled on a few different old-timey solo female travel memoirs, and I’m now obsessed. I seriously can’t wait to dig into the stories of these amazing women from the past!
10: The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark
First up on this list of old-timey solo female travel books is The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark. First published in 1934, the book chronicles Freya’s travels into Luristan–located between Iraq and present-day Iran.
She writes about the nomadic people who inhabit the mountainous regions’ valleys and tells the stories of the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East. The Amazon synopsis says:
Here’s what the Amazon synopsis says that:
Her account is at once a highly readable travel narrative and a richly drawn, sympathetic portrait of a people told from their own compelling point of view.
…and I absolutely believe it. I can’t wait to give this one a read!
11: The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
If you’re looking for the old-timey, 10 times more crazy version of What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, you’ll find it in The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhard. Isabelle Eberhard was born in 1877, the illegitimate daughter of an aristocratic Russian immigrant. She was a “cross-dress and sensualist, an experienced drug-taker and a transgressor of boundaries”.
Reinventing herself as a man, she wandered the Sahara on horseback and had quite a few sexual adventures before her mysterious death: drowning in the desert at only age 27.
Her diaries tell the story of her absolutely riveting life.
12: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
And finally, for a classic travel memoir with a feminist twist, pick up a copy of West With the Night by Beryl Markham.
Beryl Markham lived a life worth writing about, and she wrote about it in her memoir. After being born in England, she and her father moved to Kenya, where she grew up with “a zebra for a pet; horses for friends; baboons, lions, and gazelles for neighbors”,
She was the first person to fly non-stop from Europe to America and the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic.
So if you want to read all about her absolutely amazing life, then you’ll want to give this book a read.
If you’re looking for a compilation of short stories from solo female travelers, then here are a few different options.
13: A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerik, and Christina Henry de Tassan
For stories of the adventures that can be had when you don’t have anyone dragging behind you, you won’t be disappointed by A Woman Alone.
Meet Marybeth Bond, who decided to follow an ancient Indian trading route by riding a camel, and Faith Adiele, a black Buddhist nun who enters a deserted train station at 3:00 am in a Thai village controlled by bandits.
Read the stories of many different amazing women who tell their “funny, thrilling, occasionally terrifying, ultimately transformative stories of navigating some of the most unusual destinations on the globe.”
They’ll probably all be your new heroes.
14: Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure by Nastasia Yakoub
If you’re looking for escapism at its absolute finest, then you need to get your hands on a copy of the new Dame Traveler book. It’s a compilation of photos following the same theme as the solo female travel Instagram by the same name and features 200 striking photos accompanied by empowering messages and practical tips for solo travelers.
I ordered a physical copy of this book because that’s definitely the best way to enjoy it, and let me tell you this: it is absolutely stunning. I am so excited to dive into the stories and leave it on my coffee table for years to come.
15: She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub
If you’re an avid hiker and outdoorswoman, then She Explores will be the compilation book for you. Read amazing stories of female bravery and courage while also looking at some absolutely breathtaking photography.
The book features 40 diverse women who write about their unforgettable journeys in nature: living out of vans, trucks, and vintage trailers, hiking in the wild, biking through the countryside, or backpacking through the outdoors with their young children in tow.
You’ll also get plenty of practical tips along the way!
Solo Female Travel Guidebooks
Finally, once you’ve read a few different solo female travel books and are fully inspired, you’ll probably want a little bit of guidance on how the heck to take a solo trip of your own. Besides this podcast, here are a few great guidebooks!
16: The Solo Female Travel Book: Tips and Inspiration for Women Who Want to See the World on Their Own Terms by Jen Ruiz
For a no-nonsense guide to traveling the world on your own, then you can’t go wrong with Jen Ruiz’s aptly-named Solo Female Travel Book.
It includes funny stories–like her dating mishaps– as well as tips and inspiration to help you see the world safely and confidently. You’ll learn how to plan your first solo trip, take stunning photos of yourself, make friends abroad, and more.
As she says: “Don’t let fear hold you back. You don’t need to have a travel partner to have amazing adventures. There is power in flying solo, and it’s time for you to start discovering it.”
17: Travel for STOICs: Empowering the Solo Traveler Who is Obsessive, Introverted, and Compulsive by Eva Rome
Alright, now if you’re like me and traveling without a plan to a place you’ve never been sounds absolutely bonkers, then you’re probably going to love Travel for STOICs aka “THE travel book for the Solo Traveler who is Obsessive, Introverted, and Compulsive”
The guide bills itself as a different kind of travel book and survival guide all about how to master solo travel challenges while “successfully managing your O-C, introverted self.”
Following the advice of Eva Rome, you’ll finally be empowered to experience the world with confidence and calm!
And there you have it: 17 solo female travel books. Hopefully you’ll be able to find at least one book in this list that you’re dying to read, but I’m more than willing to bet there will be quite a few that light your fire to start solo traveling as soon as you can.