Let these books about solo travel inspire you to travel alone with confidence
Solo travel can be transformative.
The empowerment you achieve by stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning more about yourself and your abilities is second to none. You have total freedom to do what you want when you want, and plenty of opportunities to meet fun and interesting new people.
Studies of attitudes to travelling alone suggest that solo travel safety, higher costs and feeling lonely when travelling are key anxieties around solo travel. This is particularly true for would-be female solo travellers.
Reading inspirational tales of those who have travelled alone can help to give you the confidence to take your first solo trip. Not only can you see where other people have travelled and how they did it, but you will also be entertained and inspired.
Here is a selection of my hand-picked selection of books to inspire your solo travel wanderlust.
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Books by Pioneers of Female Solo Travel
Solo travel, and female solo travel in particular, is not a new thing. I take inspiration from this quartet of great women who travelled alone in times when this was against the social norm, and to places that would be considered challenging today.
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
By Dervla Murphy
Dervla Murphy (1931 – 2022) is one of the greats of solo female travel writing and a personal inspiration.
The Irish touring cyclist wrote 26 books over more than 50 years. Full Tilt recounts her first long-distance bicycle tour from Ireland to India across The Himalayas.
Murphy was still travelling and writing in her 70s, an inspiration to all mature solo travellers amongst us.
The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels
By Freya Stark
Freya Stark (1893 – 1993) set the mould for intrepid solo travellers. Focusing on the Middle East and Afghanistan, she ventured to destinations that many would be reluctant to explore today, let alone in the 1930s.
The Valleys of the Assassins, her first publication, is an absorbing account of her treks into the wilderness of Luristan, the mountainous terrain nestled between Iraq and present-day Iran.
My Journey to Lhasa
By Alexandra David-Néel
In 1924 the Belgian-French explorer Alexandra David-Néel (1868 – 1969) became the first western woman to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, using a disguise of yak hair extensions.
My Journey to Lhasa, the fifth in her series of Asian travels, powerfully chronicles her travels in Tibet, which culminated with an audience with the Dalai Lama.
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
By Isabella Lucy Bird
A pioneer of solo female travel, Isabella Lucy Bird (1831 – 1904 was a Victorian adventurer was the first woman to be elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Written in the form of letters to her sister, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan describes her journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido in 1878 at the age of 47.
During these early years of the Meji Restoration, Japan was largely closed to Westerners and her work paints a picture of Japanese houses, clothing and customs for those not able to experience these first-hand.
Contemporary Books About Solo Travel
This next collection of solo travel books are written by contemporary women. Whilst some of their publications may be familiar to you, courtesy of the silver screen, it’s worth diving into their books to hear their own words.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
There can’t be many female solo travellers who haven’t heard of this hugely popular 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert.
Eat, Pray, Love chronicles a woman’s search for pleasure, devotion and balance after a bitter divorce and turbulent love affair. Her quest takes her to Italy, where she learns Italian and gains 25 pounds. An ashram in India is the setting for her enlightenment and happiness is finally hers in Indonesia.
This book was made into a successful movie in 2010, starring Julia Roberts.
Radio Shangri-La: My Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth
By Lisa Napoli
As a solo travel book, Radio Shangri-La is nowhere near as well-known as Eat Pray Love. But that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored.
Dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist, Lisa Napoli exchanged fast-paced Los Angeles for the tiny, happy kingdom of Bhutan. This memoir describes how she built a new life in Bhutan, helping to establish Bhutan’s first youth-oriented radio station, and finding purpose in unexpected places.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
By Cheryl Strayed
In the wake of her mother’s death and the break-up of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a stretch of wilderness rolling from Mexico to Canada This 2012 memoir, subsequently adapted for the big screen with Reese Witherspoon taking the lead role, describes her experiences on this 1,100-mile hike.
Wild powerfully captures the challenges and joy of a woman’s journey against the odds and is sprinkled liberally with warmth and humour. An excellent book to take on your travels if you feel that you are facing insurmountable challenges.
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
By Frances Mayes
Tuscany is one of my favourite regions of Italy, from its magnificent Renaissance cities to the Tuscan villages that appear to be frozen in time.
Under the Tuscan Sun is not only one of my favourite books about solo travel but is also one of the best movies about Italy.
Frances Mayes escapes to Tuscany when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. Falling in love with Cortona, she buys a dilapidated villa on a whim and starts to restore the villa and her life.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir
By Kristin Newman
At a time when she is surrounded by those who are settling down and sprogging up, Kristin Newman decided to explore the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. The author’s background as a sitcom writer is evident in this book which is equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling and wanderlust inspiration.
A rallying cry for reluctant female solo travellers everywhere
How NOT to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker
By Lauren Juliff
Don’t believe those who try to sugarcoat it.
Solo travel isn’t always an easy ride. As with any type of travelling, there are multiple opportunities for things to go pear-shaped, and if you are travelling alone, you have no one to rely upon but yourself.
But, as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and this is certainly the case in Lauren Juliff’s 2015 memoir.
How NOT to Travel the World demonstrates how one scared woman’s desire to travel overpowered her debilitating anxiety and lack of life experience.
A human as opposed to a superhuman account of travel.
Solo Female Travel Anthologies
If you are searching for solo travel inspiration but want to hear a number of different voices, why not dip into an anthology of stories?
A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring True Tales from Solo Women Travellers
By Gemma Thompson
Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo
By Faith Conlon
In this collection of beautifully crafted essays, 23 women recount the excitement of travelling solo. Their adventures span the globe, from the jungles to the dance floors of Buenos Aires.
Solo Travel Guide Books
But perhaps you are not seeking inspiration from others’ exploits but want a book about travelling alone that is packed with practical tips? A “Solo Travel for Dummies” in effect.
These final few books might fit the bill.
The Solo Travel Handbook: practical tips and inspiration for a safe, fun and fearless trip (Lonely Planet, 2018)
The 2nd edition of the Solo Travel Handbook from the Lonely Planet stable is packed with tips and advice to give you the confidence and knowledge to explore the world on your own.
This guide includes the following topics:
- Confronting and overcoming any travel worries
- Deciding where to go and plan your itinerary
- Setting a budget
- Finding deals on flights and accommodation
- Choosing the right luggage and packing tips
- Meeting fellow travellers and befriend locals
- Staying safe, happy and healthy
Wanderlust – How to Travel Solo: Holiday tips for independent adventurers
By Lynn Hughes (Author)
In a similar vein, this solo travel guide book written by Wanderlust magazine’s team of writers is packed with tips to give the confidence to strike out on your own.
The Solo Female Travel Book: Tips and Inspiration for Women Who Want to See the World on Their Own Terms
By Jen Ruiz
The final guidebook to travelling alone is a bit of a hybrid and is a publication aimed squarely at female solo travellers.
Part-guide, part-memoir, the author combines funny stories and tips to inspire women to see the world safely and confidently.
The book’s topics include tips on how to do the following:
- Prepare for your first solo trip
- Choose the right destination
- Plan the perfect itinerary
- Take photographs by yourself
- Pack light and bring all the essentials
- Make friends abroad and combat loneliness
And that’s a wrap. I hope that one or more of these books about solo travel will inspire you to travel alone for the first time or provide comfort and guidance while you are on the road.
I’ll sign off with one of my favourite inspirational solo travel quotes: