Skip to Content

4 Ways That Books Inspire Travel

Kings English Utah Bookstore

Reading and traveling are symbiotic activities. Books inspire travel and travel encourages reading. In my world, they live in intimate association with one another and by doing both, they add up to something larger than doing either as an individual act. I’m not talking about the practicality of reading a guidebook for the purpose of figuring out what to do/eat/see on a trip– although that is valuable. I’m talking about how reading can invoke such an acute sense of place that it will inspire a trip. How a well researched book gives you the cultural history of a place. How a sympathetic character will trigger inspiration when you discover that you and the character are on a similar path. And how having traveled somewhere will give you that special insider knowledge that is later rewarded when reading about that place.

Reading Gives You a Strong Sense of a Place

A recent Book Riot piece argued against reading fiction in advance of visiting a new locale. Rather, it advised you to visit with an open mind and form your own impressions.

I get the point, but respectfully disagree. Great fiction can be a form of research prior to visiting a new place. It can give you sense of the geography, culture and history which will inform your own visit. My advance reading for Lisbon included The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon.  As I walked Lisbon’s narrow, medieval streets, I couldn’t help but think about the novel’s story regarding the disastrous effect of King Manuel’s forced conversion of Jews in the early 1500’s.

After reading The Gods of Tango, I had an appreciation for the hard-working Italian immigrants of Buenos Aires’ slums and learned a great deal about their involvement in the evolution of the Tango. Had I not read those books in advance of my travels, my experience would have been the poorer for it.


 Books Can Inspire You to Travel to a New Place

Another symbiotic action occurs when a book creates such a clear sense of place, that it gives you an urgency to visit. One example of this is Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. I was sorta interested in Argentina prior to reading the book. But Chatwin’s quixotic wanderings in search of Butch Cassidy and the gruff cast of characters that he encounters made me want to go there immediately. And so, Argentina shot up to the top of my bucket list and culminated with a visit last fall.


 Finding Yourself in the Shoes of a Character

In 2014, I set out to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. As a primer for the walk, I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Poor Harold. His unexpressed grief sent him on an unlikely 600 mile quest to visit an old flame. The motivations driving my pilgrimage were different than Harold’s, but like him, I stuck to my commitment for the long walk and didn’t let distractions or discomforts derail me from my goal. If you are interested in the Camino, check out this list of 31 great reads


Read More: There’s also a lot of great hiking in England, like Hadrian’s Wall and the Jurassic Coast.

 Affirming Your Love for a Place Already Visited

Sometimes a book can bring a wistful remembrance by calling to mind a place that you have already visited and loved. I found myself smiling while reading Mark Twain’s Roughing It. I identified with his misadventures on the shores of Lake Tahoe. His half-hearted, careless attempt to stake out a timber claim resulted in setting a patch of the El Dorado forest on fire, dashing his dreams of timber riches. My own inattention to fire ashes nearly caused me to set the same forest on fire. Fortunately the hot ashes didn’t catch and my patch of forest is still intact. But my kinship to Twain grew when I realized that we were both, at times, distracted dunces.

If you are keen to visit, here is a guide to Tahoe for non-skiers, the scenic drive around Tahoe and a brewery guide

Whither Thou Goest, America in Thy, Shiny Car in the Night
…Jack Kerouac “On the Road”

Reading that great book will motivate you to go, inform your visit, inspire you to soldier on or recall fond memories. It will add value to your travels in a way that Rick Steves and Fodors cannot.  So pick a place and pick up a book. Or pick up a book, then pick a place. Either way, get going and have a great a trip.

Related Posts

Share this post with your book nerd friends and Pin It!

Reading and traveling are symbiotic activities. Books inspire travel which encourages reading. Explore these 4 ways to get the better of both.

Get regular updates from Wayfaring Views by subscribing to the newsletter

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links)


Wednesday 24th of April 2019

i love to read travel books in my free time.your article is just amazing.


Tuesday 22nd of May 2018

Hey Buddy,

I also love to travel and reading such a amazing article like this its really amazing.

Regards: Atul


Tuesday 22nd of May 2018

This is a very nice article....


Saturday 15th of April 2017

Hey Carol,

I love reading books, these are the knowledge treasuries....Totally agreed that it gives inspiration and +ve feeling for the person visiting any place....

The way you added the information and explained it, really awesome...

Keep posting such good information...

Carol Guttery

Saturday 15th of April 2017

Thank you John. I will


Saturday 18th of March 2017

hey , Agree with you , I always read about the place that I plan to visit. And II actually visit the place i feel i have already visited it . Thanks for sharing such a nice post !! Ashley

Carol Guttery

Saturday 18th of March 2017

Thanks. It adds so much to my experience when I have done that

Comments are closed.