Last updated on May 23, 2023
It’s easy to share a list of the best travel books out there—although everyone has their favorites, there are a handful of books that always make the list. But inspiring travel stories are a different beast altogether—these stories may come in the form of a book, such as a memoir detailing someone’s time on the road, or may be a journey noted in the history books, but in this digital age many of the best out there are actually in blog form.
When I left to travel the world in 2008 on a yearlong trip, there were just a handful of travelers sharing their inspiring stories via blogs (and later social media). Now there’s a diverse cast of characters of ever race, creed, and abilities who have made travel a priority and have embraced off-the-beaten-path adventures to every corner of the world.
Below are the best travels stories you can look to for inspiration—I included the books that tell a great tale, but also bloggers and historical figures that are notable for something about the way they traveled.
The Best Online Travel Stories
Traveling blogging took off more than 15 years ago, growing from a small, close-knit collective to a sprawling industry. That said, a lot of travel stories just sound the same after a while. I’ve read travel blogs since 2007, when I was planning my round the world trip, and some stories are just a lot more compelling than the rest. The travel community is also a lot more diverse—less WASPy and more inclusive. The travel stories below excel in some way that sets them apart. Either it’s the family’s incredible photography and aspirational adventures, or the voice of a storyteller that keeps you coming back for more.
Roads & Kingdoms
Roads & Kingdom is a captivating website that delivers phenomenal travel storytelling. Not only are the stories fascinating—and impeccably written and edited—but the immersive articles share stunning photography, and thought-provoking narratives. Each story takes readers on a journey around the world, shedding light on diverse cultures, untold stories, and lesser-known destinations. Its unique blend of travel, politics, and culture creates a rich tapestry of exploration that goes beyond typical travel writing, offering a deeper understanding of the places they cover.
The site is run with one simple idea at the core: The more you know, the better you travel. The long-form features and useful information are aimed at armchair and aisle-seat travelers alike. Before his death, Anthony Bourdain was Roads & Kingdoms’ sole investor—head to the “Dispatched by Bourdain” section for the most deeply reported, fascinating travel stories on the site.
Fearless & Far on YouTube
If you prefer your travel inspiration via video, then this adventure travel YouTube channel is the antidote to your wanderlust. It’s a wild ride with Mike Corey, who serves up his travel adventures with a side of danger in many cases—but not all! He has a fascinating “Lost Tribes” series, and showcases a unique side of destinations you won’t find shared in many written travel stories. He’s also just charming and personable and it’s fun to watch his travel story unfold in real time as he wanders the globe.
Erik Gauger of Notes from the Road
There’s a lot to love about Gauger’s travelogue, chief among it that he focuses on storytelling and not travel advice. What you find when you read and follow Notes from the Road is funny, powerful and personal travel stories from all over the world. What a concept! But its rare to find on travel blogs these days, so if you’re keen to follow an ordinary guy’s extraordinary adventures around the world, this is the one to follow. He’s adventurous but not so adventurous that you think, “wow, that’s nuts” and travelers will find humor, warmth, and inspiration from his large collection of travel stories dating back to when his blog started in 1999 (not a typo!).
Jeff Jenkins of Chubby Diaries
Jeff Jenkins, the adventurous soul behind the Chubby Diaries, offers a fun and inspiring travel story that challenges stereotypes and embraces body positivity. He’s a bit of a character, so it makes a fun travel story to follow via his Instagram account. Jeff is now a National Geographic Travel Host, and uses his online platforms to share his remarkable journey as a plus-size traveler, encouraging others to pursue their wanderlust fearlessly and unapologetically.
With his infectious enthusiasm, Jeff breaks down barriers and promotes inclusivity, proving that one’s size should never limit their ability to explore the world. His uplifting presence and empowering message make him a beacon of travel inspiration for travelers of all shapes and sizes—he’s a good reminder that travel is for everyone.
The Bucket List Family
The Bucket List Family—a husband, wife, and their three photogenic children—shares adventurous travel stories on Instagram and YouTube. I’ve followed their travel story for years now, and as an experienced traveler I still love traveling vicariously through their family adventures. They offer stunning photography and heartfelt narratives, and bring followers on a virtual exploration of the world’s most captivating destinations. Beyond showcasing picturesque locations, they emphasize the importance of shared family adventures and creating lasting memories. My young son was born in 2021, so although he’s already visited eight countries with me, I’m still inspired by the placed they take their kids—many of which are on my own bucket list.
The Bucket List Family’s story focuses on experiences over material possessions—but keep in mind they are very wealthy (one-percenters), so they go on some super bougie trips that are aspirational for most. While they certainly weren’t the first family travel storytellers, they do a great job. They encourage travelers to step out of their comfort zones, embrace the unknown, and prioritize quality time together—a message I can get behind. Although they technically have a website, they don’t blog. Their travel story is best followed Instagram and YouTube.
This website was a curation platform that, while it no longer shares new articles, has a treasure trove of absolutely stunning short travel stories—most are readable in about 10-20 minutes. It’s a great sadness that it’s no longer updated with fresh stories, but you can get lost for hours in the archives. The best place to get started is with this travel story, “Weavers of the Sky,” or this one, “Keepers of Ganesh: The Vanishing Art of Mahout.” Or head to the editor’s picks page for a curated list of the best of the archives.
Oneika Raymond from Oneika the Traveller
Oneika Raymond is an Emmy-winning travel storyteller. Her stories are engaging and authentic, and she’s all about promoting inclusivity and breaking down misconceptions. Oneika’s posts inspire travelers to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the beauty of different cultures. It’s like getting tips from a friend who’s passionate about travel and believes in the power of exploration to bring people together. While her website now pumps out more generic travel planning content, following her on Facebook is the perfect way to collect the best pieces of her travel story that encourage cultural exploration and adventure—she regularly re-shares her best videos, stories, and photos from her years of travel.
Best Historical Travel Stories
Gertrude Bell, often dubbed as the “Queen of the Desert,” was an extraordinary woman who defied societal norms and embarked on incredible journeys across the Middle East in the early 20th century. A British explorer, archaeologist, and writer, she traversed vast deserts, climbed mountains, and immersed herself in the cultures of the region. Her inspiring travel story lies in her unwavering determination, intelligence, and deep respect for the people and places she encountered.
Bell’s book, A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert, encapsulates her adventurous spirit and offers an intimate glimpse into her experiences, documenting her encounters with tribal leaders, her insights into the region’s history and politics, and her unique perspectives on the challenges faced by women in those times. Her courageous and independent spirit continues to inspire travelers, historians, and feminists alike, making her an icon of female exploration and an incredible travel story even today.
One notable historic traveler adventure that captivates the imagination is the journey of Ibn Battuta, an explorer from the 14th century. Ibn Battuta embarked on a remarkable travel odyssey that spanned over 30 years and covered a distance exceeding 75,000 miles, making him one of history’s greatest adventurers. His extensive travels took him across the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Middle East, India, and even as far as China. Ibn Battuta’s story is inspiring due to his fearlessness, curiosity, and the vastness of his exploration, which allowed him to experience diverse cultures, encounter various civilizations, and encounter numerous challenges along the way.
His travel story provides insights into the medieval world and serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration. Although there are translations of his travelogue available, Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century by Ross E. Dunn is a good option to really immerse in his journey because Dunn provides a lot of historical and societal context that enriches Battuta’s story.
Emily Hahn, a trailblazing adventurer and writer, holds an inspiring travel story that spans the globe and breaks boundaries. Known as the “Mickey Mouse girl” due to her unconventional lifestyle, Hahn fearlessly journeyed to places that were deemed off-limits for women in the early 20th century. From exploring the remote regions of China, where she witnessed political upheavals and became an unofficial concubine, to her daring escapades in the African wilderness and beyond, Hahn’s travels were marked by her independent spirit and relentless curiosity.
Her travel story, No Hurry to Get Home: The Memoir of the New Yorker Writer Whose Unconventional Life and Adventures Spanned the Twentieth Century, is a captivating memoir that showcases her extraordinary life and captures the essence of her adventurous spirit. Emily Hahn’s audacious exploration and refusal to conform to societal norms make her an inspiring figure, leaving a lasting legacy for women in travel and writing.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
There’s just something magical about the travel stories of the great explorers from history. With the world so connected, these kinds of harrowing travel journeys are more rare (thankfully!). Shackleton’s extraordinary expedition to Antarctica in the early 20th century is renowned for its remarkable story of survival and endurance. In 1914, Shackleton and his crew set out on the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, aiming to cross the Antarctic continent. However, their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice, eventually sinking. Shackleton and his crew were stranded on the ice for months before embarking on a perilous journey in lifeboats to reach Elephant Island.
Despite the immense challenges they faced, Shackleton displayed exceptional leadership, courage, and resourcefulness, ensuring the survival of his entire crew. His story of perseverance and determination in the face of extreme adversity continues to inspire adventurers and explorers to this day. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is a classic adventure travel story and makes for a great read. (And if you love this style of historical adventure travel, I truly loved The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, which I read in just two days.
Maya Angelou, an iconic poet, author, and civil rights activist, embarked on a profound and inspiring travel journey that shaped her worldview and enriched her literary voice. Through her autobiographical work, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Angelou chronicles her time living in Ghana during the 1960s, immersing herself in the vibrant tapestry of African culture and the fight for independence. Her travel story is one of self-discovery, resilience, and profound connection, as she navigates the complexities of identity, racial inequality, and personal growth.
Maya Angelou’s courage to venture into unknown territories, both geographically and emotionally, and her ability to find strength and inspiration amidst adversity, inspires readers around the world. Her travel experiences beautifully illustrate the transformative power of exploration and the importance of embracing diverse cultures and perspectives.
10 Best Travel Stories on A Little Adrift
I’m guilty of sharing a fair bit of travel tips and advice for travelers of all shapes—I have detailed cost of living guides for countries around the world, as well as travel guides to my favorite countries in the world. But deep in my 15 years of archives are travel stories and photography that I remain proud of, even if they’re not search-friendly content that’s likely to appear at the top of Google Search. These are the best travel stories from my years on the road.
- A Journey to Uncover What Sustainable Coffee Really Means: The journey an Akha hill tribe community in rural Northern Thailand is taking toward creating a sustainable business and social enterprise. Filled with beautiful photographs from their community and their journey toward fair-trade sustainability.
- How One Maasai Chief is Using Tourism to Change His Community: An innovative Maasai chief and his community are using tourism funds to help end FGM in Maasai communities and instead educate girls.
- The Case for Using Tourism to Help Destinations Recover: In the wake of Nepal’s devastating earthquake, this piece looks at how tourism shapes rural economies and how it can be a vehicle to help these communities recover after natural disasters.
- A Guest is a Gift from God: One of my favorite memories from Tbilisi, Georgia was sitting under the Mother Georgia statue with group of locals for an evening of song, conversation, and snacks. In short, for the famous Georgian hospitality.
- A Pastel Sunrise Over Wadi Rum: A dawn camel ride as the sun is rising over Jordan’s desert is etched in my memory as the pinks and blues tinted the sand and rocks.
- An Unexpected Afternoon with a Taco Stand Family: A simple question leads to a wonderful afternoon learning about Mexico’s blue corn.
- Peat Fireplaces, Rugged Ireland, & Something Special: Ireland holds such a special place in my heart, the smells of fireplaces mixed with yeasty beer and flowing conversation ebb and flow throughout the island.
- A Child’s Journey Through Chinese New Year: Go on the journey of Chinese New Year festivities in Thailand’s Chinatown told through the eyes of a young child.
- A Secret Spot in Ireland’s Heart: Ireland is an island of mystery as I tap into the cadence and rhythm of the locals speech, lore, and attitudes while hiking through sheep pastures and along coastlines.
- This One’s for Africa: Riding the local transport in East Africa leads to some hilarious encounters that constantly reminded me, “Oh yeah, this is Africa.”
- Finding the Travel Spark in Yangon: After years on the road it’s a single moment in Burma that pinpoints for me why I travel and reignites the wanderlust.
Looking for more inspiration? I’ve curated the best travel books not only in general, but for each region of the world.