couple reading book together

Take your imagination on a journey with a good travel book. (Photo: Cavan Images / Cavan)

Culture + Style

17 Books and Podcasts to Sate Your Inner Traveler

In a perfect world, we’d all have the vacation time, freedom and resources to spend six months roaming the ancient Silk Road or snorkeling with whale sharks in the Maldives. The reality for most travelers, however, is that sometimes those bucket-list trips and vacations have to wait for a little bit.

For those moments when you can’t get away just yet, here are some terrific podcasts, novels, memoirs, nonfiction books and cookbooks to satisfy your wanderlust until your next journey.


Women Who Travel

Condé Nast Traveler’s “Women Who Travel” podcast is a boon to all ladies who wander, especially those free spirits who love to fly solo.

In these episodes, Lale Arikoglu and Meredith Carey interview everyone from an award-winning photojournalist to the first female CEO of a major cruise line and the first black woman to visit every country in the world who went on to found her own boutique travel company.

They also offer sharp tips on everything from how to build a realistic budget to how to navigate a long-distance relationship.

Travel with Rick Steves

Even after all these years, Rick Steves is the real deal, a globetrotter who boasts a lot of mileage and an arsenal of useful recommendations. What those who’ve only read his books may not realize is that he’s a highly engaging speaker. Packed with sensible advice for budget-conscious travelers, this podcast will have you dreaming of your next trip.

man listening to podcast on couch
Tune in and travel further. (Photo: Anchiy/E+)

Wild Ideas Worth Living

Even if your own travel plans err on the more conservative side, there’s something great about living vicariously through the over-the-top adventures of others. From a couple who decided to go skiing across the South Pole to a pop singer who walked across the United States, these are stories about those who had a crazy idea and decided to execute it.

The Thoughtful Travel Podcast

Whether they’re discussing whirlwind travel romances, coping with anxiety on the road, or moving to another country for good, the hosts of this podcast cover a wide range of topics with wit and insight. The casual, free-flowing conversation feels like getting together for coffee with a group of nomadic kindred spirits.

Amateur Traveler

With more than 600 episodes and counting, Chris Christensen’s podcast offers thoroughly entertaining deep dives into destinations from Namibia to Pakistan. There’s plenty of practical information about the top tourist attractions, as well as some lesser-known gems in each place, making it an invaluable resource for thinking about future journeys.

So You Want to Work Abroad

If you’ve ever taken a trip to Bali and fantasized about packing up your life and moving there, this podcast hosted by Dylan Thuras, who helped found Atlas Obscura after moving to Budapest on a whim, is for you. In these episodes, Thuras interviews everyone from an American journalist in Paris to an acclaimed Mexican chef in Copenhagen about how they made the leap.

Lets Talk Points, Behind the Design and Checking In

Marriott Bonvoy Traveler introduces listeners to the world of hotel design, loyalty rewards and more through multiple podcasts. The “Let’s Talk Points” podcast features inspiring stories of loyalty members who have exchanged points for unique experiences, while the “Behind the Design” podcast reveals the creative decisions involved in creating some of Marriott’s best hotels. Finally, “Checking In” features compelling conversations with the world’s most interesting travelers.


“Travels with Charley,” John Steinbeck

It may not be his most famous book, but this travel yarn about John Steinbeck’s year-long road trip around the United States with his giant standard poodle in tow is an American classic on par with Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”.

Highly observant, often funny and occasionally pointed or political, this book’s all but guaranteed to make you want to quit your job, build a makeshift cabin in the back of a pickup truck, and hit the road.

“Here in Berlin,” Cristina García

While this Cuban master of magical realism is best-known for novels about her homeland, she does a brilliant job of capturing the soul of Berlin in this novel. After spending time living in and researching the German capital, she writes about a fictionalized foreign author doing the same. Through a series of vignettes, she examines Berlin’s past and present with alarming specificity and a keen outsider’s perspective.

“Less,” Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less, a gay writer in the midst of a career slump and a midlife crisis, sets off around the world to find himself in this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. The places he visits feel more like rough sketches but provide an evocative backdrop for the narrative. In many ways a satire of the clichéd “Eat, Pray, Love”–style journey, it nonetheless gets you to root for its flawed protagonist.

“Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,” Suketu Mehta

A sweeping examination of all layers of this multifaceted city, this Pulitzer Prize finalist whisks readers from Mumbai’s seedy underbelly up to the most glamorous echelons of Bollywood. Suketu Mehta spent three years interviewing everyone from cops and gangsters to city planners and politicians for this gripping piece of nonfiction.

“Buttermilk Graffiti,” Edward Lee

This James Beard Award–winning book by Korean-American chef Edward Lee is a powerful testament to the impact that immigrants have had on the United States. Lee spent two years crisscrossing the country in search of Cambodian food and Nigerian classics in Houston, as well as Middle Eastern dishes in Michigan.

“Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper,” Fuchsia Dunlop

As the first Western person to graduate from the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, Fuchsia Dunlop has spent a lifetime immersed in the gastronomic traditions of China. Acutely observed and engrossing, her memoir is a window into a disappearing side of China.

“A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines,” Anthony Bourdain

The late, great Bourdain had an insatiable curiosity that few could match. Unlike many writers of travelogues, he approaches other cultures with humility and a willingness to learn. His adventures are larger than life, and his descriptions of food will have you itching to book a ticket to Vietnam.

cookbook and ingredients on counter
Take a tour with your tastebuds. (Photo: Hinterhaus Productions /DigitalVision)


“The Food of Northern Thailand,” Austin Bush

Along with Andy Ricker’s “Pok Pok” and David Thompson’s “Thai Street Food,” this book is a must for anyone hoping to master Thai cuisine. Austin Bush, who has lived in Thailand for more than a decade, spent years collecting recipes and stories from home cooks and street food vendors around the region. The result is a captivating written and visual record of a largely oral tradition.

“Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan,” Naomi Duguid

Having already tackled the cuisines of India, Myanmar and China, author Naomi Duguid explores the many incarnations of Persian cuisine in this fascinating tome.

From Iran to the farthest reaches of the former Persian Empire, the recipes and photographs in this James Beard Award–winning book are ideal for armchair adventurers.

“Paladares: Recipes from the Private Restaurants, Home Kitchens, and Streets of Cuba,” Anya von Bremzen and Megan Fawn Schlow

James Beard Award–winning writer Anya von Bremzen has made a career of covering food scenes from Japan to Uzbekistan. In this tome, she explores a side of Cuban culture and cuisine that few international visitors ever get to see.

Recipes for staples like ropa vieja (slow-braised beef) are delicious, but it’s the examinations of changing island life, food shortages and other topics through the eyes of locals that make this a must.

“Classic German Baking,” Luisa Weiss

After spending much of her childhood in Berlin, Luisa Weiss, a successful New York food blogger, decided to move back there for love in 2010. For her first cookbook, she spent months testing handwritten recipes from German grandmothers and tracking down historical records. The quirky anecdotes, gorgeous photographs and descriptions of fragrant Lebkuchen cookies in the oven will transport you straight to the Hauptstadt.