10 Books that inspired our travels

This post is a collection of submissions of books that have inspired our Couchsurfing Ambassador’s travels. Posts have been edited for length and clarity.

Matteo Provendola/shutterstock

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.


A friend gave me this when I was living in Toulouse, the pink city, where I saw many beautiful sunsets. The connection between the rose and the sunsets in the book was very significant to me in my last few months in Toulouse. (submitted by Carlos)

The N°1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Published by Penguin Random House (image via goodreads)

Precious Ramotswe has only just set up shop as Botswana’s No.1 (and only) lady detective when she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.


It’s written in a simple but effective way that insidiously teaches readers a lot about how things are done in the country the book is set in, Botswana. It matches the CS philosophy in the way that it doesn’t tell you about the touristic stuff, doesn’t bother with statistics, it just interests you in how people live and how they behave. (submitted by Emily)

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Olga Khrustaleva/shutterstock

In April, 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.


Both the book & the movie! It was a crossroad in my life! (submitted by Baderkhan)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Published by HarperCollins (image via goodreads)

Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.


There is a short chapter saying something like, ‘if you do not do things you enjoy and like most, why do you live?’ So I enjoy traveling and this sentence encouraged me to travel more and get more pleasure from it. (submitted by Dato)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari 


In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?


I love it because it shows us that we all are the same, we are equal, racism and fascism and all those dirty low standards shouldn’t exist because we are one. (submitted by Mohd)

How to Travel the World on 50 Dollars a Day by Matt Kepnes

Published by TarcherPerigee (image via goodreads)

No money? No problem. You can start packing your bags for that trip you’ve been dreaming a lifetime about. For more than half a decade, Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt) has been showing readers of his enormously popular travel blog that traveling isn’t expensive and that it’s affordable to all. He proves that as long as you think out of the box and travel like locals, your trip doesn’t have to break your bank, nor do you need to give up luxury.


It was this book that taught me about Couchsurfing. I wanted to find a way that would be affordable and give me the opportunity to live my dreams of world travel.   I was also looking for “my tribe” of travelers. I have found that in CS, and this has become my family. (submitted by Jason)

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Published by Pocket Books (image via goodreads)

World-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization — the Illuminati. In a desperate race to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and deserted cathedrals, and into the depths of the most secretive vault on earth…the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.

Goodreads via Angels & Demons backcover

I was in Rome when I read this so I had the chance to follow the route of the characters and visit the places from the book. It was a completely different impression and experience of the famous sights. (submitted by Kateryna)

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

BW Press/shutterstock

First published in French as a serial in 1909, The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine’s childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous ‘ghost’ of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster.


The Phantom of the Opera made me go crazy over Garnier Opera House (Palais Garnier), the catacombs and just Paris in general! (Submitted by Maria)

Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff 

Published by Inner Traditions (image via goodreads)

Deep in the mountainous jungle of Malaysia the aboriginal Sng’oi exist on the edge of extinction, though their way of living may ultimately be the kind of existence that will allow us all to survive. The Sng’oi–pre-industrial, pre-agricultural, semi-nomadic–live without cars or cell phones, without clocks or schedules in a lush green place where worry and hurry, competition and suspicion are not known. Yet these indigenous people–as do many other aboriginal groups–possess an acute and uncanny sense of the energies, emotions, and intentions of their place and the living beings who populate it, and trustingly follow this intuition, using it to make decisions about their actions each day.


This short and simple autobiographical book is the amazing story of how through contact with native Malay and Sng’oi people the author discovered “heart consciousness” within himself, an awareness of profound empathy and connection with those he meets. It’s a beautiful journey about simply being human. A quick yet profound read I cannot recommend highly enough. (submitted by Nathan)

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

Published by Picador (image via goodreads)

Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore—a far cry from the brilliant academic career Tom had begun when Nathan saw him last. Tom’s boss is the colorful and charismatic Harry Brightman—a.k.a. Harry Dunkel—once the owner of a Chicago art gallery, whom fate has also brought to the “ancient kingdom of Brooklyn, New York.” Through Tom and Harry, Nathan’s world gradually broadens to include a new circle of acquaintances. He soon finds himself drawn into a scam involving a forged page of The Scarlet Letter, and begins to undertake his own literary venture, The Book of Human Folly, an account of “every blunder, every pratfall, every embarrassment, every idiocy, every foible, and every inane act I have committed during my long and checkered career as a man.”


I am a very visual person and always play a movie in my head when I am reading a book. So when I read a book where the author describes a city (especially if I have visited it) I instantly want to go there, see it again or discover new parts. “The Brooklyn Follies” was one such book. (submitted by Niko)

Are there any books that have inspired your travels? Comment below!

2 thoughts on “10 Books that inspired our travels

  1. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
    Le Mahâbhârata – Jean-Claude Carrière
    The night of time – René Barjavel
    Eon – Greg Bear
    Hyperion – Dan Simmons

  2. I’ve read 4 of the books mentioned in the list. But the two books that have always been my travel inspiration are Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Dharma Bums.

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