The best memoirs about the healing power of travel

Stefanie Wilson Author Of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story
By Stefanie Wilson

Who am I?

I love travelogues and wrote a dual POV travel memoir with my husband. Travel writing allows us to see the world through others’ eyes, and my favorites are by those who used travel as a way to escape or heal. I’m more invested when I know this person not just wants, but needs this journey. I understand this feeling. I empathize with them, I root for them, and I am happy for them when they reach their destination. I adore Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, and want to recommend five other memoirs that have stayed with me as examples of brave people who left home behind in search of something better.


I wrote...

The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

By Stefanie Wilson, James Wilson,

Book cover of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

What is my book about?

Part travel, part romance, part failing at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Stef left America to study abroad in Spain, letting loose and falling for a handsome local and travel. Travel won out. Fueled by debt and a deteriorating relationship with his father, James fled to Australia and found a better life. When Stef and James eventually meet at an Irish pub in Sydney, they ditch the single life to forge a path together. Spanning thirteen countries and four continents, The Backpack Years is a story about how far we’re willing to go to be with the one we love.

The books I picked & why

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Driving Miss Norma: An Inspirational Story about What Really Matters at the End of Life

By Tim Bauerschmidt, Ramie Liddle,

Book cover of Driving Miss Norma: An Inspirational Story about What Really Matters at the End of Life

Why this book?

Recently widowed and diagnosed with cancer, Norma the nonagenarian skipped the chemo and hit the road with her son and daughter-in-law, who penned this account of taking Norma across the USA in an RV. 

Formerly seen as a quiet wife and mother, her travels restored the adventurous, fearless woman she had been in her younger days. She reminded me that loss and fear can be part of your life, but don’t have to define it. That life is about more moments, not more minutes. And that it is never too late to have an adventure. Miss Norma is not just an inspiration for who I want to be when I’m 90, Miss Norma is an inspiration for who I want to be right now.


Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

By Suleika Jaouad,

Book cover of Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

Why this book?

At age 22, Suleika’s life was turned upside-down by a leukemia diagnosis. She’s thrown into a strange new world, fighting a disease that destroyed many aspects of her life, not just her health.

Once recovered, Suleika struggled to regain a sense of normalcy and set out on a cross-country trip. After being dependent on people, she learned to be on her own. After constant fear, she challenged herself to be fearless. And after years of being simply a cancer patient, she set out to discover herself again. I’ve found this is the beauty of travel. It’s not only about what you see and do. The real journey is about being brave, being independent, and finding out who you truly are.


Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.

By Jeremy Mercer,

Book cover of Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.

Why this book?

Jeremy had a career as a crime reporter that had recently turned from exciting to dangerous. He flew to Paris with little money and nowhere to go. Serendipity led him to Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore along the Seine with a perfect view of Notre Dame. 

The owner, George, allowed authors to reside for free at the store, resulting in a continuous rotation of vagabonds searching for purpose, inspiration, or just a bed among the bookshelves. 

I loved meeting this cast of eccentric writers from around the world, finding camaraderie at this literary haven. It reminded me how quickly travelers can bond over a shared experience, and how sometimes a place can be the most interesting and vivid character of them all.


The Crossway

By Guy Stagg,

Book cover of The Crossway

Why this book?

Guy left his demons in England and set out on a pilgrimage. After mental health issues and a year of being afraid to leave his home, Guy re-entered the world by trekking through 10 countries in 10 months, hoping the journey would heal him. He traveled down ancient paths through changing landscapes, and the charity of everyday strangers kept him and his hope alive.

He finally arrived in Jerusalem, and though neither his physical nor emotional journey ended in the climax he’d hoped, he’d gained understanding. I’ve experienced the clarity that can come with putting physical distance between you and your issues, and though they say not to run away from your problems, sometimes a really long walk can actually help.


Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

By Rita Golden Gelman,

Book cover of Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

Why this book?

Rita knew her marriage was struggling, but was shocked and hurt when her husband asked for a two-month break to see other people. But she agreed, and saw as many people as she could. She saw shoppers bustling through outdoor markets, past vendors hawking tropical fruits and mountains of spices. She saw children playing in hillside villages. She saw kindred spirits, traveling with no plan other than to experience the world.

Rita became a nomad with few possessions, but countless experiences. As I read Rita’s memoir, I found myself nodding in understanding as she described her infinite curiosity, and her fascination with beautiful places, and myriad ways of life. As Rita’s marriage ended, she discovered there’s more than one way to have passion in your life.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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