Destinations Lifestyle

50 Books and movies to fuel your wanderlust

books spread out with signboard at shakespeare and co bookstore

Safe to say, I’m a little addicted to watching movies and reading books. Ha. Understatement of the year.

Okay, I live for watching movies and even tv shows. But mostly movies. Plus, I may not look like it but an avid reader of crime novels. Lately, I’ve been purchasing stuff non-stop over at Book Depository and thought it would be fun to recommend 25 movies and 25 books to you.

They come in the form of witty lines and funny anecdotes which just might make you book the next flight out. What do you say?


#1. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Synopsis: If there’s one book about life and travel that I must absolutely recommend, it’s this. I love this book because of Harold’s simplicity trying to be there for his friend (and in turn becoming an inspiration), trying to deal with his strain of a marriage, and to learn more about the son we don’t get to meet until the end. It’s just so wonderfully written.

#2. Istanbul: Memories and The City by Orhan Pamuk

Synopsis: If you’re looking for a great read about the history and beauty of Istanbul, look no further than this. Orhan Pamuk not only writes about the city and its people but how the entire place shaped his perception of the world.

#3. My Documents by Alejandro Zambra

Synopsis: I’m not a big fan of short stories but I love these ones by Alejandro Zambra simply because they regale the tale of what it means to live in Chile, the life you are to lead, and how politics has shaped your future.

#4. A Handful Honey: Away to the Palm Groves of Morocco and Algeria by Annie Haws

Synopsis: If you’ve dreamt about visiting Africa, specifically the Northern part, this novel talks about solo travel, history and culture, with beautifully described delicacies along the way.

#5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Synopsis: For the women who are lost and want to take back control of their life, I feel this book is for you. I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert since her inspiring TED Talk and reached a point where I can honestly say the book is waaaay better than its film counterpart (sorry Julia Roberts!)

#6. The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag

Synopsis: Talk about Mongolia’s Atlas Mountains and the provinces people live in over this side of the world. And then bring them modern technology…Be amazed, touched, and have a feeling of calmness reading this book and learn how travel can inspire you to be humble between the pages of black and white.

#7. The Twenty One Balloons by William Pene du Bois

Synopsis: I first found this from Huffington Post article on book recommendations, and found it to be pretty similar to the movie: Up. You’ll learn about a professor and his hot air balloon planning to learn more about the world by his constant journey in it.

#8. The Turk Who Loved Apples by Matt Gross

Synopsis: Let’s talk about Matt Gross’ misadventures on the road, his triumphs, and tribulations while learning about the life he wants to keep living.

#9. Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Stories

Synopsis: I own a couple of Lonely Planet books especially ones about travel writing but none of them are as captivating as the story of how husband and wife built a company that every traveller deems a must today. Even more about their adventures in building their name, their stories, and how we helped them.

#10. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Wiener

Synopsis: For long-term travellers, this might resound with you a whole lot. Eric Wiener set off on his year-long journey to find himself and the happiest places in the world. He talks about locals he’s met, adventures, and the culture of the most unlikely cities you’ll know about.

#11. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holy Corbett, and Amanda Pressner

Synopsis: About three women who lived in New York City and wanted more out of life than the fast-paced corporate setting. They save up money and go on a year-long adventure travelling the world, finding more about each other and what their next step will be.

#12. In An Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale by Amitav Ghosh

Synopsis: Understand your own history by walking through a tale of sacrifice and loss of an old Indian slave, 700 years ago. Ghosh is known for his historical analysis on the Middle East and Central Asia, and in this literary piece he does just that.

#13. I Wonder As I Wander by Langston Hughes

Synopsis: The novel is set in the 1930’s where Langston Hughes wistfully recalls both the most depressing yet intimate parts of his life. He writes about travelling, being broke, differences of cultures and beliefs — more than about an American traveller, Hughes describes a world he loves but one that is different we live in today.

#14. Love With A Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Synopsis: I’m not one to usually read romantic novels but this one came recommended by my Mother. It’s a book about the difficulty about long-term travel. I find it surprisingly honest and super real for every traveller out there.

#15. Just One Day by Gayle Foreman

Synopsis: Recommended by a friend of mine, this is for everyone who loves to plan. You’ll meet Allyson, a perceptual planner who meets a free-spirited actor and invites her to go on an adventure after her month’s long European trip. It’s all about self-discovery, growing up, and the art of life.

#16. Deception Point by Dan Brown

Synopsis: This isn’t really about travelling per se. But I love how Dan Brown describes the Artic Circle and makes you think you’re actually there instead of only reading the book. I would personally recommend watching and reading Robert Langdon-related films too.

#17. Running In The Family by Michael Ondaatje

Synopsis: Ondaatje recalls his stories about his hometown in Sri Lanka alongside the trivialities

#18. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Synopsis: Read this if you’re serious about becoming a travel writer because Kerouac details you accounts about his (mis)adventures on understanding life, family, and America.

#19. Born To Run by Christopher McDougall

Synopsis: I admire professional athletes for their perseverance and dedication to their sport. McDougall is no different as he retails his story about a Mexican tribe who ran for a living. Be inspired and fall in love with running to the wide, unknown world.

#20. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Synopsis: If you love witty autobiographies, Mayle will give you a run for your money. He talks about his stay and the people he’s met during the year he lived in a 200-year old farmhouse located in the South of France.

#21. Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore

Synopsis: I love this story especially because Hannah narrates to you the story about how Paris inspired her to leave the newspaper business and her abusive boyfriend to gain back her sense of self in a journey across continents.

#22. Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett

Synopsis: Talk about cultural insight and an eye-opening novel. Barrett writes about a Black Man who suddenly wakes up and becomes white. And what’s more of a tearjerker? He experiences the privileges about a life lived as a white man in this day and age.

#23. Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmin El Rashidi

Synopsis: As with any coming of age story, El Rashidi’s is inspiring. What I personally love about her tale is how she describes the poverty of Egypt, its people, and by the end of it all…You’ll feel like you’re in Cairo yourself.

#24. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Synopsis: Fall in love with how Katherine Boo takes you on a whirlwind of emotions. This book is important if you’re thinking about travelling to India: about its slums, its culture, and how to make sense of it all.

#25. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Synopsis: It’s a classic literary piece for every writer and traveller-alike. If anything, the novel describes Paris the way Hemingway sees it. You’ll be teleported back in time to the 1920’s to a time where revolutions were common as was its people.

blue mountains up ahead and a girl walking solo to them

*image from Pexels


#1. Into The Wild (2007)

Synopsis: Based on a true story, Christopher embarks on a two-year journey at the Alaskan Wilderness instead of going to a profitable job. He sells all his stuff, donates his money to charity, and writes daily about his findings.

#2. Bucket List (2007)

Note: This movie inspired me to create my own

Synopsis: Morgan Freeman plays as a car mechanic who meets a bajillionaire, Jack Nicholson, in the same hospital room. They become friends and both try to travel to different places around the world, completing all they wanted to do with their life.

#3. Last Holiday (2006)

I personally really adore this movie. It’s still one on my usual holiday queue after all this time.

Synopsis: Queen Latifah plays a woman who learns she is terminally ill. In learning she only has 6 months to live, she goes on an adventure in the Swiss Alps with all of her money and lives the life she could only dream of.

#4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Synopsis: Walter Mitty has always lived the ‘ordinary life’ without having gone adventures. When his daydreams finally become a reality, he goes on a wild goose chase in search of the perfect photo for Life Magazine’s last issue.

#5. Angels and Demons (2009) or any Robert Langdon series

As you can tell by one of my book recommendations, I do love me a good thriller. If you’ve read as much novels by Dan Brown as I have, you would know they’re tons better than the movies. But I digress. I’m a big fan of Robert Langdon and I love how I found myself in Rome, Paris, and Florence just thinking about all his crazy historical adventures.

#6. Wild (2014)

Synopsis: Cheryl Strayed played by Reese Witherspoon sets on an adventure to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with no hiking or outdoor experience whatsoever. I love the movie for its simplicity and its beauty all the same.

#7. The Intouchables (2011)

I am so moved and touched by this film. I honestly can’t even.

Synopsis: This is a French movie about a real and honest friendship between a man and his caretaker. They help each other grow and learn more about life, experiences, and seeing the world despite limitations.

#8. The Holiday (2006)

Synopsis: Two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) swap homes for the holidays. One in America and another in Britain, meeting men, adventures, and learning more about life on the other side of the pond.

#9. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Just so you know, I’m pretty in love with any movie that has Rachel McAdams or Owen Wilson in it, and well, Midnight in Paris has both.

Synopsis: If you’d like to see present-day Paris versus one from books, you’ll have a blast watching Owen Wilson discuss philosophies and life with old poets, writers, and artists whom you thought should be dead.

#10. Roman Holiday (1953)

Synopsis: Audrey Hepburn plays Ann, a European princess who sets off to take a ‘night off’ from her busy schedule. She later meets Joe Bradley, a reporter, after falling asleep on a public park bench who she later falls in love with in the film.

#11. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

Synopsis: Frances Mayes, played by Diane Lane, discovers her husband cheated on her with another writer. In an effort to regroup herself, she books a villa in Tuscany and proceeds to tour not only the region but almost all of Italy as well.

#12. Before Sunrise trilogy (1995)

Synopsis: For any die-hard romantic, this trilogy will speak to you in more ways than one. They’re simple movies about a man (Ethan Hawke) and a woman (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and decide to get off together at Vienna. They explore the city and learn more about each other, discussing their lives, philosophies, and anything under the sun. The first movie leaves you off in hopes they’ll get in touch again soon but when the second one arrives, you learn they’ve met again 10 years later in Paris with neither having any contact with the other. The third one is a little more fancy in Greece as they’re both now husband and wife.

#13. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Synopsis: Two Americans (Scarlett Johannson and Rebecca Hall) arrive in Barcelona for their summer around Spain. They both meet a mysterious painters who lures them into sex, wine, and a good time (hey, that rhymes!) where they later find out he’s actually married.

#14. Tracks (2013)

Synopsis: It’s about the journey of a young Australian who walks from Alice Springs to the Australian ocean accompanied by her four camels and a dog.

#15. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Synopsis: Two friends travel by motorcycle from Brazil to Peru. This movie is so amazing and the stories so touching because you get to see first-hand the poverty and problems you’ll encounter in South America. By the time the movie ends, Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal) changes his values about becoming a doctor for the luxurious but rather, to help the less fortunate instead.

#16. Amelie (2001)

Synopsis: Another rendition for a story set in Paris, Amelie is a young French woman in search of her purpose in life and about the people around her. If you need a good tear jerker with beautiful cinematography to inspire you on a journey to Paris or life, this film is honestly for you.

#17. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Synopsis: I’ve wanted to go to India for years since I’ve seen this movie. Maybe it isn’t your typical wanderlust-esque film, but it will definitely open your eyes to many of the world’s realities including what to expect when going to India.

#18. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Synopsis: Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a control freak who is trying to get home to his wife and kids for Thanksgiving because his flight got re-routed to Kansas thanks to a snowstorm. He’s then forced to bunk with the talkative Del Griffith (John Candy) who is annoying yet heartwarming at the same time.

#19. The Beach (2000)

Synopsis: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a young idealist American backpacker who ends up in Thailand in search of this beautiful paradise called ‘The Beach.’ He later learns that the lifestyle drives him nuts.

#20. The Way (2010)

Synopsis: Martin Sheen plays an American Ophthalmologist who travels to Spain after the death of his son in a storm who was walking the Camino de Santiago trail. To pay homage, he finishes the trail reflecting on his life and carries his son’s ashes as he goes along.

#21. Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

Synopsis: Brad Pitt plays an ego-centric Austrian who learns about life, love, and selflessness while on a journey in Tibet.

#22. The Big Year (2011)

Synopsis: It’s an awesome comedy starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson who are all willing to drive cross country in search of birds. I love how this movie is both funny and real while showing you different landscapes all across the United States.

#23. Blended (2013)

Synopsis: Surprisingly, I didn’t know this movie until I stayed at The Palace of the Lost City. It stars comedic duo Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who both don’t like each other and brought their kids to South Africa for some R&R. It’s a funny movie about what can go wrong but at the same time, what can go right when staying at a luxurious hotel.

#24. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Synopsis: Set in the late 1950’s, Matt Damon stars the film as Tom Ripley, a man who is bent on becoming a millionaire himself. Set in gorgeous Italian landscapes, the thriller is all about money, sex, and power in the form of murder. It’s a great go-to plane movie, I swear.

#25. Euro Trip

Synopsis: I know a lot of people don’t like this movie but I can’t help but laugh at all its weird antics. Especially because it’s about four best friends who just graduated from high school set on an adventure of a lifetime before going to different colleges. It begins with Scott who has a pen pal he mistakenly thought was a dude and who he sent a mean email to. In an effort to get back on her good graces (his pen pal is a girl, apparently) he and his best friends cross Western and Eastern Europe with little cash and a whole lot of hope.

how to be parisian wherever you are love style and bad habits held by a girl wearing barret

Over to you:

What books do you read or movies you watch that make you book a plane ticket anywhere?

pinterest pin about a girl reading a book and recommending movies

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  • I’m adding all of these books to my TBR! Eat, Pray, Love and Just One Day are two or my all-time faves (have you read the sequel – Just One Year? It’s just as amazing!). And I love all of those movies! There are only a handful that I haven’t watched yet, so I’m definitely adding them to my list! 😉

  • Obligatory Traveler

    Great pics! I’m always looking form more travel related books and movies. I’ve a few of the books and I added a few to my to read list. Thanks.

  • Good list! I love the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Everything about the plot was perfect and made me want to get off my butt and travel. I would add the Alchemist to the book section. The story is an adventure one that speaks to my heart.

  • Love this! I’ve been inspired by countless surf documentaries to visit Fiji, but haven’t made it yet :S

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