Taking a solo trip is one of the most affirming experiences imaginable. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe, horse trekking in outer-Mongolia, or simply taking a me-time beach break on a long weekend, the chance to vacation totally on your own terms is a perfect way to spend your summer.
In spite of this, the thought of alone time in a new place can seem daunting. If you find yourself feeling the nerves before an impending adventure, then what could be better than adding a book to your reading list that will inspire you to break boundaries? From women who packed it all in to go globetrotting to novels set in wanderlust-fueling locations, these summer reads will inspire your intrepid side.
While you may have stumbled across the movie incarnation of this go-to memoir (and who could forget Julia Roberts looks characteristically adorable chowing down on gelato and falling into the arms of the ruggedly handsome Javier Bardem?) it’s still well worth a peek at the somewhat more spiritual print edition. It follows a newly-divorced New York writer as she ditches her city life for four months sampling Italy’s culinary delights, three months at an Indian Ashram, and a final stint in Bali attempting to discover a balance between the different elements of her journey.
Although taking a trip to “find yourself” might be scoffed at by some, Eat, Pray, Love is the perfect antidote for anyone seeking something a little more profound from their travels. For real authenticity, grab a solo spot in an adorable bistro and gorge on Gilbert’s prose along with a piled up plate of the local cuisine.
If historical fiction is more your thing, then you might enjoy this exciting debut by new kid on the block Anbara Salam. Inspired by Salam’s own travels in the Pacific Islands, Things Bright and Beautiful is the story of Bea Hanlon, a missionary’s wife who follows her husband to a remote New Hebrides location. In spite of Bea’s initial reservations she finds herself plunged into island life and finding her freedom as she explores new cultures and battles with her husband’s impending insanity.
A dramatic and sensuous read, the real joy of this novel lies in the lyrical descriptions of island life. Salam summons her heroine’s surroundings in such powerful detail that you can almost feel the tropical heat and smell the papayas. Best read stretched out in the sun enjoying your own exotic trip.
If you’re after something to whip out in the departures lounge, try Emily Hahn’s memoirs of solo travel in the first half of the twentieth century, No Hurry to Get Home. This New York native originally wrote her travelogue as a collection of essays, making the tantalizing chapters easy to dip into throughout your journey. Hahn’s eloquent writing and engaging prose captures a time before you could WhatsApp home, and when women were largely confined to family life. By challenging expectations and sending back word of her adventures, Hahn laid a trail for generations of solo female travelers to follow in her newly-trodden footsteps. Board your flight thinking of the traveling trailblazers that came before us.
Another autobiographical gem on the empowering nature of solo travel, Wild follows author Cheryl Strayed on her hike from the Mojave Desert to Washington following a series of personal and family tragedies. Strayed displays a masterful ability to weave strands of her past life into the story of her journey, creating a powerful and engaging narrative as the travails up the West coast. She covers grief, loss, and drug addiction in between vignettes that find her crafting boots out of duct tape, losing toenails, and encountering a “moose” (it goes without saying that moose are not actually found in the Californian mountains). As well as being an ode to the power of nature, Wild is a tale of self-discovery. Curl up with in a tent, and count your blessings that your campsite has hot running water.
If you’re after a light vacation read to relax, with then this gloriously fluffy novel by Isabelle Broom might just hit the spot. Opening with the serene setting of Lake Como at New Year it follows the parallel stories of two women on very different journeys. We meet Lucy, who is embarking on her first romantic getaway with a new squeeze, and Taggie, who has uprooted her life after trying times to start anew at this glamorous waterfront location. As well as giving you serious travel envy (Broom plunges into descriptions of Italian cuisine with such gusto that I was tempted to book a plane ticket there and then to get my hands on some mozzarella and chianti), The Place We Met dishes up some truly relatable heroines with big goals for adventure. Read while browsing visas and wondering exactly how long you can extend your adventure for.