Perhaps you're in need of a good old travel quote or two to get your wanderlust fired up for the next journey. Or, maybe you're looking for a cracking travel novel to inspire that next jaunt around the globe. Check out our list of the top 10 travel writers to get you focused on the globetrotting once again this year…
Paul Theroux cut his travel writing teeth dealing with the iconic Hippy Trail through southern Asia and India, and the snow-doused Trans-Siberian railway, way back in 1975 with his award-winning novel The Great Railway Bazaar. That book has now risen to become a true classic of the genre, and Theroux even retraced his steps for a redux of the work in 2006, to see how the exotic destinations along the way had been transformed. Other works by this great and totemic figure in the travel writing world include The Mosquito Coast (get ready to be plunged into the musty Honduran jungles) and The Pillars of Hercules (prepare to go off-the-beaten-track in Europe, between the rugged coast of Croatia and the highlands of Albania).
Ah, Hemingway: the perennial fav of the beatnik traveller. With his raw prose and minimalist style, this American novelist managed to change the genre of travel writing forever back in the early 20th century. His peregrinations took him from the rolling backcountry of Africa to the war-torn beaches of northern France in the period after WWII. Masterworks that are a must-read by Hemingway include The Sun Also Rises (a tumultuous log of a journey to the running of the bulls in Spain) and Green Hills of Africa (an ode to safaris and adventure travel).
Hunter S Thompson
You'll need to prepare yourself for the whirlwind of wild tales and crazy anecdotes that ooze from every page of a Thompson novel, especially if you've not dipped your toe into the proverbial sea of this totemic beatnik writer's prose before. As far as travel writing goes, Thompson does well to blur the boundary between stream of consciousness novella and traditional travelogue. His most famous work is surely Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but he also authored oodles of articles and photo essays to boot.
Palin might be more famed for his hilarious forays into the weird and wonderful world of dead parrots and fish slapping (he was a founding member of the uber-successful British comedy troupe Monty Python), but he's also a voluminous travel writer. With everything from arduous hiking odysseys over the Himalaya ranges to camel-top jaunts across the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert under his belt, he's produced travelogues about some of the globe's most amazing destinations. Everything's written in his trademark affable and humorous style, which makes Palin's prose eminently accessible and full of human feeling.
Mark Twain's indelibly cerebral and culturally loaded writings have settled in their rightful place in the cannon of American literature. His two most famous works, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, combine the emotional throes of a coming of age tale with a raw and interesting portrait of antebellum society and the Deep South. Twain's writings are considered some of the most illuminating for those interested in the heritage of the United States and American history more generally.
Born in Paris, of Polish descent, with British ancestry and homes in the UK and Italy, there's arguably no better background for a travel writer than that enjoyed by Freya Stark. The great subject of her writings was far from Europe though, out with the sand seas and wild hinterlands of Arabia and Afghanistan. Yep, Stark (who's now widely known for her inspirational travel quotes) produced works like The Coast of Incense and Beyond Euphrates, unraveling destinations that were totally untrodden at the time of publication.
Anyone who's ever read the jovial and joyous prose of Bill Bryson will undoubtedly see him as a travel writer for other travellers; the sort of character you'd love to have on that LBW tour alongside you! Although Bryson's works rarely deal with the exotic, they have a deep nostalgia and illuminating edge that's unique in its balance of humour and description. Some top works to check out are Notes from a Small Island and A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – the first is an immersive journey around the British Isles, while the second is an off-beat trip through America's forgotten hinterland, from the Great Plains to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It's never a surprise to catch a backpacker pouring over a dog-eared copy of On the Road in that hostel common room these days. That novel, which is said to have been written in a single (whiskey-fueled) sitting by Jack Kerouac back in 1957, is now considered something of a bible for the modern traveller. It's credited with kicking the beat generation into overdrive, thanks to its depiction of wild Sal Paradise and his antics of boxcar hopping across the US. Other worthy works are Dharma Bums and The Subterraneans.
Pico Iyer is a travel writer and essayist of many talents. His subjects have been varied and eclectic over the years, ranging from explorations of globalization to pastiches to the modern international airport and the cultural melting pot that represents. Iyer is of mixed English and Indian heritage, which has been the inspiration for many of his works on the 'not so far east'. Be sure to check out Video Night in Kathmandu for his most iconic piece of prose, dealing with destinations from China to Thailand.
While you might associate the name Fleming with a certain 00 agent, it's worth remembering that the older brother of James Bond's creator was a particularly famous travel writer in his time. His adventures took him from the palm-fringed seas of Brazil to the wild reaches of Tatarstan in Central Asia, from the frenetic bazaars of New Delhi to the sprawl of Sao Paulo. Check out works like News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir and Brazilian Adventure for two of his most iconic books.
If you can think of any more travel writers to add to this list, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Or, if we've piqued your wanderlust with our selection, perhaps it's time you checked out LBW's selection of awesome tours around the planet…
We believe that travel is not a reward for working, but the most valuable and impactful form of education for life. We aren’t just a travel company; we were built to introduce you to the rest of the world. LBW Travel is about more than taking vacation time. We connect you with people and offer experiences that will change the way you look at your world. Travel reminds us what is truly important: family, friendship, love, exploration and adventure.
Sign up for newsletter & get travel guides