Our Holiday Reading List

During the cold winter months, cozying up by a fire and diving into an adventure novel filled with twists and turns will make you want to buy a plane ticket asap. Well known travel memoirs like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love have inspired us for decades—like me eating my weight in prosciutto in Italy. These are some of the more under-the-radar tales of taking the leap and reaping the rewards that living life to the fullest can offer.

Having a longtime obsessions with travel memoirs, these are some of my favorite reads. But be warned: you may want to quit your job and head into the great unknown after reading these inspiring memoirs.

1. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding

Author | Kristin Newman

This was the book I never knew I needed. For anyone feeling out of place in the series of societal benchmarks, Newman shows another path filled with rewarding adventure. Some of her stories may hit close to home like “ohmygod I have totally taken all the wrong trains around Paris,” or heed the pros and cons of going home with a Russian bartender. Jump into the fantasyland that Newman carved out for herself a couple weeks every year.

Reviews | “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is kind of like if Eat, Pray, Love were written by your funniest friend—a laugh-out-loud life guide for anyone who needs some help enjoying being single. Or for anyone who already loves being single. Or for anyone who is married. Basically, whoever you are, Newman will make you want to chuck it all and book a trip to Argentina.” – Rachel Dratch

Price | $3.98 (Used)

2. Walking The Nile

Author | Levison Wood

In a feat attempted by many adventures over the centuries, Wood treks the Nile from its trickling beginnings in Rwanda all the way to its fruition at the Mediterranean Sea. A journey not for the faint of heart, camping along the riverside and wading through the mud and mosquitos. Describing life along the river from Uganda to Egypt not frequently mapped in such intricacy, this book makes you feel like you are right there with him. As much as it is a story of the beating heart of the river itself, Wood paints a picture of the locals he meets along the way and those who help him accomplish his nine-month adventure.

Reviews | “Gripping . . . Collecting these stories—let alone doing so beautifully—requires a variety of lucky skills. Wood emerges as a dutiful and brave guide.” – Los Angeles Times

Price | $3.98 (Used)

3. To Shake The Sleeping Self

Author | Jedidiah Jenkins

Written with such care in mind for every passing moment of his ride from the beaches of Oregon to the Tierra del Fuego, Jenkins opens up the world to those seemingly stuck going between points A and B every day. Breath the crisp air of Big Sur and feel the bumpy roads through Mexico in Jenkins’s journey. See through his eyes how, while a little rough around the edges, the world will embrace you with open arms of kindness if you are willing to take the leap.

Reviews | “Jenkins’s words are brutally honest and leave me thinking a little deeper about my own observations when I pass a stranger on a street or see a flower blooming on a rocky trail.” – Outside Magazine

Price | $9.48 (Used)

4. The Stranger In The Woods

Author | Michael Finkel

Sometimes our dream adventure is just to remove ourselves from society and hunker down under a blanket for the winter. While actually a biography rather than a memoir, pieced together from interviews of the last true hermit, Christopher Knight, Finkel pens this story of the man who left everything behind at twenty to live a life of solitude. After not speaking to another person for twenty seven years, Finkel examines Knight’s struggles that come along with reentering society and how choosing to go against society’s norms isn’t always a bad thing.

Reviews | “[Knight’s] story will speak to anyone who has ever walked through the wilderness and considered, even for a moment, whether ever to leave.” – Field & Stream

Price | $4.48 (Used)

5. West With The Night

Author | Beryl Markham

For those looking to step back in time, this is a classic adventure novel about Markham, one of the first women bush pilots in Africa in the 1930s. From descriptions of her youth in East Africa, to becoming the first person to fly across the Atlantic (from East to West) she shares her life of constant adventure. With contemporaries like Ernest Hemingway and Amelia Earheart, Markham gives an enchanted take on her love of Africa and being a woman pilot.

Reviews | “With the skill of someone who has filled long nights with stories, Markham recounts her adventures—discoveries, rescues, and narrow escapes, the glint of an airplane abandoned in the desert, the look of a lion about to pounce. . . . Much more than a pilot’s memoir, West With the Night is a wise, funny, and inspiring exploration of a life well lived.” – The Nation

Price | $3.98 (Used)

6. In The Land Of Invisible Women

Author | Qanta A. Ahmed, MD

British Muslim Doctor Ahmed embarks on a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, navigating a pre- and post-9/11 world and learning the stories of the women along the way. She performs surgeries with the social and political constructs actively affecting her operating table, like women’s faces remaining covered. Exploring the early 00s landscape of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ahmed shares her eye opening observations of daily life.

Reviews | “In the Land of Invisible Women is a must read for everyone. Why? People must find out how Dr. Ahmed dared to cope with radical Islamic fundamentalism. Rather than misery and despair, her story is one of brightness and optimism for Saudi women. But equally vital, it is a tale of expectation, a hope that brave Saudi men, who dare read her story, might have a jolt of conscience over unjustified cowardly feelings they hold toward women.” – Blog Critics

Price | $3.98 (Used)

7. The Box Wine Sailors

Author | Amy McCullough

When the call to leave your job and set sail comes, you take it. McCullough and her husband Jamie’s exploration is unlike that of explorers and adventurers before them—they’re like you’re cool aunt and uncle that let you watch PG-13 movies. This down-to-earth story brings some much needed humility for the everyman dreaming of escaping reality but feeling like it is a pipedream. On the way from Portland towards the Sea of Cortez, anything can happen when hipster millennials hoist the sails.

Reviews | “Highly romantic on every level in a very hip and modern way, this is such a well-written, great adventure and love story! I would recommend it to any two people taking on something that feels too big to handle as proof of what is possible, given the will to try and the determination to succeed. Bravo!” – Tania Aebi, author of Maiden Voyage

Price | $3.98 (Used)

First cozy up to a good read, then get out there and make some stories of your own!


Sarah Spoljaric is a California girl through and through. She has a BA in World History from one of the top 10 greenest campuses in the world; The University of California, Merced and is a Content Curator for the visual travel app Trepic. She has a background in museum curating, loves reading women’s travel journals and is in search of the perfect IPA. She’s passionate about exploring this beautiful world that ethically-produced goods help to protect. Say hi on Instagram!