For many book-lovers, literature was our first mode of travel. Our childhood favorites transported us to far-off realms, from Neverland to Treasure Island, and introduced us to the real-life places that inspired book settings, like L.M. Montgomery’s Prince Edward Island and Mark Twain’s Mississippi River. Books about solo female travelers like Dorothy Gale and Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have inspired you, too, to venture out and explore the world.
But even grown-ups, no matter what age, can be inspired by tales told by daring solo female travelers. We’ve rounded up a list of Road Scholar women’s favorite solo travel memoirs perfect for reading while traveling or to snuggle up with at home as you dream about your future travels. Meet the heroines of today’s adventure travel books, from Elizabeth Gilbert to Cheryl Strayed, and let literature inspire you, once again, to set out on a solo adventure.
Check out our ultimate list of the best solo female travel books, including many by solo women over 50. Which have you read from this list?
Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert
Perhaps the most famous solo female travel books on this list — “Eat, Pray, Love” — recounts the solo travels of a 30-year-old woman to Italy, India and Bali in pursuit of a personal renaissance after getting divorced.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail | Cheryl Strayed
A list of the best books about solo female travel would not be complete without including the smash hit, “Wild.” This outdoor adventure memoir follows a solo female hiker as she takes on the Pacific Crest Trail after the end of her marriage and her mother’s death.
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy | Frances Mayes
One of the original (and best) solo female travel books and one that likely inspired many others on this list, this memoir/cookbook tells of a poet, gourmet cook and travel writer’s solo journey to the Tuscan countryside where she restores an abandoned villa.
East Toward Dawn: A Woman's Solo Journey Around the World | Nan Watkins
After the end of her marriage and the death of her son, 60-year-old Nan Watkins embarks on a solo journey around the world, coming to terms with her life’s great losses along the way. Her memoir also considers the challenges of solo female travelers and the roles of women in non-Western cultures.
Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone | Mary Morris
Renowned fiction and nonfiction writer Mary Morris travels around South America and the Caribbean, exploring landscapes and cultures on a journey of self-discovery. This uniquely-honest account of the unglamorous side of travel offers a fresh perspective on adventure and is one of our favorite books about women traveling alone.
West with the Night | Beryl Markham
First published in 1942, this memoir chronicles the life of British-born Kenyan racehorse trainer and pilot Beryl Markham and her record-breaking solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936. From shattering societal expectations to surviving desperate crash landings, this epic adventure is an inspiration for solo female travelers everywhere.
Trudge: A Midlife Crisis on the John Muir Trail | Lori Oliver-Tierney
Lori Oliver-Tierney was fifty, asthmatic and overweight when she decided to hike the John Muir Trail. This remarkable tale of inner strength helps remind us how to reconnect with the adventurous girl inside.
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World | Rita Golden Gelman
A 48-year-old woman on the verge of divorce sells her possessions and leaves behind her life in L.A. to travel the world, “residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces.” This story inspires us to not just observe new cultures when we travel, but to actively participate in them.
A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe | Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick, Christina Henry de Tessan
This collection of true short stories is one of the from solo female travelers tell tales of camel riding, armed bandits and Russian police in humorous, exciting, transformative stories of travels around the globe. This is one of the best books to read while traveling!
Return To Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy | Chandi Wyant
A college history instructor in her early 40s sets out on an Italian pilgrimage after a divorce and traumatic illness. This transporting tale invites us to discover our own “inner glow,” a perfect lesson for any woman who has longed to leave fixed expectations behind and follow her heart instead.
South America: Under the Skin of a Foreign Country | Barbara M. Webb
A widow traveling alone, Barbara picks up her life and moves to Quito after the loss of her husband to cancer. This memoir follows her first, 'From Cornwall to the Andes,” which recounts her experiences as a family caregiver who travels to Argentina.
Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust | Ellen Korman Mains
In one of our favorite books about solo female travelers over 50, a Jewish Buddhist woman travels to Poland on a life-changing journey to retrace with her family’s tragic history. This award-winning story not only gives us a fresh take on the Holocaust, but on the powerful connections between spirituality, family and trauma.
Bowing to Elephants: Tales of a Travel Junkie | Mag Dimond
A retiring writing professor penned this memoir about her decades of travels around the world, from Italy to Burma, interspersed with recollections from her past and Buddhist concepts. A powerful story about a woman’s search for love and authenticity, this tale is a lovely reminder of the personal rewards you reap from traveling solo.
Three Years in Ethiopia: How a Civil War and Epidemics Led Me to My Daughter | Cornelia E. Davis
A doctor is sent to Ethiopia to help prevent a meningitis outbreak in 1990. This memoir recounts her journey to adopt her daughter amid the chaos of the health scare, a rebel coups and an order to evacuate the country.
The Price of Water in Finistère | Bodil Malmsten
At the age of 55, a well-known Swedish writer and poet departs her home country to settle in Brittany. Read her amusing memoir about life in a small French town as she tells tales of gardening, neighbors and learning French.
Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman
In a two-part series (together with “Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman | Alice Steinbach”), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alice Steinbach leaves her life behind to go solo traveling — this time in pursuit of lifelong learning.
Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto | Leslie Buck
At 35, Leslie Buck moves to Kyoto and to study pruning from the world’s greatest gardeners. In this memoir, she recalls her bold decision to put her personal life on hold and pursue her passion and what she learned about life along the way.
A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains | Isabella L. Bird
A collection of letters written by solo traveler Isabella Bird to her sister while traveling through the Rocky Mountains in 1873. Among her many accomplishments, Bird was the first woman to become a member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1892.
Have a favorite solo female travel book that should be added to the list? Comment below! Check out our Solo Female Travel Guide for Women for more tips on traveling solo!
About the Author
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states. JoAnn’s extensive travel industry experience informs her expert insight on everything from where to find the world’s most charming streets to must-see hidden gems across the globe.