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Best Solo Female Travel Books for Wandering Women

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 real-life places, 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 to venture out and explore the world.

But even grown-ups, no matter what age, can be inspired by tales of daring female solo travel. We’ve compiled a list of Road Scholar’s favorite solo woman travel memoirs. These books are 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 to set out on a solo adventure.

Check out our ultimate list of the best solo woman 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 female solo travel book on this list,  “Eat, Pray, Love” is the mesmerizing memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert as she faces a crushing divorce and severe depression at the age of 30. In a desperate attempt to rebalance, Gilbert quits her job and undertakes a solo yearlong journey to Italy, India, and Bali. At each stop, she meets mentors, explores her spirituality, and challenges herself to claim responsibility for her happiness.

‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ | Cheryl Strayed

With nothing left to lose, Cheryl Strayed impulsively decided to hike the arduous Pacific Crest Trail by herself. “Wild” is her touching, vivid, and humorous memoir of that journey. With next to no experience, Strayed started in California near the Mexico border with the intention of walking alone through Washington near the Canadian border. Along the way, Strayed faced sweltering heat, record snow, rattlesnakes, and black bears. However, her greatest challenge was coming to terms with her mother’s death and her divorce. 

‘Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy’ | Frances Mayes

One of the original (and best) travel books for women and one that likely inspired many others on this list is “Under the Tuscan Sun.” In this lyrical memoir/cookbook, Frances Mayes takes on restoring an abandoned villa in the Tuscan countryside. With a poetic voice, she discusses uncovering faded frescos in her home while exploring vibrant markets and meeting the colorful locals. The pages of this book are also filled with the making and consuming of local Italian fare. Don’t read while hungry!

‘East Toward Dawn: A Woman's Solo Journey Around the World’ | Nan Watkins

One of the best books for older women is “East Toward Dawn.” 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 travels take her along the rugged coasts of Ireland, the crowded streets of Katmandu, and even into the stunning Rajasthan desert in India. Along the way, she considers the challenges of solo female travelers, the roles of women in non-Western cultures, and the clash between rich and poor countries. This book is an exciting international adventure and a deeply spiritual exploration.

‘Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone’ | Mary Morris

Renowned fiction and nonfiction writer Mary Morris documented her travels around South America and the Caribbean in this bold, elegant, and grimly honest memoir from 1988. Morris doesn’t hold back her turbulent emotions as she switches between living in the small Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende and traveling through Central America. 

This uniquely honest account showcases the unglamorous side of travel with elegant prose. Morris points an unflinching eye at poverty, machismo, resilience, and, above all, herself in this genre-bending memoir.


‘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 50, asthmatic, and overweight when she decided to hike the John Muir Trail, often considered the most challenging part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Things don’t go well. After the first day, Oliver-Tierney’s feet are covered in massive blisters, and she finds herself needing to use her inhaler more often. Soon, having broken up with her hiking partner, Debra, Oliver-Tierney finds herself lost and alone in the wilderness. This remarkable tale of inner strength proves that, as Oliver-Tierney’s husband told her, “Even ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”

‘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 not just to 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 tells 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 “inner glow,” a perfect lesson for any woman who has longed to leave fixed expectations behind and follow her heart.


‘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 losing 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 her family’s tragic history. This award-winning story not only gives us a fresh take on the Holocaust but also 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 coup, and an order to evacuate the country.


‘The Price of Water in Finistère’ | Bodil Malmsten

Another of our best books for older women is “The Price of Water in Finistère.” 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’ | Alice Steinbach

In a two-part series — together with “Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman” — Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Alice Steinbach leaves her life behind to go solo traveling in pursuit of lifelong learning.

‘Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto’ | Leslie Buck

At 35, Leslie Buck moved to Kyoto 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.


‘Wanderlust: A Love Affair With Five Continents’ | Elisabeth Eaves

Elisabeth Eaves represents a new generation of international women travelers, ones less encumbered than their earlier female counterparts. “Wanderlust” follows Eaves through a dizzying array of exotic locales and romantic relationships over 15 years. Through her eyes, readers travel to Cairo, Yemen, and Karachi. They trek through the desolate corners of China, live in a ramshackle boat shed in Queensland, and slog through the leech-infested jungles of Papua New Guinea. As the story progresses, one may wonder if Eaves is striving for a new destination or running from a tangled relationship in the past. This is a different sort of book about solo woman travel, one that focuses as much on the author’s own emotional unease as it does on the vividly painted destinations.

‘Beneath the Smiling Moustache’ | Belinda Lara Robinson

In 1990, Belinda Lara Robinson decided to take a daring solo backpacking trip through Turkey as tensions mounted in the Middle East. What could go wrong? Belinda quickly found out when a bus ran over her feet within days of starting the journey. What follows was equal parts harrowing and comical as Belinda’s plight was ignored by the Australian consulate. A steady stream of locals helped Belinda in her desperate attempts to get medical treatment, including a young Turkish doctor. Sparks bloomed between the two even as Belinda struggled to get a flight to London for an urgent operation. This is one of our favorite travel books for women that takes place in the Middle East.

‘What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding’ | Kristin Newman

While many of her friends became “too married or too pregnant” to travel, sitcom writer Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s crisscrossing the world. During her travels, Newman developed her alter-ego, “Kristin-Adjacent,” who had a penchant for developing “vacationships” with men at her destinations. For example, there was the bartender in Russia, the former priest in Buenos Aires, and two men in Brazil. This memoir is, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious and, at others, a shameless tell-all. It might be a bit spicy for certain readers and beloved by others, especially all the single ladies who dream of a man at every port.  

‘Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback’ | Robyn Davidson

In 1977, 27-year-old Robyn Davidson started an audacious journey to cross the Australian outback and make it to the ocean. Those were the days before cellphones, GoPros, and GPS. Instead, Robyn had three camels and her dog. One of the things that makes this memoir stand out from other travel books for women is that it includes a detailed look at the two years she put into preparing for the journey. The book also looks deeply at the plight of the aboriginal people of Australia as well as the sexism and misogyny that was common in small outback towns. If you want to travel across sweltering deserts, face off against venomous snakes, and get lost in one of the most desolate places in the world, then “Tracks” is the right book for you. 

Female Solo Travel at Its Finest

The many books of solo female travelers on our list span decades and continents. They are funny, thoughtful, provocative, and gritty. The women who lead these books are poets, travel writers, women running away from pain, and women running toward adventure. For all their differences, these books have one thing in common. They showcase the courage and resilience of the female spirit and the beauty of travel in all its forms. 

If you are ready for an adventure, all you have to do is pick up one of the travel books for women on this list and let yourself get swept away! If these books inspire you, consider taking an adventure of your own. Take a look at our solo travel destinations of 2023 and our top destinations for solo holiday travel.

Have a favorite solo female travel book that should be added to the list? Let us know! 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.