Holiday Gift Guide 2021: Travel Memoirs

In 2020, reading about destinations gave us an outlet while staying at home. This holiday season, add new stories onto your list of armchair travel books with first-person accounts by travelers of various backgrounds. Here are some travel memoirs that make for both a great gift and read.

Suzanne Roberts’ story is a page turner across four continents to 15 countries but with many bumps and detours along the way. Along with experiencing cultural blind spots, she encounters lightning and landslides, sharks and piranha-infested waters, a nightclub drugging, burning bodies, and brief affairs as she searches for the love of her life and finally herself.

A memoir about going away and growing up, Pam Mandel journals how being shipped off on a youth group tour of Israel as a teen by her dad would introduce her to a world described as full of “angry European backpackers, seize-the-day Israelis, and the fall out of cold war-era politics.” Her life journey would lead her across three continents, from a cold water London flat to rural Pakistan, from the Nile River Delta to the snowy peaks of Ladakh and back to her home state of California. There, she is determined to shape a life that’s entirely hers. 

In her debut book, Amanda Epe reflects on her time as a British Airways employee, providing insights to the highs and lows in the world of being a former member of this airline’s cabin crew. She meticulously documents personal adventures, social structures and political history throughout her daring and exciting expeditions across the Americas, Africa and Asia.

The author couple chronicles their interest in seeing some of Europe on bikes by starting on their own cycling tour. Alon​​g their journey, which includes the Swiss Alps, they will meet new friends and exorcise old demons as they push their bodies – and their relationship – to the limit.

 This award-winning travel photographer and writer has created a collection of travel observations, reflections, and snapshots across various continents and customs. The book is described as being organized by the direction in which this Nigerian Swedish author traveled and offers layered stories of the cultures she encountered.

As the founder of Go! Girl Guides and the Women’s Travel Fest, Kelly Lewis has much experience as a storyteller. With this book, Lewis shares the true stories of 35 inspirational women who overcame doubters, haters and naysayers to achieve their “impossible” dreams — accomplishments that other people said they couldn’t do. Part travel, memoir and interview compilation, these women share their stories to help readers transform adversity into a springboard for empowerment and success.

As a student at the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey discovered that her real culinary education wouldn’t begin until she actually worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the French provinces, Shockey tells of her plan to apprentice in four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the chef Wylie Dufresne at the molecular gastronomy hotspot wd~50, then traveled to Vietnam, Israel, and back to France. Along with providing a glimpse of haute cuisine, her book includes original recipes integrating the techniques and flavors she learned along the way.

Winner of the “2014 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book,” this story by this Korean-American author tells of how she, as a preacher’s daughter, refuses to get married, travels the globe, and ends up learning how to hunt from her boyfriend’s conservative family. As she navigates the perils of an unlikely romantic relationship from Paris, France, to Paris, Maine, Paula Young Lee delves into human foibles while discovering hunting, DIY food culture, and what it means to be a carnivore. 

A member of the Karuk Tribe, Ursula Pike sought to make meaningful connections with Indigenous people halfway around the world. So the then 25-year-old boarded a plane to Bolivia and began her term of service in the Peace Corps. An Indian among los Indígenas, Pike’s memoir of her experience provides a brutally honest and important contribution to a field of travel writing that is said to have historically been dominated by white authors. 

As a narrative embracing the subjects of history, family, travel and nature, Jessica J. Lee tells why she heads to Taiwan, her ancestral homeland, after discovering her grandfather’s letters. Lee’s book describes how Lee learns more about her family’s history and connects with the island that her relatives once called home.