Travel as Reinvention: 10 Books about Personal Growth on Vacation

Before taking your next solo journey, dig into these stories of women who set out to explore unknown lands—and ended up discovering a lot about themselves

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'Sideways on a Scooter' by Miranda Kennedy

Eager to abandon the chaos of New York City, Kennedy ventures to India in search of a new life, only to be confronted by starkly different stark cultural mores. Her outlook is widened by a dynamic group of Indian women who help her understand Delhi and its differences from the Western world.


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'It’s Not About the Tapas: A Spanish Adventure on Two Wheels' by Polly Evans

Evans, a magazine editor unfulfilled by her job, sets a goal to bike across Spain for a total of 1,000 miles in six weeks. She pedals through dozens of towns, taking in Spanish hospitality, good food, and enjoying the much-needed release from her hectic life.


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'A Year in the World' by France Mayes

Mayes, author of the bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun, challenges her own ideas about “home” by leaving her base in Italy to travel to North Africa, Greece and the British Isles. By living among the locals in each place she visits, she finds that home is wherever you make it.


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'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed

The death of her mother, the end of her marriage and a bout with heroin were all catalysts for Strayed’s solitary hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert up through California and Oregon to Washington State. Though mentally and physically unprepared for the trip, by journey’s end she regains her emotional equilibrium and emerges a survivor.


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'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert

After a harrowing divorce, Gilbert travels across Italy, Indonesia, and India in search of peace and restoration. The result is a charming and inspiring memoir about a woman finding herself by trying to get lost.


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'My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere' by Susan Orlean

In this eye-opening collection of essays, famed New Yorker writer Orlean recounts her explorations of foreign cultures and subcultures in countries such as France, Cuba, Japan, Bhutan and Iceland. Her (and our) world perspective grows with each turn of the page.


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'Life is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel' by Judith Fein

Fein lets us in on her most cathartic, spiritual moments abroad, explaining in vivid prose the clarity that comes from immersing yourself in such different cultures as Micronesia, Vietnam, and Turkey.


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'How Stella Got Her Groove Back' by Terry McMillan

Loosely based on McMillan’s real-life experience, Stella is a feel-good novel about a tightly wound, middle-aged, single mom consumed by her high-powered career—until, on vacation in Jamaica, she falls in love with a local man 20 years younger.


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Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler

Journalist Sara Wheeler lived in Antarctica for seven months as the first female writer in residence at the South Pole. In this memoir, she uses humor, wit and charm to tell of her travels between the male-dominated base camps throughout the region.


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'Four Corners: One Woman’s Solo Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea' by Kira Salak

Abandoned by her guide while kayaking up Papua New Guinea’s Fly River, Salak finds herself alone on a risky trip. The up side of her solitude: plenty of time for quiet introspection and self-discovery, both of which abound in this gripping travelogue.


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Next: Hot Summer Reads: Three Stories of Reinvention

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