Around the World in Books

Travel the World in Books

Books from different countries are my favourite kind of books. I never go anywhere without a book in my bag. Right now I'm lucky enough that I'm travelling whilst reading. But there have been many times in my life when I've turned to books to transport me to far away places, give me travel inspiration and teach me about other countries and cultures. 

van life books

So I've created a list of books to take you around the world without leaving the comfort of your couch. These are my favourite books to inspire travel that are set in a variety of countries, cultures and time periods. Click on the book to read more about it or purchase a copy!

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Sweden

Yes, the title is a mouthful but this is a truly brilliant book. Both Max and I laughed our way through this funny, heart-warming adventure of Allan the centurian as he gets caught up in all kinds of events. It also tells the story of his incredible 100 years. Very entertaining and clever. 'The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden' by the same author is also great. 

The Little Coffeeshop of Kabul - Afghanistan

I accidentally bought this book twice as it has a different title in the US (A Cup of Friendship). This story is about five women and their lives in Kabul. An interesting and gripping insight into their individual lives and how they all come together. 

The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas - Germany

This book was originally meant for children but it's harrowing subject makes it a good read for adults too. Set in a concentration camp in Germany two little boys strike up an unlikely friendship. Very sad but very striking, it's a book that stays with you. There is also a movie which is good. 

Also Read: 24 Hours in Frankfurt: Things to do

The Caliph's House - Morocco

This is the amusing and intriguing true story of a family who move to Casablanca for a year. I really enjoyed reading all of their hassles, problems and triumphs trying to renovate a house and fit in. It didn't sound easy but some of the descriptions of the place had me wanting to go back and explore more of Morocco!

Small Great Things - The United States of America

I always whizz through Jodi Picoult novels but often find them thought-provoking and gripping. This was no exception. The story of a nurse and a family whose baby dies at the hospital and a the following court case. Brings about lots of discussion about race in modern USA. 

Also Read: Seven Free Things to Do in New York

Mr Pip - Papua New Guinea

Set during the civil war in the 1990s on a small island. It follows Matilda, a teenage girl, through her experiences of the war. The one white man left on the island, Mr Watts,  begins reading 'Great Expectations' to the children and they are swept away by their imaginations. But soon terrible things happen in Matilda's village. This is a pretty sad and often graphic story but I definitely learnt about country's history I knew very little about previously. 

Do Not Say we have nothing - China

I read this one recently after picking it up at an airport in the UK (panicking that I wouldn't find a good range of English books for a while.) It's chunky (460 pages) and the language is very poetic but.. wow! With the risk of sounding corny it really takes you on magical journey. Weaving characters and families from modern day Canada to periods across Chinese history. And I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but this one is as beautiful as the story within!

Also Read: 12 Hours in Beijing: Layover in China

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Pakistan

This book is extremely well written. It takes place in a cafe in Lahore where a local Pakistani man sits with an American tourist over tea and tells him the story of his life. The cliff-hanger ending leaves the reader to decide how the story ends. I found this a very witty, interesting and gripping read. If you're looking for a true story set in Pakistan 'I am Malala' is a must-read. 

The Motorcycle Diaries - Argentina

This iconic true story of Che Guavara and his friend who travel South America by motorbike. Along the way they discover many of the social injustices within the continent and are inspired to fight for the cause. An great piece of travel writing but also an interesting insight into the start of Che Guavara's revolutionary thinking. 

The White Tiger - India

I found this book very different to lots of books I'd read set in India (I've read a lot). It's the story of a boy from a small village and his life as he tries to make something of himself, struggling against the class he was born into. It is written in first person in the form of letters and has some very sad, funny and thought-provoking moments. It is superbly written and won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. 

Anything by Ian Rankin - Scotland

When I moved to Edinburgh I lived on the street next to the police station where these books are set. After constantly being told by my dad to go and 'ask for Inspector Rebus' I finally decided to read the books and see what he was going on about. Thoroughly gripping crime writing and all set in the streets of Edinburgh which I called home. There are 21 in the series so they are a great option if you're looking to get hooked into something. Also a great read if you've been or are going to Edinburgh. There are Rebus tours of Edinburgh too!  

Also Read: Best Bookshops in Edinburgh

Half of a yellow sun - Nigeria

This is hands down one of my favourite books of all time. I love books that write from the perspective of multiple characters and weave the stories together and this book does it brilliantly. Set during the Nigerian civil war it tells the story from the perspective of twin daughters of an influential businessman, a professor, a British citizen, and a houseboy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also writes 'Purple Hibiscus' and 'Americanah' which are both fantastic. 

Reading lolita in tehran - Iran

This is a true story of a university professor who starts a book group in 1990s in Tehran when many books are still banned in the country. It also tells the story of the revolution in Iran through the experiences and favourite books of the author. A great read for book lovers, women and anyone interested in the history of Iran. 

Captain Corelli's mandolin - Greece

A love story set on a Greek island during World War Two. An Italian Army captain and local Greek woman fall in love and the story follows their relationship through the war and beyond. This is historical fiction so the events are based on real happenings during the war. An excellent story of love and life on a little Greek island. 

The Whale Rider - New Zealand

I struggled for a while to choose a novel from my home country but this one is pretty iconic. It's set is a small town on the North Island of New Zealand and follows a young girl who wants to be the chief of her tribe. The story also incorporates the Maori traditional myth of the whale rider. A good read for anyone interested in Maori culture and myths. 

Also Read: Christmas in New Zealand

All the Light we cannot see - France

Set during World War Two a blind girl and her father escape from Paris. The story simultaneously follows a German soldier and throughout the story you know they will meet but are constantly drawn in as to where and when! It's a beautifully told story that spans the lives of two interesting characters both before and during the war. 

The ruins of us - Saudi Arabia

Told from the perspective of a American woman who spent part of her childhood in Saudi before marrying a Saudi Arabian man and moving back there and raising two children. Her husband decides to take a second wife and the family is suddenly put through some very trying times. I found this situation interesting and enjoyed reading about ideas such as polygamy, marriage and religion from a different perspective. 

Child 44 - Russia

A crime thriller set in Moscow during the Stalin regime of the 1950s. Leo, a former state security agent, begins to investigate a series of murders and is exiled. But he continues to search for answers with the help of his wife. A real eye-opener into life under Stalin and also a gripping thriller. 

Also read: Why Russia Should Be Next on Your Travel List

Without you there is no us - North Korea

north korea

North Korea is by no means on my travel list but it's sure an interesting place to read about, especially considering the lack of information coming out of the country. This is the true story of a woman who goes to teach in English in North Korea. Her stories and experiences are entertaining, scary and at times completely mind-blowing to think this is really happening in our world in 2017. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of harold fry - England

As I read this book I found myself thinking of a little less complicated version of 'The 100 year old man...'. Harold receives a letter and is compelled to leave his home and walk the length of England to see an old friend. A simple, touching, sad and funny story. 

The Poisonwood Bible - The Congo

This is about a missionary family from the US who move to the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. It follows the family through the narratives of the four daughters during their time there and the years that follow. It's a long read but has an interesting storyline and deals with important themes such as colonisation, family bonds and guilt. 

Long Walk to Freedom - South Africa

Ok confession: I haven't finished reading this book. It's a real brick and is currently keeping all of the other books stable on our van bookshelf. But I think it's a really important book to read about an incredible person. The autobiography of Nelson Mandala is a great way to understand some of the recent political events in South Africa. It covers is early life and his 27 years in prison leading up to him being released and becoming the first black president of South Africa. Inspiring to say the least. 

Cloud Street - Australia 

Somewhat of an Australian classic I'm told. This is set in the suburbs of Perth over the 1940s-60s and is about two working class Australian families living in a two floors of the same house. The way their lives become entwined over the 20 years makes for a funny, sad and entertaining read.  

So now you know all my favourite books from around the world. The next time your looking for a book to inspire travel, teach you something new or just to cuddle up with on the couch, pick a country and get reading! 

Want more? Check out my favourites books about other cultures or the best books to read while travelling

All books are affiliate links. This means if you purchase one I'll get a small amount towards a new book too (at no extra cost to you!) Happy reading!

 Looking for travel inspiration? Here are 22 books from around the world to inspire your next trip! #books #travelinspiration
 Looking for travel inspiration? Here are 22 books from around the world to inspire your next trip! #books #travelinspiration

Caves in Slovenia and Other Travel Challenges

Caves in Slovenia and Other Travel Challenges

Books about travel always interest me and recently I found a great book to spice up our travels. 203 Travel Challenges is an awesome book (and website) aimed at inspiring new and seasoned travellers to experience a different side of travel. From challenges in your own backyard to once in a lifetime experiences, just flip open a page and start planning!

We recently completed our first travel challenge of this trip #20 - Go inside an extraordinary cave. We found some amazing caves in the middle of Slovenia that we'd never heard of and decided to check them out!

Rak Škocjan Park is a valley created when some giant caves collapsed. Now the valley is marked by the natural bridges at either end. In between are plenty of beautiful walking tracks, sink holes, caves and rivers to explore. 

The area is accessible by road and is just a short drive from the town of Postonja and the capital city, Ljubljana. It is free to enter. Nearby there are also more extensive underground caves which can be viewed as a guided tour. Postonja caves and the less touristy Skocjanske caves are both incredible. 

 Photo by

Photo by

We're totally inspired to keep searching for new and different experiences in the places we visit. My biggest dream is challenge #187 - Go to the airport and buy a ticket for the cheapest flight of the day. But that may need to wait until after van travel!

For now, here are ten other challenges we have already completed on previous travels. 

Travel Challenge #38 - Discover an abandoned place and take a walk in the past

On our last trip to Berlin we visited the Teufelsberg abandoned radar tower which has been turned into a street art haven. Well worth a visit if you're in Berlin! 

Travel Challenge #24 - Feel like an ant among rock phenomena

I had never experienced a proper canyon before our trip to Kazakhstan and was totally awed by the Charyn Canyon just outside Almaty. You can read more about it in our Almaty City Guide

Travel Challenge #52 - Feel like an ancient king or pharaoh

I finally fulfilled on of my childhood dreams with a trip to Egypt in 2015. It was everything I expected and more! I spent 10 days staying with friends before Max joined me for a further 10 days. One of my favourite trips to date! Here were out top five experiences

Travel Challenge #113 - The slow return challenge

We did this one by accident! Most of you know the story of how we missed our flight home from Edinburgh and ended up hitchhiking the whole way home. If you haven't read it yet you can have a laugh at us here

Travel Challenge # 117 (seasoned travellers) A one month trip with a backpack weighing no more than 7kg

Well my amazing backpack has been on several long trips and is only handluggage sized. The longest I've done so far is six weeks but we are prepapared to take it all out as we take only our 40L backpacks for indefinite travel. Yes, we have matching ones! Why do we love these bags so much? Read all about them here. 

Travel Challenge #108 - Spend Christmas at 30°C

Ok I cheated with this one a little being from New Zealand. But Christmas in the sun is an awesome idea! Here's what you can expect in a classic Kiwi Christmas.

Travel Challenge #76 - Drive along picturesque winding roads

Not buying a vignette in Switzerland forced us onto some smaller roads and we ended up winding our way through the Alps. Read our information about the vignette and how you can avoid the toll-roads here

Travel Challenge #62 - Get lost in a magic garden

As the book suggests, when in Holland we took a trip to the Keukenhoff Gardens. Not our usual travel activity but they were really beautiful!

Travel Challenge #194 Find the world's largest...whatever

In Astana, Kazakhstan we found the world's largest tent and boy was it impressive! It contained a shopping mall, mini theme park and swimming pool!

Travel Challenge #16 Sweet camper life

To quote the book 'You've read all those travel blogs of people who left their jobs and embarked on a journey around the world by van. We'll say no more. You know what to do'

Well we knew what to do and are currently living this challenge! Read more about our van

For these and other great travel challenges get the book 203 Travel Challenges. It's also available as an ebook for those travellers with no more space in their backpack! 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of the links I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks! 


Travelling Europe on a Budget


Europe is one of the most amazing places to travel. The variety of languages, cultures, history and food all squeezed into one, easy to navigate landmass make it the perfect place to backpack around or live for a while and explore through weekend getaways. The only drawback is the cost.

Europe is by no means a budget backpackers paradise but there are many ways to cut costs and still enjoy everything this amazing continent has to offer. The major and unavoidable costs on any trip are transport, food and accommodation.'Heading East' and 'travelling Europe in the off season' are great ways to cut the costs of any trip. But if you have to go to Europe in the summer there are still ways to save money. So here's a breakdown of some ways to travel Europe on a budget. From saving a few euros here and there to doing it on an extreme budget.

Cheap Transport Around Europe 


Before you set out you can be saving money. Skyscanner is my go-to for flights as is has a variety of easy to use functions which let you look at nearby airports, prices over different days and flights to wherever is cheapest. Make sure to use it in an incognito window so it doesn't see your search history and bump up the prices (it's a real thing!)


Hitchhiking in Europe is the ultimate free way to get around. In most countries it is accepted and relatively easy to get a ride. Make sure you're at a point that is easy to pull over and carry some cardboard to make signs for your direction or next destination. Make sure to look clean and friendly and you'll have no problems travelling between cities for free. The amount of traffic in Europe means there are almost always people going your way. We even hitchhiked out of London city centre!


If hitchhiking sounds a bit adventurous or you're on a tight time frame try ride sharing. Blablacar is a ridesharing website that covers most of Europe. From there you can search people driving to your destination and sometimes even book straight away. There is a cost listed which is usually very reasonable and often cheaper than trains or buses.

Rome2rio is another great website for searching cheap travel methods. Simply type in your location and destination and it will tell you all the ways of getting there with a rough price.

Accommodation in Europe on a budget

For a full list of tips and hacks check out our ultimate guide to finding budget accommodation.

Look up hostels on a search site like hostelworld but then go to the actual hostel website to book as they often bump up prices to cover hostelworld fees.

If you're travelling in summer, take a tent. Free camping is legal in the Baltics, Scandinavia and parts of Eastern Europe (check out our favourite free camping spots in Albania). There are a vast network of affordable campsites across the rest of Europe. Also check out campsites with permanent tents like the one I stayed at on the outskirts of Rome. Way cheaper than staying in the centre, had a bar and swimming pool and was an easy train ride into town. For more Italy inspiration check out this awesome guide to planning an Italy itinerary


Airbnb is a great option for couples or groups of friends and allows you to search on a map and limit searches by price and type of room. Everything from people's couches to entire apartments. Be careful to read reviews and check the price once the fees (cleaning and service fees) have been added. Click here for €20 off your first booking!

With fellow couch surfers and our hosts in Lithunia.
With fellow couch surfers and our hosts in Lithunia.

Even better than that is the amazing couchsurfing network. You create a profile, add some photos and then you can start requesting to stay at people's houses. Anything from a mat on the floor to your own room, these friendly people will host you for a night or a week depending on their availability. It works on a karma basis so if you stay with people, try to host some travellers when you're back home. There are people who are also free to show you around their city or meet up for a drink. Great for solo travellers or people wanting to meet locals.

We have had nothing but positive experiences both as surfers and hosts. In general try to give 5-10days notice, if you're staying a few days offer to cook or bring a bottle of wine and be open-minded and considerate. You'll meet some great people!

On the road for a while? Why not invest in a van and pay no accommodation costs for your entire trip? We are currently living in ours and travelling through the Balkans. Here's a list of vanlife essentials to get you ready for life on the road. 


Eating in Europe on a Budget


A habit Max and I get into while we're travelling is to only eat 2 meals a day. We often have some fruit or muesli bars as a quick morning snack but we don't eat a proper meal until 11-12ish which then keeps us going until dinner. Many hostels in Europe offer free breakfast so take advantage! Fill up and, if your feeling extra thrifty, make some sandwiches and take some fruit for a packed lunch.

Hostels and Airbnbs also often have a kitchen available for use. If you're staying in one place for a few days consider heading to a supermarket and cooking some simple pasta or rice dishes to save some money. Team up with some other travellers to buy in bulk. Friends of mine did this in Bosnia and Herzegovina and averaged about 50c per person for a decent meal.

If the weather is decent then make use of the abundant bakeries in Europe for a cheap picnic lunch in the park or square.

Save Money on Attractions in Europe

Take a free walking tour. Just about every city offers these now and they can be very good value. Your tour guide, usually a student, takes you on a tour of up to 3 hours around the city giving you interesting information and answering questions as you go. At the end you tip what you want, usually it's worth a few euro but if you're on a real budget you can slip away without paying. Some cities have more than just the classic attractions tour too. We went on a great 'alternative Warsaw' tour and have heard of food and street art tours in other cities.

Check for free days at attractions. Many museums and sites have one day per month that they are free e.g first Sunday of the month. This can save a lot of money if you plan it right but also be aware that these days can be crazily busy.

Get a student ID. If you're a student, go to STA travel and get an international student ID which will give you discounts at a huge range of tourist attractions. If you're not a student but are under 25 ask for their youth card which often gets you the same discounts, either because you're young or because they mistake it for a student card. They also have teacher cards available.

Europe on a budget is easy to do and you can still have the experience of a life time. Got any other tips or experiences for saving money on travel in Europe? Let us know in the comments below.

Need a good backpack for your trip? Check out the best backpack for long or short term travel that will get on all those budget flights as hand luggage! Another saving :)

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 Planning a Backpacking trip through Europe? But you don't have a fortune to spend! Read about these tips for saving money and still making the most of your time on this amazing continent. #backpacking #europe #budget #europeonabudget #europecheap #europeonashoestring #affordableeurope

Meet Our Van- Morrison!

Sitting in a hotel room in a small German town, less than one week back in the country since my trip to Central America and only 2 days after booking flights to NYC, Max and I decided we wanted to purchase a camper van. Not a big one with a kitchen and electricity but a converted delivery van with just the basics for sleeping in (on the side of the road without being noticed). We were inspired by one for sale on a facebook page connecting NZers in Germany and after a bit of research decided it would be a pretty economical, flexible and fun way to travel through Europe for the first part of our big adventure next year.


After further research we found that the van for sale was a decent model and had been well-built up to be stayed in for long periods. We messaged the guy and agreed to take a trip up to Hamburg the following weekend to check it out. The van came with everything we could possibly need (including a book collection, lego figures and a toaster) and despite a dent and a little surface rust, we fell in love with it.


Max engaged in some excellent bargaining with the owner and we drove away with what we felt was a great deal and a new home! Over the next few days we (well more Max) managed to negotiate the complex system of vehicle registration and insurance in Germany and with shiny new number plates we were ready to roll.

van interior mercedes vito

Key Features of the Van

  • Large double mattress
  • End of the mattress folds up to be a table.
  • Side shelf and fold out shelf which also works as a small table.
  • Front seats swivel 180 degrees to face the big table.
  • No side windows so it is private and looks like an ordinary van from the outside. Perfect for wild camping
  • Sliding doors on both sides
  • Awesome retro curtain from Max's grandmother's house across the back window.
  • Apple crates which slide under the bed for storage.
  • Small camping stove, pots, pans etc
  • Tarpaulin which can be attached to the side of the van and then neighbouring trees for extra sheltered space.

After living in the van for 3 months now we can safely say we made a good investment. It's the perfect size for 2 people while still being not much larger than a normal car. It's very easy to park and we can easily free camp even in cities as we just look like a parked vehicle rather than a camper. We did pretty well at stocking up with all the vanlife essentials before we left Germany and besides a new battery (eek!) Morrison has made it thus far without any problems.