An exotic travel mural fuels wanderlust much as the best travel books do

Travel planning releases endorphins! Anticipation, actively planning an adventure, picturing the fun you’ll have, reading the best travel books – all help relieve everyday stress. They lift you out of the humdrum of daily routines. Reading about adventures, watching movies about destinations, even pouring over maps, creates happiness. Travel fantasies also help relieve the eventual, inevitable complications that arise from making any trip a reality.

Here are a few of the best travel books I’ve come across in the last few months. Two fall into the aspirational category, one is eye-opening for anyone interested in extending their travel budget and immersing in new cultures. The final book is a keen reference for anyone who suffers from Jet Lag.

yoga in poppies at Antelope Preserve.

The Yoga of Max’s Discontent – Karan Bajaj
Rumi once said: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

Compelling and contagious, this novel hooked me deeply. I’ve been meditating for decades and was a yoga teacher for nearly ten years. It was easy to imagine the aspirations of the novel’s character, Max, but his fictionalized journey into and beyond Yoga will shake anyone who’s fantasized about exploring India’s spiritual culture.

The first page introduces us to Max, a Wall Street banker who travels the world in search of truth and enlightenment. Don’t imagine hippie beads and tie-dye, you can’t anticipate where Max goes with the desire to be something more. Author Karan Bajaj, was already a No. 1 bestselling author in India when he followed the endless trek of professionals chucking their productivity-obsessed professions, their complicated lives, to become beginners again and explore simply being. Within a year sabbatical, Bajaj grasped enough to settle into writing and returned to his corporate job in New York, changed in unexpected ways. The Yoga of Max’s Discontent is one of the best travel books I’ve read.

travel wall art looks like an illustration in the best travel books

The Yellow Envelope – Kim Dinan

A lighter read, Kim Dinan’s novel about embracing a nomadic life will appeal to any of us who have pictured selling everything and leaving for parts unknown for as long as we can. The yellow envelope of the title becomes something of a talisman propelling Kim’s journeys, or repelling them. While the most compelling shifts happen within, luckily, Dinan pens introspection vividly. She dances close to Eat, Pray, Love territory but twists to surprising revelations.

Kim, like the protagonist Max, also abandoned a cubicle job, and told me that “There are times in life where we have to do the things that terrify us.”  I won’t spoil her trajectory for you but the hopeful adventure is fraught with change, realization and quiet drama. How she gets there and where she goes next will surprise you.

everyone smiles in the same language

Going Local: Experiences and Encounters on the Road – Nicholas Kontis

Authentic experiences, cultural immersion, and peer-to-peer encounters have become buzzwords within the travel industry. Long before business caught on, Nick Kontis was traveling and seeking new opportunities to experience the world. The sharing economy and internet access has opened up travel to those venturing on a shoestring as well as luxury wanderers. Kontis details Apps and other tools to connect with locals.

How to travel responsibly and consciously are issues dear to my nomadic heart. Kontis has connected with some of the most successful travelers in media, Tony Wheeler (Lonely Planet,) Rick Steves (TV and podcasts,) Richard Bangs (often considered the father of modern adventure travel,) Don George (pre-eminent travel writer and editor,) Judith Fein (award-winning travel writer and lecturer,) David Noyes (travel writer and photographer,) and James Dorsey (Explorers and Adventurers Club, photographer and lecturer.) Their wisdom pepper the chapters with invaluable insights. Food tourism, volunteer efforts, and home stays and exchanges, with Kontis’ guidance, will turn the exotic, otherness into face-to-face exchanges of a lifetime.

I will be referring to Go Local again and again.

Aiplane art with house sculptures

The Cure for Jet Lag – Lynne Walker Scanlon and Charles F. Ehret, PhD.

I’m including a book that has transformed the way I approach any time-zone hopping flight. Whether it’s crossing from California to New York or zipping abroad, this program – The Cure for Jetlag – has saved many a trip. Jet lag affects each of us differently and unfortunately, I’m one who suffers most. My cells rebel, leaving my head heavy with fatigue and I spend long nights tossing in an effort to sleep. It’s not just personal discomfort but jet lag impacts my work and relationships. This program, which I’ve written about before, is detailed and specific. It becomes second nature with use. I’ve included a link to the updated book below. The program was originally developed at Argonne National Laboratory and used by Fortune 500 executives as well as U.S. Army Rapid Deployment Forces since Ronald Reagan was President.

Where to find the best travel books:


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Nothing like diving with whale sharks before breakfast! And it`s always a thrill to have wild animals come close. These juveniles show up daily for handouts from the local fishermen. The limited number of visitors are coached before boat assignments and limited to a few morning hours.

We rolled into the village after dark the night before and prepped for a pre-dawn shore dive. It was a great choice, or we`d be bobbing on the surface with dozens of snorkelers - still a fine experience but not for video. Sorry, it`s so dark. Rain started as we stepped in, and the sun only broke through as we stumbled out. I still feel blessed.

Thanks to JR Divers Tan Awan, Cebu. Would you swim with whale sharks?

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Fiji Sharks are so smart. I became a fan on my first shark dive years ago. I sat on the bottom watching as they took turns grabbing fish heads from an outstretched hand (The diver wears a chain mail glove.)

On that earlier dive I watched next to pioneering underwater filmmaker Chuck Nicklin - in his 80`s and still diving! His excitement was contagious and calmed my nerves.

This time I brought Chuck along. He passed away last year and I had permission to bring his ashes. I think he`d be pleased.

Many thanks to Roz Nicklin and @diverdave for making this possible. @Aqua_Trek too.

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"What`s that drumming?" We walked out of the Hong Kong customs and turned to catch these Dragon Dancers in action. Chinese New Year celebrations are winding down but the troupe`s balance and coordination is a wonder whenever or wherever the dragons show up.

#hongkongdragon #explorehongkong #dragondancers #yearofthedragon2024 #tripwellgal #travelstoke #chinesenewyear2024 #epicjourney

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What a treat! We found out how Samoans traditionally make coconut cream and then use it in most everything. I`ve always loved coconut milk but had no idea how great freshly made can be. Samoans don`t usually use dairy products and I didn`t miss them the week I spent on island.

Thanks to Candymann and David at Tisa`s for the fantastic Umu Feast.

Do you try traditional foods when you travel?

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Happy Lunar New Year! Loved seeing the Dragon as Singapore rolled out their Gardens By The Bay Light Show and show tunes filled the night. (Different music theme monthly!)

You can watch each night at 7:45 & 8:45.
Kung hei fat choi! Happy Year of the Dragon!

A graceful and generous Singaporean friend helped me find the perfect spot for the show. Afterwards, we walked for hours while she explained life in this amazing city. Her government-issued fitbit watch said we took over 18,000 steps! I believe it. It took my feet days to feel normal, but I`d do it all again.

Do you trust the "kindness of strangers" when you travel?

#singapore_botanic_gardens #gardensbythebay #Lightshow #lunarnewyear24 #yearofthedragon #visit_singapore #walkingtours #urbanart #nightout #publicart #travelgrams #tripwellgal #traveltuesday #LYN24 #LYN

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It`s amazing what you can find if you stay present. While on my way to breakfast in sleek, downtown Singapore, I noticed a low, ornate roofline above a stone wall. Turning the corner, the gates were open, and I walked into the oldest Teochew temple in the area.

Porcelin figurines told stories I couldn`t decifer, but I could appreciate the artfullness, workmanship, and preservation. UNESCO commended the effort with a cultural Award of Merit for Conservation in 2014.

I asked to take pictures and respected the restrictions. No photos of the inner temple were allowed.

It was just the first of many wonders throughout my 36 hours exploring the streets of Singapore.

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The best travel books build happiness