| | | |

The Best Books on Expat Life and Travel Abroad

We don’t regret moving to a new country, but living abroad isn’t all rainbows and butterflies every day. In the beginning, we struggled with the language, setting up internet and cable, getting lost countless times with Google Maps, and experiencing a car accident three days after buying a car. Most of the stories you hear from expats are all the wonderful “better quality of life” stuff, but I’m sure they had obstacles to reach that point.


Disclosure: We are Amazon affiliates and receive a super-small commission at no additional cost to you if you click through and make a purchase.

Our ability to adapt to any new culture can make or break a new adventure in another country. For shorter stories about specific scenarios in Mexico, you can check out our section on EXPATS.


But sometimes we need a chuckle, and it’s nice to know that someone else experienced the same disaster half a world away. That’s why we’ve put together this list of books on travel and living abroad. Every person has a different experience, and it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences of various countries.


Below are some of my favorite travel books that show the struggle and humor of living in an unfamiliar place and learning about different cultures. Living on a boat or an island, renovating a home in a foreign land, and not quite fitting in anywhere are just a few of the foundations of these memoirs.

Table of Contents

  1. Living in Mexico

  2. Living in Europe

  3. Solo Female Travel Books

  4. How Life Doesn’t Meet Our Expectations

  5. Not Your Usual Travelogues

Travel Books on Living in Mexico

On Mexican Time– by Tony Cohan

When a writer and artist couple first visited the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, it was love at first sight. They went back to California, sold everything, and moved to this colorful town in Central Mexico. They renovated an old hacienda and learned the cultural ways of Mexican life including siesta. It’s a romantic vision of what Mexican life can be and the endless possibilities of starting a new life.


Listen to this book on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!


What the Mexpat: About Expats, Immigrants, and Everyone In-Between – Donna Vorachen

Debbie Vorachen is an expat and anthropologist living in Mexico, and her observations are spot-on. Most of the things you read and research about moving to Mexico pertain to “getting things done” like immigration, buying a house or a car, and visiting markets.


What the Mexpat delves further into the culture and customs of the people of Mexico. What is “Mexican time”? Why do you say “Bueno” on the phone, but not in conversation (means something completely different)? And several other cultural examples are given that only people who live in Mexico would know.


This Is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications– By Carol Merchasin

This is Mexico dives a bit deeper into the complications of living in Mexico with a good dose of humor. You have to have humor when navigating everyday life in a foreign country because there will be times when you just shake your head or scream silently at the inefficiencies. San Miguel is a favorite among expats and this will keep you entertained and better prepared if you decide to make Mexico your home.

Moving to Merida: How to Successfully Move to Mexico as a Family

Many of the books listed here are by young couples, solo travelers, or retirees, but Moving to Merida is about a family with kids. Cassie and her family weighed the pros and cons of leaving Great Britain and decided to settle in Merida, one of the safest cities in Mexico. She shows you her experience starting a new life, getting the kids set in a school, and many other useful everyday things that you wouldn’t think would be a challenge. For those of you with kids, you’ll find this extremely useful, as well as her second book, Traveling the Yucatan With Kids.

Travel Books on Living in Europe

Driving over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia– by Chris Stewart

The original drummer of Genesis, Chris Stewart left the rock’n’roll lifestyle to try other interesting professions and buy a farm in Andalucia, Spain. His descriptive writing and humor make you feel as if you are there, watching and drinking alongside him. If leaving city life behind and moving to a farm in the mountains is your dream, you’ll love this book and all the joys and bumps on the dirt road.


Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris– by Sarah Turnbull

Australian journalist Sarah Turnbull moves to Paris after meeting a Frenchman and tells us personally about the struggles of learning the language, cultural differences in dress and socializing, and dealing with homesickness. What also makes this book interesting is that she returns to Australia and discusses the joy and heartbreak of loving two countries she now calls home. Anyone who has felt lonely while traveling or moving to a new country will easily relate to this book.


Listen to this book on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!


A Year in Provence– by Peter Mayle

This English author moved with his wife to the south of France, bought a home, and documented their first year of contractors, goat races, meals, and unusual customs of living abroad. Learning a new language and dealing with the French bureaucracy are just a few of the headaches he has to endure, but when it comes to the food, you can tell this is his passion with the detailed way he describes the ingredients and the way the meals are prepared. A fun book full of humor, it’s followed by Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, and French Lessons: Adventures with a Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew.


Listen to these books on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!

TrustedHousesitters - Calling all pet-loving explorers


Books on Solo Female Travel


Due North– by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Born in Nigeria and fascinated by maps, Lola’s book is a compilation of two decades of travel observations around the world through a solo female of color. You can feel her pain and amusement through her words as she navigates cultures and customs across the different continents. Today, Lola lives in Sweden and is a well-established travel writer and photographer.


Lola has also written two fiction novels, In Every Mirror She Is Black: A Novel and Everything Is Not Enough: A Novel about being a black woman in a white-dominated society. Her experiences and observations are intertwined in the lives of three different women experiencing today’s social issues around racism and classism.


Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World– by Rita Golden Gelman

If you need inspiration to travel solo, check out this book. In her late 40s, Rita struck out to explore the world, from small villages to cityscapes and everything in between. Her adventures are what many of us dream of like exploring the Galapagos and cooking ancient meals with locals on rustic fires. She reminds us that the world is a grand place, and when we open our minds to the possibilities, we can do anything our hearts desire.


Listen to this book on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!


A to Z of a Solo Travel Girl- by Jennifer A. Huber

I have to give a shoutout to my friend, Jennifer Huber, who wrote an e-book on solo travel. Jennifer was one of the first bloggers I met in Florida more than a decade ago and helped me tremendously as I started blogging. Her motto is you may travel alone, but you are never lonely. Travel opens up a whole new world of people who have experienced the thrills and weirdness just like you.


Whether you are fresh out of college or just retired, all of us should try solo travel at some point. You’ll learn more about yourself on a solo trip than any other trip or classroom experience.



Brave-ish: One Breakup, Six Continents, and Feeling Fearless After Fifty – Lisa Niver

You are never too old to try new things as Lisa Niver shows us in her new book Brave-ish. Travel has always been a way for us to step outside our own box and dream big. Lisa shows us all, that it’s never too late to try to start over and try something new. Follow Lisa’s adventures to trying 50 new things before she is 50 and traversing far-off countries like Mongolia, Kenya, and Myanmar.


Listen to this book on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!


Travel Books on How Life Doesn’t Meet Our Expectations


The Thing About Prague– by Rachael Weiss

Here’s a different twist on expat life- what if it doesn’t work out? Rachael Weiss left Sydney for Prague intending to make it her new home, but things didn’t work out as planned. While Prague is a favorite city of many travelers, living there is a whole different story and this book offers up the nitty-gritty of dealing with bureaucracy and being disappointed that your 40s are not what you envisioned.



Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam– by Andrew X. Pham

This book explores a different side: one of being a stranger in your homeland. Andrew Pham and his family left Vietnam after the war and grew up in California. Not fully accepted in America, and not fully welcomed back in his homeland, he explored his feelings of bitterness and confusion along his bike journey through Mexico, California, and Vietnam. Childhood memories and conversations with distant family members and war veterans (on both sides) bring a whole new perspective on how people endured and survived.



Most of the books I’ve recommended are focused on British, Australian, or American expats in a foreign country dominated by European heritage. It was extremely difficult to find any travel memoirs written by other writers from different nationalities or colors. I feel that this book can teach us more compassion and acceptance of world cultures and individuals.

Not Your Usual Travelogues


The Sex Lives of Cannibals– by J. Maarten Troost

If you think moving to a small Pacific island sounds heavenly, this book will make you rethink that dream. This couple moved to Kiribati, a small island in the Pacific, where normal life presents more tidal waves than coconuts. Modern conveniences like working internet, unlimited hot water, and a plethora of shopping and restaurants are non-existent. It’s an interesting compilation of cultural differences, bureaucracy, and a history of time forgotten. You might also enjoy the sequel: Getting Stoned With Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu.


Listen to both of these books on Amazon Audible when you sign up for a membership. First two months are free!

An Embarrassment of Mangoes– by Ann Vanderhoof

Tired of the corporate lifestyle, Ann and her husband made strategic plans to leave it all behind and sail from Canada to the Caribbean in a 42-foot yacht. Living on a boat comes with its unique challenges, but to be able to move your home wherever the tide takes you is a unique experience. Fishing for dinner, boat maintenance, and trying to exchange crappy Canadian beer services are all part of the fun.


Their two-year adventure through the Caribbean dropping anchor in 47 islands includes festivals, Caribbean recipes, and how to survive when it’s just the two of you for days on end.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did, and who knows? Maybe I’ll be featuring your book here soon!

Pin This!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *