10 Books to Read When Living Unsettled

A great read makes a great adventure even better. At Unsettled, we find ourselves skipping the ‘travel memoirs’ section and diving into one of a couple of types of books.

Read Like a Local

At Unsettled, whenever possible, we believe in ‘going local’. For us, that usually looks like buying locally grown food (and wine!), hiring local team members, working with local partners, etc. But it can also look like reading books by authors who are from a country you’re traveling through, or at a minimum, authors who have truly immersed themselves in said place. When you read local, you learn much more than the story at hand. You learn how people from there think, communicate ideas, tell stories, interact with their world, and much more.  

Read A Book that Gives You Perspective

Travel is a great teacher, and one of it’s greatest lessons is that it can widen our perspective, by getting outside of your “known” (your comfort zone, routine, native culture and language, etc.) and into the “unknown”. Traveling far from the more predictable elements of life is the perfect time to read a book that will open your perspective on a subject that may impact your life-long journey in how you go through work and life.

So with no further ado, we present our top reads for when we travel…

Books to read, no matter where you live Unsettled…

Our list starts with three books to read, no matter where your passport takes you. These books were hand selected because they can be seen as ‘guides’, if you will, about how we navigate through work and life.

Hustle & Float by New York Times best-selling author and Unsettled friend Rahaf Harfoush explores how we have forgotten how to float, ride life’s waves, and maximize our creativity in a world overly obsessed with work and productivity. This is a perfect read for anyone experiencing burnout or the pressure from “the hustle”. We believe that discovering how to maximize your creativity and defining, for yourself, how and why you are productive is one of the most important questions for our generation to answer. This book was released a week before this post, so you know it’s up to date.    

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles is an excellent primer for finding your own personal ikigai, or your “reason for being”, through exploring the lives of some of the world’s longest living people. If you’ve been on an Unsettled retreat, you know why we recommend this book in particular.

Discover Your True North by Bill George, the Harvard leadership educator and expert, explores how uncovering your personal true north empowers your path toward authentic leadership. We all have a leader inside of us ready to be discovered.  This is another concept we explore on Unsettled retreats. Watch co-founder Michael Youngblood’s TED Talk which gives a similar take on this topic from his time as a captain navigating on Unsettled’s sailing retreats.

Books to read while at an Unsettled Location…

Expand your horizons, while also expanding your personal library. Our library at Unsettled HQ is full of location-specific reads that bring us half-way to our destinations. This is so when we do get all the way to where we’re headed, the experience is that much richer, deeper and as local as they can be.

Here’s what’s lining our (physical and electronic) bookshelves:

Unsettled Amazon (July 2019)

The Peruvian Amazon has been enchanting explorers and writers for centuries. Unsettled is returning this July for our second expedition into one of the largest tracks of wilderness known — or unknown — to humanity. While dedicated scientists and explorers travel the Amazon to study it, we venture into Peru’s Madre de Dios region to explore how a week in nature, away from our work and modern life, can transform who we are, how we pull inspiration from nature into our work and lives, and how we interact and conserve the natural world.

Wade Davis is an anthropologist and ethnobiologist who explored the Amazon rainforest since the 1970s, to uncover secret truths about the richness of the people and their plants (and how they inform one another) in One River. His daughter has even joined us on some hikes! Also, to begin to turn the page on your Amazonian adventure, check out Paul Rosolie’s Mother of God, accounting his journey into the unknown as an eighteen-year-old itching for discovery in the depths of the rainforest.

Bali (1-month retreats in May, June, and August; 2-week retreats in July)

Bali is a favorite Unsettled alumni destination, because of its innate spirituality and wonderment, coupled with its nomad culture and epic workspaces for productivity. This balance of work, life, and awe keep us coming back time and time again.  

To wet that appetite for your journey in paradise, with mouth-watering photography by Isabella Ginanneschi and written by longtime Bali resident Duncan Murray Kirk, In the Spirit of Bali illustrates the past history and present-day lure to this legendary, mystical island. How has the island changed over the years? And what can its traditions and rituals teach us about living with greater intention and balance? You will want to jump right into these pages. We’re here to tell you that you can.

Medellín, Colombia (August & September 2019)

Colombia is one of the most literate countries in Latin America with a current literacy rate of 91.4%, not in small part due to the many rich, diverse, and fascinating stories Colombians have to share about their history and culture. Colombia is historically one of the most influential literary and cultural hubs in Latin America, it’s no surprise why we keep returning.

Perhaps most famously in Colombian literature, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is a landmark novel in literary fiction and is also a wonderful gateway into the history and culture of Colombia. According to the New York Times Book Review: “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” What better reason to read it than on your way to a month in Medellín? And though Colombians may roll their eyes, why not catch up on Narcos too?

Cape Town (April 2019)

No journey in South Africa would be complete without examining its complicated history and exploring firsthand how the present and future of this incredibly vibrant and diverse country has been shaped by its past. Living Unsettled in Cape Town gives you the opportunity to make these connections on the ground, and for yourself.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom may be the most obvious choice, but it is obvious for a reason. Not only is it a historical account of racial oppression in South Africa by one of the most prolific political leaders of our time, but Mandela’s inspiring words may ignite the innate leader in you while you live, work, and grow in Cape Town, one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

BVI (May 2019)

Ships Ahoy! Legend has it that Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was partly inspired by a set of caves that we explore on our annual sailing adventure through the British Virgin Islands. With island names like “Dead Man’s Chest” and our visit to a floating pirate ship bar, you are sure to find many hidden treasures.

While you are saying “aye, aye” to the pirate-life, we suggest dusting off your DVD box set of the Pirates of the Caribbean films to learn some pirate lingo. But most importantly, to get some fun costume ideas!

Ready to put that book in that backpack and join an Unsettled retreat? Order your favorite book and check out our summer line up.


Unsettled is a global community for those who live and work differently. 

Growth | Meaning | Adventure

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!