What Do You Read When You’re Traveling?

Woo hoo!  In three days I’ll be on vacation!

The husband and I are taking a LONG awaited and much-needed two week trip to Eastern Europe.  We’re seeing Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Slovenia.  I hope to soak up a lot of history and culture and explore some of my Eastern European roots.  While I don’t have relatives to meet up with, or family history to research, I keep remembering something a friend of mine said about her trip to Eastern Europe: that there was something very cool about being in a place where everyone kind of looks like you.

Will I feel like a native because my father and grandparents come from that part of the world?  Doubtful.  And that’s fine.  Learning new words, foods, and customs is the glorious thing about travel, even if you feel like an outsider.  As I learned when I tried to apply four years of college French in Paris.  The Parisians didn’t appreciate my efforts but I had a great time trying.

We’ve spent months preparing for this trip – we’re not exactly “fly by the seat of our pants” people.  We read guidebooks, scoured train schedules and travel catalogs, debated itineraries, talked to friends.  And still I feel unprepared. I’m the kind of person who packs several days in advance.  And of course I spend a lot of time thinking about the books to take on the trip.

First, the guidebooks.  Do you have a favorite travel series?  We’re mostly following Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe.  I actually like to rip up the guidebook and just take sections.  We’re only using a small part of the book, and this way we can throw the sections away when we’re done.  It bothers me to rip up a book but travel is different.  Once you get home, the guidebook is kind of a waste of space.  I also need to pack Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe.  A friend lent me her Eyewitness Travel to Budapest and Prague, so we’ll have to decide whether to take those.  It seems like a lot of books to pack, and we haven’t even gotten to the fun reading!

What do you read when you’re traveling?  Do you go lighter, fluffier?  One long book or shorter reads?  When I’m flying I want easier reads — too many interruptions to really concentrate on anything dense.  On the other hand, a “heavier” book makes it more likely I fall asleep – which, on a long, overnight flight, is definitely the goal.

Here’s what’s on my Kindle for the trip:

  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  •  Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter
  • The Lovers’ Dictionary by David Levithan
  • And of course, War and Peace

I also need one or two paper books to get me through the ascent and descent of four flights.  So I’ve got: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.

Will I read all these?  Probably not, but we have lots of long plane and train rides ahead of us, and the husband and I are readers, not talkers.

What I love about reading while traveling, is when I read a book in an unfamiliar location, I often associate that place and time with that book.  Do you? Last year I wrote about reading Return of the Native on the beach in the Bahamas.  I remember reading Outlander for the first time on the beach in California during law school (remembered particularly for the horrific sunburn caused by reading that book).  I’m not sure why those things stick but they do.  Sometimes I’ll remember a certain song I heard while reading a certain book.  Sometimes you remember a smell, or even something eaten while reading.  The mind is a powerful thing.

Do you read things related to the place you’re traveling?  I like to read about places before I go, but not during.  The Invisible Bridge, for example, was a perfect book to read before a trip to Hungary.  But I don’t feel the need to limit my travel reading to travel related subjects.  Maybe it’s weird to read a book about Hawaii (Moloka’i) while traveling in Europe, but why not?  It gives me something to think about for our next trip.

Do you pack more books than you need or plan on buying books as you go?  Most of the time I don’t buy books when I travel – although I like the opportunity to have a version of a book that’s unique in the U.S. For example, I love my British version of Bridget Jones’ Diary, which has all the original text and hasn’t been “Americanized” (ugh).  It also has a much better cover than that horrific two-eyed American cover.  I also cherish my small collection of French children’s books that I picked up in Paris (James et le Grosse Peche and Le Magicien d’Oz, for example). I stick to things that are small and light, that I can’t find back home.

But in a non-English-speaking country you don’t know what you’ll find, which is just one more reason my Kindle makes me very happy.  I can load it up as much as I want.  Most small hotels  and B&B’s have a “leave a book, take a book” shelf, which is a great idea.  You just can’t count on them to have something you actually want to read.

So, we’re off!  I hope I’ll be able to post a few times on the road.  What books do YOU take with you when you travel?

  4 comments for “What Do You Read When You’re Traveling?

  1. August 28, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Hope you have a great time on your trip! I can’t wait to read about it – you’ll be traveling in a part of eastern europe that’s very different from where i live (judging by their airports, which i HAVE visited – well, passed through), but one i’m hoping to travel through some next year. (fulbright paychecks being a bit better than peace corps’, i may actually have the money to travel.) i love that feeling you write about, of associating a book with a certain time & place. “jonathan strange & mr norrell” is forever linked with my first couple (very weird) months in macedonia, “under the dome” with sitting inches in front of my heater during my first winter here, “special topics in calamity physics” with days tramping around ruins in the yucatan, dripping with sweat. What I love is that when I reread certain books, I can revisit not just the book but where I was when I first read it – the best time of time travel.

  2. August 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Have a good time on vacation! That sounds like a wonderful trip.
    I love when you read something while traveling that reminds you of that location. I feel like you never really know when that connection will be made. I’ve read plenty of books in Ireland and Italy but can’t think of any I associate with either place. On the other hand I read Cujo while on a beach in the Bahamas and just thinking about that book makes me picture the locale.

  3. Lisa
    August 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Wow! That sounds like a great trip. I can’t wait to hear about it when y’all get back.

    I don’t generally make the association between where I read a book and the book itself, but I often read books related to my destination before (and after) I go. I’m a history junkie, so I like to read about the political/societal/religious backstory of the places I go (badly worded, but I think you know what I mean).

    Have a great trip!

  4. August 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Ok, I’m late to the game here, but I always have the same issues when I travel (and I don’t have a Kindle!) and took a similar trip a few years ago. However I do really like reading authors from where I’m travelling so I stocked up on Sandor Marai and other central European authors for that trip. I hope you have a good time!

    Also, I swear by Rick Steves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


living my best bookish life.


A Blog For People Who Love Books As Much As Me

Hissing Potatoes

story seeker. she/her.

Hannah's Library

"Books may well be the only true magic." -Alice Hoffman

Entering the Enchanted Castle

A quest for the magic in life, language, and literature

Adventures in reading, running and working from home

Liz Dexter muses on freelancing, reading, and running ...

She Seeks Nonfiction

A skeptic's quest for books, science, & humanism

The Nonbinary Librarian

Fueled by Books & Coffee

The Literary Escapade

"From that time on, the world was hers for the reading." - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Life With No Plot

My meanderings through life and writing . . .

%d bloggers like this: