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.
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?