Books have always been a permanent fixture on my packing lists. They’re right up there with socks, underwear, and my glasses. My mother still teases me about the “book suitcase” I would pack for our annual trips to India. In between the gifts for family and the random toilet paper we were always packing, I would slip paperbacks in every nook and cranny of one of the 4 massive suitcases we’d pack. She also slipped in a few new books as a surprise. Two months is a long time, and I was a fast reader. Fast forward to today. I still bring a veritable library of books wherever I go. It just happens to be in the form of an eReader and a single physical book. Have books, will travel. Here are some of my favorite travel tips for fellow book lovers.
…to e-readers. Hear me out. If I were to pack all the books I wanted to read on a long weekend away, they would take up an entire suitcase. For as much as I love reading, I love traveling with a carry-on just as much. Enter the eReader. When it comes to travel, the convenience of having over one hundred books at my fingertips outweighs the sensory experience of holding and reading a book. And when your belongings are limited to a backpack and a small suitcase, convenience is downright necessary. If you firmly believe that reading only happens when you hold a book, consider listening. Audiobooks are a wonderful way to absorb a new story to learn something new—without any baggage. My husband and I listened to D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths every evening when we were in Greece. It brought the ruins we had visited alive in a new way and was a satisfying way to unwind in the evenings.
Maintain your routine
My reading routine is sacred: nonfiction in the mornings, fiction at night, and always in bed. The routine is easy enough to maintain at home. But when I’m traveling, it takes a little bit of planning. I try to set up the nightstand at a hotel or a rental the way I have it at home—glasses, a bottle of water, my pill box, and my book and Kindle. (Where’s my phone? Plugged in on the other side of the room, on airplane mode, with an earlier-than-necessary alarm set.) My nonfiction book is almost always a physical one, so that’s the one to come with me when I travel. After guzzling water and taking my vitamins, I crack open the book and read a chapter or two. For me, it’s the best way to start the morning—wherever I am. At night, I read on my Kindle as to not disturb my husband (who falls asleep before I do). I try to read from a new book, but always have an old favorite (the All Souls trilogy, usually) downloaded to re-read when I can’t focus.
Set the mood
I love to read a book set in the place I’m traveling to, particularly for a vacation. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth accompanied me on multiple India trips. Siracusa by Delia Ephron was the perfect read for our trip to Sicily. And I’m waiting until December before starting The Goddesses by Swan Huntley, as we’re spending the holidays in Hawaii. Whether you select a classic or contemporary book, a novel or a sociological exploration of a region, reading a locally-set book just enhances your travel. As my travel bucket list grows, so does my reading list.
And I’m perfectly fine with that.
Featured illustration: Natalie Nelson; Author Photo: Patrick Henley, Skai Blue Media