Have book, will travel

For me the hardest part of packing for a trip is making sure I have all the books I’ll need to get me through airport delays, long flights, pool lounging, and, of course, for bedtime reading when I’m too tired from a day of strenuous vacationing to fall asleep.  Then, there’s the tricky part:  leaving enough room in my bulging carry-on for the books I will be buying while abroad.  We all have these problems, right? Right?

Well, when I set off for France two weeks ago, I had the equivalent of my bedside table pile on my Kindle, the galleys I got at BEA five years ago of Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, and a couple of back issues of the Oprah magazine. I congratulated myself on my light packing.

While in the beautiful Aquitaine region, I finished the Tropper and Jo Jo Moyes’ One Plus One (for my neighborhood book club) and I had queued up the Lily King novel that’s been getting so many raves for the flight back home.  Then, it was time to head back to the States.  We had five hours to kill in London and a large W.H. Smith store to browse in.  And they were having a “buy one get one ½ price”  sale on books that had made the British bestseller lists.  So…


Having already logged quite a few miles that day and anticipating an exhausting journey home (frankly, the worst part of international travel is getting on the Van Wyck Expressway to and from JFK airport—it calls itself a road, but it’s really a parking lot), I opted for the lighter seeming of the two books to start.  And so, I dug into Letters from Skye, which feels like a cross between The Notebook and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and was not disappointed.  It’s a lovely, easy read with just the right mix of romance and sadness to keep you turning pages.  And, I’m really looking forward to diving into the Wyld book, which appears to be much darker and literary (a bit Gaiman-ish).

The best thing, though, is finding new voices as a result of my travels that I might not have ever stumbled on while on this side of the Atlantic.   Turns out both of the books I picked up in London are available in the U.S., but they were not on my radar.  The fact that they were prominently displayed and discounted at a busy airport store made it easy for me to part with the last of my Euros and take home what is to me the perfect souvenir of my European vacation.

How do you handle books and reading on your trips?  Are you literary over-packers?  Do you have to go into any bookstore you pass—whether in North Carolina or Marrakesh?  Do you jointly archive experiences, scenery, and the narratives you were immersed in while on the road?  What did you read on your last vacation?


6 Responses to Have book, will travel

  1. Joelle says:

    Funny you should ask…I’m packing for a trip to Willamette Writers & to visit my family right now (or should be). Because I actually have a lot of reading time built into my everyday life, I tend to take a light and easy approach to vacation/traveling reading. I take one paperback, often a mystery, sometimes a romance, occasionally a light YA, that I know I’ll never want to read again but will enjoy and that’s it. When I’m done with it, I leave it somewhere and pick up something along the same vein at the closest used bookstore, thrift store, or airport bookstore.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I remember packing for grad school in Alaska in the early 80’s, and sending cartons of paperbacks ahead, definitely overdoing it because for all I knew, this was going to be my reading material for the next two years. The other single biggest packing chore was music. I spent over a month transfering albums to cassette tape that I could listen to on my Walkman, said tapes also being shipped out ahead by the boxload. Once there, all those cartons had to be moved everytime I changed dorms, which I did several times, having to walk with each box the equivalent of several city blocks, including two ice-slicked hills at 40 below (why do I feel like adding, “in my barefeet” and then shouting for “you damn kids to get off my lawn”?). Nowadays, though, all that “content” fits on my phone, along with almost everything else I had to pack for that trip, minus clothes (that is, camera, word processor [actually a typewriter with some memory], calculator, etc.) It’s truly amazing how much of the most important stuff has shrunk to the point of insignificance when it’s not actively being engaged.

  3. Miriam says:

    Joelle, that’s a great practice. I do leave my magazines behind when I’m done with them, but I’m too much of a hoarder to part with my books. Anonymous, I blame all my back problems on a lifetime of lugging heavy books and mss. around on all my travels so I agree that the e-reader is a lifesaver. That said, I still have to bring hard copies, just in case the Kindle fails. Neurotic? You be the judge.

  4. Lynn says:

    I’m like you Miriam, the books I carry with me, usually come back home with me. I also take into consideration that I will more than likely buy several books while traveling, so I try not to overpack. I prefer light reading (in paperback form and in content) when I travel. My eyes get too tired reading on electronic devices so I save that for reading blogs, articles, etc.

    I spend part of my time with my nose in a book and part of it people watching. There’s a wealth of material for writing in public places like train stations and airports that can’t be ignored.

  5. Katie Newingham says:

    I remember when I was seven months pregnant, we traveled to Hawaii with an 18-month-old. Having done this kind of long trek with her once, I learned if I were to enjoy travel, I’d need to pack more books and games. Between the books I packed for her, the books I’d read while baby was in womb (yes, I am that mother) and my books, our suitcase weighed something like 50 pounds over the weight limit. So, there in the middle of the airport, I opened all three suitcases and adjusted the weight so we didn’t have to pay extra. It was slightly embarrassing given some intimate garments were on top. But I saved $125.

    That said, I’m going on my first real vacation of the year next week and hope to get a lot of reading and writing in…

  6. D. C. says:

    Funny to read all the above. I very seldom take anything but a guidebook when I travel — if that. I’m a rabid sight-seer, so if I’m not on the run, I’m asleep.

    That said, I never travel without a large notebook (for quiet times and the end of the day) and a small pocket notebook (for quick jottings). On the road I see and hear things that are very different from the norm in my hometown. Consequently I usually come home loaded with ideas for my next masterpiece.

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