One of the most stressed-over items on the packing list for my Australian working holiday was my vast book collection. I knew I would want something to read, but how many is too many? What about guidebooks? I came to a decision of bringing books with me, despite the advice of my friends and family.
I brought three paperbacks in addition to my guidebook, so four in total. It was probably too many, but I’m such a bookworm that I couldn’t help it. The good thing with these is that you can give them away when you’re done. If you’re traveling somewhere that doesn’t speak English, it’s good to have at least a few books to keep you occupied until you can find more English language titles. I also love being able to highlight, mark and fold down pages, which you can’t do with e-books.
Amazon has a big selection of bargain books, some for less than $5. There could also be a benefit on your income taxes if any of the books you purchase are related to your job. (hint hint, travel bloggers)
Whether you have a Kindle, iPad or are just reading from your computer, e-books are an easy and cheaper option, especially considering how many are available for free. You can even download sections of Lonely Planet guidebooks if you don’t want to lug thick guidebooks around. The Kobo store offers free classics that come loaded on your e-reader or can be downloaded for other formats. Project Gutenberg offers over 36,000 free e-books available for download.
On the downside, e-books need more care, since e-readers tend to cost upwards of $100. They need Internet access to download new books, which can be hard to find in some parts of the world, and you don’t want to worry about it getting damaged or stolen. Popular new titles can also end up costing almost the same amount as a paperback if you buy through the Amazon Kindle store.
Once I finished the original three paperbacks, I took full advantage of hostel and community book exchanges. Most of them were full of chick lit or foreign language titles, but you can occasionally find a good read. The book exchange I found in Cairns also served as a used bookstore if you didn’t have one to swap.
If you’re traveling with a group of people for a set amount of time, like a tour, it’s nice to be able to borrow one another’s books once you have finished them. Even if you spot one of your fellow travelers reading a book you’ve had your eye on, it can’t hurt to ask to take it off their hands once they’re finished.
So now that we’ve determined how best to acquire books, how do you decide which ones to bring on your trip? If you’re worried about your guidebook taking up too much room, you have a few options. As I mentioned earlier, some are available in PDF formats that you can access online. Another way would be to write down pertinent information, make copies of certain pages or just rip out a chunk of your guidebook.
To get the most out of your reading experience, it might be a good idea to pick one big book to bring, which will take you longer to read. Didn’t you always mean to read War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Gone with the Wind but never got around to it? Now seems like as good a time as any.
If you’re still looking for some reading material, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Her Packing List Recommends:
Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi: This nonfiction book is about 18 year-old Aebi’s post-high school sailing trip around the world. And oh yeah, she did it completely alone. Maiden Voyage makes even the most adventurous feel like wimps.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman: Friedman’s book is the younger generation’s Eat Pray Love, about a girl who graduates college and says, “What now?” From there she travels around the world with her best friend.
Tales from the Expat Harem by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen: The tales in question are 29 stories from women living as expats in Turkey, dealing with cultural differences and language barriers.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Easily the most popular travelogue of the last few years, Gilbert’s book describes the dissolution of her marriage and her year spent living in Italy, India and Indonesia.
>>Check out 19 more wanderlust-inducing travel books here.
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts: Every aspiring long-term traveler should read Potts’ manifesto on how to attain this lifestyle. He includes recommended nomad reading, helpful websites and countless words of wisdom.
Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony and Maureen Wheeler: Ever wondered how Lonely Planet got started? Whether you love or loathe the guidebooks, this book is worth reading to hear about the couple’s first overland journey that inspired their business. They went from arriving in Australia with a little more than a dollar to their names to building one of the most successful publishing companies in the world.
The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner: This is one of my favorite travelogues because it brings together three very different personalities and each of their takes on their round-the-world trip. Each of the girls had a successful journalism career in New York when they decided to leave for the “adventure of a lifetime.”
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor: Another book written from the perspectives of more than one author, Traveling with Pomegranates is a mother-daughter travelogue spanning ten years. Writer Kidd and her daughter Taylor travel to archaeological sites in Greece, France and Turkey. The story is about an emotional journey as much as a physical one.