Reading While Traveling

I love to read books while traveling, as there’s plenty of downtime on flights, trains or car rides to spend catching up on your reading. On every trip I take, I try to bring along at least one book that was written in or takes place in my destination. This isn’t a new idea by any means (plenty of people do this), but I started this habit after I read Farenheit 451 while in summer camp as a kid, because it felt really discordant to me and led to some weird memory associations between camp and that book.
When on my way to mission trips in Mexico (which is a two-day van ride, each way, that I’ve now done five times), I often get through a lot of books, but one I often bring on those trips is Red Glass by Laura Resau, a book about a journey through Mexico which is one of my all-time favorites. When in London and Edinburgh, I bought Pride and Prejudice and Emma from a bookstore and read them on train rides. When I go to Cuba this summer, I plan to take along a copy of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and any other great books by Cuban authors and/or with Cuban settings that I can find.

When we went to Europe, my friend Mickey and I even took it a step further, watching any sort of movies vaguely related to the UK or France before we left, from The Other Boleyn Girl to What A Girl Wants to Ratatouille, and even made a “Europe playlist” to listen to in our hotel rooms at night while we were there. Now when I hear any of those songs, it immediately sweeps me back to our favorite bed and breakfast (on Gower Street in London), the Ridgemount Hotel.

Personally, I love to bring paperback books along when I travel. I’ve just never been a fan of e-readers, and in some destinations in the developing world, I feel better about bringing paperback books and maybe leaving them behind at a bed and breakfast, hostel, or thrift store rather than using the (often unreliable and expensive) electricity to charge a book-reading device. It’s also really fun to get new books on trips, whether from trading at a hostel, picking one up at a flea market or used bookstore, or buying one as a souvenir of a place. Here’s a great blog article from Independent Travel Cats about traveling with books.

I really feel like your understanding of a culture or destination can be enhanced by reading books that relate to it, either before or during your trip. It’s also a good way to get excited and stay motivated to save for your vacation as well!

What about you? Have you made any awesome book/destination pairings in the past? Any suggestions of books to read when I go to Cuba (in English or Spanish)? Do you prefer e-readers or paper books when traveling? Leave a comment below!

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