Travel and Books Part 1: Will There Be Room for Clothes?

Sydney, Saturday

Books are one reason why I can’t seem to achieve my goal of travelling with only a laptop and carry-on bag, and why my checked luggage coming home isn’t as light as it could be.

When you live in Sydney, you get used to long flights to just about everywhere (except to New Zealand and the rest of Australia – flying from Sydney cross-country to Perth is similar to flying from New York to San Francisco, a relatively short 5 hours).  In just over a week, we fly first from Sydney to Singapore, one of the shortest flights from here to Asia, about 8 hours.  The next flight, from Singapore to Paris, is about 13 hours.  

I’m not a big user of in-flight entertainment systems, though sometimes Clive and I start the same movie at exactly the same time, so we can watch it together.  (It’s different on United Airlines, which is at least 12 years behind, but that’s another topic.)  Neither of us can sleep much on airplanes.  Mostly for me, the long flights are a rare opportunity to read for an extended time, without feeling we should be paying bills or cleaning the garage to the point where we could fit our car into it.

When getting ready for a trip, one of the more pleasant piles of stuff I put together is reading material to take.  This almost always includes recent issues of the New York Times Book Review and Economist magazine, one or two non-fiction books, sometimes a juicy-looking novel, and, if we’re visiting somewhere new, a guidebook or photocopied parts thereof.

The Reading Pile

I always wish I had more time to thoughtfully consider which books to take; I love the process, even if it’s inevitably last-minute.  It involves looking over my current ‘to read’ pile, which contains, among other things, a few books still unread after our last trip (sigh), and thinking about which ones would be appropriate for this trip.  Decisions are usually based on current events and interests, some of which are global — I’m only just finishing The Elephant and the Dragon, by Robyn Meredith, and am keen to start Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World.   Sometimes my reading interests are much closer to home.  In May, on the flight from Sydney to San Francisco, I read How to Care for Aging Parents, by Virginia Morris and Robert M. Butler.  In March, when we were in England and France, we both read Cara Black’s Murder in the Marais, the first of her mystery series set in Paris.

I try mostly to take books I don’t want to keep, but of course it’s sometimes impossible to know this ahead of time.  That’s one reason I like including a light novel, something I can easily pass on to a friend, or leave or trade at a B&B.

Clive and I always plan to read more than we actually do on our trips, and despite knowing this, we still take more than we end up reading.  We also leave space in our checked luggage for books accumulated whilst travelling.  We both used to take a lot of Aussie souvenirs to family and friends, and these were often books, but we’ve largely stopped that now.

Clive’s Folder 

Clive always prepares a magnificent trip folder, with all of our travel plans, itineraries, confirmations, maps, e-mails, brochures, and other information we’ve collected, like the name of his father’s favourite Sainsbury’s sherry or where to buy tall women’s jeans (Zara and Top Shop in the UK).  For this trip, he’s even included a few articles on the U.S. Electoral College, since we’ll be in the U.S. during the election.  I adore looking through the trip folder ahead of time and during our travels, reading the brochures, studying the maps, and learning as we go.

The objective is to make the ‘take’ pile small enough to leave room for other things in my carry-on, always a challenge.  In the midst of all the usual pre-trip craziness, I’m already looking forward to getting settled in our seats and being airborne, with all that lovely reading time ahead.

More to come.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks to you

  2. I loooove thinking about what books to take. Having the wrong book(s) has been known to break a vacation for me! (Seriously, once I was already feeling a bit unsettled on a trip, and then when I added in that I hated the book I had, and was far from any other source of English-language books, I literally packed it in a day or two early and changed my flight).

    I’ve been collecting Sicily-related items ever since it had been one of the possibilities for our honeymoon (we ended up on the Amalfi Coast). Marco’s mother grew up there, and his aunt (her twin sister) still lives in the family home in Catania. I’m dying to get there and see this bit of family history as well as exploring the beautiful island with its
    fascinating history and natural beauty. To that end, I got for example, the Leopard, but am waiting to read it until actually on the trip or at least closer to time.

    I also much prefer reading on the plane (though I don’t come anywhere near to the length of flights you routinely take). Somehow I just can’t usually do the movies. So I too take more books than I should.

    But I too either copy or tear out guidebook pages. That way they can not only go in my trip bag later, but are easy to take around on the relevant day in my purse or day bag as well.

  3. Kim, what a great comment! I totally relate to the situation in which not having a book was ‘the final straw’. Your Sicily ‘pile’ sounds fantastic and I’m sure you’ll make the most of it when you visit there.

    Cheers and happy reading 🙂

  4. Hi Carolyn, thanks for comment on my short walk 🙂

    I have never travelled to extent that you and clive do, so only take one book, and that is my guide book!! I don’t have an ipod either!

    I am sure if I travelled like you, it would a whole different story 🙂

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