The matter of literature while travelling

A lazy afternoon in Campeche, Mexico
A lazy afternoon in Campeche, Mexico

Reading while travelling is an awesome activity to gap in the dead beats, especially when you are travelling alone. I really enjoy making friends and talking with the locals as much as I can, but let’s face the truth: sometimes, there is no one around or you just need to take a break and be with yourself. When you are waiting for buses/planes, or relaxing a bit before dinner, grabbing a good novel is always highly appreciated. One double problem remains: the impossibility to bring enough books for the duration of the trip AND the possible lack of availability of such books while there. As travellers, most of us don’t have enough money to buy new books each time we need it.

The best solution for us is to participate to the book exchange organized in hostels or cafés. The most important when leaving home is to bring a really big good book written in small print (buy it used, so you won’t mind to throw it way). If your mother tongue is not English, buy the book in your mother tongue because it might be the only book you will read in this language during the whole trip (even if we are very motivated to finally learn that other language, reading in our mother tongue is just incomparable). Once you’ve read it, look for a book exchange where you can drop your book and get an other one. Don’t forget to ask around if someone has something to lend or exchange. In my last trip, I met an other French Canadian woman and I told her about my thirst for good literature in French. I read two of her (Quebecers) books during the time we spent at the same hostel; my mind thanked me.

  Besides that, reading while traveling has its advantages: you read stuff you never thought you would read and you practice other languages. For example, in my last trip (in Mexico), I have read a really inspiring autobiographical novel in Spanish (translated from English though): Escuela de Belleza de Kabul of Deborah Rodriguez. Nevertheless, reading the Spanish version of The Exorcist didn’t change my life. If finding a book is a need impossible to satisfy for any reason, there is still the option of feeding your brain by buying a local magazine or newspaper. 

   Once you have found out how to get something new to read, you still have to find something that will actually interest you. This is the worst part of the game. I really don’t know why (well, I have a clue), but Harlequin style paperbacks are just overrepresented in exchange bookshelves. My hypothesis is about those books being given by library or bookstores. I just don’t want to believe that this literature is the one travelers like. Sometimes you can get two of them if you leave one good book. I developed a strategy to get better books to read: I take 2-3 new books (good or bad) when I can and I use them as exchange books in better filled bookshelves.
One Response to “The matter of literature while travelling”
  1. theveryhungrybookworm says:

    A word to the wise…do not travel with a book that you want to remain in pristine condition. Accept that it is going to get worn. I recently traveled with a book that I borrowed from my brother (who likes his books to look like they’ve never been read). Let’s just say that I had to take a trip to the bookstore to buy him a new copy!

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