I enjoy the physical object of a book, both the feel of it as well as the smell of paper. They however are bulky and can be heavy, so the desire to travel requires some compromises. Becoming an expat in a non-English speaking country has added to those woes a bit as well. I not willing to give up on either reading or traveling so compromises ensue.
This post is in support of the opening of this year’s Passports With Purpose. They bring together a large group of the travel blogging community to raise money for a cause. This year’s cause is building two libraries in Zambia. Read more on their site about why books matter. Reading is a passion of mine and supporting helping others to have access to books is a totally worthy cause. Go to their site to donate.
Here are some options to include books and reading in your travels.
Bringing them Along
The first option and the one that I often choose is just taking books with me. I read mostly fantasy and only paperbacks, so in a reasonable suitcase I can pack a number without it being heavy. For short trips like a weekend in the Alps this is natural and easy. Flights and month long study abroad trips can make this problematic.
Pros: I love the feel of books. I enjoy having the physical article in my hand and seeing the pages turn as I read. I already have a ton of books, so it is cheap as well.
Cons: Weight and space. Even though I brought a ton of books when I moved by boat, I still had to leave a bunch at home. When we went back to to North Carolina after getting married, I brought another set. Ali brought some as well. All of this adds up weight wise and with airline baggage fees this can be expensive too.
Buying them Abroad
One friend suggested that I sell all my books at home and just re-buy them here. I looked into this, but the time to sell them at home and money to buy them here was prohibitive. Some of my favorite books are from the 80s and 90s and out of print. New books in Germany in English can cost 10-13 Euros each and used book stores here do not normally stock English. Although my German is fluent, I like reading in English. Amazon.co.uk is a great thing for English books as they ship nicely to Germany. You just can’t flip though them.
I have certainly bought a number of books in both my new expat home town and on the various trips that I have gone one. Even if I choose to bring books along, I often underestimate how much I will read and buy more along the way.
Pros: The weight issue is not a problem going out, though could be if you bought a book along the way and couldn’t bear to part with it. You still end up with the physical book.
Cons: Time commitment of selling old books and the expensive of buying new ones.
Take a penny, leave a penny, just in book form. I have seen these in Irish pubs. They are common in hostels and even on a few of the boats that I have been on.
Pros: Dropping off a book to pick up a fresh one can be a nice way to save money and space.
Cons: There is no control over what you find. Picking up part two of a series can be annoying to start in the middle. Picking up part one can be worse as it might take a few swaps to get part two.
Expat Lending Library
An expat variation of the hostel book swap is the English Expat Lending Library. At least in our circle this comes in one of two forms. The local German-English Association, the Carl-Schurtz house, has a lending library in English that I have heard about. I have not gone to check it out, but I have heard good things. Including that they have movies. The second option is the one that I use more often and is far more informal. My kiwi friend has a large set of bookshelves. A group of us just lend books back and forth and an awful lot of them end up on her bookshelves. So when I am looking for something new to read I look there.
Pros: Free. At my kiwi friend’s house getting a new book often includes a cup of tea. This option can be great if your friends have similar tastes in books to save money. (See the price of English books here.)
Cons: If the library, or circle of lending friends, has different tastes, this kind of thing isn’t so helpful.
Ebooks and their readers are increasingly popular. This seems especially true for travelers given their small weight especially in comparison with a stack of books. I have not yet taken the plunge despite my technical affinity. Most of the books that I have and love are old enough to not even be available in e-format. Nope, sorry they aren’t old enough to be on Project Gutenberg.
Pros: Light and slim for packing. You can carry your entire library with you.
Cons: Rebuying your physical library as electronic ones can be expensive. International transfer onto the devices can be annoying sometimes. I miss the ability to share books with others without paying to buy the same book. I also miss having a physical book.
Reading will always be one of my favorite things, as will travel. This means I will continue to have to make compromises.
How do you manage your reading habit with your luggage restrictions?