When you're getting ready for a trip, is one of the first things your think of "What shall I bring to read?". If so, you're not alone. Of course, spending hours in airports, on planes, and in hotel rooms leaves plenty of time to fill, so there is a practical reason for this. But isn't there more? Aren't travel and reading really parallel activities? Both take you out of your habitual surroundings and transport you somewhere new. Travel does this both physically and mentally, reading only mentally (but often to times and places you could never visit otherwise).
On my last trip to India, I was simultaneously traveling in early 19th century Paris thanks to the thousands of pages (101 titles) of Balzac that I had downloaded to my Kindle. Waking up at 2 in the morning with jetlag gives you plenty of time to read - but no, Kindle tells me that I'm only 2% through the complete works. I doubt I'll ever take a trip long enough to finish.
Not only are travel and reading parallel activities, travel has historically been a central topic of literature. Think of the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, Moby Dick and most of the works of Jules Verne, to name a few. Travel tales are the perfect vehicle for showing growth and change in a person. And travel itself is a huge catalyst for growth and change in a person. In my last post, "Why Travel?" I discussed some of the many practical reasons for travel, but the personal reasons are just as important. This is what literature and storytelling have documented over millenia.
If you Google books to take when you travel, you'll get a lot of "vacation" reading. That's a much different mindset than the kind of travel I'm talking about. Still, you might want to check some of these lists out. Also, I came across an article, "Why Do We Always Take a Book When We Travel?" that give another perspective on this subject.
By Kevin O'Neill