Updated on April 25, 2017
Reading and Travel: The Perfect Pair
For anyone that knows me, you know that I am an avid reader. I read novels, blogs, nonfiction, history, thrillers, and everything in between. I never leave home without my Kindle – public transit gives me lots of opportunities to sneak a few pages on the go. Maybe I read too much, even. Last year I read 50 books, and that’s not counting the many travel guides I scoured or a few books I gave up on.
Some of my most favorite travel moments were taken to the next level, thanks to books. I remember wandering the streets of Venice just after finishing a chapter during Carnival in People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. Knowing the stories behind beloved English bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris from books like Time Was Soft There made me feel like I was in on the secret when I visited, like I had found a piece of something familiar. And I’m so glad I saved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series until we moved to Stockholm. It was so much fun to recognize street names and literally follow the story by the map.
Reading can ignite wanderlust in big ways. Whether it’s flipping through 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, extreme adventures like in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, exploring undiscovered islands like in The Beach, or “finding yourself” like in Eat, Pray, Love, books can inspire us to get out there and see the world for ourselves.
Travel can also inspire a search for deeper understanding of history. A trip to Berlin this fall inspired me to dig deep into the dark history of communism in Eastern Europe, a subject that I knew very little about. So I went all in, with a 600+ pager on the life behind the Iron Curtain. The knowledge I gained provided context into some of my past travels, such as Krakow and Berlin, but also set me up to have a more meaningful trip to Budapest.And I can’t leave out travel guides! We love Rick Steves, and Kevin and I take him with us wherever we go. His books are simultaneously cheesy and snarky, his self-guided tours are hugely valuable (if hard to follow, directionally), and we share his deep appreciation for off-the-beaten-path locales. Plus, he gives the lowdown on important details like public transportation, phrases to know, and history of the area.
Other valuable resources I use for ideas as we’re planning a trip include:
- My favorite travel bloggers for neighborhood guides and a photographic tease.
- City guides from sources like Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, etc.
- Atlas Obscura and Amusing Planet to discover the weird and wonderful
- Spotted by Locals for local bars, restaurants and art spots to visit
Books can take us to worlds – read and imagined – that we never knew existed. So get out there and read!
Share in the comments of your favorite moments of travel and reading. Also, I’m always open for something new to add to my reading list – recommend your favorite books, blogs and guides.