I am terrible at packing. My frequent travel companions are aware of this, and know to bring extra toothpaste and other essentials that I invariably leave off my list. We also have to factor in a trip to Target for socks, etc. I have a “souvenir” sweatshirt from every locale I’ve visited, because at some point I’ll realize I forgot to pack a sweater.
Part of this has to do with my priorities — my packing strategy tends to look like this:
- Pack books.
- Sort out music for the trip.
- Pack books of a different genre than the previous books.
- Pack e-readers, laptop, and chargers.
- Pack books I really ought to get around to reviewing.
- Pack my journal, notepad, and a spiral notebook in case inspiration strikes.
- Pack books I bought for the last trip and never got around to reading.
- Pack makeup and toiletries (I have a LOT of makeup).
- Throw in a couple of magazines for good measure.
- Realize I have to leave the house in less than fifteen minutes and throw random clothing at the suitcase until it barely closes.
You’re probably sensing a theme right now. The really surprising thing to me is how little e-readers have changed this process. You’d think that having hundreds of digital books at my fingertips would minimize the suitcase space taken up by paperbacks, but it hasn’t really turned out that way — it just enables me to pack even more books!
The books I take on trips can serve many different purposes. Some act as security blankets; a little piece of home to buffer me against unfamiliar surroundings. This is especially true with air travel. My go-to books for plane rides are light, funny books by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is particularly good for this, as it starts off in an airport).
Another use for all those books is, of course, killing time. Sometimes I buy books specifically for this purpose. When I was first married, I took a Greyhound bus from Buffalo, NY to San Diego, where my husband was stationed with the Marines. Combing through the bookstore for something long enough to see me through a three-day, non-stop trip, I picked up Atlas Shrugged. Scenes from that book will forever be tied to my first cross-country experience of America, and I found my working-class mode of transport to be an interesting counterpoint to its themes.
I also like reading books, especially novels, about my destination. If you ever visit Buffalo, I highly recommend taking City of Light by Lauren Belfer. It’s set in 1901, at the height of Buffalo’s golden age, and contains a lot of interesting historical information. You can even find City of Light tours that take you to the places mentioned in the book.
I’m packing right now for a trip I’m taking this weekend, and there’s already a stack of books waiting to go into my suitcase. Sure, I may need to go shopping for socks when I arrive, or bum an extra toothbrush off my girlfriend, but I’ll never be without something to read!