What to read while travelling

It is a question that pops up every time you go on a holiday. What am I going to read? And the answer matters, really. It adds to your experience of travelling which books you read. The independent statements of two novelists have convinced me to select my paper travel companions with care. Unfortunately, they don’t agree on which books you should read.

At the end of The tao of travel, Paul Theroux gives 10 essentials for travelling. Number 8 says: read a book that has nothing to do with the journey. However, in De verrekijker (The binoculars) Kees van Kooten says in that it does not make sense to read books you could also read at home.

So who to follow? I would say both of them. The trick is that they do not seem to refer to the same types of travel. One of Theroux’s other travel essentials is to travel alone. Why? Because you can experience the world around you the way you see it and your experience is not influenced by the opinions of a travel companion. If you would read a book that is about the area you are travelling in, you would be exposed to others’ opinions as well. At least, that is what I guess he means.

Unlike Theroux, Van Kooten does not refer to long journeys exploring the world, but to holidays. Going to some place for a week or two and stay there to relax or engage in some recreational activities. He argues that it makes no sense to go to this place and do things you could have done at home. So you should buy a regional paper or anything like that, and submerge yourself in the place you are in.

Still, I do not completely agree with Theroux’s vision, since I have good experiences with reading books about where I was travelling. But it is worth considering and trying out what it does with your experience of the journey.

Anyway, whatever you read, the book will also store your memories of the trip. Take a moment and watch the titles in your bookcase. Can you remember where you read this or that book? You will see that memories of this particular holiday will come back to you instantly.


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