Reading While Backpacking – It Works for Me

Runaway Photo: Dim Sum in Hong Kong
January 17, 2011
So long, farewell and I will ‘Friend’ you.
January 25, 2011

Reading While Backpacking – It Works for Me

Tooth brush, under wears, mini flash light, gloves… These are the things on your list when you packing. Everyone has their style and secret weapon. one of mine is a book.

Well it’s not a secret per se, because lots of backpackers bring one or two books. But it’s easy to miss. Now everyone has laptop or net book and smart phone so meaning of reading out of thick sheaf of paper is fading away. Reading a book in the airport is one way to spend time but now we can watch movie, update status or simply surfing on the web. However still I think reading from the book is better than ebook.

I love reading. My brother and I used to go the biggest bookstore where we could sit and read every day. We had a competition ‘who reads more’. I remember I beat my brother by reading 7 books. Now I’m thinking, we were such a good kids. 🙂 Anyway, reading is one big part of my life. Bring a book was totally natural step when I pack for backpacking.

Buy books from street flee market in New Zealand

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My the first choice of the book was ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau. I didn’t pick it up by any reason; just I happened to buy it during packing. Since I was going to New Zealand, the choice seems appropriate enough. I’m a fast reader, but it took me half a month to read all that. Well, reading was not the main part of the travel. As you can see, I love reading and I love books, so I don’t throw my books away but I had to make a choice that time. But the problem was that even if I wanted to donate it, the book was in Korean and I’ve never met a single Korean traveler, so how can I? So I drag the book around quite a while and found a Korean society to give my book away. I think that was my first official book donation. Who knew I could do that in overseas?

Books I bought.. one day.

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In the country of Lord of the rings, well… not really but became one because of the movie, bought old copies in just few bucks. Old smell of paper-second hand book-published in 90s, awesome! That became one of the routine. English books are quite expensive in my country because we have to import everything. So just pick books from flee market or street.

Also I bought few star maps from New Zealand. Astronomy is a big portion of my life, so I had to know what’s it like in Southern hemosphere. 🙂 It’s hard to get from where I’m from but Southern hemosphere star map is ‘normal’ thing here, right? One of my treasure now.

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Before I went to Cambodia, thought about buy a guide book or not like usual. Sometimes it’s useless, nonetheless I like guidebooks but they are pretty pricy. Gotta love social media… I put my thought up in Facebook or twitter about Cambodia guide book and experienced backpackers advised me don’t buy it until you get there. I said ‘What??’ but there was this new world, called ‘book of Xeroxed version’. Oh my. So I printed out some essential details and waited till get there. First day arrived, went to market to find some and bam, there they were, xeroxed version of… everything. Lonely planet of Cambodia, map, Vietnam, and various other countries. Guide book to Angkor archeology park, and even novels. So I picked up Cambodia quide book, a book about Angkor kingdom and few novels. That cost me just about 15USD. How crazy is this? One Lonely planet guide book is 30USD or something. Ha! Gotta love South East Asia and xerox. 🙂

That was a nice surprised and good reading material – extremely sad stories though.

Reading Angkor wat guide book before visiting

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In Jeju island, one rainy day we were all hanging out at a guesthouse and chatting about books and movies. One of them were reading a book about Turkish history, and other was reading the fighting club. She introduced me ‘The beach’, which made a movie out of of novel many years ago, filmed in Thailand. And I recommend Eat, Pray, Love and Julie and Julia.

After a week later we met again in Seoul, I gave Julie and Julia to her. Spread word to the world!

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In the 101 building of Taipei, there’s this book store called ‘Paper one’. I don’t know what is the big deal with this bookstore and neither did Meaghan and other girls who’s advised must visit by their friends back in Hong Kong. Okay, we all like to read and why not? It was.. well just a book store but yes, it was good. It was my second last day in Taipei, so I felt like to buy one souvenir for me. God knows I love souveniers. I gave myself 60% off Spanish a day calender and 30% off Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books but never tried it in English before and I’m trying to learn Spanish so all valid choices. 🙂

Beautiful book store

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I have many fond memories about books while on the road. Sometimes it allows me to back in a little comfort zone, gives me unrealistic imagination in my dream destination, one solution for jet lag, and of course, sometimes it’s just for fun. Pack a book or two, it is going to be another expedition in your travel-or maybe not. I can’t promise anything for you, you know. 🙂 But it was for me, so who knows?

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Juno set off for the wider world to pursue her passion for travel and storytelling. She traveled the world as an award-winning travel blogger and photographer, witnessing the everyday life of different cultures. Currently based in Anchorage, Alaska and exploring this amazing Last Frontier. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Instagram .

26 Comments

  1. Evan says:

    Me and Rachel both read like crazy when we’re out and about, too! I love that you picked up ‘Walden’ on a whim.. I read it when I was much younger and it had a big impact on me. I love it.

    What are some of your favorite books?

    • Juno says:

      Auggie ran’s christmas story by Paul Auster. It’s one of my all time favourite! 🙂 Enjoyed 7th book of Harry Potter. It was brilliant, not just I am a huge fan, it’s a great sum up of all seven stories! 🙂 What’s yours?

      • Evan says:

        Great! I read a lot of nonfiction lately.. I LOVE ‘Three Cups of Tea’ from Greg Mortenson. I also love ‘the Prophet’ from Khalil Gibran.

        • Juno says:

          I’ve never heard of it. – can’t keep English book up. hehe – Nonfictions are not my favourite genre, but worth to try it. I will check them out, thanks!! 🙂

  2. Meaghan says:

    Still don’t get what the big deal was with the bookstore at the 101. It was big but I’ve seen bigger and better. I highly recommend “Shakespeare and Co” across the street from the Notre Dame in Paris.

  3. ayngelina says:

    The reason I want to buy the Kindle, I miss reading and it’s expensive to buy English books on the road.

    • Juno says:

      I think that would be very useful! Hm, not many Korean books are in ebooks though.. 🙂 But US, Canada or UK published books are fairly cheap around here because they make paper cover books. It’s about 7USD. How expensive when you buy it on the road?

  4. Evan says:

    I wish there were more books available on the kindle. Most of the nonfiction stuff I like isn’t on there yet. 🙁


    ayngelina:

    The reason I want to buy the Kindle, I miss reading and it’s expensive to buy English books on the road.
    ayngelina recently posted..Is Peruvian Bembos better than McDonald’s
    [Reply]Juno Reply:January 24th, 2011 at 9:26 AMI think that would be very useful! Hm, not many Korean books are in ebooks though.. But US, Canada or UK published books are fairly cheap around here because they make paper cover books. It’s about 7USD. How expensive when you buy it on the road?
    [Reply]

    • Juno says:

      Do you have Kindle? It’s actually easy to read?? I have few ebooks for iPhone, but not comfortable to read it through screen. How’s kindle?

  5. Sabina says:

    It’s definitely important to bring books while traveling. What else besides read can we do on a bus or train? My books are one reason why I carry a suitcase rather than a backpack – they won’t fit!

    • Juno says:

      haha 🙂 In someway, books are quite good protect shield for my backpack. for example, something like tube, or flat. and it makes back side more comfortable. And it squeezes my stuff for me when I shove it in the backpack. 🙂

  6. Backpacking is my only chance to catch up on trashy thrillers and romance books that’s left behind by other travelers.

  7. LeslieTravel says:

    During my RTW trip I read constantly. I went through just about every Steven King and John Grisham book, since they were always in hostels! I love finding random books that travelers leave behind. Si quieres aprender espanol, podemos practicar!

    • Juno says:

      que sería grande! (is this correct?) I just love the sound of Espanol..!
      haha Steven King and John Grisham, yes I can see that. 🙂 Personally I don’t really like John Grisham’s though. I once read 20000 leagues under the sea, and that was squite appropriate for travel book. 😀

  8. LeslieTravel says:

    I don’t read many books now that I’m home, but I just started reading “Farm City”, about an urban farmer. I’ll let you know if it’s a good read!

  9. Marnie Alvez says:

    I love reading books while traveling! Though I can’t read on a moving vehicle… it makes me dizzy. It’s always good to carry at least 1 book while backpacking SEAsia as you can always swap it with other travelers or at hostels. While on a 6 month backpacking trip to Mainland SEAsia, I have read a wide range of books… from Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, passed on to me by a Finnish guy we met in Hoi An, Vietnam, Luong Ung’s ‘First They Killed my Father’, a heartbreaking pirated book I bought in Siem Reap, to Anthony Bourdain’s ‘A Cook’s Tour’, also a pirated copy I bought in Phnom Penh. I don’t think I would want to exchange my paperback to a Kindle since I love the feel and smell of printed paper =) And oh, since you mentioned Harry Potter books in your comments, I have one odd observation. Harry Potter book pages printed by Bloomsbury smells sweet compared to those printed by Scholastic =) haha, weird I know! But while reading, I stop once in a while to smell the pages of my books specially those new, hardbound ones =)

  10. Runaway Brit says:

    I love my Kindle. I thought it would be hard to read at first as I don’t like reading from screens but it is surprisingly comfortable and doesn’t hurt your eyes at all. It is also really easy to read in bright sunlight. I definitely recommend it to anybody who reads a lot!

    • Juno says:

      It’s amazing. I’ve read few review about Kindle and they all said the same thing. It doesn’t feel like reading out of a screen. That’s amazing! Modern technology… I can see how much that will help when I’m packing though.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Agree, I just got a Kindle, and I love it. I’m a huge reader, and I love actual books, but it’s just not practical for me to bring as many books as I want when I’m traveling since they weigh me down. It’s also nice to be able to download books and save them for later. I thought it would take a little getting used to, but it’s surprisingly intuitive. Would recommend for and traveler that can’t leave without a book (or 3) in their pack.

  12. Sebastian says:

    Nice story! I absolutely love my iPad. Using it to work on the blog, check and write my emails and to read books on the go. It saves a lot of space and weight!

  13. Rachel says:

    It’s so great to see someone championing real books in this age of ebooks! Nothing beats a good book, especially when travelling, and I agree that certain books really can evoke great memories of the place where you read them. I take my favourite book everywhere I go – it helps me feel at home no matter how lonely I am. Thanks for a lovely post!

  14. Ashleigh says:

    There is nothing quite like the sensory experience of turning pages (of the paper variety) – and iPhone’s don’t smell as nice as books either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have Kindle on my phone for really light trashy books that I can use to fill in for 5 minutes while waiting for a doctor or the like…but if I am sitting down to read, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be an actual book!

  15. Kitty Horn says:

    I absolutely love my iPad. Me and Rachel both read like crazy when we’re out and about, too!

  16. Jeremy says:

    I don’t read nearly enough but when I travel by train I love having a good book with me…

  17. It’s nice to read on the road because its slow, relaxing and not connected to the Internet! We read just about every John Grisham and Steven King novel on our RTW trip since there were always free copies in the hostels or super cheap copies in the foreign bookstores.

  18. Ruthi says:

    I read all the time and before we went to China was advised to get a Kindle I was really ANTI at the beginning as I like REAL books but my friends on the forum said no way would I survive in China without one as it’s hard to get good English books there..SO now I got one and I have about 500 books on it and it weighs the same as a small paperback so I am happy.

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