Ever since I could remember, books were my best friends. It may sound sad because it looks like I didn’t have any ‘actual’ friends, maybe I didn’t but I really enjoy living in the world of stories. My brother, my cousin and I spent our spare time at Kyobo Book Store, which we could read as much as we want at the store (which was a BIG sensation in 90s Korea). Sometimes we competed for each other who read more. I’m starting to think we were really a good (and nerdy) kids. The best gift anyone could ever give when I was growing up was a book certificate. They usually came with 5,000 – 10,000 won ($5 – $10), and it allowed me to buy books in most of the bookstores in town. It was a great system that we don’t have anymore. I ran a project with myself in high school to read 100 books a year. The closest I could get was 80 something in the first year of college.


The subjects of all the reading were diverse: science, astronomy, biology, novel, essay, cartoon, fantasy novel, Greek and Rome history, religion, history, UFO, anthropology and something else I don’t remember. I dreamt to be an astronomer, anthropologist, writer, and somebody famous so I can put my own name in the encyclopedia (Wikipedia, these days). But, I don’t remember reading much about ‘travel’. I’ve always interested in the world outside of Korea, but not because of the adventures I’ve read in the book nor staring at the world map.

I felt kind of embarrassed when I first invited myself to the world of travel writing. For a person who wants to be a writer in travel field, I found out that I haven’t really read anything ‘important’. The closest travel book I’ve read (and left me a big inspiration) was ‘The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World’. I feel really good about that because I liked the book so much. Two of my travel writing inspiration, Stephen, and Katie, can talk about travel writers about their styles and all sorts of jargon I don’t really follow. They just wow me so much. Me? I can’t do that. I can make you so bored so you don’t want to talk to me anymore if you ask me the history of writers and important people in science and astronomy, but not travel books. I guess the embarrassment came from the urge to follow the mainstream and feeling of I have to do what everyone else does.

The Great Gatsby in Vinh Long Vietnam
Me, reading the Great Gatsby in Vietnam

I’ve tried to induce myself to read more travel-related books, starting from famous ones. You know, like books you have to read if you are interested in travel. Of course, there was a big challenge since I wasn’t used to reading a book in English. My very first English book was the last book of Harry Potter, simply because I couldn’t wait for the translated version. I tried, and I found some easy-enough books for second language speakers like me during my Tour Asia 2012. I widen my field of reading by doing that, and it occurred to me, very slowly, that I don’t have to restrain myself to do something. It’s always good to learn and try something new, but I don’t have to replace it with the interests I already have. I have a broad knowledge of pretty much everything in the world, and why stop now?

You don’t have to change yourself to be a traveler. I certainly don’t have to limit myself to only read travel books. I’ve read thousands of books that were not specifically about travel, but I still became a professional traveler. All the books I’ve read in different genre allowed me to imagine what it is like to visiting the places in the world of books. I want to go Greece because of the Greek myth I’ve read, I want to visit places that I can see Aurora Borealis (and I did), the dream of seeing Southern Cross lead me to New Zealand, and I still have to go England to do Harry Potter tour. There are so many things can trigger traveling. Everyone has their own purpose and has a different comfort level.

Travel in comfort is what I want to say to all the travelers (or traveler-to-be). We don’t have to do ‘cool’ things to just because that’s what everyone does. It doesn’t make you any less of a traveler. I don’t have to feel bad because I haven’t read many travel books than others. No matter where it started, my interests lead me to travel the world, and I’m making the dream come true every day – in my own way. And it doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a traveler of a writer.

My kindle book list is full of inspirations – starting with many books by Carl Sagan, Bossypants by Tina Fey (which I finished in a day), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, a few travel-related books (The World’s Cheapest Destinations, Medellín Travel Guide, etc), and dozen other varieties.

Travel in your comfort, not others.

Read what you like, not what you have to.

12 thoughts on “Travel in Comfort: Reading”

  1. I love reading books from the countries I’m visiting. Sometimes you’ll read authors you’ve never heard of before, but it gives you a great insight into the country. But also Harry Potter.

  2. Amen, amen, amen!
    I also love reading but I rarely read travel related books… I don’t know why, but I guess everyone reads what ever genre they like 🙂
    There’s nothing as wrong as feeling forced to read a book! I had this feeling at school/university and I had enough hehe 🙂

  3. Great post, Juno! I used to get book vouchers for every birthday/Christmas from one set of Grandparents and it was the greatest thing to go pick out books. If I ever wanted a game or something my Dad would say “why don’t you buy a book instead” so I’d get that money and instead of buying games I bought books… and now my cupboard is bowing from the weight of all of them because I’ve never thrown one out (whoops!)

    I used to love reading when travelling but find it harder now. I hate reading books on my iPad but also don’t want to lug them around (When I was at a US summer camp I sent around 10kg of books home because I couldn’t bare to throw them away – books are so cheap in the US!)

    It was actually books that made me fall in love with travel. The Babysitters Club series inspired me to attend a summer camp, the Stravaganza series made me want to visit Italy, the Magic Faraway Tree series (by Enid Blyton) made me dream of far away places, and all of the spy books I read growing up was always set against the backdrop of somewhere amazing and exotic.

    (Bossy Pants is a brilliant book!)

  4. Absolutely! I’m taking advantage of a little extra time in one place and was just restocking my Kindle with books today. I was on the hunt for books from China and Japan, not particularly about traveling, but just to learn more about the culture while enjoying the beautiful literature. I find that anytime I’m reading world literature, in a way preparing for travel somewhere. As you might guess I’m hoping to make it to China and Japan soon! 🙂

  5. I used to be a voracious reader as well, however now that I’m married I’m preoccupied with other things haha. My goal is to start reading at least 1 book a month.

  6. I love reading, it’s my way to wind down at bedtime. I’ll read until I can’t keep my eyes open and go to sleep with thoughts of whatever was happening in the book. I love to read books about times gone by and places I’ve not been.

    But one of the most interesting books I read lately was a nonfiction book by a man whose goal was to visit 100 countries in 2 years. His adventures made me question things, like: Does an airport stopover or driving through a country without stopping really count as a visit? I love how books make you stop and think.

  7. Ray @stingytraveller

    It’s so romantic a notion to read a book about a place while IN that place. Or explore crevices and locations in the book.

  8. My favourite author is W Somerset Maugham. I don’t think he turns up on too many lists as a favourite travel writer but he travelled the world back when it wasn’t so easy. You should check out his collections of short stories. They are very inspiring.

  9. I love this post! I grew up as a bookworm myself ^^ I never challenge myself to read 100 books a year, but I do set a goal of 50-60 books a year.
    I agree with you. I read various genres of books (mostly classic & children literature), and they make me want to travel just as much as travel books do. Also, I’ve always dreamt of visiting famous bookstores like Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. To me, bookstores, no matter where it is, give the same thrill as museums or any other typical travel site 🙂 Even airport bookstores never fail to lure me into their shelves

  10. Hi Juno,

    This is the first post of yours I’ve encountered, and I really enjoyed reading it.

    I can really relate to what you said about books being friends! This is something I’ve said many times myself. 🙂

    It’s so awesome that you read the last Harry Potter in English because you couldn’t wait, and that you have always tried to challenge yourself with the number and types of books you read, and also to read for fun.

    The Geography of Bliss has just been added to my wishlist!


    1. Hi Gemma, thanks for your sweet comment. The Geography of Bliss was a great book. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well. I’m reading more of essays nowadays, like Amy Poehler’s new book “Yes Please”, Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”, Mindy Kailing’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me”. If you saw the patterns, I’m a fan of comedy. 🙂 It’s challenging me to read more, and read in the native words. It’s good, I enjoy the fact I can read the books without translating!

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