Although I haven't really been to too many places, I love to travel. I love getting swept up in the excitement of a new town or city or country and finding myself completely outside of my comfort zone. I think this is why I've chosen to travel around Asia before I headed over to the USA or Europe, it's a completely foreign culture and way of life and that makes the meanderings and exploration that much more exciting.
But what I don't love about travelling is sorting out how I read while I'm on holiday. Normally I've always had to bring physical books. When I head home to Cairns my carry-on luggage consists of my phone, my wallet, my iPod and at least two books and probably one magazine. More often than not there is at least one more book in my suitcase. When I've headed around Australia on short holidays it's much the same, but at least I have the luxury of being able to find second hand book stores (if I'm lucky) or airport newsagents (if I'm unlucky) to top up my reading materials if I pack the wrong books (and I always pack the wrong books).
Heading to a foreign country makes this a little more complicated. Book stores may be in ready supply, but English language books are much more difficult to find, especially if you don't want to waste hours hunting down stores and distracting you from the real sites. In Japan we were lucky and found quite a few book stores that stocked English books, although they were always far more expensive and in small quantities. In China my searches were hopeless, except for one book cafe (where there were no staff working - at least not visibly!) in Beijing all the book stores I came across stocked Chinese books and Chinese books alone.
This trip I decided to go digital and digital only. I was tired of my bag being weighed down by books I rarely got the chance to read, so I downloaded a selection of books and comics onto my phone ready to read. To be safe I downloaded a bunch of both, some that I needed for challenges (The Phantom of the Opera), some that I'd been wanting to read for awhile (Les Miserables) and others by authors I knew I could read in any mood (So much Stephen King!). The fact that I had 15 books to choose from was a fantastic benefit, since it meant I could pick and choose and never feel guilty for the trinkets and clothes that I wouldn't be able to fit into my suitcase because I brought the books. The downside was the fact that a Kindle my phone ain't, and my phone chose to run low at the least helpful time possible. I arrived at the Shanghai train station at 9.30am, found out I wouldn't be getting on a train until 2.30pm and my battery died at around 10.30am, leaving me 3 hours at the station and 6 hours on the train with NOTHING to read! To make matters worse I foolishly decided that I wouldn't bring my phone charger with me, so I had another 6 hour train ride to struggle through before I could charge my phone again. And as luck would have it, I couldn't find a single store selling phone chargers or books in the three days I was phone and book-less.
So what's the solution? Bring a combination of physical and digital? Leave the mobile behind and make sure to bring a kindle? I can't say I missed the weight of a physical book in my bag, but I've never been so desperate for a book as I was on those two long, lonely train rides...I read my China Lonely Planet basically from cover to cover over and over again!
What do you do when you travel? Physical, digital or a mix? Or do you leave the books at home altogether?