On a recent trip to Atlanta, packing was made difficult by trying to sort out which books needed to tag along for the journey. Do I take the C.S. Lewis book or that weird book by Slavoj Zizek or the one by Cavanaugh or the Pope that I started and may have time on the plane to finish. So, what to bring?
First, this is definitely a first world problem, and it is largely irrelevant. But every time I travel, I try to figure out how to go with less.
Part of every packing is getting the Bible, a prayer book, a book on a particular topic that I’m curious about that week, a book or two on topics that have been of interest a lot longer, and of course a novel… If that wasn’t enough, I usually have a binder to keep papers together and a note pad to jot down thoughts. And a computer…
It may be hard to believe, but I almost always use each book I bring at least once and get a chunk of reading done.
However, on my trip to Atlanta, I ended up going with 5 books and 2 note pads (which is a huge cut back from the past), but then I ended up getting 8 books on the course of the trip. Five of those came as part of the conference.
Even so, I’ve sort of figured out over time how to break down my reading list:
1. Project Focus – take all the books you need for the project you will be working on on that trip. It’s not going to be easy, but if you can break down the project into a particular aspect that you can get done over the trip you can narrow the focus. For instance, I’ve been working a multi part post on caffeine use for endurance athletes. If I know I’m going to focus on say nutritional aspects for a part of the project, I can leave anything that doesn’t have to do with that specific portion.
It may be obvious to some, but to me it wasn’t – the better notes I take saves time and weight and space on trips. So, if I can take the time to make notes on 3 books out of 5, I only have to carry 2… You get the general idea.
2. Broad Category Limitations – For any interest take only one or two books. Since my interests fall along the lines of theology – which has many subcategories, fitness – also with many categories, and fiction – I try to limit myself to two books in a broader category. I have to constantly remind myself while packing not to add in extra books.
3. Proportionality and Quantity – Look I’m a fan of Dostoyevsky, but on a three day trip, you really don’t need “Brothers K” perhaps switch over to “Notes from the Underground”. Or alternatively, if you have something like “Brothers K” or, if you like Tolstoy better, “War and Peace” leave everything else at home. If worse comes to worse, you’ll have to peruse the bookshelves of the airport book shop. They always have something worth reading or maybe skimming.
In general keep the length of reading proportional to the overall length of the trip.
4. Unpack One Book – If you have more than one book, leave one out, it doesn’t need to come with you. I should heed this advice more than I do.
Somedays I wish I was the type of person that could travel with no books and only pick up books on the go. Ideally, this would come as exchanges at the travel “libraries” that are set up by people willing to leave books behind for other readers. Truth be told, I have no idea what would come of me if I did that. It may be an ideal I can imagine, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it. Even when I went back packing I tended to have 2 or 3 books at least, some of which were definitely not small.
If you have a good ideas on how to get to this idea or generally pick a limited number of books, please let me know.