One way that we love to educate is through stories. I am much more likely to feel the wonder, the mysteries and the layered feeling of a country or time in history through a well written story. This has occasionally gotten me into trouble, I will read a book set in a beautiful part of the world and thenceforth maintain ridiculous notions and expectations of the glorious adventures awaiting me - such as the time I was swept up with the romantic idea of horse riding in the Czech Bohemian forest…only to have a crazy demon horse try to buck me off rodeo style!
Even though it can get me into trouble, reading is my favourite way to dive into a county and culture. I fall in love with the people and the stories and the whole experience is made richer because of it. Also, finding fun and exciting stories about a place has proven to be an excellent way for my children to engage with a people or place. They can learn about WWII by crawling into the Hiding Place with Corrie Ten Boom, or they can feel the devastation of being trapped by the Berlin Wall. They can go on all kinds of literary adventures and then take that knowledge to the real place. Or retrospectively, we can read a story set in a place that we have visited and find it all the more exciting because we have actually been there and can imagine it vividly!
We have a few ways that we stay in touch with our love of reading while traveling and living in different areas of the world. Carrying my life-long collection of books around with me is not an option, so we have adapted and learned some great travel tips!
*This post contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission if you purchase through our links… which will likely support our ice-cream obsession…gotta keep up priorities, right?
**We only promote products that we are passionately in love with.
1. Kindle Paperwhites
These are THE BEST!
- They have an internal light; a long battery life and they only hold books, no Apps - (I particularly love this because my kids can’t get distracted and feel tempted to play games or watch movies instead of reading).
- Reading a kindle doesn’t glare or strain your eyes like it can with a normal screen, and you can easily adjust the font or brightness. I can also access my kindle account on my phone which I use if needed, but I much prefer to read from my kindle.
- Sometimes my kids have received fun personalized covers for Christmas gifts or birthdays.
- Digital books are pretty cheap to buy, it is so fun to be able to purchase almost any book you want, anywhere in the world, with just a few clicks.
- I have set up separate kindle free time accounts for each of my kids. They are all connected to my account, but it is nice for them each to have their own collection of books that interests them on their kindle, plus it helps to keep their reading age appropriate. You like to read gross gory murders through the centuries and you don’t really want your 10 year old reading a description about Vlad the Impaler? No worries, just set up a kindle free time account on their kindle, and then add their own collection of books into their personalized library
- A kindle paperwhite can hold over 1000 books!!! I LOVE the I can always find something to suit my mood. I no longer need to carry around giant paperbacks ‘just in case’ the flight is delayed, or my car breaks down, or I am stuck somewhere supremely boring. Once when Ross and I were newly married, we travelled to England. We were reading a rather large novel; it was the last book of a trilogy and we were not willing to leave without it…. but it was too big and heavy to bring (it was a very large hardcover). We got creative and photocopied the last third of the book so that we could take it with us, haha. At least we don’t have to do THAT anymore!
- It is possible to borrow a book through your library and send it to a specific kindle within your account. This is great, it’s free, and there are no late fees
WARNING #1 – A kindle Paperwhite will spoil you for life. Really. I used to think that I would only ever love the smell and feel of a real paper book. I adore libraries and book shops but I am now thoroughly converted to reading from a kindle. I have caught myself while reading an occasional paper book feeling irritation that it doesn’t light itself and annoyed that I have to turn the page! I remember back to the days when I was breast-feeding my babies and working my way through my favourite fantasy series. I had to juggle a wiggling baby, a clip-on book light that was prone to falling off and hold open a 1000-page book with one hand. Now THAT is challenging!
WARNING #2 – Your kids might become sneaky. The lighting feature that I love so much is somewhat of a drawback when I find out that my kids have been hiding under the covers and reading until 3:00am. One daughter of mine likes to pretend that she is sleeping when I come in to check on her late at night but then I’ll find her hand clamped solidly around her kindle (usually the giveaway is that she’s still wearing her glasses, lol).
We have also purchased a Kindle Fire. It’s very handy to have my Amazon, Libby and Audible accounts on one device, but I do spend most of my time hiding it from my kids who want to sneak it away to watch YouTube or play games. I keep the Kindle Fire for the adults and as my emergency backup sanity saver if we're going on a long drive.
Kindle Paperwhites are such a wonderful tool; we take them everywhere! Plus, the newest model is WATERPROOF!!! I am excited to upgrade, as sometime I dance with death and read while in the bath...
Click here to check it out!
2. Library Accounts.
One of the benefits of moving to different parts of the world is that we have created quite a few library accounts! Each time we are residing in a new place, if I am able, I will set up a new library account. Sometimes it depends on how generous the librarian is feeling, but I spend quite a bit of time extolling my love of books, my personal honesty and my enthusiastic passion for libraries in general. It usually does the trick.
I love having a collection of library cards, because I can log them all into my Libby/Overdrive account on my phone and then if a book I want isn’t available in one library, I’m pretty sure to find it in another. I can then send the borrowed books through to whichever kindle I want. I almost never have to wait or place something on hold because one of my accounts will have it available, it’s fantastic!
Occasionally a library card will expire, but I have usually been able to renew over the phone or email.
Borrowing books digitally is great because it means no late fees. Which is important for late people like me. No need to mention that library in Australia to which I owe $100 dollars…that was before my new modern digital self-revolution. Aargh, truly, it wasn’t my fault, one of my kids lost a dvd in my sister’s home and never mentioned it and then my sister found it like 5 months later…. anyway, time to move on.
3. Trade books in the free street libraries.
One of the coolest things I saw in Europe were the mini street libraries. They are public book cases where it is free for people to donate and exchange books! It such a wonderful idea and it is becoming a thing! There are street libraries all over the world. It is a great resource for travellers because you can pick up a book in one location and drop it off in another, then exchange for a new one, all for free and without the formalities of a city library!!
For further information, check out –
Free Little library - Based in the USA
Street Library - Australia
Open Book Case. - Europe
4. Thrift Stores.
When in a new area, it can be fun to scour the thrift stores or second hand book shops for cheap books that you can enjoy, and then donate once you leave.
5. Gift Shops.
While not the cheapest option, gift shops are such a great way to find wonderful and unique books relating to the area. One of the souvenirs I love to collect on our travels are children’s books. They are often thin and light, so I have managed to acquire a beautiful collection of stories from all over the world. It is so fun to sit down and read to my children picture stories about Marco Polo in Venice or Michelangelo sculpting The David. I love that even my youngest children can be engaged in exploring literature while we travel.
Once in Rome, I discovered my little one year old enjoying our collection of travel picture books. He was carefully looking at the Austrian Lippizana horse book and making clucking horsey noises, it is one of my sweetest memories.
I am often asked if we purchase souvenirs, and although I have a tendency to buy the occasional impractical memento (such as a cuckoo clock that I lugged all around Europe), my favourite and more practical souvenir is definitely a children’s picture book.
Hopefully this list had helped you with ideas of how to keep reading while on the road. If you have any other great ways to enjoy reading and to educate with literature while traveling I would love to hear about it, feel fee to comment below!
**If you also love to listen to stories while you travel, check out this post about Listening on the road!!