Holly Morris is a TV host (Treks in a Wild World, Globe Trekker), and the author of Adventure Divas and founder of the multimedia company Adventure Divas. Post your travel questions here and they could get answered in the magazine.
LIVE CHAT ALERT: Ask Holly Morris your burning travel questions tomorrow, September 19, at 1 p.m. EST. More info >>
Q: I’ll be backpacking through Southeast Asia for six weeks this fall, and my stack of country-specific guidebooks is almost as tall as I am. What’s the most efficient way to pack, readingwise, when heading out on global adventures?
A. At the risk of offending Lonely Planet, Moon, Rough Guides, and Rick Steves (don’t let the boyish smile fool you; the man’s a powder keg), I would not recommend loading up on 80 dollars’—and 80 pounds’—worth of books. I’ve tried that, and instead of serving me well, they nearly herniated my L7 disk before I even cleared customs. Opt instead for a single, comprehensive guide; or better yet, photocopy its pertinent pages and rely on Internet cafés for on-the-spot research and local people for updates and inside scoops.
Even better, think beyond guidebooks. I like to bring one light paperback—poetry or prose—from or about the region or culture I’m headed into. Africa? Dave Eggers’s What Is the What, or anything by Chinua Achebe. Indonesia? I’m partial to The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch. My New Zealand sojourn was fueled, in part, by Keri Hulme’s The Bone People. I also make it a habit to buy a blank journal of some kind once I’m in-country—a little Peruvian school notebook, say, or a Zambian diary made from elephant-dung paper. It’s a utilitarian keepsake that comes in handy for writing, sketching, or—in dire straits—wiping. So, my ultimate verdict: Whatever you decide to bring along as literature should pull its own weight. And remember, don’t judge a trip by its cover. Real adventure always happens between the lines.