I have a problem. Too many books and not enough baggage allowance.
I have this problem every time I travel. Between my books on the destination (a Rough Guide, a local language book and maybe a biography or travelogue from someone who has been there) and books to read at the destination (usually a few real-life reads and a couple of chick lits for beach days and hangover days) and, of course, a big book to get me through the plane ride without going insane (huge historical epics like Wolf Hall are good for this), I usually end up with a luggage that is both too heavy to lift and straining at the seams with books.
There are books in my hand luggage. As many as I can squeeze, as they never actually weigh your hand luggage if it is reasonably small in size. The only real disadvantage to carrying around over 15 kilos in printed matter is lurching lopsidedly ala Quasimodo through the security checks. (For some reason, they always stop people carrying weighty-looking handbags with straining straps and unusually pointy bits poking out the bag’s edges. Go figure.)
There are books throughout my luggage. Wrapped in towels for protection (books have feelings too, and I hate it when the corners get dog-eared and you haven‘t even read it yet) and covered with my clothes to protect them from knocks, it’s books, books, books.
I once got stopped for a total search in the States and, after removing a few pieces of underwear and toiletries, the security staff got to my stash of books. All eight of them. Opening and closing each one, they rifled the pages, possibly looking for cut-out compartments containing drugs, diamonds or possibly very tiny illegal immigrants. Nothing doing. Then they rifled again, this time looking more closely between each page and holding the book upside and shaking it to see what fell out.
Nothing but a Snickers wrapper.
“How long are you going for, Miss?” asked one, a large lady who was flicking in bemusement through my Marion Keyes‘.
“A week. Well, six days really.”
She looked at me with doubtful eyes. “Honey, and you think you are going to read all these?”
Well, maybe not but as a backpacker I’d rather have too many books than be stuck on the world’s slowest bus (Morocco; Agadir to Marrakech, 140 miles in just under 10 hours complete with a visit to the bus drivers aunt‘s place where we all had to stay ON the bus while the driver had some tea, in case you are wondering) with nothing to read.
I admit it, I over pack when it comes to books. And sometimes that still just isn’t enough books for my liking. I find myself making insane compromises in my head. “Hey, I can fit another book if I just take out my raincoat. And that space for my shoes could fit two, or maybe one really fat book like Wolf Hall. And, seriously, do I really need anti-malarial drugs and deodorant? Like, really?”
The very things that normally make books appealing to me – huge long epics in small print with more pages than Imelda Marcos has shoes or Tony Abbott has chest hair – make them a nightmare to carry around. You can justify them, it’s true. They may be handy for squashing insects, unwanted amorous locals and possibly small riots but hauling a copy of Wolf Hall halfway round the world is costing me weight in my luggage allowance and space that I need that for other things. I need to realise this.
I need to sensible. I need to pack less books.
Otherwise, where will I put the books I BUY on the trip?