Reading has become an important part of traveling for me and I have seen the same for other travelers. Sometimes when you are stuck in a bus for 12 hours, or laying on a beach in Panama, or waiting in the bus/plane/train station all you can do is read. Luckily for me, I love to read and have always had my nose in a book since I was first able to read. One of the first things I told myself before we departed on our trip was that I needed to find a way to read and read for cheap. Luckily, Oscar bought me a Kindle a couple of years back and I am finally able to put some good use to it. However, the downside of buying books on Amazon for $7 a pop can hurt the bank account when you are a budget traveler, so I have compiled a few ways that travelers can read for free. These methods of reading for free have helped me passed many of hours on buses, trains, and planes where there is nothing else to do but stare out the window or read a book.
This method of reading has been around for quite sometime in the backpacking world, but sadly seems to be slowly starting to die out after the invention of e-readers. Every hostel and some airbnb’s have a book exchange, which is usually locked away on a bookshelf and can accessed by the staff only. I first discovered the process of Book Exchange at the first hostel we stayed at and was lucky to enquire a book to begin using the method of book exchange. I would recommend that if you are just starting your trip to bring an old book that you have read and no longer need with you so that you can exchange a book at the first hostel you stay at. The upside to this method is that it is free, however the downside is that you only have one book at a time, it can be heavy and take up space in your backpack, and what you read is dependent on the books that have been left behind. I used this method for the first few books that I read on the trip; however I found that it was a bit difficult for me because I devour books so rapidly that there were not always books available in my language to read. I stopped this method after Colombia when we found a South America on a shoestring guidebook and have kept this book ever since. We are hoping when we get to South East Asia that we are lucky again!
Exchange With Other Backpackers
We have been lucky along our travels to meet so many other backpackers and one thing I have discovered is that the backpacking community is one of the most helpful and selfless communities I have met. We have exchanged a lot of items in general from other backpackers simply from starting up a conversation and usually something about our backpacks comes up. I have exchanged several hardback books from other travelers as we have been sitting in buses, bus stations, and hostels and received a large quantity of e-books that had been passed down thru several backpackers in the world. All you have to do is ask.
Borrow From Your Local Library
It had been about 10 years since I had a library card, but when I worked in Boston for about a year I was excited to get a library card and check out books again like I did when I was kid. Now, since the development of e-books (I sound so old typing that haha) the libraries now offer the availability of checking out e-books for days at a time. I came upon this revaluation when I found that it was such a pain in the ass to go to the Boston library during my lunch hour each week to check out a book. Since I knew I was traveling I made sure to keep my library card in my wallet and am now able to check out books for 7 days at a time with a simple wifi connection, library card passcode, and availability of books that I want! Don’t leave home for your next trip without your library card.