Rediscovering the joy of reading on the road

By: Kath Heiman, Photography by: Kath Heiman

Kath’s ‘books de wheels’ gives her the chance to reacquaint herself with an old love.

Rediscovering the joy of reading on the road
One of the real luxuries of towing our Echo 4x4 Kavango is its capacity to host a small collection of books that we call our remote reference library

I don’t know about you, but my day-to-day commitments make it hard to find time for recreational reading. I fondly remember long weeks during the summer holidays when I’d spend days with my nose in a book as a young adult. But that was years ago and it never happens these days. Life keeps getting in the way. 

But there’s still one place where books and I can occasionally reacquaint. And it happens on the road with our camper trailer. 

One of the real luxuries of towing our Echo 4x4 Kavango is its capacity to host a small collection of books that we call our remote reference library. In our camper, one of the several over-bed cupboards is dedicated to this little collection.

While a travelling library may sound a bit indulgent, I can justify it because of its utility. For another thing, this cupboard stores maps and camp guides to help us chart our trip as we travel. It also has survival guides in case things don’t go as we planned. And these are important. After all, more than 80 per cent of the Australian population lives within 100km of the coast, leaving around 7.5 million sq km of this country underpopulated.

With some communication blackspots extending tens of thousands of kilometres in radius, there’s a risk that a mechanical failure or an unexpected weather change could leave us very exposed. The trick is to know what to do when the chips are down – and what better way than to ensure you’re travelling with the support of expert authors who’ve done it all before?

The last section in our remote reference library is my holiday reading. Here, I store books I’ve bought during the year which I’ve had no time to read. I buy them thinking that life might slow down. But it rarely does! Well, not until I find myself under the camper’s awning or kicking back in a camp chair, that is.

It’s probably old-fashioned to get excited about printed books. I’m sure that many of us have embraced e-reader technology. Being able to browse, download and read books from a limitless e-vault on a palm-sized mobile electronic device makes a lot of sense. No doubt the experience of e-reading can be quite relaxing and these devices obviously take up a fraction of the space consumed by a collection of printed books. But, for me, technology of this type is too closely associated with professional – not recreational – activity. I spend too much time in front of a computer at work to get enthused about its further encroachment into my downtime.

Besides, printed books have a unique quality that’s hard to define. I read a comment once that reading e-books was like always eating dinner off a white plate. Printed books are physical, visceral things that generate a mood all of their own. 

And if this is true for new books, it’s even more so when you’re dealing with second-hand books. After all, how great is it to find an op shop, school fair or second-hand book shop when you’re on holiday? You can learn a lot about the local community by the types of books that they read. There’s also the possibility that you’ll find a book with an interesting dedication by the author or someone else of note. Importantly, with a bit of time to browse, it’s not unusual to find obscure and interesting reads that have been out of print for years and that will never be invited to grace the shelves of an e-book store. I want to own these books before they disappear forever.

I’ll probably buy an e-reader one day. Their convenience is too self-evident to entirely ignore. But it won’t be coming on any trip that involves our camper trailer.

On the road, paper maps and printed books reign supreme. 

Check out the full feature in issue #100 May 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.