Travelling With Textbook

I’m not a fan of working vacations. To me, vacations are a necessary respite from the ever-present pressures of everyday life. School is one of those pressures. Accordingly, whenever I go on vacation, I usually leave the textbooks at home.

This summer was different. Although I had built vacation time into my study plan, I felt tempted to take a text book along—just this once. One of the courses I’m currently enrolled in is World Literature. Although there is, as you can expect, a lot of reading for this course, the type of reading is more conducive to travel than other courses. For my initial readings of the literature, I don’t need to take notes, so it is pure reading, with just me and the text.

I always pack reading material for travel anyway, so it made sense to pack the text from my World Literature course. I anticipated the readings would be both pleasant and productive. The textbook was compact, roughly 9″ x 6 ½” x 1″, but a bit hefty at 2 lbs. It fit snugly in my carry-on bag.

Our summer vacation would take us to several destinations over two weeks. That meant lots of time spent in airports and in flight. Lots of potential reading time. I printed out the reading list for unit 4 of the course. Then, optimistically, I printed out the reading list for unit 5. I felt excited about taking my AU studies with me; with all this reading a two-week vacation would barely put a dent in my study time.

Fast forward two weeks. Both me and my textbook arrived home safely, perhaps a little travel worn. The text is a bit bent at the corners from being squeezed in and out of my jam-packed carry-on bag.

Despite the book’s beat-up appearance, I didn’t get as much reading done as I expected. I found airports too noisy and distracting to concentrate on ancient writings like those of Homer and Sophocles. I did get some reading done on flights. In the end, though, I barely got through half the readings for unit 4, and I expect I’ll have to re-read them.

Travelling with a textbook was a worthwhile experiment. I know some students take their textbooks along with them everywhere—to coffee shops, cruises, and even the beach. That’s one of the benefits of taking AU courses: the ability to study anywhere.

For me, my best studying happens in a quiet, familiar environment, which usually means at my desk at home. I’m glad I took my textbook on vacation and tried to study on the go. I might take a text travelling again. But now I know I can’t depend on making too much course progress away from home. For me, the distractions of travel just don’t leave much time or inclination for textbooks.

Did you take a textbook travelling this summer? Share your experience travelling with textbook at

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.