If you see me out and about in the world, whether it is pounding the streets, or sitting in an airport lounge, there is 99% chance that I am listening to one of Audible’s audiobooks. I am probably an audiobook addict, and that is why I think audiobooks are great for travel. I’d like to share why, and also recommend 5 amazing travel audiobooks.
Why Audiobooks are Great
I grew up in a house of radio. There was always the low drone of BBC Radio 4 permeating the room. Then there were the story tapes. I had the usual collection of children’s stories to choose from, but also a fine selection of books for adults. We had Bill Bryson and Terry Pratchett tapes by the dozen, authors that I adore to this day.
I discovered the joy of doing a boring chore but having my imagination somewhere entirely different. My hands may have been tidying my room (very rarely) but my head was on the Discworld.
Tapes and CDs are OK but require a Walkman or Discman and you are constantly changing tape/disc when the tracks have run out. As soon as iTunes started selling Audiobooks, I made the switch. Suddenly, I could take my stories with me everywhere that my iPod or phone could go.
Why Not Paper Books?
With an audiobook, boring adult chores got better too; doing the shopping or going to the post office, washing up, even just the daily commute. I can’t turn pages with wet hands, and it would be very unwise to try and navigate a train station with my nose fixed in the pages of a physical book. This way, I don’t have to put it down. I don’t drive, but if I did, the idea of advert-free entertainment really appeals!
Being sight impaired, I find that reading can give me a headache. I sometimes sit in front of a PC at work for 9 hours so it’s nice to give my eyes a break. Even if you aren’t visually impaired, it’s nice to rest your peepers after a long day.
Why Audiobooks are Great For Travel
You are on an overnight coach. It is an 18 hour journey so plenty of time to sleep, but the road is so bumpy and the bus so cold that you cannot catch a wink. In your bag, you have a book but the light is poor, and reading in this rocking is making you feel a bit vommy. There is nothing for it but to close your eyes and sing loudly in your head to alleviate the boredom.
This happened to me in Indonesia. I was pretty miserable until I remembered the iPod wasn’t stashed in my backpack but in my handbag. I whipped it out and was transported to another time and place.
So here are my top reasons that audiobooks are GREAT for travel:
1. Audiobooks are Great for Travel Sickness.
Now this has probably happened to most of us. The rocking and lurching of transport, combined with focusing on a book or video screen has made us feel very sick. With an audiobook your eyes are free to take in the surroundings, or focus on the horizon to decrease the nausea.
2. Audiobooks are Great for darkness.
You can’t read in the dark. Those little title clip lights have terrible battery life, leave the bottom half of the page unlit and need to be removed and re-clipped every five minutes. They are not worth the effort. You also can’t have a big, bright screen on if you are, for example, sharing a dorm. The flickering light from an iPad video is enough to disturb others who are trying to sleep. Which leads me to point 3.
3. Audiobooks are Great for Sleep.
At home I have listened to the the same audiobook to help me sleep for a couple of years. Now, when I am on an uncomfortable plane or train, and I need to get some rest, I put it on through my headphones and the Pavlov’s dog in me finds it easier to sleep. It also helps drown out noise that ear plugs can’t always cover (crying babies, amorous dorm mates etc)
4. Audiobooks are Great for Solo Travel.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not just trying to shut the world out. When I am travelling solo, I have one headphone out so I don’t miss what’s going on. Travelling in Amsterdam, I listened to a story that was set there and it brought it to life. It made the day seem less lonely and I didn’t miss anything by reading. When I was stuck in a huge queue for the catacombs in Paris, with French speakers to either side of me, the hour passed much more congenially.
5. Boredom vs Battery Life.
When you are listening to a book, your phone/iPod/tablet can have the screen off, wifi off and can be tucked away so as not to draw attention to your fancy device. This means you can have hours of entertainment without completely draining your battery. It’s perfect for long layovers, bus rides or big walks.
6. Audiobooks are Great for Wanderlust.
You don’t even have to be away. I listen to travel writing a lot. That’s both stories from great travel writers like Bryson and Theroux, and stories set in far flung places. Who could fail to be inspired by Eat, Pray, Love or that traveller’s classic Shantaram? I like to find a book that is based on, or about, my next destination. If I’m alone, I can listen to it while I’m there. With Mr Fluskey? I’ll listen to it before we go to get a feel for the place. It’s nice to be on a beach in Thailand, whilst actually being stuck on a delayed tube in a grey, rainy London.
7. Audiobooks are Great at The Beach.
After half an hour leaning on your elbows, book in hand, you can become quite uncomfortable so you flip back over. You lay out with the book above you but again, after about 30 minutes, your arms are sore all over again. I got so sick of messing about with my book. These days, I just pop one headphone in, close my eyes and relax. I can share the story with Mr Fluskey too by passing the other one to him. I secretly love it when we are listening to something funny and burst out laughing. The whole pool or beach jumps with fright.
Why Do I Use Audible?
I am an Audible girl. This is something I have said quite a few times whilst extolling the virtues of audiobooks to friends and family. The app is on my favourite travel apps list (check out the full article; The Best Travel Apps for Backpackers 2021). Audible has a HUGE collection of books, over 200,000! I have only listened to 500 or so…since I got the app. I have science books, crime fiction, chick lit, classics and stand up comedy. Funny books, sad books, serious books and the odd how to guide. They are all good quality recording with profession voice artists, something that can’t be said for some free audiobook apps I have dabbled with.
Audible works on a credits system. The basic one is £7.99 a month and allows one credit. You can also opt to have 12 credits all at once, once a year. I have the £14.99 plan which gives me two credits a month. The 8th of the month is Audible day, my credits appear and I get to pick two new books. You can purchase extra credits if you are completely bingeing on a series and just can’t wait. You can also buy books à la carte but I have found that buying the books this way is more expensive. The best bit? You’ll keep every book, forever, even if you cancel.
Audible offers free trials. You can sign up completely free for 30 days and try one book. You can cancel it at any time (but I’d download and listen to the book first).
My 12 Amazing Travel Audiobooks Recommendations
Here are a few titles that I adore to get you started (you can tap on them to be taken to the specific page):
One of many fabulous travel books by this author. Nobody else could convince me that I want to sleep in a mouse-infested shack in the middle of the USA!
An epic journey by train across the continents of Europe and Asia. Theroux is almost a grumpy old man, but not there JUST yet.
I believe I have shared my love of this book before. Dom Joly travels the world visiting dark tourism sites and his comic commentary is gold.
I love, love, LOVE this BBC programme. You can get every single series on Audible. It is about a small airline here in the UK and is hilarious!!
An easy fiction listen about a young guy who goes on an Asian adventure and bites off a little more than he can chew.
The hilarious true tales of a safari guide Peter Allison. Hapless tourists, African parties and one unsuspecting elephant.
A sweet book about some of the more off-the-wall tourist attractions here in the UK. I still haven’t been to the museum of baked beans, but I will……one day…..maybe.
Listening to this just after a trip to Berlin had me slack jawed and entirely engrossed. It is a collection of stories about life in East German Berlin.
Read all about our travels around Germany
Another collection of stories, this time from a foreign teacher trying to get by in rural China.
Read all about our travels around China
Read all about our travels around Thailand
A British expat in Denmark, explaining the concept of Hygge and sharing her stories. This inspired a trip to Copenhagen.
OK, I know this isn’t strictly a travel book but it is my absolute favourite Audible purchase. Harry Potter is really very good and Stephen Fry’s narration is 100%, absolutely brilliant!!! It’ll cost you 7 credits but it will last you a lifetime. Here’s the first one as a little amuse-bouche.
Plug in, switch off and let your imagination fly.