How To Plan a Literary Trip
Libreria Acqua Alta Bookstore, Venice, Italy. Photo by Clay Banks
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A tourist passing through a destination to see the sights does not get nearly as much out of the trip as the traveler who takes the time to understand the culture they have entered at that destination. One way to do this is to read stories written by local authors and search out locations related to those stories when you visit. By familiarizing yourself with their stories, you’ll have something to discuss with locals you meet. And by searching out locations related to those stories, and places of literature in general, you’ll often find yourself off the beaten tourist track wandering along streets you otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
As a former librarian and lifelong bookworm, I often plan trips inspired by the books I read, which I share on the blog and booktube channel (on YouTube), A Suitcase Full of Books. After several literary-based trips, I’ve discovered that while I often set out with the goal of just seeing the setting that inspired a novel, it’s the local community of people that makes the biggest impression on the overall trip.
Plan the Perfect Anne of Green Gables Vacation
In case you’re wondering, the community living on Prince Edward Island, Canada is exactly as warm and welcoming as you’d imagine from reading Anne of Green Gables. When I asked a chef of a local restaurant in PEI whether he felt today’s islanders held any similarities to those portrayed in the L. M. Montgomery books, he spent twenty minutes telling us how the farmers and restaurants work together and help one another out when needed. Another time, a historical village reenactor broke character to talk to us when we asked about Montgomery’s books’ effects on local life. To plan your own trip to PEI read Plan the Perfect Anne of Green Gables Vacation.
Tromping on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast
On another trip, following in the footsteps of British author Enid Blyton, I joined a hiking group to tromp through the countryside like the characters in the Famous Five books that had inspired the trip. Not only did this take me somewhere I would not normally have seen as a tourist, but the locals in this hiking group were the first people I’d ever met who were familiar with the books I’d loved since childhood. I was happy to have found anyone who I could chat with about the stories and find out if their lives were similar to the characters in any way.
Here are my top tips for adding a literary twist to your trip:
Find a book that takes place in your destination.
The first thing I do when planning a trip is search for a book that takes place in my desired destination (if a book hasn’t already been the inspiration for the trip). To find a book I use sites like:
Once I find a promising book, I do some research to determine the author’s connection to the location. Were they born and raised there, like L. M. Montgomery in Prince Edward Island (author of Anne of Green Gables)? Did they just live there temporarily, like Jack London in the Yukon (author of The Call of the Wild)? Or were they perhaps trying to colonize the locals, like George Orwell in Burma/Myanmar (author of Burmese Days)? The author’s connection may color their representation of the place and people. I suggest trying to find a book by a local author first; however, an outside author who has written about a place during a time of historical significance can be fun too. Then you can spend your trip noting the differences between then and now, as I did in the vlog Myanmar in the Footsteps of George Orwell.
Find locations, author’s homes, and accommodations related to your book at your destination
After deciding on my travel to-be-read list, I start researching places to visit and stay at my destination that are related to my chosen book(s) or just literature in general. I use search engines (like Google, YouTube, Pinterest) to find out if there are any historic authors’ homes available to visit, or if there are any accommodations in the area themed for the hometown author or their book(s). I also research bookstores and libraries in the area to see if any of them have anything that particularly stands out as interesting to visit.
As internet research often takes time and requires piecing information together from several different sources, I also use literary travel guidebooks to do my research. Here are two of my favorites:
Once you’ve come up with a list of locations to visit at your destination, I suggest planning ahead of time when you’ll visit each one. I’ve found through experience that small house museums and other historic/literature-inspired sites often have odd open hours, and each one will have a different ticketing/touring process.
5 books that will have you trip planning in no time
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
- The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
- Burmese Days by George Orwell
- Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West by Shannon McKenna Schmidt, Joni Rendon
- Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World by Richard Kreitner
Plan your own literary trip
I hope this has inspired you to find a book to complement your next trip! For more literary travel suggestions and tips, visit A Suitcase Full of Books. And if you do plan your own literary trip, I’d love to hear about it!