The Amazing Benefits of Reading While Traveling

15 January, 2020
Although not everyone can concentrate on long journeys, reading while traveling is a great way to make the most of your time and boost your brain health and cognitive processes.

Reading while traveling is more than pleasurable; it’s a necessity. It means resting our heads against the window while traveling on the subway, train, or bus, and immersing ourselves in distant worlds and other people’s lives. These waves of words help us make the journey seem shorter and distance ourselves from the noise. It can make our journey meaningful and help us to start our working days with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Ray Bradbury said in one of his books that, in order for reality not to destroy us, we should read and write compulsively. However, it should be said that it isn’t necessary to go to such extremes. Reading is simply bringing ideas to life. As a result, this can undoubtedly help us to create a much better, more empathetic, more sensitive and more educated world.

If you’re a good observer who uses public transportation frequently, then you probably noticed something that’s been clear for many years now. We can divide those who use public transportation into three categories:

  • Those who only have an empty gaze and lose themselves in their thoughts as they wait for their stop.
  • Those who, almost without blinking, immerse themselves in the infinite world of their cellphones.
  • And, finally, the admirable and indefatigable readers. People who use either electronic devices or traditional books to take advantage of the journey to read a few pages of a book – a chapter if they can –  either standing up or, if they’re lucky, sitting down.

“To travel far, there’s no better ship than a book.”

-Emily Dickinson-

Traveling companions painting.

Reading while traveling: health, wisdom, and quality

The picture above is by Augustus Leopold Egg. He was an artist whose career was cut short by his early death. However, he became renowned due to this remarkable painting from 1862, which he entitled The Travelling Companions. He was a close friend of Charles Dickens, and left us with this symbolic and fascinating painting. It’s a painting that evokes the past and the future through the lives of two young people traveling on a train.

The woman on the left, asleep, clasping her hands, has the sea as her backdrop. She represents the most outdated Victorian middle class. Opposite her we see another young woman holding a book. She’s immersed in its words, with a mountainous scene in the background along with an urban nucleus.

This woman is facing in the direction the train is going and is more in harmony with her surroundings. She represented the other Victorian middle class. The class where women were coming forward and occupying positions of greater social importance.

Few images could be more symbolic of what reading can truly offer us: progress, advancement, and conquering new horizons… all in the context of a journey.

Reading while traveling, a different type of immersion

Reading is a portable pastime. You don’t have to be in bed or on the couch in order to be able to enjoy a book. Reading while traveling is a great way to make the most of your time, thereby turning those moments of inactivity into very active ones for your brain.

In fact, studies such as the one conducted by Dr. Maja Djikic, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, reveal that reading provides us with a unique pause button that trains and strengthens our brain. When you read, you invest in your brain’s health. You improve its cognitive functioning and reduce your stress.

A man reading on a train.

Words have more of an impact

Reading while traveling brings a unique context to one’s reading. Many people take specific books with them to tie into the places they’re traveling to. Few things are as enjoyable and satisfying as lifting your eyes to find yourself in the very same country, setting, or context that the book is set in.

Of course, it isn’t necessary to visit the exact places in a novel in order to experience the sensations that the author is trying to transmit to you. Just the simple fact of being outside the four walls of your house brings new ingredients to reading: sounds, lights, faces, and sensations, among other things. These experiences make the reading process much more interesting.

It improves your ability to concentrate

The truth is that not all people are able to concentrate on a book while they’re traveling. Subways and buses aren’t exactly synonymous with the peace and quiet you might find in a library, for example. Our urban world is noisy.

However, it’s interesting to note that those who have become used to reading while traveling have developed unique concentration and focusing skills. The ability to read, understand, and visualize other worlds and plots is a skill that can be applied to many other areas in life.

A woman reading on a train.

In conclusion, there’s something that experts do warn us about reading while traveling. They recommend that we don’t read when there’s excessive movement. This can be harmful to our eyes. However, apart from this small negative factor, it never hurts to take a book with you when you go to work or when you’re about to embark on any other type of journey.

Reading is a ticket that transports you to places far beyond your physical destination. In addition, it’s an exciting and productive way of spending your time. The only danger that we could point out is that you may get so immersed in your book that you might miss your stop!