Make your own D.I.Y. magazine

A simple strategy to keep you entertained (and well-read) throughout your travels

Have you ever found yourself packing for a trip and humming and hawing over which books you’d like to bring along? There’s a balancing act: you want one that’s not too heavy or too bulky, since you’ll be bringing it with you the whole time. But more importantly, you want it to be engrossing and to match the mood of your trip. This isn’t an easy feat (and will require another blog post), but there’s another, especially lightweight and flexible option for personalized reading that doesn’t require you to pull out your phone.

Years ago, before I left on a work trip, Sean presented me with a manila folder full of articles that he’d pulled from various magazines he’d read over the past months. He called it “Cathlin’s Magazine,” and it was chock full of interesting pieces that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. There was a huge variety of articles from magazines and periodicals like the New York Review of Books, Travel & Leisure, Brooklyn Magazine, the New York Times, and more, covering a wide range of topics. 

Over the course of my next few travels, I cherished my magazine, hopping from an in depth article about America’s obsession with candy to an article about the need for prison reform. I devoured a recipe I never expected from Food & Wine, a poem Sean found jaw-dropping in the pages of the New Yorker, a new technology company profiled in Fast Company. I loved matching the article length with how long I had to read; if I had a short train ride ahead of me, a few pages became the perfect way to pass the time. Best of all, I was able to pick and choose what to read based on my current mood and what simply sounded good at the moment. Most were articles that I might not have even thought to read and likely wouldn’t have found and read online without someone sharing it with me directly. Each time I read an article, I felt special knowing that Sean thought of me while compiling it.

Sean deciding, over a glass of whiskey and a baby snuggle, whether this article would suit me

Sean packed my “magazine” into a manila folder but you could easily staple it instead. It can get a little messy without some sort of organizing method so I don’t recommend bringing a freestanding pile of papers. But there’s still something so tangible about holding a stack of tear outs, small and large. 

One of the best parts is that you can discard (recycle!) the articles as you go along. By the end of your trip, if you accumulate a new book or magazine(s), it simply replaces what you came with instead of adding much new weight to your belongings. This is especially handy for trips where you’re only bringing a backpack and every ounce makes a difference for your back. Naturally, part of the beauty of creating a custom magazine is that it’s fairly lightweight to begin with.

Remember, you don’t have to rely on a loved one to do this for you! Although that’s half the fun and comes with a hefty dose of surprise. In the weeks or months leading up to your trip, set aside interesting sounding articles into a folder and create your own custom reading list. Of course, this requires reading print magazines, but you’d be surprised at how often these are sitting around — and if you subscribe, this tactic allows you to share what you like and save reading for later. If you’re like us, you might even forget exactly what you added to your custom magazine (or why you added it) until you open it and feel a sense of delight or intrigue over what you sit down to read. This can’t happen when you’ve brought one book on your travels: you simply read wherever you’ve left off.

If you’re digitally inclined, an app called Pocket is our ideal way to set aside online articles that you can read at a later date, even when your device is offline, which we’ve found especially helpful for wifi-free flights. But nothing beats an old school ripped out article that someone set aside for you lovingly. And remember to do the same for others, whether before a trip or just as a nice gesture. 

Custom magazines certainly don’t replace the enthralling nature of a good book, but we’ve found them to be a great, portable addition to our travels.

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