Try books like 'electronics for dummies', they start simple covering all the basics and come with some easy step by step circuits. You really need to take it step by step and when you are stuck, just ask here or on any other electronics forum. My experience learns me that the people in those forums are always willing to help you with answers or custom drawed circuits even with hard to find parts. I read Elector-magazine but I wouldn't recommend it if you still have to cover the basics. Most of the circuits in there are a bit to hard to build if you lack the needed experience. Another advice is: Just experiment! Aslong as you use low Voltage and low curent circuits, there can't go much wrong. You will blow some parts but every part that releases smoke is a lesson that you won't forget. ( That's how I learned it ;) ) Good luck
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Absolutely Re-design and seandogue. Read what you can on-line and through your local library (they can usually borrow a book from another branch for you if it is not available locally). See if you can find Nuts-n-Volts Magazine or Servo Magazine in the USA. There are other magazines in the UK and Australia, and other places I don't know about. Check out Instructables and other sites you can find. I have a ton bookmarked. Try the Nuts-n-Volts forum, where I am member. There are many professionals there who like to help people learn the basics and more. In addition, there are quite a few authors there, including Forrest Mimms, the author of the Radio Shack books seandogue mentioned. Keep looking around for information, there is quite a bit out there. Welcome to the wonderful world of electronics. :) Qa
You can't go far wrong by starting out by searching for electronics tutorials. Some of them are very well done. Read and work thru them whole tutorial even the sections that you think you'll never use. You may never use the info but it's all built on a good foundation. If there are gaps you don't know what you don't know. When you have specific questions come here and ask them. There are some very educated and experienced people here. It's important to be both since you don't learn it all either way. And the education can be self gained. There is no better way to get experience than building circuits. Start out basic and work up from there. Parts are usually cheap and can be reused again and again if you don't cut leads too short. Don't fall into the trap of starting out too complicated. Don't try to build an autonomous robot before you've even built a power supply. Good luck and ENJOY your trip!