Posts Tagged With: traveling alone

Book Review: A House in the Sky – 5 out of 5

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a reason why this book is so popular – Lindhout’s courage to tell her story is something people should pay attention to. Few who go through her distress live, and even fewer are willing to open their experience to the world. It can’t have been easy but I’m really glad Lindhout did. This is an excellent book which, for it’s length, depth, and emotions ties I read it very quickly.

Lindhout’s personality really came though and I identified with her so clearly. She loves to travel and see the world. She has the pull to go anywhere and everywhere. I can 100% understand. I can understand the thrill of traveling somewhere “off the grid,” where your presence as a tourist is a curiosity instead of an expectancy. Where you can accidentally see what real life is like instead of a show. I haven’t traveled the way Lindhout has, and I doubt I ever will. I think it’s testament to Lindhout’s writing style that, even though I know she gets into a horrible kidnapping situation, when she’s telling me about her initial trips and all she sees and the “risks” she takes, I all I feel is jealous and envy, not fear of the unknown. She’s lived and seen amazing things. It’s incredible.

So, there’s that piece to the book. It’s the unexpected wonderful part of this story – understanding her before the kidnapping, seeing through the lens of a backpacker. There’s also the terrible part when she is kidnapped. Lindhout holds little back. She manages to take this long kidnapping step by step and not a moment of it is boring. She’s able to pull us into her mind, to see her hopes, scares, wonders, and realities. To see her struggle between hatred for her captors and understanding, to see her strategies. What I like best is that Lindhout has showed what worked – but also what didn’t. This isn’t a Hollywood movie. She makes some awful, horrible errors. Errors that I myself could have easily done in her place. It’s a gripping, terrible reality.

It’s no spoiler that Lindhout survives. What I’ve often found reading memoirs is that sometimes this does ruin things. Because the author is the main character we know they are going to make it. That doesn’t hinder the suspense in this story. I found myself wondering how it was going to work, feeling her true despair. That’s all testament to just how well this story was put together by Lindhout and her co-author.

Excellent memoir and well worth all its praise!

Categories: Debuts, Pick Ups, Travel, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memoir Book Review: Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach


Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
by Alice Steinbach

withoutreservations

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the kind of memoir I hope I never write.

As cruel as that sounds, it’s what was going through my head as I read Steinbach’s tales of her so-called “Year of Living Dangerously.” (Actually, she may have called it something else but I really don’t want to re-read any of the book in order to find the correct wording.) Steinbach’s telling of her “adventure” consisted almost entirely of pre-made plans that were completely safe and her being chatted up by entirely harmless and friendly people who somehow were all the same.

I consider myself a traveler. I think I have made a great effort in my life to not only see new places but to experience them as well. Because of this, I felt a sharp tang of disgust as a I read Steinbach’s supposedly risky adventure. I’m going to go right ahead and sound pretentious and say there really wasn’t much risk involved. This woman went to Paris, England, and Italy, staying in hotels and often participating in tour groups. To top it off she clearly had no financial concerns even with being away from work for an entire year.

Please note that, in direct contrast with the book title, she wholeheartedly made reservations for every stop on her trip.  Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for traveling in ways that best suit you. My own “adventures” are in many ways not so different. But if you’re going to write a memoir about, there needs to be some pizzazz. By the end of the book I could guess what was going to happen – somewhere in town someone was going to randomly speak to her, they would talk, get tea, connect, maybe hang out for a couple more days, and then the cycle would repeat in another location. Oops, maybe I should say spoiler alert.

Sorry, I didn’t even realize how much this book bothered with me until I started writing this review. I should pull back a little because I don’t think it’s entirely useless. I think Steinbach had a great year of travel and I love that she did it. I just regret I had to read about it in the way I did. I think Steinbach has a good writing style (if quite clipped, likely from years in her profession as a journalist) and she did make some wonderful observations from time to time. Sometimes she really made me think and there is one particular chapter about rain in Rome that allowed me to connect with her.

But one chapter out of an entire book just isn’t enough.

If you want a good travel memoir, bypass this book. On that note, in case you were wondering, bypass Eat, Pray, Love, too (I swear, they are almost the same thing). There are so many wonderful tales out there about women adventuring and traveling alone – like Somebody’s Heart Is Burning: A Woman Wanderer in Africa or even, Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone.

Categories: Put Downs, Travel, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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