A Bad Case of The Travel Bug

Book Title/Author: 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the Word by John Higham

Publisher/Year Published: Alyson Books 2009

How my grubby hands got a hold of this book: I won this via a giveaway on Goodreads.

Why I read this book: If I’m not traveling myself, I won’t pass up a chance to live vicariously through others whilst they are having a journey of a lifetime.

One thing you should probably know about me before I proceed with my review. I suffer from wanderlust, the travel bug, or whatever name you feel compelled to call it. If I could explore the world for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy camper. That being said, you can imagine how giddy I was when this book showed up in my mailbox. I immediately got the goosebumps like I do before I travel caused by that feeling of exploring the unknown and the thrill that there may be an adventure in your immediate future.

I started this book and within a page or so I already had one question. Can I join this family? I mean, for real, this family is kickass. They spend 10 years meticulously planning and saving up for this “World-the-Round trip” (and yes, that’s World the Round) in which they will travel around the world for 52 weeks with their two children that are 8 and 11. That would be enough to make most parents break out in a sweat and bring them to their knees with anxiety. And did I mention that for a good chunk of this time they will be cycling via tandem bikes from London to Istanbul with children and luggage in tow?

This decently thick travelogue is set up like an itinerary with excerpts of the family’s personal journal entries placed in various parts of the stories. There are also added goodies that were included. The book is set up so that at different points you will come to a place where you an go on to Google Earth to visually be a part of their trip. You’ll see pictures, videos, and additional text. I found myself checking out a few of them (and will probably check out more at some point) but found it a little distracting while reading to stop and get on my computer. And the likelihood of someone reading this all in front of a computer is pretty slim. Really cool feature to the book but the novelty wears off after awhile.

Anyways, this book is exceptional. I mean it. The Higham family adventure is one of the best vacations I’ve had from the comfort of my plush little chair. John Higham carefully creates a scrapbooks of sorts as he balances recounting the sights and the scenery (and some interesting facts along the way!) with the family’s personal thoughts and experiences as they face the unknown and explore some of the most beautiful places in the world. He touches delicately on the frustrations and annoyances in traveling with one’s family (such as how two adults can have alone time??) and shares the joys of experiencing the world and growing together as a family. Alot of travelogues I’ve read drag in places but he really knows when not to linger on one country for too long and how to balance reflection, descriptions of people and scenery, and insights on history and culture.

Whether he is describing eating ham sandwiches for months, the challenge of “luggage Tetris,” or homeschooling kids on the road–be prepared to experience the good humor that the family maintains throughout. I’m not sure I could find the humor in French campgrounds with no toilet paper or being stranded in remote places. But somehow this family is able to face defeat, give it a swift blow to the groin and keep on pedaling through some of the biggest hurdles and trials that one could face whilst traveling.

The best part about this book, for me, is that this family seems to be navigating by the same principle of travel that I believe in. Traveling is so much more than snapping photographs in front of historic sites and staying in posh hotels. True, those are all elements that can make a great trip, but traveling is really about the rich experiences with other cultures and viewing the world as one gigantic classroom. It’s, as John Higham points out, “about discovering how people all over the world are similar, yet different in profoundly subtle ways, and how because of those very differences we were always able to find something to eat, something to wear, and somewhere to sleep.”

It helps you to realize that at the end of the day “humankind in all its wonderful weirdness is the same all over the planet.”

 

*This is being reposted as it didn’t make it’s way over from Blogger in the move*

The Geography Of Bliss: One Grump’s Search For The Happiest Places In The World By Eric Weiner

Part travelogue and part social commentary and study on happiness around the world, Eric Weiner takes you to some of the happiest and least happy countries in the world. Some of them are poor and some of them are extremely wealthy. Some you’d peg as being happy and some you wouldn’t. It’s an interesting look into what people around the world say makes their country thrive and how THEY view happiness.

The Geography of Bliss is broken into sections by country. I found it to be a pretty interesting read although it’s the type of book that I tend to read while I’m also reading a fiction book as sometimes I just need something to break it up. It’s not my usual thrills and adventure type of travelogue but I really do love learning about different cultures and found this happiness study to be intriguing so I really enjoyed that aspect of The Geography of Bliss. It was thought provoking and I loved thinking about what makes me happy at the core of my being versus others in the world.

I think the one thing I wish about this book is that we would have gotten to know the PEOPLE a little bit more. We get little bits of all these people he is meeting but I find that the one thing I love about travelogues (and my own travel) is really connecting with the people that are written about. I feel like when I read travelogues and travel blogs that I connect really well when writers tell me about people and I find myself falling in love with them and wanting to hop on a plane and meet these people. This book lacked that for me. I wanted to get to know the people of these countries. I think one of my favorite people he encountered was one of his guides. That’s about it.

Final Thought: If you like a travelogue that takes you on an adventure and is full of people the author encountered that just jump off the page, this isn’t it one I’d recommend. If you don’t mind a slower paced commentary on happiness around the world where you get to participate in a little armchair travel to some amazing places and learn some tidbits about other countries and cultures along they way, you might enjoy this one! It was a pretty good read for me but definitely not my favorite travelogue out there…which is pretty disappointing because I HAD to have this one when I saw it on the shelf.

Review On A Post-It

Review: French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk by Lucy Knisley
Publisher/Year: Epigraph Publishing- September 2007
Genres: Non-fiction, Travelogue
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk is every Francophile’s version of p*rn. Seriously, as someone who adored every moment in Paris and who dreams to go back, reading this was the next best thing to satiate the longings I get to sit in a cool Parisian cafe and eat a croissant or to just stare adoringly at the Eiffel Tower while I soak up the rich history of the city of Paris.

French Milk is a travelogue like no other. I’ve read a lot of travelogues so I feel pretty confident in saying this. It is a journal of a six week trip to Paris taken by a twenty something girl and her mother. Lucy, the twenty something, is the lens in which we get to experience the great City of Lights. Rather than filling the pages with the typical wordy descriptions of experiences in foreign lands and retrospective musings as most travelogues, Lucy shares her experiences and feelings straight out of her journal. But unlike most journals, her journal is KICK ASS. She is an amazing artist and aspiring comic book illustrator so the whole book is a mix of comic book like drawings of the things the saw, ate and experienced…along with how she felt along the way. She also incorporated real pictures that she took along the way. It slightly reminded me of my own travel journal minus the fact that I can’t draw.

One of the reasons I really enjoyed this book could possibly be a detractor for other people who aren’t as obsessed about travelogues or Paris as I am. Most of the travelogues I read tend to be pretty fast paced and travel along to different places. What I loved about this is that they pretty much stayed in Paris the whole time. It wasn’t a fast paced, crazy adventure but I really enjoyed getting such a glimpse of the real Paris…not just the tourist’s view of Paris. I truly felt like I experienced Paris in a different way reading about the food and their immersion into the cultural for six weeks. I guess maybe I feel the same way that I feel about travel. Sure, I want to run around and keeping hopping along to as many countries and places as I possibly can see in a span of a week or two. I want to see it all. But ideally, I would love to spend significant time in places and really look beyond the surface. That is the experience I got from this book and I loved it.

That being said, I’ll admit that at sometimes I wish that there would be a little more happening or that I’d really understand some of the things that she learned while she was there..but it really was such a great experience for me. And such a unique and refreshing take on a travelogue.

My Final Thought: French Milk was a unique travelogue that I really enjoyed and read in a matter of hours due to the format of the book. I loved that I felt totally immersed in Parisian life and I found myself wanting to keep this book for reference to find the cool non-touristy cafes and restaurants that she visited during her six weeks of becoming a local of sorts. I’d probably really only recommend this to people who are travelogue addicts like myself and don’t mind something a little slower paced and different than your typical travelogue. Read this if you want to fully be immersed in Parisian life and don’t mind lots of talk of food and museums and art. Get on this one Francophiles and foodies!

Review On A Post-It

Everything Is Going To Be Great by Rachel Shukert

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour Title/Author: Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert
Publisher: Harper Perennial 2010
How I got this book:  Sent to me by the awesome people at Harper Perennial
Why I read this: I’m obsessed with travelogues and was so excited because it about a girl who was a recent college grad and I figured I’d be able to live vicariously through her as a recent college grad myself!
Rating: Between 2.5 stars and 3.

This book and I had a love/hate relationship. I started this book and found myself loving it and then I hit a chunk where I wanted to fling at the wall and abandon it and then I got to a place where I didn’t loathe it and then I found myself really enjoying it again.

I think that the subtitle is a little misleading. I had such high expectations for this being a travelogue lover. This was more a series of hilarious sexcapades in 2 countries rather than a “European Grand Tour.” I was so excited about this book because I felt like Rachel and I were kindred spirits and that I’d connect with her plight–being a college grad, not knowing what you want in life, wanting to see the world and just generally being broke and wanting to find yourself. She was all that but I just didn’t find myself connecting with her until maybe the end.

Let me tell you some GREAT things about this book: Rachel is hilarious and the girl can write! I was seriously laughing out loud and dying with some of her descriptions of people and things. I’m impressed by her ability to make something otherwise not that exciting or amusing become something that makes me snort iced tea out of my nose. I also appreciate how honest she is about herself. I connected with that. At first, I found myself rolling my eyes at her and not caring about her because I just thought she was selfish and never learning and growing, but I found myself gaining alot of respect for her and genuinely finding her to be likable. I also thought she was clever in adding all these hilarious “extras” like when you are reading a travel guide and it might have a little boxed off section for things like “how to order food or what to do at the airport.” Instead, her “extras” were things like “Assembling Your Rachel Shukert costume” (with a full on diagram about the “tuck method if you are a male” or “Are You About To Be Sex Trafficked?”. Really clever and hilarious sections.

Things I Didn’t Like/Feel The Need to Warn You About: If you are the least bit offended by explicit sexual details or lots of vulgar language, skip this one! I wouldn’t consider myself a prude but sometimes felt shocked or embarrassed by the details. This book can be raunchy, vulgar and she loves to describe and talk about male anatomy in great detail–chocolate ones, big ones, little ones, uncircumsized ones–penises all over the globe! Also, I didn’t find myself DYING to pick this up. I was trying to finish it during Readathon because I needed the motivation to do it. I got tired of her sexcapades after a while but I will say that in the end she does redeem herself a little bit.

The final thought: In the end I was pretty disappointed with this book as whole. I’d recommend going into it without the expectation that it will be the travelogue of a college grad. Read it if you wished David Sedaris and Chelsea Handler had smart assed, hilariously hip child. Don’t pick this book up if you will be offended by sex and foul language.

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