Memoirs that speak of personal hardships and the resulting journeys are great for making the reader step back and think about life, love and tribulations even if the story is far from resembling a familiar life. Once Upon a Gypsy Moon is the true story of Michael Hurley choosing to pull himself from despair and changing his life to set sail on the sea, alone aboard his ship the Gypsy Moon in order to find his direction, and ultimately regain and rediscover his personal purpose in life. Hurley explains the past that brought him to the point of seeking redemption for himself through a journey only he can complete with stark clarity and never once blames anyone or anything for how his life turned out other than himself. There is a strong Christian undertone to the book, but
The title alone, Dancing with the Vodka Terrorists: Misadventures in the ‘Stans, made me want to learn more about this book. Rob Ferguson was a communications specialist and he was contracted to go to central Asia to try and help raise awareness of the catastrophic water shortage that was threatening the entire region. This was the first I remember hearing about the ‘Aral Sea Disaster’.
The seeds for this disaster were planted almost 100 years ago. The Aral sea was considered an aberration and ‘unnatural’ so exploiting it was not considered a problem. Then the Soviets came along, conquered the entire region and wanted to turn the area into a cotton belt. Turning a near desert region into a cotton producing gold mine requires a LOT of water. Two large rivers in the region fed the Aral Sea crossing borders
Diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Amy Scher suffered from a barrage of debilitating symptoms that made her feel like her body was quickly spiraling out of control. After years of antibiotic treatments and other forms of traditional medicine that failed to make a difference, Amy made the decision to travel to a small clinic in India to undergo stem cell treatment.
With her parents in tow, Amy arrived in Delhi ready to tackle her disease. She stayed focused on curing herself – both physically and spiritually – through daily stem cell injections, grueling physical therapy, and the daunting challenges of navigating a strange country. In addition to the treatments she received at the clinic, Amy wanted to expose herself to spiritual practices like yoga and Ayurvedic massage (which sounded terrifying!) and to heal in the mind as much as
I am an avid fan of the fascinating “House Hunter’s International” TV series and a perennial dreamer about living abroad, so Karen McCann’s new book, Dancing In The Fountain couldn’t have arrived quickly enough for me. The book is part memoir and part travelogue. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the trials and thrills that this American couple experienced after they decided to move to Seville, Spain.
Karen and her husband Rich were seasoned international travelers when they took their friends up on an offer to come visit them in Spain. Rich had recently taken early retirement from his job in the Cleveland area, and they were looking for their next adventure when the invitation arrived. One visit turned into two visits which soon morphed into going over to study Spanish at various language immersion schools in Seville. Eventually
Years ago, travel to India would have been considered difficult or an extreme itinerary to pursue. Today, everyone from students to causal travelers can easily visit India to experience the culture, the food and the warmth of the people indigenous to the region.
Of course, historically, Americans exposed to Indian culture have been limited to misrepresentative accounts of the culture and of that country. The book Planes, Trains and Auto-Rickshaws works to dispel any myths a person may still hold regarding India. The book is a journal of the author’s trip to India and her impressions of the people and culture she experienced on that journey. It reads at first like a comprehensive travel diary, which I found quote enjoyable. Unfortunately, it quickly turned into an historical account of India’s independence, past political struggles of its people and
Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner, one short, one tall, one married, one not, take us on a succession of visits to just about every corner of Turkey in their part-travelogue/part-personal memoir of Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey. The subtitle says it all, except that you could add “and with its men.” The book is divided into sections based on the dates of their visits, beginning with “Spring 2001” and ending with “Fall 2009,” with a few chapters to each section.
Joy, from New Jersey, and Angie, from California, take turns narrating their adventures—always together—through this somewhat maligned and misunderstood land. (“Locked up abroad” immediately comes to mind.) We get to see every area of the country, Istanbul to Kalkan to Trabzon to Van to Antakya, and many places in between.
Written by older chicks
I love weird, random, quirky destination-stories. Actually, I pretty much love weird, random, quirky stories of any kind. But when they’re to unusual places (real or imaginary), I’m doubly-curious. It takes a certain kind of skill to make places that are so far out of the ordinary, so beyond the experience of everyday life, into something the reader can really feel a part of and experience. To keep this journey from feeling flat or second-hand is, to me, what the craft of writing really entails. If you can transport your readers into your world – be it the world of oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada, or of the polluted Ganges, or of the Pacific Ocean’s Garbage Patch – and make him/her see, smell, and feel your experience, well, I think you’ve mastered your craft.
Andrew Blackwell paints
If you are looking for an exciting travel diary type of book, please don’t choose The Voluntourist, or risk severe disappointment. Ken Budd uses this book to chronicle his (and often his wife’s and his friend’s) adventures in five countries as a person intent on making a difference in the world. The only problem is that he gives such a subjective look at basically everything that the reader will feel exhausted – instead of uplifted – at the end of the journey.
When his father dies suddenly, Budd understands that his life has to change and that he needs to leave home to explore the world and to fulfill his destiny. First, he signed up to work with Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. He describes his daily cleanup activities and how he kept connected with
I’ve been meaning to learn more about Haiti, especially after the devastating earthquake that struck that country on January 12, 2010. When I saw Julia Alvarez’s new book A Wedding in Haiti I thought that it would be a good way to get more insights into the two countries. The book recounts Alvarez’s recent personal experiences in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake.
A Wedding in Haiti was really informative. The many little black and white photos sprinkled throughout the book really helped personalize the people and places that were being discussed on the pages. Through the book I learned more about the desperate poverty in Haiti, some Haitian history, and about the strength of the human spirit to transcend what sometimes seem to be insurmountable obstacles.
When I win the lottery . . . I’ll take Close to Paradise, by Robert Fisher, with me to go house-hunting around the Bay of Naples. A picture book with plenty of text also, its main title is correct, but the subtitle isn’t quite accurate—it really is just as much if not more about the residences and their residents/caretakers, past and present, as about the gardens themselves.
Fisher starts us off just north of Naples on this tour of houses and gardens, which are in the “Italian language with an English accent.” The English are responsible for many of these spots from about the mid-nineteenth century on, having discovered them on grand tours. Many of the little Edens go back 2,000 years to Roman times, or, as Fisher over-repeats himself, to Homer’s Odysseus and the songs of