- [Note: this review is also posted at travel blog, Twenty Years Hence. Sorry for the cross-post for those of you who are subscribed to both (but thanks for supporting all our endeavors!).]
- For me, the very best books, regardless of genre, are the ones that whisk me away from my own life and allow me to see and understand the world in a way I hadn’t before. If there’s one type of book with an innate affinity to do this very thing, surely it is the travel memoir! The very best of their kind aren’t just about traveling around in strange lands, encountering odd social customs and nibbling on questionable foods—though those anecdotes are fascinating in their own ways)—but are about the personal transformation that occurs when we venture out of our homes and leave the safety and security of the familiar behind.
I genuinely loved school, where the formula for success was straightforward. Study and you get good grades. Simple, safe. But no class has prepared me for the post-student leap I am facing now, and being an eternal over-achiever who bases her self-worth on her GPA, I am woefully ill-equipped to take on the unpredictable, unscheduled life awaiting me after college graduation. I am terrified of this unknown.Months of therapy would probably just scratch the surface of all the issues that lie seething beneath those quotes. Typing them out and sharing them with you, I feel vulnerable and scared, because I feel like they strip all artifice away and allow you to see me for who I really am. I like school because it reassures me that I am a good, worthwhile person. It gives my parents a tangible reason to be proud of me, and the thought of disappointing them makes me feel sick. To this end, I will keep at something well past the point of reason and even at the cost of my own sanity and happiness because people in my family don’t quit. Seven years spent in grad school is a testament to the fact that when it comes to making decisions, I put my own needs last, and I am very good at doing things that make me unhappy, and very bad at doing things simply because they do make me happy. Unlike Rachel, I didn’t have to face these truths when I was 22, because I jumped from one academic degree into another and it let me hide. In many ways, I should be past these things: I am 29, I am married, I am financially independent, I have two dogs, I own a car… and yet I sometimes feel like I am still a child who has no control over her life, knows nothing about the world, and worse, nothing about herself. This is tough stuff, and one of the many things I hope I will gain on our big trip is the courage to truly embrace the notion that choosing to be happy is valid, and the only person I really need to hold myself accountable to in this lifetime is me. Taking our big trip is just the first step on this journey, but it’s a vital one, I think. For most people, TGGG will be a light, frothy travel read that sometimes entertains and sometimes annoys. Obviously, for me, this book hit a nerve. It may not be spectacular, objectively speaking, but it was exactly the right time for me to read it. Of course, for those of you not looking for existential angst, it is still a really inspiring read even just focusing on the travel-y bits. My dreams were filled with Incan ruins and sandy, Aussie beaches during the week that I read this, and even though Tony and I aren’t planning to hit up either Australia or South America on this trip, I loved getting to visit them through Rachel’s writing and flagged many places to see and experience when we do finally make it there. There were a few parts of TGGG that rubbed me the wrong way or that I flat-out disagreed with, but really, the only thing I took issue with was Rachel’s claims that this book wasn’t a love story. This was made in reference to a romance she had while in South America, but I would argue that TGGG is a love story, just not in the conventional sense. It is a story about falling in love with the world, travel, and with your own life. Also, cheesy as it may be, it’s about discovering yourself and learning to love that person as well. For me, it was these elements that made this one of those travel reads that transcends its genre and makes its appeal broader. If you’re at a crossroad, or just feeling restless, I can’t recommend TGGG highly enough. This wasn’t a book that just exposed my own foibles and insecurities, it also emboldened and inspired me as well. I still get scared when I think about how much my life will change in the coming months, and when I do, I turn to books and writing for comfort. Thankfully, Rachel’s got my back. I’ll leave you with three quotes that, in times of doubt and uncertainty, help me shore up my courage and keep me moving towards my goal:
* * *I’ve developed a complex about being branded a quitter. I have incorrectly concluded that quitting is not a choice of one thing over the other but rather a comment on one’s character, no matter how trivial the commitment or how great the opportunity on the other side of quitting is. I’m also a die-hard people pleaser, and the idea of disappointing a restaurant manager I’ve spent a grand total of five minutes with sends shivers through me.
* * *It’s not that Carly’s life is entirely free of pressures. It’s just that she has a totally different relationship to her parents’ approval. She wants to please them, but it’ not the all-encompassing stressor it is for me, and she would never dream of giving up her own desires to make them happy… [Carly’s parents] often tell Carly, ‘We want you to do what makes you happy.’ Although my own parents provided me the best education, the highest-quality music lessons, and an abundance of financial support, I never heard them utter these exact words. It is in Australia that I realize I will have to garner the strength to speak them to myself.
The planet has not imploded because I, the girl who has always done what is expected of her, decided not to, just this once.Rating: 4.5 out of 5
* * *You can’t get lost when you have nowhere to be.
* * *"But why are you traveling?" I want to pinpoint her goal, to figure out how she is justifying this diversion from her studies. “Why? To travel. To see the world. What do you mean, why? Because I want to.”