I’m not what anyone would ever call a world traveler. The truth is I don’t really like traveling. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy exploring new places. This seems like a contradiction, I know. What I don’t like about traveling is the actual traveling part. Planning. Packing. All the stuff dealing with airports/flying. For instance, why do you have to put all your little liquid bottles in a plastic baggie? Do plastic baggies somehow thwart terror plots? And why must you go through security with your shampoos and mini toothpastes, etc., in the baggie, but then are free to buy all that junk (at ridiculously inflated prices) in the airport shops? My son pointed out during a recent trip that he wasn’t allowed to pack a razor in a carry-on bag, but he could buy a seven-buck one and carry it on the plane in his pocket. What’s up with that?
But I’m digressing. The point is that traveling itself stresses me out, but once I get to my destination, I nearly always have a great time. Some of the coolest experiences of my life occurred in a place far from home. Singing in a piano bar with my best writer friend in New York City. Sipping sangrias at an outdoor restaurant in Barcelona with my hubby. Floating lazily down a mangrove lined river in Mexico with my two kids. And coming home, although stressful too, what with the potential bed bugs in my suitcase and the loads of laundry to wash, and the mail piled on the counter, there is always a new story to tell about the trip. (See my last blog: Surviving the Snow Apocalypse for just such a story.)
And speaking of traveling stories, I just read a great one, Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. On the surface it’s your typical hero takes a journey tale. Eighteen year old Bria is traveling to run away—from her grief over the end of a bad relationship, from her ever-arguing, preoccupied parents, from her failed dream of being an artist. The opportunity to travel to Central America seems like a blissful escape from an upsetting past and depressing future. But day one in Guatemala with the tour group of timid, middle aged women is just as depressing. When Bria has the chance to jump off the beaten path with a very cool backpacker brother/sister pair, she takes it. Rowen and Starling seem like everything Bria wishes she could be: spontaneous risk-takers, unafraid to plunge into new experiences.
You know that things aren’t exactly what they seem with those two. And you know that by the end of the book Bria will learn new things about herself and life through traveling, but the book is surprising in the telling it takes to get there. Bria’s voice is fresh and funny. Rowan is complicated and insightful, a boy also running away from his past, but for all his constant traveling, he yearns to settle down. Plus, he’s cute. A bonus in these YA books. Bria starts drawing again and here we get what I think are the author’s own pencil drawings throughout the book, quirky renderings of wildlife and local people and one special one of Rowan after Bria finally realizes she’s fallen for him. By the end of the book, I was almost ready to pack my bags and seal my little baggies and head off to parts unknown.
Almost, I say. I’m still reeling from last trip.