Published on April 23rd, 2012


Travel Books That Inspire: "The Wander Year"

“You can learn a lot about your country by leaving it.”

Needless to say among my favorite reads are travel sagas – non-fiction books that tell adventuresome tales of exploring the globe.  The quote above is taken from one such tale aptly entitled The Wander Year written by a most entertaining writer/professional journalist, Mike McIntyre,

(who, I might add, not coincidentally wrote another fascinating read that I likewise recently finished called: The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America about his solo quest to voluntarily empty his pockets of all money – and set off ON FOOT across the U.S. from San Francisco, relying only on… well, clearly the book’s title says it all.)

So enthralled was I, with both his inspired quest to test the limits of travel with neither dollars nor an ATM card (much less a cellphone), as well as his fresh writing style, I eagerly downloaded his follow-up “Wander Year” book onto my beloved Kindle.  Suffice, I was not disappointed.  The book tells the tale of how he and his partner Andrea (both in their 40’s) quit lucrative jobs, closed up their San Diego home (well, leaving it, and their beloved pooch and kitty in the hands of a competent renter), and set off on a year-long “wander” across 6 continents and 22 countries.

Quite honestly, I’m tempted to quote half the book here (it’s that good).  But for brevity’s sake, I’ll merely quote but a trio of my favorite passages from the final chapter where the lad sums up most poignantly, some simple truths (that I likewise hold dear) that only personally stepping outside the comforts of your home turf can teach:


15/Jan/2010. Cité Soleil, Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

“It’s a young world.  It was refreshing to watch children amuse themselves without expensive high-tech toys and video games.  My heart soared when Indonesian kids shouted with joy as their kites made of plastic trash bags danced on the wind.  In Patan, Nepal, boys excitedly played table tennis on a crumbling slab of cement, using a line of bricks for the net.”

“It’s an unfair world.  We can’t choose our parents.  Where we’re born is a cosmic crapshoot.  Americans, even the poorest among us, are born with advantages most others will never know.  Don’t leave these shores if you can’t face how good you’ve got it.  You’ll find almost unimaginable poverty and suffering, endured by people WHO NEVER HAD A CHOICE. {emphasis, mine} Every day I was forced to admit, there but for sheer dumb luck go I.”

“Despite its cruelties and atrocities, it can be a benevolent world.  We encountered a level of civility and respect Americans rarely extend to one another.  Nothing bad happened.  We weren’t assaulted or pickpocketed.  Nothing was ever taken from our rooms.  We’ve returned without a scratch, let alone a single hurt feeling.”

Suffice, it is just such authentic candor, bolstered by my own travel experience that perpetually reminds me that we, the many peoples of this fair Planet, are more ALIKE than we are different.  And furthermore – despite seemingly insurmountable language and cultural barriers, not to mention vastly different political patty-cake systems, there is much to be learned from venturing outside the cloistered (and often ridiculously – I dare say dangerously, biased) blinders of our own comfy home Terra-firma.  Which is to say – need I repeat – “our…home” is merely the pure and utter HAPPENSTANCE of where we were lucky – or unlucky enough to be born.

O.k. daintily stepping down off my “edutravel” soapbox now.  Simply put:  both of Mr. McIntyre’s books make for most entertaining reading.


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

2 Responses to Travel Books That Inspire: "The Wander Year"

  1. TravelnLass says:

    @Adam – yup, a most interesting read. I love how he just emptied his pockets, and started walking… Never begged, nor accepted money. Only offers to buy him breakfast and/or give him a place to sleep.

    Oh, and… thanks for the “WWWWW” tag!

  2. Adam says:

    Wow – sounds like an incredible book and even more incredible journey. Just my type of stuff. I’ve always loved the idea of the “kindness of strangers” – it’s something I have to continually remind myself and even though I believe in it, I’m still surprised every time.

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