A peripatetic teacher and writer’s reflections on a life spent seeking exotic experiences abroad and pondering the question: “[I]s there a right way and a wrong way to travel?”
Jones’ love of the foreign began when she studied Spanish in the fifth grade. At first, acquiring a second language was little more than a game, but by the time she was in college, the author realized that speaking Spanish facilitated travel experiences that made her feel “so alive [that she] almost felt high.” Her post-collegiate quest for the drug of exoticism took her to rural Costa Rica, where she worked for WorldTeach and learned to live on “lard and coffee.” The experience whetted her appetite for the unfamiliar to the point where she could not tolerate “a normal American life” grounded in routine. Her wanderings then took her to Bolivia. Faced with strong anti-American sentiment, Jones learned to own who and what she was “with eyes wide open” and a bottle of Coke in her hand. She returned to Costa Rica, where she helped build a school. After teaching in the United States, she traveled to Nicaragua, where she got heavily involved in the lives of the people she encountered. Work as a summer tour guide for American students in Cuba showed her that she took her freedom to wander for granted. Later stints as a Semester at Sea instructor taught her the impossibility of escaping what she was: a committed, though now temporarily settled, traveler with a touristic tendency to romanticize otherness. Rather than moralize about the right and wrong ways to travel, however, Jones celebrates the impulse to wander and recognizes the value in savoring vagabondage for the gift it ultimately is.
An engaging travel memoir.