A debut collection of exotic travel essays from the deserts of Jordan to the totems of Rapa Nui.
An Army brat from birth, adventure writer Sibilla was born traveling: “Travel filled each day with wonder. I thought that everyone had grown up speaking another language.” He dallies with law school when young only to drop out in favor of life as a wandering writer, one always on the move and with an interest in less-traveled places: remote hotels in Uttar Pradesh, crumbling monasteries in Mandalay, the traumatized island of East Timor, among many others. He learned lessons in Buddhist humor from the Tibetan monk Tenzin Kalsang B. (The monastery where Kalsang trained already had a monk named Tenzin Kalsang. “So Dalai Lama say, ‘You Tenzin Kalsang A, and I Tenzin Kalsang B.’ ”) Alongside a man named Horse of God, he trekked through Jordan in search of “art, music, literature, food, tobacco, alcohol, and the occasional tryst.” He slept alongside enormous moai statues on Easter Island, their overturned backs, “huge stone ramps angling heavenward into nothingness.” A traveler willing to embrace contingency, Sibilla explains, “I usually headed off with only a vague notion of where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there once I figured out where there was.” He trusted his intuition when selecting where to stay, who to befriend, and what to eat. He generally chose well, though it does leave readers without a road map for what’s ahead. As a result, there is no real throughline for this collection (indeed, we are unsure if his travels are recounted to us in the order in which they occurred). But Sibilla is an able evoker of detail and the various mists of mise-en-scènes. He shares the sensations of the places he visits via elegant metaphors; e.g., near the banks of the Ganges “there were so many scars on the face of an old Rajasthani sandstone ghat that it had the feel of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral.” As stand-alone pieces, these certainly reward reading.
An earnest if unmoored collection of international rambles from an accomplished travel writer.