Approaching 30, freelance writers Baggett, Corbett and Pressner took a year off to travel the world and live out lifelong dreams.
The memoir, alternating authors by chapter, traces their various adventures and misadventures through Brazil, Peru, Kenya, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Panama. Their entertaining, eye-opening journey may inspire jealousy in readers, but the constant switching of authors proves rather confusing at first. In addition, the first two months of their travels—in Latin America—reads more like a college spring-break trip than a soul-searching, horizon-expanding venture into the unknown. As the book progresses, the authors find their stride as a writing team, and the narrative flows more smoothly. Unfortunately, the story becomes no more compelling, and the book ends with the platitude, “[t]he only leaps of faith you’ll ever regret are the ones you don’t take.” Though Baggett, Corbett and Pressner experience a few dramatic revelations, particularly during their time volunteering in Kenya, their hopes and fears, their unexpected moments of enlightenment and appreciation and their encounters with the utterly bewildering do not stand out from similar experiences in other travelogues. Just as some writers take the mundane and elevate it to the level of the sublime, the stories here seem to make the outlandish, bizarre and exciting little more than mildly entertaining anecdotes. Adjusting to third-world conditions, encountering abject poverty, meeting new people, feeling awkward with unfamiliar languages and social conventions, forming unexpected friendships—these potentially fascinating experiences never take on the profound, moving quality readers may expect.
The authors learned a lot about themselves and the world during their year abroad, but they are unable to convey it in a compelling manner.