A travel memoir, volunteer-style.
After the death of his father, Budd confronted the age-old question about life’s purpose. With no sufficient answers, he volunteered to help with hurricane relief in New Orleans. What started as a work-sponsored week of helping out morphed into a full-fledged journey to find himself by traveling the world as a volunteer. But volunteer tourism brought a whole new set of questions—e.g., how helpful can he really be in two weeks and whether these trips make him a better person or a worse one. “My renewed quest to be a better person began with my being a selfish jerk,” he writes. Though he’s often an unsympathetic narrator, his honesty helps readers accept the flaw and keeps him relatable. Each of six trips—New Orleans, Costa Rica, China, Ecuador, Palestine and Kenya—makes up a section of the book, with vivid details about his experience in each place delivered through vignette-like memories of certain days and moments. Travelers will recognize the mish-mash of memories that accompany trips like these, but the narrative occasionally feels like an unedited journal. Readers may wonder when they’ll find their way back to the narrative thread, but they will still enjoy the journey. Ultimately, Budd comes to his conclusions about life quietly, with little of the fanfare common in memoirs. For much of the story this works well, but questions will linger over his relationship with his wife and his plans for future volunteer trips.
Not for readers easily frustrated with wandering thoughts, but a solid introduction to the world of volunteer tourism and a pleasant diversion for those who don’t mind a winding road.